“I’m just a girl who can’t say no……”Oklahoma, Rogers and Hammerstein

I was in Squamish, sitting in the dining room at Ange’s place on Tuesday evening. Kate had just been put down for the night, Ange was tidying, and I was content and satiated with my full day of skiing at Whistler and the delicious meal Ange and concocted. I thought I’d better catch up on emails; when I’m on tour and away, it seems days, almost weeks can go by without me even opening my computer, with the exception of listening to music, or shifting tunes from my hard drive to my iPod for a day at the hill or in the car on the road.  I hadn’t been online for more than fifteen minutes, responding to a few emails here and there about upcoming shows and promotion, when my eyes began to turn glassy and I started to nod off. Just before this happened: something caught my eye: “Opportunity to teach Kundalini Yoga in India”. I opened the email from Guru Fatha Singh, a devoted Kundalini Yoga teacher, based in Toronto and read his message:

Sat Nam, everyBody -

Our longtime friend (Yogiji used to visit her house when he came back in the 70s and 80s.  He always loved to visit.  It was fun and the food was great.) Manjeet Kaur needs someone to teach 3 classes a day, Monday to Friday at her Kundalini Yoga Centre in Chandigarh, about halfway between Delhi and Amritsar.

This can serve as a stepping off point for a tour of India.  Chandigarh is also close to Rishikesh, the Himalayas and Dharmasala.  You will be fed (by your own cook!) and housed and provided with a modest living allowance.  You can check with Simran Singh or Akasha Kaur for their experiences when they taught at Chandigarh.

Manjeet needs the coverage because her elder son who usually teaches will be attending his brother's wedding.  You can stay on and teach longer in Chandigarh or mix touring with teaching, as you like.  If you have a passion to teach and would love to have a home base in India, this could be your chance.

I’d always known that I’d end up going to India; she’d always been in the recesses of my mind, but I hadn’t been ready for her yet. More specifically, I wasn’t really ready to leave on a week’s notice. Ready for my senses to explode. Ready for the backpacking and tumultuous traveling; so many friends had been and had experienced a love/hate paradox with her. I guess I could be ready to go to India soon, I thought.

I quickly emailed a message back about what exact dates I’d have to be there, my rational mind thinking there was no way I’d be able to go so soon as I had two more shows before the end of my tour, and my being knowing that I was actually going.

I got a response a few hours later with the name and number of a woman in Toronto who would tell me all about the job. When I called the number, a bubbly effervescent and very energetic woman began exuding praise about how clean and lovely her home in Chandigarh was, “You’ll have your own room, your own cleaner and cook, and the house is very beautiful. You are near the park, you are near the shops. You are near everything. Oh yes. You will love it.” It seems she had already decided that I was going before I had actually made a decision. Anytime I tried to stall her by giving an excuse like needing to get the proper vaccinations and such she’d counter, “Oh it’s easy. You go to the travel doctor. I pay. Not to worry.” How would I get all the way from Delhi to Chandigarh by myself in the middle of the night on the bus? “Don’t worry. I take care of all that. I call and I make you a reservation on the bus and the driver brings you right to the house.” I felt like I needed to do some research, so she gave me the number of the yoga teacher who had been there for 3 months the year prior to me, whom I actually vaguely knew from the Toronto community.

The next day, I called Cathy, and she couldn’t rave more about her experiences there: the students were lovely, the food was divine, the surroundings beautiful, and the opportunity to teach and stay for however long I liked. I’d be responsible for teaching 3 classes a day: an early morning class from 6:00-7:00, followed by a 7:30-8:30 class, and ending the day with an early evening class from 5:30-6:45pm. I’d have the whole day to myself to explore, study, write, and create.

Luckily, the fact that I was in Squamish made it really easy for me to zip down the Sea to Sky highway to the Indian Embassy, where there was a very short line up and I didn’t have to wait long before I saw a friendly woman at one of the windows. I filled out a visitor’s visa application and was told that I could have it processed in just a few days once I had my flight booked and my medical information.

Why had I spent all that money in Hawaii? I wondered. That money would have been much better spent booking a flight to India, but how could I have known that an opportunity like this would arise?

I called my Dad to ask his advice, expecting that he’d be shaking his head as usual to my flights of fancy and traveling on a whim. When I mentioned that I wish I would have spent my Hawaii money on this India trip, there was silence, and I could tell that he was mulling something over. “I think you should go honey. This sounds like a great experience that might not come around again. Don’t worry about the flight, I’ll take care of it.” I literally could NOT say no. “I’m just a girl who can’t say no”.

NOW where were my excuses not to go? The fears and worries were being washed away with so many people making this trip so accessible to me. With gratitude for Ange driving me to and from Vancouver, to Guru Fatha Singh for sending me the information, to the two concert hosts who were so accommodating with rescheduling my shows, to my Dad’s emotional and financial encouragement, I called Manjeet and said yes. I’ve found that there is so much more excitement, possibility and unknown gifts when I say “yes”. So many of us, myself included at times, become set in our ways, even when they are no longer working. The old saying that human beings are “creatures of habit” is not folklore; it’s completely true. When I’ve gone through bouts of depression, my negative way of thinking, indecisiveness and inertia has become habitual, and I became attached to “being” instead of “feeling” depressed. I now know that we can change our reality with conscious choice, and the willingness to say yes to opportunities that can change our lives. For me, I chose anti-depressants, dark chocolate, group cognitive behaviour therapy, and more dark chocolate: it helped to lift me from that dark place in which I’d been dwelling. I said “yes” to getting help and it transformed my life. Another time I said “yes” was when a co-worker at the high school where I was teaching English told me that the local college music program still had a few spaces available and encouraged me to audition. She could see I was miserable being a punching bag as a teacher (literally on two occasions), and knew that I needed to expand my horizons and do what I really loved. She knew that I used music in as many classes as I could, teaching poetry by singing Gordon Lightfoot and Bob Dylan tunes, and writing my own music based on the poetry I was teaching. She knew I had to get the hell out of there. Instead of feeling trapped and powerless, and hiding behind the fear of leaving a pension and steady career behind, I said “yes” to uncertainty and my life changed irrevocably.

It was in this spirit that I said “yes” to India. From the time I got the initial email, it took five days for me to get the necessary vaccinations, apply and receive my Visitor’s Visa, book a flight, and to buy some second summer clothes from a thrift shop Squamish. Seven days after I got the email, I was on a KLM flight bound for Delhi, via Amsterdam, my head still swirling, mind racing and heart pounding. “Yes.” I was on my way to India. 

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