Someone asked me what my religion was. I said my Hindu religion allows me the openness to practice anything I want, and that I am more spiritual than religious. I choose to see divinity in just about everything, the God in the details, the miracles in everyday life.
And so on this 10-day trip to Canada, I found God in millions of places.
I found God in the strange midnight sun in the Yukon. In the placid Yukon River besides which I sat and ate M&Ms (with almonds) to celebrate my birthday. In the friendly locals and easygoing wildlife of the region. In the incredible vastness of the landscape that felt like another planet when compared with my own crowded country.
I found God in the history of the peoples of Yukon. In their drive to overcome all boundaries and test the limits of their own endurance and nature’s fury. In their curiosity to keep exploring all corners of the earth no matter what the price.
I found God in the variety of people I met, the easy and the difficult, the bright and the beautiful.
I clearly found God on my journey to Banff the day after my birthday.
I found God in the gorgeous landscapes and scenic little town there. In the canoe ride that demonstrated my own tenacity to me. In the hike through Fenland Walk, where I chatted up two free-spirited souls who clicked the right buttons in my heart with their love of travel and their respect for every place they’d lived in.
I found God all through our trip to Lake Louise, where for the first time in my life, I saw snow through my bus window. We alighted a few moments later at the ethereal Lake Moraine, where everything was covered with snow, and I could make snowballs to my heart’s content. It was an off-the-itinerary diversion, so I definitely saw God through the viewfinder of my camera as I clicked away at the frozen lake set amidst tall, tall rocky peaks.
I found God in the horseback ride later that day – oh, and how. My horse would burst into a trot every now and then, and I’d break into laughter initially and pat it with love. But as the ride went on and on, my bum and knees began to groan and each bounce unleashed a fresh wave of pain. At one point, my right leg cramped and I had to take it out of the stirrup to flex my ankle. Almost instantaneously, my horse, named ‘Little Boy’, actually stopped and turned its face around to our right, as if asking me, “Is everything alright?” I was touched beyond belief. Little Boy even stopped trotting after that, walking sanely all the way to the end, waiting patiently for me to stretch my knees before clambering down his side.
I found even more of God the next day, when we hiked 3.5 km up 500 m into the Rocky Mountains. My fitness level is only good enough for a medium-paced walk, not one at a steep incline, and though yoga has more or less cured my asthma, I was puffing and panting pretty soon. I had to stop every 50 metres or so, and slowed down the entire group. My knees were already sore from the riding I’d done the previous day. The strain of going up with a bag and a big coat in the chilly mountain air made them phenomenally worse. Yes, the view up there was great. Yes, the freshly cooked ‘fondue with a view’ was a special treat. Yes, the walk back down was easier and shorter. But it was that terrible walk UP that showed me Krishna’s wicked smiling face – teasing me along, pinching me in the soft spots, reminding me of my limitations and my strengths. It was that hike UP that pushed my ‘sense of achievement’ button when I’d got back down and sat, exhausted but exhilarated, in the bus.
I found God the next day when – after some fake yoga in the park at Princess Island in Calgary and a fake Lebanese lunch – I had a fake Thai foot massage at an upmarket spa. There, lying quietly with the masseur gently pressing my feet, I observed my own judgemental nature in finding fault with the yoga, the cuisine, and even the whole spa experience – none of which could match up to my own ‘rich historical Indian’ standards. And so, in keeping with my own ‘rich historical Indian’ philosophy of respecting the ‘100 paths to enlightenment’, I corrected my vision to ‘gratitude and joy’, and left the spa feeling relaxed, happy and at peace. So much so that one of my companions immediately noticed it on seeing me at dinner later and said I looked radiant.
I found God in my conversations with people from varied backgrounds, who’d never even believed in God but believed in themselves. In men and women who felt free enough to choose where they wanted to live and what they wanted to do with their lives. In mothers who didn’t fear when the next meal would come from but instead just followed their hearts, and their kids followed them!
Oh yes, it was a heavenly trip – finding my religion.