It has only been a few days and already I feel that my entire existence is India. Surrounded by endless beauty and tragedy with sights, smells and touches that mark a culture so incredibly diverse from those of my upbringing, I am awoken to what I believe to be at the very core of what makes us human. There was something so incredible that happened to me not two minutes after stepping out of the airport in Delhi: I was greeted by our Indian guide Sunil, and, after very brief conversation with this wonderful young man and letting him know about my plans to travel throughout India after the program ends he offered me his home. A man I’d never met offered to shelter, feed and care for me as if I were his family, and he barely even knew my name. This is true compassion, this comes from the heart. I see the power of the heart as the strongest in the world, love our driving force.  The heart contains a power and wisdom infinite in us all. I could go off about all the nuances of culture and religion and architecture that make Americans so different from Indians, but I think it is much more valuable to reflect on all the things that make us the same. Our potential for love, compassion, empathy, unity, our ability to care for one another when we need it most, to help those who are down even when we aren’t certain we know how to stand, the very thing that drove Sunil to bring me, a stranger, into his home. We all want to be loved, and in turn I believe deep down we all want to give love. As many wise men and women have said, “the only way to be truly happy is to help another”, I could not agree more and have found this to be a most certain truth in my own life.

Walking down the streets in India I view every person I meet as a member of my larger collective family, we are all borne of the same blood. I smile and it is reciprocated. Such a simple act speaks more than words – it is language unclasped by the limits of words. This kind of communication flows deep within me. Smiling with honest care and intention creates a warmth in me and a warmth I can sense in those I share it with. Often in America I see people walking down the street avoiding contact, stuck in their own individual world… I encourage those brave enough to try smiling more, not for others but for your own peace. If it is done with sincerity the effect will be both mutual and undeniable.

My brief time in India has been incredible. When one lives presently, every moment gains the potential to be beautiful: beautifully joyous when we celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday in Dharamsala; beautifully stimulating when engaged in complex and spiritual conversation roaming through seas of contemplative and unanswerable questions; beautifully mesmerizing sitting in the bus for long rides through towering mountain tops with snow-capped peaks and lush green valleys; beautifully satiating over endless momos and Crispy Dish; beautifully weird when your first night of Homestay is spent eating a casual dinner with your host father over Sex and The City 2; beautifully intense when stuck in the middle of the highway in Delhi with cars and motorcycles flying by seemingly oblivious to any sense of traffic law; beautifully painful when you are challenged with endless parties of starving children begging, and young women holding a diseased child in her arms, desperate for a meal. Beauty exists all around, and with the right eyes everything has the potential for beauty, every moment can be a lesson and every life can be one that is truly and undeniably beautiful, it is all in how you perceive it.