It took all my strength not to burst into an ugly cry as I listened to the sweet voice of a young boy sing, “Let there be Peace on Earth” at my daughter’s school choir performance the other night. Surprised by my unconscious reaction, I realized there have been few times in my life when I’ve been more affected by the confusion and sadness in the world that dampens our hearts and psyches, despite efforts to focus on joy and light. As we bathe in the abundance of our fortunate lives, I’m reminded of a time when it all seemed so clear.
As a young girl, I was blessed to experience life in another country, Pakistan, to be specific. While that country is now considered a hub of fear and suspicion, the experience of growing up in that region gave me a unique perspective on different cultures and faiths, and more importantly humanity. I was 7 when my parents told me we would be moving overseas to a foreign country. My dad had just accepted a two-year contract with his engineering firm to consult on the building of an earth dam on the Indus River. Didn’t know how it would affect my life then, but more and more, I understand how it did.
I remember a bit of a rough landing as the plane touched down in Karachi, and the hot, dry air hitting my face as I stepped off the plane. Wading through the excitement and commotion of the dusty, crowded airport, I watched in wonder. All the people, colors, sounds, smells, clothing, signs; everything was so different, so vibrant. Stepping into this strange new world felt surreal.
Two years eventually turned into five, and during that time, my brother and I went to The American School. But the kids there were from just about every country around the world: Americans, Pakistanis, Germans, Italians, French, British, Yugoslavians, Turkish, Filipino, Canadian, Scottish… the list goes on. I mean, the melting pot went deep. It was a microcosm of the world, and we were all sharing our lives together in an unexpected place. We were immersed in a country so different than our own, with a beauty all its own. However you want to categorize us, all of the people, nationalities, cultures, faiths, classes and ideals seemed to integrate seamlessly.
Throughout those years, our family vacationed in countries like India, Afghanistan, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan and most of Europe. I was lucky to get a glimpse of so many countries and feel each of their intangible, yet distinct and exquisite cultures. And because I was so young, I experienced it all through innocent eyes and a pure heart. Visiting these countries, sometimes I felt sad. Many times, I was in awe. Most times, I felt lucky. But more than anything, I experienced a profound appreciation for each and every culture not only for the similarities we shared, but the differences that made us unique.
Remembering that feeling, that human connection, maybe it is still possible. And if not in the world, at least we can start in our own hearts. Perhaps that is the practice of yoga: to systematically, consciously and intentionally clean the slate of what we think, or what the world, our phones and the media tell us, and simply trust what we feel in our hearts.
As we look forward to a new year and a fresh start, from my heart to yours, let there be Peace on Earth…