Becoming One with the Noise and Commotion

Meditation: a word often associated with deep thought, reflection and contemplation. For me, meditation means something a little different. Yes, I still consider meditation to be very thought-based, but it is my belief that practicing mindfulness is different for everybody. Some people may prefer the more traditional way of meditating, one where they sit cross-legged on a cushion with their palms turned upward and some sort of soothing aroma wafting through the air. Others may meditate at the top of mountains or hills, using nature to tap into a sort of calming energy. While I have been in India, my meditating has taken the form of listening and simply absorbing my surroundings. I often meditate during my daily commute to work every morning or when I am walking down a busy street on my way to the grocery store. The sensory overload that is involved in these types of activities in India were a bit overwhelming at first; the incessant honking, the speeding motorbikes, and the lack of sidewalks can be very unsettling. However, the craziness and organized chaos that is the streets of Hyderabad have grown on me, and surprisingly, I now feel very much at peace when I walk down them.

A quick shot taken on the streets of Kolkata.

The amount of time that I’ve had to sit and simply mull over the thoughts running through my head have made me more self aware and I believe this helped me find my own inner peace. All of the sights, smells, and noises may seem like too much to handle at first, but being able to take them all in is a gift. Rather than letting my anxieties about these things consume me, I have chosen to embrace them and, in a way, become one with them. 

Emma and I at Chowmahalla Palace in Old City Hyderabad.

Emma and I like to joke that everything one experiences in India must be taken in stride (you truly never know who or what you may encounter on a day to day basis) but it honestly is very true. You have to be constantly open to whatever this country has in store for you whether it be stepping ankle-deep into a puddle of muddy water or getting your request for an Uber dropped 15 times in a row; you truly never know. Being able to absorb situations like these and not lose your mind over them makes you a stronger person. You become kinder and more understanding yet you maintain a healthy amount of stubborness and resilience that will help you succeed later in your life. Most importantly, you find your inner peace. Taking it all in and rolling with the punches of life is a form of mindfulness and awareness and being in India has given me the eyes to see this very fact. Our daily interactions make us who we are and in order to share our inner peace with others we must become more conscious of this fact.

The rush to take off and retrieve shoes outside of Mecca Masjid.

I often think about how I am constantly surrounded by people in India and how it’s a new feeling for me, but when I really think about it, I am always surrounded by people in the States too. We are all connected to one another through the Internet which makes the world we live in today a very different place than it was 100 years ago. The rising rates of anxiety and depression (especially amongst young people) can only make you wonder how our mental health interacts with this increased connectivity. If India has taught me anything it is that humans are great at adapting to new experiences and I believe in time our world will adapt too. For now, let’s embrace the noise, channel the craziness, and just take in the world that we live in because it is truly beautiful that we get to do so every day.

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About Sophie Walsh

Hello! My name is Sophie Walsh and I am a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying General Anthropology and considering a minor in Religious Studies. I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania just about 15 min away from Penn's campus! During the summer of 2019 I will be interning at the Naandi Foundation in the Araku Valley. Outside of my interest for anthropology, I enjoy playing music with the Penn Band as a member of the trumpet section. I am also a team member of Penn's Club Field Hockey Team which has been a great experience thus far. I am incredibly grateful to CASI for providing me with this opportunity to study cultural anthropology in India this summer and I look forward to all this adventure has in store for me and my fellow interns.