In India, the question is never “what do you think?”, it is always and forever “what do you feel?”
Since arriving in India I’ve received many comments about my hair. Just yesterday while chatting with some older women, they all turned their attention to my hair, one teased it with her hands, and they all laughed, agreeing that it was certainly not the most beautiful in the room.
Part of this learning curve in India involves the process of becoming comfortable with honesty. People here are frank, they are direct, they are real. And its wonderfully refreshing, once you get used to it. If an old lady thinks your hair is ugly, she will tell you. If she thinks your smile sparkles greater than any star in the sky, she will tell you. I find this beautiful.
Anyhow, she hasn’t been the first to comment, to question, to ask “but why?”
And so, I ask myself that same question. And I believe the answer is something along the lines of this…
I was acting with my heart, not my mind. It was what I felt to do.
It wasn’t something I thought about. It just happened. It began gradually, little bits here and there, trimming, and then slowly it got shorter and shorter. My ladies at work noticed, for sure. We made jokes about it and laughed that maybe one day I would just chop it all off… well, it turns out that I did exactly that.
I chopped it all off…over a fire, out in the woods, all on my own. I sang and I laughed and I howled as I chopped. The sound of the fire consuming my hair made my laughter grow wilder and in watching this part of me disappear before my eyes I came closer to my understanding of impermanence, disillusion and liberty. As each hair caught flame, turned bright red and then quickly shrivelled up into nothingness, I felt a sense of freedom wash over my chest and stay there. It is still there.
My hair does not define me. It is not what makes me beautiful. It is not what makes me woman. It is not what makes me whole.
I am no lesser without, in fact, I feel greater, bigger, more. More whole. More complete. More beautiful. More myself.
Of course, there are days when I miss it and the inherent beauty that it held. But, my goodness, its just HAIR! Hair grows back. Nothing has been lost.
And oh, what has been found!
I have found a greater appreciation for my eyes, my smile, my heart that shines through. Now, I no longer hide. There’s nothing to hide behind.
It’s been over a year since I last wore make up. No make up, no long tendrils of curls. No distractions; there’s just me, here, now.
And really, I think that’s what its all about.
Just being. Here. Now.
Exactly as you are.
No strings attached.
No hair pins or elastics attached either, for that matter.
Nothing but you.
With this change also came a simplification of everything, really.
Jeans and white T-shirts. Boots. Scarf.
In a culture that places so much emphasis on external appearance, this shift felt like an act of rebellion. One that I have truly savoured and enjoyed.
By simplifying, space appeared in my life where it hadn’t ever been before.
More space, more joy.
A smaller wardrobe, fewer articles in my bag.
I started to give away beloved books, ones that I’ve held on to for far too long. Ones that I love dearly, but know I don’t need to hold.
Even now, as I write this, I feel I have too much. A backpack and an instrument. Feels like too much. Theres still more space to free up and breathe into.
Free up and breathe.
Free up and feel.