A few hours after arriving in the United States, I tried recording a short video to capture the strange feelings and emotions that I was experiencing, but my thoughts felt too incomplete and scattered. Now that I've had two weeks to process everything, I feel like I can articulate what's going on a little better.
On my last day in India I was taking a taxi to the airport when I felt the driver suddenly tap the brakes. I looked out the front window to find a seven-foot bull strolling up the highway into oncoming traffic.
The cars were all traveling at high speeds but they barely slowed down and instead just swerved around the giant creature. It was as if they were simply avoiding a pothole. That's when I realized that I wasn't even surprised by what I had seen.
The context of the environment in India had become so familiar to me that finding a huge animal in the middle of the highway had become as normal as finding a pothole.
The key to adapting to any unfamiliar environment is understanding the context. If you were visiting a foreign country where you understood very little about the culture or the customs, you'd be forced to consider the context of various unusual events that were taking place.
A cow being allowed to roam freely on the highway in India, for example, might seem really strange at first, but when you understand that many Indians consider cows holy and sacred, it doesn't seem very strange anymore. Once you understand the context, it all makes sense.
Context is an interesting thing. It's a lot like perspective, except it has a much greater affect on our emotions and how we react to various situations. Our understanding of the context quietly influences the way we perceive the world around us.
Arriving back home, it was easy to look at things from a different perspective. Instead of allowing myself to reconnect with the familiarity that surrounded me, I put myself in the shoes of an outsider and consciously considered the context of my surroundings.
I tried to figure out why things were the way they were and I questioned the purpose of even the most obvious things. The result of that exercise was everything I wrote in my previous post.
Now, as days turn into weeks and the context of my new environment becomes more and more familiar, I find it becoming increasingly difficult to recognize and feel the unsustainable nature of all the abundance surrounding me. Focusing on the things that truly matter and figuring out where my energy should be focused is also becoming more difficult.
But I think the solution is simple: When we break things down to the absolute essential and really consider the context of our surroundings -- no matter how familiar they may feel -- the things that are important and the things that we should be focusing on begin to stand out; they start to become obvious.
The next time you're upset or feeling frustrated, try immediately thinking about everything in your life that you should be grateful for and see if that changes the way you're feeling.
As you go about your day, ask yourself how the context of your surroundings is affecting the way you perceive the world around you. When you switch context from one physical location to another (from your house to the grocery store for example) do you notice the subtle changes in your moods and emotions?