Several years ago I went on my first trip to India. Let’s just say there were lots of unexpected things that happened on that trip. Like getting a chance to help some young monks at the Dalai Lama’s Namgyal Monastery practice their English. Or having an audience with the 17th Karmapa Lama, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. Or taking part in the millennial celebration of Chamba, a small town tucked in the Himalayas.
Those we just some of the cool things I got to experience on that trip.
But there was one unexpected thing that left its mark on me literally and figuratively.
It’s the opening story in my book To Be Awake: Simple Principles for Mindful & Intentional Living.
It goes like this…
I heard the crack of the bat but I didn’t see it coming.
The cricket ball that is.
The one that hit me smack in the middle of my forehead.
On a trip to India with some friends, we were staying at a guest house high in the Himalayas. On that particular day, men from the surrounding villages gathered to play an annual cricket tournament. Nothing fancy, just a makeshift pitch, an opportunity for friendly rivalry and the possibility of victory. On the way back from a day’s outing, I had stopped at the sidelines to chat with the small group of spectators.
Playing cricket at an elevation of 7000 feet surrounded by mountains poses a few challenges. One of these challenges is the frequency with which the ball disappears into the valley. Cricket is typically played with a hard leather ball with raised seams, but in these conditions a rubber ball was the players’ preferred and less expensive choice. For me their choice meant a life-changing rather than life-ending experience.
After the initial shock and realizing that I hadn’t lost sight in one eye, I’d just had a contact lens knocked out, my friends helped me to our guest house to assess the damage. I was quite fortunate to have only a mild concussion and what later proved to be a hairline fracture in the bridge of my nose. The cricket players were apologetic, and offered a variety of homeopathic remedies.
Given that I had suffered quite a whack on the head, it seemed like a good idea to rest the next day or two. My friends went about their activities, leaving me with an opportunity to sit quietly for hours and reflect. Many passing thoughts entered my mind, not the least of which was to feel extreme gratitude for rubber balls and for having only a minor injury. It certainly could have been much worse. But the predominant reflection was the crystal clear understanding that everything can change in an instant.
Life gets busy and we tend to forget the most important things.
My mother used to say, “Tomorrow is promised to no one,” but each of us somehow thinks we have a personal promissory note that guarantees us at least one more day.
Sitting curled up on a window seat in that guest house, I thought about all the things that I intended to do but had not gotten around to doing, the things that needed saying that hadn’t been said. I thought about things that I had been holding on to that needed letting go. I made a few vows to myself. I was determined that I would not forget the lessons from the cricket ball. At a guest house in the Himalayas I got a giant wake-up call that roused me from my sleepy life.
That might have been the end of the story.
There would have been no need to write a book like this. But something happened.
Just like everyone else, after a while I went back to sleep.
What about you?
Maybe you have had a whack on the head wake-up call.
Maybe after a period of “enlightenment” you ended up going back to sleep too.
Feel free to post a comment and share your story.
And if you are interested in hearing the rest of mine, I invite you to read To Be Awake.