Random things people have said to me recently:

Why are you going to India? Is this some kind of Eat Pray Love thing?

Whatever floats your boat!

You’re choosing to do this. (This last comment comes from my husband each time I worry about some aspect of the trip, like the scary traffic or the long bus rides.)

For my husband, who doesn’t even like to go to Indian restaurants, it’s inconceivable that anyone would willingly go to a place that’s hot, crowded, and likely to give you intestinal illness.

But for someone like me who’s been involved in various forms of Eastern spirituality since my 20s, India is irresistible. It’s the mother ship, from whence came meditation, yoga, and Buddhism, and all kinds of other things.

From what I hear, it’s also dazzling, difficult, and impossible to absorb in a single trip – especially one that’s only three weeks long. On this particular journey I will bite off just a tiny corner of the feast that is India – the Buddhist trail. It’s the semi-annual gathering of the Kwan Um School of Zen, and a hundred of us will be travelling by bus to the major Buddhist sites in Northern India and Nepal.

Later, a few of us will travel by train up to Dharmsala, the Tibetan community in exile where the Dalai Lama sometimes resides. In all of the places we visit, we’ll be mingling with monastics and devotees from all over the world, a sea of saffron and maroon robes, chanting, bowing, prayer flags, flowers and incense.

But the real “spiritual” part of the journey, if you want to call it that, will have nothing to do with these holy sites. It will happen – if at all – from the continual choice to open fully to whatever presents itself in each moment. To open to the beauty and the poverty, the colors and the smells, to fear, to sickness and bedbugs if necessary, to joy, to all of it. (I’m not saying it’s easy.)

This is our task in any moment, whether we’re at home, at work, or in a strange new place. Travel just cranks up the intensity of the flood of experience. India perhaps most of all.