Monday, April 23, 2018

The Day I Became Myself for the First Time Ever

The Day I Became Myself for the First Time Ever

I was having an awesome time in Mumbai. I would spend my days at the office, commuting and hanging out with friends. That was the best part. Nothing very spiritual though, but after just a few weeks I started to feel a change in me. Something was different.

This was back in 2005! Like I mentioned before, I didn't expect this trip to India to be a spiritual trip. I just wanted to live abroad and have an international experience. Yet there was something really spiritual about this experience.

Time slowed down

I would never forget that day, after work, when I was walking back to my apartment building in Powai. All of a sudden I looked down at my feet as I was walking. I noticed something really unusual.

Street in Powai leading to Oritel
The beautiful street I had to walk to get to Oritel

I was wearing a pair of black trousers and my awful fake-leather-waterproof-office-shoes that I'd bought specially to deal with the monsoon rains. But that was not the strange thing.

It was the way that I was walking. I was walking very, very slowly. It felt so strange. It felt surreal. It was as if I was watching a slow motion movie.

A few months earlier, while I was still in Ecuador working as a financial auditor, I'd received a very different feedback. Veronica, one of my colleagues, said to me, "Marco Pino, you walk too fast!"

We were in Guayaquil downtown, walking to one of our clients for a special audit work. I was walking ahead of her and my other colleague, Cynthia. "I'm just walking normally. This is the way I walk," I replied.

She was right. I was indeed walking too fast, moving too fast, thinking too fast. I was worried about client meetings, financial reports, university projects, and so on. I had not realized this before.

Somehow in India I started to slow down. Actually, not only I started to slow down. I felt as if time itself slowed down. The first three months in India felt like if I had been there for three years! I'm not exaggerating.

I'm sure you have experienced the opposite at some point. Whenever you are having a good time, time seems to go faster. I was having the best time ever, yet time was moving slower, much slower.

There was another profound moment that I will never forget.

I was sitting on the sofa of my small living room in Oritel. It was a Sunday. Again I noticed something really unusual.

I was deeply relaxed. My breath was slow and deep. I was feeling so calm. I didn't remember ever feeling like this before, specially on a Sunday!

It was as if I had just become absolutely still. Everything had come to stillness. I was not bored. I was not being lazy. I was simply in a state of being.

I became myself for the first time ever

At that time I had never heard about living in the present moment. But as the days passed by I was actually experiencing it naturally, by accident. I started to live in the present moment without even trying it.

From the moment that I would wake up, till the moment that I would go to sleep, I was enjoying every single second of my day. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month.

I felt like this pretty much for a whole year.

I felt the magic and the beauty of each moment, and also a constant divine presence. While I was in the bus, while I was in the train, while I was walking in Mumbai busy streets. I was never alone. I felt connected.

I was feeling so much joy, so much gratitude, so much inspiration and trust. I was not trying to develop these attitudes. They just came to me without effort. It was like an awakening.

I witness miracles regularly. It felt as if even my smallest desires were immediately fulfilled. I was in a constant state of awe and wonder, and my heart felt wide open.

Gradually I became a different person, or rather I started to strip away from the person who I wasn't. I started to feel more real, more authentic, more me. It felt as if all my masks were fading away.

Eventually one day I was able to say, "For the first time in my life I feel I am truly myself."

Why is this happening?

"Why am I feeling like this?" I asked myself. I wondered if perhaps I was improving on my daily meditation practice. But my meditations didn't feel much different.

Actually, for years I've been asking myself that same question. Even till today. "What happened in India? Why did I become so present?"

I know that's why time seemed to have slowed down, because I was living in the present moment. But, why did I become present?

I still don't have an exact answer. I guess it was a combination of many different experiences that were creating this shift of consciousness in me. To start...

I had nothing to worry about

Believe it or not I had no work to do. I had received the TCS training. I was allocated to an office in Mumbai. I had in paper work to do, but in reality I had nothing to do.

I complained about this, that's why I changed office three times. I was actively looking for work to do. But wherever I ended up, there was not much to do.

So, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. I had no meetings to think of. I had no reports to finish. I had no reason to think off the next day. I had no reason to worry about the typical dreaded Monday, like I did so often before.

I read a few inspiring books

I used all that free time at the office either to do online research (luckily I could use the internet) or to read at the library, or even at my desk. The library was usually full. I was not the only one having not much to do.

I read a few books that were inspiring and motivating. They were opening my mind to a different reality, gradually changing my belief system. I'll tell you about those books on another time. They are not what you might expect.

I had an amazing social life

I was pretty much all the time hanging out with friends from all around the world, discovering Mumbai (specially Mumbai's nightlife) and India together.

Oh, I remember those fun nights out. Walking from one bar to the next. Boat Club, in Bandra, was one of our favorites.

There was always something to do. A dinner, a farewell party, a welcome party, a trip. There was so much to discover and share together. I had no time to be in my head. I had never had this kind of active social life before.

Mumbai Night Life

And of course, I was living in India.

All about India was intense. The colors, the smells, the crowds. There is always something rich, entertaining and stimulating to your senses. There is no time to be lost in your own thoughts. In India you have no choice but to become present.

Ganapati Festival in Mumbai, 2005
Ganapati Festival, 2005

That daily train ride to the office... It was like an adventure every single day.

"Chalo! Chalo! Chalo!" Locals screaming, "Let's go!" when trying to jump off or on the train, pushing each other in a stampede. So many people hanging from the doors, or traveling on the roof during their daily commute.

Waiting for the train in Mumbai
Waiting for the train

It was intense, tough and at the same time beautiful. I never felt so alive.

I remember in some occasions my feet wouldn't touch the floor of the train. It was so crowded that I was sort of levitating, being pushed by the mass of people.

And most importantly, the spiritual India.

Spirituality is lived in India everywhere, everyday and at every moment. Wherever you go, whenever you turn on a corner, you'll find a temple and maybe even a devotee doing a puja (ritual).

Temple in India

It is almost impossible to find a place to sleep in India where you won't wake up at 4 am because of a temple nearby starting their daily prayers.

And a temple in India can be anywhere. If you find a red dot and three white stripes on top of small stone under a tree, watch your steps cause that is Shiva!

In India God is worshiped all the time, in all its innumerable forms, according to each individual temperament.

This is the India that I love.

It might be dirty, it might be smelly, it might be chaotic and it might drive me crazy sometimes, but whenever I've been in other countries in Asia I always say the same thing to myself. "Nice, but it's not India."

Perhaps this is the reason why I experienced all this. Perhaps it was India itself and the spiritual vibrations of the ancient masters that pervade this whole country what affected me in this way.

Or perhaps it was because of past life connection.

At some point in time India must have been my homeland. I'm pretty sure about it. In one of my previous lives I must have lived in an ashram, in a monastery or perhaps even in a cave.

But I guess it was because of all the above

I guess all these different situations came together at the same time so that I can have this experience. Like I mention in How I Ended up in India After Quitting My First Job, I didn't realize it back then but India was actually calling me.

All this was meant to happen. I was meant to live this experience exactly in the way that it happened. It was magical.

How to enjoy whatever you are doing

I already had a daily meditation practice before traveling to India, but in India I started to practice even more. I would meditate whenever I had the opportunity, although not necessarily a sitting meditation practice.

Many times I had to wait for the bus for ages, specially the bus from Andheri back to Powai after work. I decided to stand still whenever I had to wait for that bus.

I did this every single day. It didn't matter how long I had to wait for the bus. I would just stand completely still, right at the same spot, resting my sight somewhere, and meditate. It felt so good.

One of my friends, Gustav, decided to move from Powai to Andheri to avoid that same bus ride. He hated that bus ride. He couldn't stand it anymore.

But I was enjoying it so much. As a matter of fact, sometimes I would be disappointed if I didn't have to wait for the bus. Isn't that strange?

It's interesting how two people can have a complete different perception about exactly the same experience.

We were both taking the same bus, from the same starting point to the same destination. However the journey was so different for each of us.

But at the same time it's not so surprising.

Whenever you are fully present you are able to really enjoy whatever you are doing. Even if what you are doing is not a pleasant thing to do. Like waiting for the bus for ages when you just want to go back home.

This is one of the lessons that I've learned from this experience.

One day, during the monsoon season, I was on the bus to the TCS office in Banyan Park. That bus ride was normally just half and hour. That day it took four hours because of the heavy rain!

And I had decided to stand still.

How the heck did I do that? I have no idea. I can barely stand still now for ten minutes. Yet I stood still for four hours in that bus, without complain, without my typical knee pain. I was so calm, in a contemplative mood.

Well, on the last ten minutes I had to sit cause a local girl stood up an insisted that I take her sit. That would never happen in Ecuador, but I didn't want to be rude.

But although I was taking all these moments to meditate, or to simply be present, I don't attribute the experience that I had to these moments. It was not just me. It was so easy and natural to do it back then. It was effortless.

I decided to quit my job again

After about eight months "working" for TCS I noticed some of my friends were already being sent to other countries. As I mentioned in my previous post, that was part of the program we had all signed up for.

As you already know, I didn't really care about that program, and I had no interest to make a career working for TCS, or any other company. At that moment I just wanted to stay in India.

I still had three months left on my Indian visa. It was valid till end of January 2006. So I decided to make the best use of those three months.

Once more I quit my job and left all that behind, ready to backpack all around India.

But this was not just a tourist trip. I was going to do the things that I had dreamed about for years. I was planning to visit holy places, stay at a Buddhist monastery and visit an Indian ashram.

To be continued This story continues in True Story: I Seriously Considered Becoming a Monk

I'll tell you all about that trip on my next update. Make sure you subscribe to my blog so that you don't miss it. Once you subscribe you'll also be able to download my free meditation eBook.

To get some context you can read my previous two stories:

I know this is not an uncommon experience. I'm not the first person to feel somehow transformed by this amazing country. So I would love to hear your story.

Or if you simply feel inspired by this story please let me know how. I would love to hear what you think about it. You can share your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. Very happy to read about your experience. That is what I feel about India as well - it has somehow creeped into my bloodstream and I feel so much at home and at peace with myself in this crazy and sometimes chaotic country. It is as if in this intensity of life I come alive myself as well. Even a single day is filled with so many impressions that in other places would require at least a week to gather...I am sure I've lived there before and I just rediscover what was known to me then and feel so blessed for this experience...

    1. Hi Inditinka! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and thanks for reading my blog. I'm happy to know that I'm not the only one who feels this way about India. Who knows, maybe we even met in India in a past life :-D

  2. Beautiful written, especially about how your life slowed down.