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This week has been ‘back to school’ week in our home. The ‘end of summer’ was greeted with mixed feelings. On the one hand, there has been unvarnished excitement about moving up to the next grade, catching up with friends from last year, meeting new teachers and students, and much more. On the other, there has been some reluctance of giving up of going to bed late and ‘sleeping in until all hours’ of the morning, lazing around and bingeing on ‘Harry Potter’ books, summer camps full of art and theater and new memories, afternoon swimming and so on.

As I watched the transition unfold, it made me reflect back on my own ‘back to school’ transitions. Summer vacations were marked by six weeks of visting Mom and Dad and my brother and sister, wherever they happened to be ‘stationed’ across India. Such an exciting and family bond-building time! Mastering rock-skipping along river banks, sledding down mountains, learning to ride a bike, long road and train trips with Dad… I could go on and on. Some of the highest roads and outposts in the Himalayas were often my playground. Maybe that is where my love of nature was seeded…

And then there was the ‘homework’. We would already be in our new grade in school before summer break started – that’s how it works in India. The teachers would take the liberty of loading us up with enough ‘summer projects’ to keep us busy through the ‘six weeks of freedom’. So, like every good student, we would wait till the final week of break to start on all the reading, writing, science and social studies projects. It was never a pretty sight, and we never really learnt the art of ‘project management’. When it came to summer homework, procrastination was king, queen and the entire kingdom! Maybe that is where my love of ‘last minuteness’ was seeded…

The return to school was marked with many tearful farewells among the family. That is the one thing that never changed. The day of departure seemed like it would go on forever. The long goodbyes at train stations and bus stations still linger somewhere in my subconscious. I always knew that the tears were temporary, because come winter break, and the tears would be replaced by huge smiles as the family would be reunited! Is that not the nature of life’s transitions? Like sinusoidal curves, they run in peaks and valleys. But I digress…

So, what does a ‘return to school’ have to do with spirituality? Let me try and make the connection. Let us consider our spiritual practices, our values and beliefs, our spiritual influencers. Our formal learning journey in school may take a ‘summer break’ but the learning continues as ‘independent study’ when we are ‘on break’. Much of our personal spiritual growth is like ‘summer break’, but can we truly keep growing without going ‘back to school’? While the notion of an ‘endless summer’ would keep us enjoying the valley of flowers, a ‘return to school’ holds the possibility of ascending new mountains – doesn’t it?

What were your ‘summer breaks’ like? What are some of your enduring memories of ‘summer break’? How did you prepare to go ‘back to school’? Do you feel like you have been on a spiritual ‘summer break’? I imagine that this #backtoschool meme gives all of us an opportunity to do an honest self-evaluation of summer and get ready for the new ‘school year’. Join me in #SpiritChat on Sunday, August 21st at 9amET/1pmUTC as we ring the bell for our new school year of spiritual learning!

Namaste,

Kumud @AjmaniK

Back to School on the Trail
‘Back to School’ coincided with my return to some of my favorite trails…