Finding Silence.

I had to remind myself that is was Christmas Day all day. Even though my morning started at 5:02am, just like many Christmas’s of my youth, I did not open stockings, I didn’t walk downstairs, sleepy eyed and groggy to see a mountain of gifts beneath the tree my family decorated. I woke up at my normal time and did my normal routine—coffee, small breakfast, yoga, dressed and walked to school.

My roommate and I were asked to dress as Santa and his helper and pass out candy to the Thai kids who think Christmas is no more than children getting presents and Santa riding a sleigh—oh wait…This is how Christmas in Thailand began.

Most of my kids that I teach on Tuesdays were spending the week at a Buddhist Temple getting education on meditation, Buddha, dangers of social media, history, The King, healthy living—everything you can imagine. They were asked to wear all white and spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday observing and learning. I was a bit jealous.

My boss, Kim, invited me to join her at the Temple for lunch and observation. Walking into a big room, meditation mats on the floor, a Buddha shrine in the front we were welcomed by a smiling monk and soon the children filed in, silently and respectfully. They sat, prayed and waited patiently for the speaker to begin her lesson on online gaming and the dangerous effects it has on the mind.

After a modest lunch and weird dessert, my new friend Oho (pronounced OhO, a dipping sound—start high, go low, end high again. I like to just call him Oh!) offered to walk the grounds with me. Oh is a student hoping to obtain his Doctorate degree in the next year, I told him to practice his English on me and we talked quietly about ourselves, asking questions and getting to know one another as we enjoyed the Temple property.

It was quiet there. We often take quiet for granted without realizing it. Until I was at the Temple I hadn’t realized how noisy my home is; even right now at 5:27am there is a motorbike starting, a rooster crowing and the noise of the street that is close by. At the Temple it was silent and so effortlessly peaceful.

Oh and I stopped at a shrine, knelt, and he told me that this is the Buddha you pray to for wealth, money, and success, he told me to pray if I wished. I prayed. I prayed hard. I prayed for a wealth of strength and personal success in accomplishing goals I am setting for myself. I prayed for help. No one likes asking for help but Buddha was offering it to me on Christmas day so I prayed to Buddha.

Oh watched me. I’m sure he noticed my discomfort and my lack of knowing what to do. He told me to slow down when I bow (three times when you come, three times when you go) he taught me take that moment slower, showed me where to put my hands, he told me to breathe. We talked about the difficulties of meditation. I told him my difficulties with religion in the past and then asked me how I felt with Buddha. Connected I said. Welcomed. He smiled and offered his knowledge to me any time.

We continued walking, talking and overcoming the language barrier. I again, reminded myself it was Christmas afternoon and I was wandering a Temple with a practicing Buddhist. Happy that I missed the crazy shoppers from my retail days, smiling that I didn’t have any obligations to fill, or meals to help clean up after. Reminding myself that it was Christmas and I was around the world in a Buddhist Temple.

I hope my loved ones had a wonderful, stress free Christmas season. I hope they were able to breathe and enjoy the moment. I hope they enjoyed one another’s company and appreciated the quiet that a snowfall brings.

 

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Kim, Oho and I at the Temple

Kim, Oho and I at the Temple

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Who is Being Created?

I can remember from when I was a kid people watching. At school, or at restaurants, later on in life at the airport I would make up conversations people were having from afar. I’d give them lives, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, and problems that needed solving or birthday parties they were late to. I would create a life for them and in an instant it would be gone when they walked away—they would have no idea that I had sat there watching them and creating an entire new life, maybe a better one, maybe not; I would never know.

 

I’ve never really thought about being on the other end of people watching. Do people watch me while I watch others? Are they creating a story, looking at my outfit trying to decide if I’m on my way to work or off to meet a friend? Are they giving me a lover? Am I cheating on him, is he cheating on me? Or are we madly in love setting off to see the world together? Who are they imagining I am?

 

I’ve been in Thailand for three weeks now and being looked at and noticed on the street is unavoidable. I’m the tall-er, big-ger farang that is walking around town with only two Thai words under her belt. (Taller and bigger according to a typical Thai woman that stands 5’1 and maybe weighs 100 pounds.)

 

Today I was brought to the  “Wat Yai” Temple by my director. All morning I could hear whispers of farang! Farang! behind me as I took off my size 8 flip-flops and placed them and their enormity next to the others, mostly sizes 5 and 6. As I bowed in prayer and got blessed by a Monk I felt eyes follow my each movement. I was sure to not to point the souls of my feet at the Buddha shine or touch the Monk who was walking the border of the prayer room, the last thing I needed to do was make someone’s internal story about me negative and how the American was so disrespectful.

Maybe as someone created a story about me today the noticed the tears welling in my eyes as I bowed, they noticed me asking questions, learning and praying for an open heart and an open mind. Praying to succeed, learn and teach on this journey in Thailand. The story, perhaps, was about a girl who was trying to be like the gold color of the Buddha.

 

The Buddha is gold because in near darkness it can be seen, it needs just a glimmer of light for it to shine and cut the darkness. Maybe that’s the story that was told internally by that little girl watching me from the corner, or the Monk sitting on the pedestal who blessed me with water.

 

Just a little bit of light to shine, that’s all anyone needs.