Exploring vipassana and Pai

 

Sitting meditation-dozing off, walking meditation-distracted by whats around me or thoughts, chanting-not connected. Sitting-dozing, walking-losing focus, chanting-bored. Sitting, walking, chanting. All day. All night.

What was going on! I usually love this! Why am I not reaching that stillness I was searching for: the ability to see the thought and not be absorbed and lost by it. Debating running away from the center. Forcing myself to stay, knowing it would all pass with time. Anchoring myself in the knowledge that this can help.

As I sat still without many external distractions (places I could go, people to meet, things to eat, party),  I noticed how foggy I actually was. And how little time I could dedicate to one moment before searching for the next stimulation. This made me irritated. Just focus and appreciate Adrian!!! But that’s just not how it works of course. You notice, then you just have to keep noticing. And noticing. And noticing the way your mind is operating at the moment. And perhaps your mind will shift naturally. There on the cushion hour after hour. Basically drifting into thought or nodding off every few moments. Barely conscious of how my mind was operating. But constantly coming back and trying again.

DSCF1039Second day, midday: I wake up! It hit me like waking up from a heavy nap. Someone polished my eyes, my mind. I was no longer foggy. Yes, I would still get lost in thoughts at times and distracted and have the urge to leave. But everything was different. I was in a clear state of mind. Clear enough for me at the moment 🙂 As clear as my mind was ready for. I was now sitting and walking mindfully and happily. Even through the challenging moments. Chanting… not so much. It was more of a recital than a constant chant, and I was not able to just groove into the rhythm. It led to too much thinking and I was not a fan. Beautiful place in the midst of spectacular mountains. Simple teachings and committed teachers, who live in the community. Full MOON while I was there. Gorgeous in its large orangeness. Walking meditation through their paths carved out in the forest around them.

Although I reached this state of contentment. I still had a major urge to leave. I debated for a while: Am I trying to convince myself to leave because I don’t want to sit with myself, or am I trying to convince myself to leave because traveling can be meditation. Constantly trying to catch the balance and stay present in what you are doing and not what is coming next. Enjoying the environment you are in and appreciating the differences and beauty in what is around you. Meditation.

So day 3 evening, I walk into my room, pack my bag and am on the road again. Was this a frivolous decision brought upon from a mind not yet settled, or moving with the flow of life: Pacha Mama’s calls? Still don’t know and probably will never know. On the road, no buses, just hoping to get over to the next town. Walking with my pack, I quickly became tired. Pushing on, through this mountainous area. Huffing and puffing.. running out of water… knowing I have my tent so I can post up on the side of the road. Some cars passing by here and there so I decide to hitchhike. Thumb up… rejected!! Ouch. Never been good with rejection… next car passes and I don’t put anything up. They stop anyways. Three Thai men say “hey, where you go”, “that way” finger pointed up the mountain. “We go Chiang Mai”. I know that Pai is on the way 2 hours down the road and have heard good things, so I hop in and say “Im going to Pai”. They toss me a water bottle and we move on.

Was I scared this wasn’t safe? A little. But a mixture of exhaustion and knowing that with some awareness I can get out of many situations kept me in the car. We struggle to communicate, but it was fun. I tried to teach them how to say/use “I see you” like in the movie Avatar. But I’m not sure they really got it. One guy, the driver, lead the conversations from the Thai side. He knew the most English. We talked mainly about what am I doing, do I like Thailand, and what they do in their life, and how they know about each other. My Thai is not very good… or non existent, but I pull out a sheet of paper with Thai language notes and try my hardest to communicate. It is actually very mentally stimulating to try to speak a different language and thus exhausting. Bless those who move to different countries not knowing a lick of the language! Its a daunting and tiring task.

They drop me off at Pai, a town that supposedly has a hippiesc vibe. They get out of the carDSCF1043 to say goodbye and we move on. I put my pack on and start walking around the streets of Pai looking for a hostel where I can throw my bag down and start exploring. I found The Cat Hut and decided it would do. Affordable, close to the buzzing streets, availability. Check, check, check. And yes it had a very charming cat. I was annoying the cat to entertain myself and get some interaction with my new feline friend. Blowing playfully in her face/ears. She did not like it it seemed, but instead of running away she would look at me and give a low “leave me alone” meow… every time I blew. Anyways, I toss my bag in the room and head out for some food.

I was starving!! We don’t eat dinner at Wat Tam Wua, so I really wanted to eat dinner tonight! I trekked around to find some grub and ended up getting some crappy fried egg rolls and a shake. It was a hungry decision, I waited a bit too long to look for food. I went back home to reconfigure myself. Lay down, shower, brush my teeth and just sit still for a while.

Pai: a small town with many cool open area bars, live music, pool tables, futbol games on tv and from the street vendors there were clothes, art, and food. This was the main strip and was populated by many backpackers. Then going out side of the town you find yoga, muay thai training, vegetarian restaurants, many cool little huts, motor scooter and some nice sights.

I go out that night and play some pool with some people already there. I did ok. I later meet some pool sharks playing for 500 baht ($16) a game. I don’t play because they were incredibly good and I wasn’t trying to lose money. Convinced I need to get skilled at pool.

I like the little town, but am looking for an environment that will encourage me to do things healthy for my body and mind, like adventure, new things, classes, etc. I moved hostels to a hostel outside of town to get some more peace and perhaps be more drawn to Yoga versus the night life scene. My roommate, a California man named Jeremy. Soft spoken, thoughtful, bold kid who was teaching English in Thailand for 6 months and was now exploring. Topics like monogamy vs polygamy, getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, and our college experiences were our big topics of the night. We went into town on his motorbike and he taught me how to drive his semi-automatic bike, so that I could feel more comfortable renting my own. Travelers were having pretty bad accidents left, right and center! If you saw a backpacker limping… it was a motorbike accident. So I wanted a lesson before I tried it.

Next morning I took a yoga class with a young American girl right at my hostel, which was DSCF1044an excellent start to my day as always. Then, I rented a motor bike and rode around town! Rushing toward the air feeling it press against my skin, spinning my hand backwards going faster and faster, scene changing rapidly. It was wonderful. I rode around for a while just to ride. i ended up seeing some chained elephants in a box size space barely big enough for them to turn around. Split up from their families, beaten, and enslaved. You can see it in their eyes.

ATTENTION: do not ride elephants while you are in Thailand. They are horrible to these very aware creatures. They have families, lives, eyes, ears, hearts. DO NOT SUPPORT THIS ATTRACTION.

I went back to the hostel and met some Bostonians!!! What are the odds. We ended up going to the canyons that night to see the sun set. It was quite exhilarating walking on such a thin piece of land with a 200-foot drop on either side. Senses heightened, blood pumping as I cross the walkway. I get to a comfy spot with a good view and just plop down. Took a few pictures then just sat and focused on one sense at a time. First the hearing: quiet chatter from the people close by, birds, wind. Touch: rough dirt on my ankles and knees, heat on my skin. Smell: Heavy, but fresh. Taste: dryness. Sight: the colors! So many shades of green, bright gold shining in the sky, mountains ahead changing from green to blue as the sun took shelter behind them. Appreciating the moment. Moment slowly ended and I got up and headed for my sweet bike!

I also took a Muay Thai training class, which really changed my mood for the day. It was good exercise and allowed my body to get the work out it needed. And constantly focusing on form… gave my mind something to focus on for about two hours. So, I left there walking on clouds. I loved it. All ready to get into a street fight!

Over all Pai was not such a “hippie” town. Depends on what you mean by the word. I think progressive thinking individuals challenging the societal norms to make positive change. This town did not have a large presence of that. There were some progressive thinking restaurants with the best Kombucha I ever had (EarthTone), and Thai men with dreads, and Mushroom shakes, and reggae bars. So yes, it had a somewhat more hippie vibe than the other spots I had been to.

I also realized that many backpackers do the same treck. Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, and southern islands. The spots well known, therefore people feel safer going there as well as them being pretty sweet locations. Anyways, because of these being the popular places you run into friends you have made along the way, which is such a wonderful feeling.

When I was in Bangkok, I met a German kid. We spoke and got along well. Then got into the topic of meditation. He had never tried it before, but had been meaning to. I mention a few moments I have had that were life changing for me and we move on. Sitting in Pai, at a cafe, he walks by with his pack and very excited to see me. He sits down and says… ” you will never believe where I am going” “where” “to Wat Tam Wua for a vipassana meditation retreat”! Wow! So I wish him a farewell and hope that he finds what he is searching for.

My time in Pai was also now finished. Also, I received some good news during my stay here. There is a best friend of mine who plans to be in the neighborhood and would like to wander around with me 🙂 Cynthia sends me a message that she will be flying out to Bangkok this week!!! So I book a night train to Bangkok for the following day from Chiang Mai, which is south of Pai about 3 hours. I wasn’t in Chiang Mai for long, but I had to stop by the yoga studio again. I really enjoyed the teachers style. So, I booked a hostel, went to Freedom Yoga the following morning, hung around town then got on the train around 5pm.

I was very happy to have her joining me. I felt like she would bring a balance I was looking for. There was the thought of “will searching for yourself be possible travelling with another”? But to catch a balance with her will be equally as challenging and beautiful and there is a time for everything. So here. we. go!

 

 

 

Jungle Village in Pak Song

I wake up in my thirteen bed dorm at Eco-Logic in Pak-song in the south of Thailand. TakeDSCF0958 a shower in the beautiful bathroom: Bamboo pipe as the shower head, with cooling water pouring over my head. The entirety of the bathroom is designed to be wet. Large red tiles covering the floor with drains. Its nice to have so much space to be able to be wet in. I do some push ups and sit ups in the bath room rinse off walk around in there, say hello to my gecko friends, dry up and walk out.

Yoga in the morning! I had two teachers  throughout my stay. One female Dutch woman who had beautiful sequences and a sun salutation sequence that she designed her self, named the dragonfly. After practicing her sequence, I finished in savasana: mental stillness and physical bliss. I ask for nothing more in my experience with yoga.

The other teacher, a male Scottish teacher. He had just gotten his 200 hour teacher training, which is the first training someone receives in order to become a teacher. He was very kind, but very eager. In his conversations he would eagerly try to sell his point overlooking the listening or understanding aspect of the conversation. In his classes he portrayed the same style. He would try to get you in this “advanced” pose without much progression. For me yoga is not about the posses you accomplish or how deep you get in the stretch, but the constant focus on the exploration of the body. When your awareness is on the exploration of the way your body feels in each pose, for an extended period of time… it is meditation… it is grounding and freeing.. you are present. He was an over eager student as I see it, not yet a teacher. And so I stopped attending his classes after 3 attempts. I did not tell him how I felt, because I didn’t feel it was my place. But I did explain to him what Yoga means for me… perhaps that sparks curiosity.

Traveling and Yoga are one in the same. You can know all of the poses, how they are done, and try to accomplish each pose; you can know all the places, where they are located, and check off all the sights you wish to see. Yes you can move through the motions. But it is in the exploring of how these things truly feel for you and discovering new ways to move about in those spaces that is the art. That is learning. That is living.

Day to day at Eco-Logic:

5-meditate

6:30-yoga

8-breakfast

9-work in the garden, weeding, watering. Cleaning the new restaurant that that is being renovated with a view of the jungle (Ta mah cha a.k.a natural).

12- lunch (mostly vegetarian, we occasionally had fish)

1-5- Wander around. Take a walk up the river with my water sac, a hat, camera, and spf. Walk or hitchhike to the near by swimming river.Walk into town for an ice cream and their local market.Thai language lesson.

5-Yoga

7-dinner, then Hang out with friends talking, or sitting by a fire. Lay in a hammock.

Mini adventures:

-Lan and I decided that we had to build a raft out of bamboo to place in the water and hang out by. So we went off into the bamboo forest, a.k.a the backyard, and chopped out about 8 bamboo logs. They were dead ones in case you were wondering. We roped it together threw it in the water and checked if it floated… you can say it was good enough… then we never used it again. In the process of carrying the raft I broke my flipflops. Lan quickly got some rope and we MacGyvered my sandal. We didn’t do the best job and so it broke once again shortly after. When I went to get some more rope Kon (another staff member of Eco Logic) saw me and put his hands up saying “wait here” (I think). He ran off and came back with new sandals. Presented them to me and said “for you, take take”. He presented sandals that don’t have that thong between your toes, they are silicon I believe so can get wet, and a nice color blue. The sandals I didn’t even know I wanted. I wear them everyday. His action was so warm, I was so touched. He didn’t really know me and he doesn’t have much to give.

-I went to the beach one morning with a group of people staying in the same place as me. As many people as you could count on your hands, clear water aqua colored water, Large mountains towering upwards in the distance, soft flat sand underneath the clear aqua, buffalo walking around enjoying the beach with us. It was beautiful. As I walked around I saw a large rock about forty feet from shore poking out of the ocean.  I quickly headed over to climb it. As I got closer… I saw tons of jet black crabs about 4 inches in diameter scurrying around when they noticed me. Waves crashing into the rock in quick repetition. The rock was taller than appeared from the distance. Fear came up of course and I almost didn’t go climb the rock, but then I remembered: I am a Cancer, these are my people. So I jumped up and climbed the rock feeling the adrenaline of doing it even though I was scared. Then I sat there for some time letting the waves crash over me. Such a large amount of water, being thrusted toward me by the tide from the moon. So powerful, yet no intention. All my worries and thoughts now clear,  being brought to presence by nature 🙂

-Walking to the swimming river was such a beautiful walk. I ran into a small monkey. They were selling him for 500 baht a.k.a about 20 dollars. Yes a monkey for 20$. He was so interactive. I put my bag down and instantly he reached for it and yanked it toward himself. He wanted it. “You don’t even know what is in there”!!! Then, I put my hand out and he held my hand. Chained up by the neck, poor creature. He had ears, and finger nails, and was so curious. I know I couldn’t just let him back into the wild, he might not survive. I feel bad for the little fellow and continue my walk. I reached my destination and swam around for some time. Then got out of the river and it just started pouring (good thing I had my water bag). It was so humanizing standing in the rain not caring if my things got wet. Not caring if anything got wet. It felt as if nothing else mattered. I then walked home and ended up getting a ride down the road by some guy with a pick up truck. Grabbed an ice cream and then went to evening yoga class.

Locals Life:

Being in the Eco-Logic community, I felt how they were all working together to keep this one community moving. Their work was all day… always at the location, it was their lifestyle. Some of them even had huts there. Surrounded by whom they now call family, laughing, working when something needs to be done… but they had all day here. They were committed to this place, to being here. So the work was done at their own pace. When something came up they went in that direction. My back pack was broken and a woman stopped and spent about 20 minutes fixing it, just because. If you were speaking with any one, they would turn and face you and really try to understand what you were saying. When it was break time they sat down and relaxed.. and break time was whenever break time was 🙂 Although they were at work, they appeared to feel timeless also. Different style of working.

DSCF0954At this village, and I assume most villages in Thailand, they were so resourceful. Bamboo chairs, shower heads, straws, benches.. because they had a lot of bamboo in the area!! Using nearby trees for the fire wood (used for smoking out the bugs), shredding fallen palm trees for mulch, clay dirt for their homes. They LIVED OFF THE LAND. Such a connection with nature. With out having to get connected, they just need to be. Economically, they are forced to live off the land and be connected. Is that a bad thing? I’m not sure yet. I do think that if a financial opportunity came along that might ruin their Land (selling of trees) they might take the opportunity. I don’t know for sure that that is what they would do, but perhaps.

 

 

Friends:

Shami-27 year old from the Congo/Rewanda traveling around with a suit case and his dj set… his life in his possession. Translating directly from his Swahili style to English words, creating many beautiful prose. He had many wise things to say, when he spoke at all. “I speak when I have something to say”.

Maarten-very kind welcoming dutch kid 23 years old. Speaks decent Thai and has been traveling to Thailand back and forth for 3 years. Likes to party!! Electronic mellow dj

Freek-Best friends with Maarten. A lover at heart. Likes athletics, talking, and Electronic music. He had the moves!!

Tina-Sweet free flowing indiana girl. USA! First time out of the country!

Candace- Very interesting girl. Photographer who wants to live in the San Francisco Bay area. Also from Indiana 23 years old. Many life questions she is still trying to figure out, but has time 🙂 Good conversations.

Lan-The Thai jungle man. Truly a traveler by heart. Its in his nature. He lives in the south working at a hotel resort makes money, then goes to Eco logic and lives in the jungle for a few months. Then off to the next job and back for twelve years. Can make it in the jungle with just a machete and his sling shot. Always cheesing! Always going with the flow.

Ilona-33 year old Dutch woman. Just had a lifestyle change and is getting really into finding herself. Comfortable showing her excitement, which was nice.

So many different people, all harmonized in one location. Separately going off on our own or with one other, uniting again as one big family. Always in harmony, it was nice 🙂 A feeling not always felt.

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Once my 7 days were up I was comfortable with the timing. I was happy with the connections I made, felt like I was able to open up and show my true colors. I was leaving no stone unturned as far as my personal beliefs and being vulnerable. I was being myself and it felt good. So when it was time to go, I was happy to. It was my time to move. I felt that I wanted to be in a more mobile area, so I decided to go north to Chiang Mai where I could easily get around to many different towns. So, I hopped on a plane and went north about 3 hours.

I got to Chiang Mai and went for a walk around. Found a cool yoga studio, so I took a class and the teacher was great 🙂 Aussie man with good alignment ques, challenging class for sure. It was called Freedom Yoga and I highly recommend it. Adam chased his dream and landed in Thailand owning a Yoga Studio.

I went out to this little square close to my hostel. It was a square block of dancing and social activities where everyone was hanging out. Sitting down enjoying a beer, some fellow travelers from the table over invite me to sit with them. We spent the night out together and it was fun… but I learned that I want more time with people to truly unravel and get to know each other and myself. If ends up feeling better. Although, I do feel like sometimes I do connect deeply with someone in just a moment. So maybe time is not the variable I need to change.

Early in the morning I woke up feeling an uncomfortable lonely feeling. Im not sure why I felt this angst to move, but I ran away from Chiang Mai! So many options… I just didn’t want to settle for one. Or unhappy with what I had, just “not this” my mind said, although it was perfect there. It’s a balancing act to travel around. Having to find the balance at each different place you go, each different person you meet. This time, I tipped off balance and ran off to Wat Tam Wua. A vipassana meditation center in the mountains. Hoping to recenter myself and more easily catch this balance and be able to be present wherever I was instead following the urge for “not this” and making frivolous moves. But instead meet the town. Catch the balance. Settle in.

I went to the bus station and got on the bus to later find out it was a 6 hour ride! Before getting on the bus the driver asks me where I am going: “To Mae Hong Son” (the town near the Wat) “Hmmm.. are you going to Wat Tam Wua”? “Yes, as a matter of fact I am, how did you know?” He didn’t understand that question. But he knew I was getting off at the Wat and said it was about an hour closer than Mae Hong Son. Interesting and lucky for me.

I arrive at Wat Tam Wua. Hike up about a mile with my pack into these beautiful mountains. Such a peaceful air. All different faces strolling along the land with white linen clothing. I felt happy with my decision. I was given some linen clothing, slipped them on and began my centering phase 🙂

Pacha Mama takes over

24-hour voyage from Boston to Bangkok. Stopped at Norway for some time. I did feel heavy moments of restlessness or claustrophobia here and there, but they went away. Overall it was a very manageable. Shout out to Norwegian air.

At one point during the flight I looked out of my window and the plane was just rolling on an endless white road under a clear soft blue ceiling. I felt like I was in a giant’s room, not from this planet.

As we descended into Bangkok, I could see all of the underdeveloped structures and rectangular pools of water, which I later came to find out were man made pools for fish and shrimp. It felt so familiar: “oh just another city”. That’s when the “why did I come to the other side of the world to see the same life in different form” feeling came up. All this time I thought I knew why I was traveling. And at that moment I realized I had absolutely no idea why I truly chose to do this. It was a thick layer of fear, of doubt. But I was here; I was doing this. And I was happy to be doing this, the fear was just lurking in the background and would pop to the foreground of my mind momentarily like an anxious friend stating his worry.

I took the subway then a run-down cab that inconsistently jolted me forward to this area DSCF0941.JPGwhere I knew had many hostels. I chose the NapPark hostel .

More expensive than the other hostels, but I had read about this place in my LonelyPlanet book and craved some stability among all this crazyness. So I went with the decision I previously made in my plan.

The Hostel is on Khao San road. Backpacker city! And like every city there are a handful of stores that are recycled throughout the area. Here the stores are: Currency exchange, thai massage, bars, eateries, tattoo shops, and stands that sell Hawaiian shirts and flowy elephant pants.

I arrived to the hostel, locked up my bag and headed outdoors. Not because I was excited to explore, but because I wanted some fresh air. As I walked around I was approached by a Thai man who spoke English and I could tell was friendly, but was skeptical. He said he would show me around; I wasn’t scared of him so I went for it. He took me to a ten story high Buddha statue made of gold and then I headed back to home base (Khao San road) because I was bored of his company.

I kept walking around the streets and just catching my balance really. I AM ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. Nothing I hold close to my heart is physically near me. And I could truly feel that.

Perhaps not the most healthy forms of comfort, but one I knew well; I went and got a beer and some cigarettes.

I stumbled upon bar with live music. Thai man playing guitar number one, his son playing guitar number two, and his wife singing. All American tunes. They were a Bluesy funk band. I was sitting very close and watching the Father closely. He held a cigarette in his mouth for the entire song as he played his guitar flawlessly with so much soul. Music heals all.

I pull a cigarette out for my own and see that I don’t have a light… of course. So I lean over to the guy on my left and ask for his. He passes it to me and we start talking. Doing me a simple favor of passing me a light being the ice breaker for both of us.

As the conversation develops I tell him that this is actually the first day of my adventure. He tells me how lucky I am and that this was his last day of his 7 month adventure. Conversation continues a little more excitedly from our serendipitous meeting. He then asks me for my name: Adrian. Staring at me with a smirk and open eyes… “you’re kidding, my name is Adrien too” and proceeds to show me his French license. We then hit it off. Hopping from bar to bar speaking about what I want to do on this adventure and what he did do. Transforming the lurking energy in the background from fear to excitement. They are one in the same.

The party scene was crazy there! Thousands of backpackers partying. From buckets of rum, to ping pong shows (not your average ping pong shows), to balloons filled with laughing gas being sold for 3 American dollars or 100 baht. And when in Rome…

The next day I went to go visit the Grand Palace, which is a “must see” here in Bangkok.DSCF0940.JPG Took a tuk-tuk to the location. Tuk-Tuk: a motorbike with a carriage built in that zips in and out of traffic like a kid riding his bike through his well known neighborhood. Safe… maybe, cheap… if you bargain right.

 

DSCF0931.JPGYes, the Grand Palace was magnificent, but it was full of tourists! I felt rushed the whole time and didn’t really get a chance to connect with the architecture or have a chance to sit and feel the energy of this magnificent creation.

I quickly grew tired of this place. I felt I needed to carry onward. So I do a quick search of DSCF0925.JPGyoga centers with retreats going on and I find one I like. I am off to PakSong. Moving to the south of Thailand.

Just like that… all of my weeks of planning were now just a crumbled piece of paper. Once here at the travel destination I realized I was here to explore and move as Pacha Mama wanted me to; like a bird knows when it is time… I too can learn to feel when it is time. So, from now on. That is how I plan to travel and with practice I will become more sensitive to that flavor. The “its time to move” spice.

Bought a bus ticket for 30 dollars a.k.a 1000 baht. They said they would give me a lift to the bus station, so I show up with my huge bag and sat down waiting for my ride. A few moments later a guy shows up… with a moped. This is what I am here for, so I wobble on and he zips me through the busy streets of Bangkok to a hot sweaty minivan. Then to the bus terminal. Twelve hours of a sleepless bus ride, I got to a small town in the middle of nowhere at 5:30 am. I was now in Ranong!

Ok. I am here. Now… to get to Eco-Logic (a yoga center). I ask the very few people around and realize that we are no longer in Bangkok. English no longer being a communication tool. After many failed attempts I proceed to go sit on a curb and mope. I turn around to some people sitting on a bench and an English speaking Thai guy asks me where I am headed with that giant bag. “Eco-logic, some yoga center close to here”, I say. “Oh, I know that place… I work there” Lan says with his bright cheek to cheek grin. Oh the way Pacha Mama moves.

I arrive at my destination. A village in the rainforest!! Ta mah cha a.k.a Natural. Coconut, Papaya, and banana trees, dirt with stones laying over top to make them paths, homes made from dried clay, flowers, horses, dogs, insects, birds, I even saw monkeys! A big difference that I noticed, besides everything, is that everything here can get wet. Getting wet is no longer a taboo.

DSCF0985.JPGLucky for me I arrived on the day of the Thai New year, which means I got to attend the Songkram festival of the village. Songkram: The Thai new year celebrated throughout Thailand with water as the cleanser and new start. Water is being thrown at everyone by watergun, hose, bucket, whatever! Chalk mixed with water being stroked onto the faces of passerbys. Very fun and meaningful celebration.

I hop on this pick up truck with seats in the back along with a handful of other travelersDSCF0960.JPG my age, some staff, and Lan. As we ride over to the village gathering spot, the driver slows down so the people on the side of the road can toss buckets of water at us! Dripping, we arrive at the village gathering. Stands set up by local families with drinks and food, a center stage with locals performing music and dancing. This was authentic Thailand culture. It was what I wanted.

Not to say that now Khao San is not a part of Thailand. It very much is and areas like Phuket are just like it. Designed for tourists and encompassing backpackers from all over looking for a great party.

What I learned from Khao San road is to let go of my plans. That travelling in a backpacker country is a giant networking event. Where you go, you will meet people who have been other places and you connect, intake, and decide if you want to go anywhere they have communicated. And also the pure attention of a fellow backpacker. Because backpackers are timeless. No agenda, no plans, just time. Time allows for the pure attention we seek. And lastly, that communicating with people foreign to English is nice because they do not tell you every thought they have, but merely try to relay this message coming from the heart. What they want to get across they piece together before your eyes with English words.

Now, to explore this jungle community!!!

The Birth of the Search

 

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Catching the existential angst fever. My awareness of not feeling fully connected was growing stronger and stronger. Looking down the road and seeing hundreds of different paths, and within those paths hundreds more. Endless options and feeling that only one of these can be the best one. Frivolously changing hobbies, locations, future plans in search of that deeper connection; that feeling of wholeness.  I have learned that changing my external circumstances would never truly bring me to good terms with this “angst”. Only in finding interest and humor in learning how my mind interacts with the outside world will I feel comfort and enjoyment in the way life unravels before me. But to know conceptually and to feel and act on that knowledge are very different. To live the words “existence precedes essence” is what I am looking for.

From the conversations I have had with friends, coworkers, family, and in passing interactions, I have found that I am not alone in this feeling. This feeling first received a label when I read Soren Kierkegaard and Jean Paul Sartre in my Existentialism class my Junior year of College. The feeling described so simply by Kierkegaard was very striking for me: “the dizziness of freedom”.

I decided to ambitiously head towards this internal understanding. and so this FrDSCF0903iday, the 8th of April 2016, I will be traveling to South East Asia for a new journey beginning in Bangkok, Thailand.

I chose South East Asia for its deep roots in Buddhism, a culture of being aware of ones mental patterns. Every Thai male goes into the monastic life at the age of 20. They stay for at least a few months but most stay for a year or more. Here they learn the fundamentals of Buddhist thought and lay the ground work for learning how their mind works through the meditation practices.

Could I have found what I was looking for where I currently am? Perhaps. But staying in the same location, without the proper mental footing, enables the SAME patters to strike repetitively. Deepening the foot paths of the mind in those directions. Making it easier and easier to choose the path that you perhaps know is not the healthier or happier one.

So, for me, it was time to change environments and start fresh in order to get more deeply rooted. Traveling in an unknown land where you are far from anyone that you know or anything that you know brings out a sort of curious fear. Also in traveling there is the ability to feel timeless because you are not really tethered to anything. So in feeling timeless and being alone I can really discover how my mind works or who I am.

Fun Fact: I have been moving around (starting fresh) since I was young, sometimes unwillingly. I moved from Miami to Maryland at 10-within Maryland at 14-went away to college at 17-flew to Berkeley, CA at 21-then shipped off to Boston, MA at 22. Now to South East Asia.

It was very surprising and humbling the support I received from all angles. Both emotionally and tangibly.

-My coworkers at WGBH were so on board for me heading in this direction. Their excitement, understanding and genuine happiness made the transition from my work life, to ‘planning the trip’ phase, very smooth.

-My friends, encouraging and light hearted, helped me continue moving forward through my minds shameless doubts.

-My brothers, mother, stepdad, father, sister, my beautiful family. Each one helped me in their own way, such powerful moments of support. Thank you all.

-My love, my boo. Yes, I have a lady in my life who is not going on the trip although she might meet me here… who knows 😉 Her emotional stability, reassurance of our relationship, and selflessness has surgically removed the most challenging part, for me, of picking up and leaving on a new voyage. Cyn is also an expert trip packer!

It was so touching to see all the people I cared about be so supportive and interested.

Rough Sketch of the trip:

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Land in Bangkok stay for a short time and explore, make my way up towards Ayuthaya small town north of Bangkok surrounded by rivers, Head north to a National Park and be there for some time, a bit more north to Chiang Mai to explore then go into a silent meditation retreat at Wat Ram Poeng, I also have some feelers out with WorkAway hosts near Chiang Mai. Then I fly to Malaysia on May 7th. Luckily Americans receive a 30 day visa to many of the countries in South East Asia. I will be leaving on May 7th to stay within the 30 days allowed.

I don’t know how much of this will happen. Its just my first draft 🙂 Enough structure for me to feel safe, enough space for me to feel that I can move freely.

I will be working in exchange for accommodation and food where possible through a program called WorkAway (my profile-www.workaway.info)

 

 

What I will take on my trip:dscf0895.jpg