March 18, 2009

Chaung Tha, Myanmar

I didn’t realize how dusty and tired I was until I reached the shores of the Bay of Bengal. The 7 hour early morning bus ride had dumped me in a sleepy, non-touristy beach town that other traveler’s described as “Thailand 20 years ago.” With all the Monk-ey business going on in Burma, I had originally planned to seek out a ten day meditation to clear my head and recharge my travel energy, but as I sat on the front porch of my room, listening to the waves break as I watched the sunset over the water, I was confident that the meditation had found me.
I had forgotten the soothing powers of fresh beach air and salty water. I hadn’t seen a beach since Greece the previous June and, since then I had been traveling hard through Russia, Mongolia, and China.
I had planned to stay for three days, but upon arrival I frantically called the woman arranging my flight back to China and postponed my return so that I would have a full 8 days on the beach. By the second day, I was successfully reduced to a nap-taking, coconut-drinking, book-reading pile of puddy.
As I slowly started to relax, the lessons of my travels started to come to the fore of my mind. Even though I wasn’t meditating in a monastery, I seemed to be coming to the conclusions of non-attachment and it was here in Chaung Tha that I decided to simplify my life. I had been carrying around a huge backpack with a bunch of stuff I never used and I decided it was time to let go.
I thought about how conditioned we have become to despise discomfort and how we try to avoid it at all costs; if it’s too cold, we turn up the heat, if it’s too hot, we turn up the air, if we are in pain, we pop a pill, if it’s too noisy, we complain. And the more we are attached to the fear of discomfort, the more confined in our comfort zones we become, and the fear of physical discomforts seem to mimic the emotional ones, sometimes keeping us locked in unsuccessful relationships or jobs we can’t stand. I thought of all the items I was carrying around in case there was a moment when I might be forced to feel a few hours of discomfort; extra antibiotics and sweaters and socks and shoes. As I have been slowly knocking down my fears by traveling, it was time for this one to go as well, and along with it, about half of my backpack.
This type of meditation was working for me. I felt myself coming to clear conclusions, and yet I was able to arrive there by drinking beer and eating fresh food with a stellar group of newfound friends. I didn’t have to be silent, shave my head or wake up at 4:00 a.m. I didn’t have to wear a robe and ask for rice. I could just enjoy the psychological benefits of my newfound freedom with my feet kicked up on the terrace table, coconut in hand and a fresh fish on the grill.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

my favorite dress...still hanging on!


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