This is the first in a series.
I’ve been home in Indiana since Thursday last, and just yesterday did I begin to feel myself return energetically. Coming off the plane from Seattle, for three days I was congested, coughing up all the mucus I ingested from white flour products — bread, pasta — imbibed during my nine week journey. Not so much in the countries I visited (Thailand, and bits of Nepal, India), but in the airports and on planes, and during my week in Seattle afterwards. (FYI, flight times, the journey to Thailand: 5 hours from Seattle to San Francisco; 10 hours to Seoul, Korea, another 5 hours to Chiang Mai, in northern) Thailand.)
The mucus in my system was also psychic. I could barely think “straight.” And maybe that’s the point. I’d rather think in curves, the way the Thais do.
Here’s a detail from an extraordinary Buddhist temple, the Wat Rong Khun, otherwise known as the White Temple, near Chiang Rai (about 90 minutes north of Chiang Mai).
Here’s a view of that temple itself, taken from the website.
Why is this temple so consistently glorious? Because it is the pure outpicturing of the vision and industry and endurance of one single-minded man, who works with other artisans by donation only, refusing to take money from governments or corporations or foundations in order to finish the work. He figures it will finally be done decades after his death. More on that later.
Here’s another example of curves.
All the Thai temples have some kind of feature like this on the corners of roofs. Is it a snake? A serpent? Whatever it is, this kind of spiraling tendency can be used to identify specifically Thai temples. (It’s fascinating to see how Buddhism undergoes subtle architectural morphing as it travels from country to country. Vietnamese, Chinese, Burmese, Japanese . . . their temples all reflect their particular aesthetic, as do their statues of the Buddha.)
So yes, Thailand is a land of curves. Of, one might say, the feminine principle in nature, the spiraling growth of ferns, fetuses, storms, and galaxies, integrated into the culture. Buddhism took root here, in a profound way; the result is a gentle land, which features the principles of cooperation and kindness and harmonious living.
I felt utterly at home in Thailand. Despite the often strenuous nature of our journey, I relaxed. After two months, it’s hard to come back to “America,” (I put this word in quotes because of course, Canadians, Mexicans, and Bolivians etc. are Americans, too. Why do we in the U.S. think only we can call ourselves American?)
Hard to return to this harsh land of competitive striving. Hard to re-enter the currents of technology, too, after so long away, almost half of it fully removed from “normal” life, living in temples, in the process of formally learning a particularly potent form of Vipassana meditation. I was, as my teacher put it, “defragging my hard drive.” Letting it all go.
One example: during my introductory course in meditation (21 days long), while in sitting meditation I suddenly saw this, in my mind’s eye: a group of women, as if lined up in rows for a photograph. The photograph pixilated, then smeared, then washed out. That morphing vision was as clear and distinct and astonishing as any I have ever undergone.
In this series, I will be telling small stories about what I found on my journey to the far east, how my experiences affected me, and hopefully, how we might use these kinds of experiences to help throw light on our journey through life on Earth.