It’s about surrendering to a greater truth
It was five o’clock in the morning. I was alone.
I awoke and put on my rough, white linen robe. I walked out onto the wooden planks of my small hut.
Thick morning fog ebbed through the mountains in a dream of languid mist. I heard the joyful songs of hidden birds.
I stretched my stiff muscles. My body hurt from sleeping on a hard wooden pallet with a thin mattress and a small pillow.
The sun poured down like honey through the steaming jungle that was the wild border with Burma.
I ran barefoot along a path between blossoms of heavy, fragrant, yellow flowers. I splashed across a fast and narrow river. Icy water and small stones stung my feet.
I climbed ancient rock stairs that led into a vast cave at the base of the mountain. The air was still and I smelled the sharp burnt aroma of incense.
In front of me was a soft vision, pale as ivory. I dropped to my knees and pressed my forehead to the ground three times.
Above me, the Buddha regarded me with certainty. I felt an undeniable truth.
Looking into his eyes I felt a rush of self-appraisal. What do I hunger for most? What does the world need more than anything?
“Let us not forget compassion,” are the simple words of the Buddha.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm my racing heart. I felt I was on the edge of a precipice. I wanted, with all my being, to step off that edge and into the enlightenment that all is one.
My mind chatters, “Is that really true? Is all this happening to me?”
I concentrate on my breath, breathing slowly and purposefully. Inhale. Exhale. My mind empties and in floods a deep feeling of awe.
Where was I? I was in Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery, a Buddhist meditation retreat hidden in a stunning mountain valley surrounded by lush jungle.
It lies at the end of a red dirt road eight miles from the wilderness border with Burma.
I arrived there in a small local bus after five hours of sharp and dangerous turns.
I felt far away from where I started in the Old City of Chiang Mai, nestled in the lower plains of northern Thailand.
I was going to spend six days at the monastery in silence, work and meditation.
My journey to Buddhism began 20 years ago while I was living in San Francisco.
By pure chance, I wandered into a small, dim hall where they were showing a documentary about the life of monks in a snowy mountain monastery during a cold winter.
Their world was about simplicity, asceticism, hard work, calm, dedication, silence and ancient wisdom. It was about a life filled with a different and deeper meaning than mine. The movie shook me to the core. I could not get it out of my head.
I watched it again and again. Each time, I saw different possibilities, a different way to live my life.
Back then, my ambitions were building my career, making a living and raising my daughter.
It often takes a long time for our dreams to manifest. And here I was. Surrendering to a truth that called to me so long ago. To be continued …
• Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at www.ninalondon.com
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