I am in motion now. I come down from the northern mountains of Thailand towards the center of the kingdom of the Thai people. As I descend, I feel a palpable change in vision, a newfound and fresh sense of clarity: the gift of perspective. After four months of sitting mindfulness practice in the monasteries of Thailand, I have realized for myself that mindfulness is most powerful when applied. That the body must fully express the values and intentions cultivated in our minds. That stillness must balanced by motion, and motion, by stillness. As such realization dawns upon me, I prepare to watch the earth from above. In a few hours, I fly from Bangkok to Kathmandu, Nepal.
My intention of journeying to Nepal began while I biked strenuously to the top of mountain. As I pedaled my new bike, on a twelve kilometers ascent towards Doi Suthep, I reconnected to something profound. Life flowed in me in a way that felt new and fresh in comparison to all the sitting I had done in the temples, yet deeply familiar. All the lessons of my Thai teachers must be applied, I realized. That from that moment on, I knew I must physically embody mindfulness across all aspects of my life. Within a few days from that realization, I left my apartment in Chiang Mai and found myself practicing Chinese martial arts in the idyllic mountain village of Pai.
Kung Fu retreat
On a mountain, I practiced chi gong, tai chi, kung fu, and tasted the best of Chinese tea. In the morning, I watched the sunrise while breathing and moving gently, reconnecting with the earth. At night, I gazed with sadness, overlooking mountains blazing with smoke and fire–the “burning season” of northern Thailand. Mid-day, I heard lessons on the taoist way into the kung fu martial art.
“Always move from your core,” said my kung fu teacher, as he taught me the famous horse riding stance for martial arts. “Stand strong and firm on your balance. Realize that your body is a a fully interconnected web: when you hit this bag, you must use as much of your foot as you use your hand for a punch attack, and all the parts in between,” he continued on. Interconnection. So much overlap with the teachings of my Thai meditation teachers. Yet, this time, a new dimension was present. Harmony and wholeness were sought in the integration of opposites. Movement and still. For that, the teacher told the following: “Be as strong as the tiger, and supple and springy as the crane. Aim for the balance of the yin and yang. Such is the Kung Fu style we practice here: the Tiger and the Crane.” The whole experience felt to me as a moving meditation for a week.
Sukhothai and Ayuthaya
As the week of kung fu came to an end, I began my descent towards the center, Bangkok before Nepal. The historical cities of Sukhothai and Ayuthaya hosted me and a good friend, who I met at the kung fu retreat. We explored ruins of ancient temples that once belonged to two of the most important kingdoms of the land. What once was splendor and glory became only bricks and worn-out stucco, an open-air exhibition of former temples converted into ruins. History is impermanence’s best teacher.
Now, with the coming of spring and the end of the kung fu retreat, I proceed. I walk the path of an embodied mindfulness of sorts. I begin to reconnect with the life force underneath my muscles and skin, with nature in its natural state. Nepal invites me to embody these teachings I had learned while sitting in the monasteries of Thailand, to walk the middle path of integration of opposites. Like still, flowing water, I thank Thailand for all its lessons, for all its teachers, and blessings. Onwards I go to the country of rhododendrons and mountains, to the awesome Everest of life.