A couple of weeks ago, I woke up with what felt like the weight of the world on me. You know those days—we all do. Sometimes these heavy feelings exist for reasons we understand, and other days they appear for no reason at all. On this day, I went to my meditation space to begin my practice and asked the Universe to send me a miracle. I needed help and I was open to it happening in whatever form it took, even if miracles are hard to find.
After my meditation was done, I went downstairs, got my tea, checked my email and prepared myself for writing. I noticed that there was an email from my niece in Thailand. She is spending her fall semester there. The email said that she had gone to a monastery in Thailand to participate in what they call a monk chat. She went on to speak of her experience and explain what it had meant to her life.
After reading this message, I was so filled with emotion that I burst into tears. There was my miracle! My niece had thought of me in a way that touched me deeply. Gratitude flushed through me. Whatever that weighty feeling was evaporated with her kinds words. What made me the happiest was hearing of her experience and the actions she has taken in her own life since she sat with the monks.
I am continually reminded of how we are all in this together, and how the smallest gesture can flip those we share this planet with in the most profound ways. The monks’ message to my niece not only made an imprint on her life, but mine, too, and now maybe yours as well. I have asked my niece, Tori, to write this week’s blog post and she said YES! I hope that you enjoy it as much as I have. I’ll end with her last words to me in her email: “ I hope you enjoy his kind words. I love you, and miss you everyday.”
On a Monday in September of 2015 I visited Wat Suan Dok, a local temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Having visited many temples throughout Thailand, my experience at Wat Suan Dok stood out the most. Wat Suan Dok is not only a temple, but it is the home to the Buddhist Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a monk chat, an event when anyone outside the temple is allowed to come in and talk to monks. As I opened the doors I could feel myself become a little nervous. My heart began to race as I felt outside my comfort zone. A million things began to run through my head. What are we going to talk about? Will they be able to understand me? What if I offend them? How should I sit?
Finding an empty chair in the room, I pulled out my notebook, put my insecurities aside and started a conversation. My group consisted of five different monks all ranging in ages from 18 to 35. They came from all different countries such as Burma, Vietnam, and Laos. Two things that they all had in common were their contagious smiles and their dedication to Buddhism.
Discussing their daily rituals, restrictions, and academics, I couldn’t have been happier to learn more about their lives. However, after taking a minute to process all the information, I came to the realization that facts were great, but I wanted to know more about their personal stories, and obtain any advice they were willing to share. I asked the simple question, “What is the best advice you could give someone practicing meditation?”
Bursting into laughter, they all looked at me with confusion. Instantly I was swarmed with a wave of embarrassment. I wondered to myself, “Should I have not said that?”
After a couple of seconds of awkward silence, one monk looked up at me with that great smile and said, “You know what you are doing. Observe your actions and body. Be aware about yourself and relay this knowing to your daily life.”
Wow. These words really hit home for me, and still remain with me today. As a 20-year-old college student and athlete, my life is extremely busy, and a bit chaotic. At times, it seems I let stress fill my mind too much, causing me to forget what happiness really means and entails. The young monk’s wise words inspired me to try and remove the thought of feeling stressed, and move that energy to be aware of myself and what makes me happy.
Since my visit with the monks, I have begun waking up a little earlier each day. During this time I have begun to take a few minutes and just reflect on the day before or life in general. However, this reflection is not to go over all the things I have due that day. It is time for me to just be with myself in complete relaxation: a time without stress or worries, a time to be in the moment.
Since beginning this little morning ritual, I have found myself realizing which situations create stress for me. I know that chaos and stress can be in everyone’s lives, but if you take the time to reflect on your life it will not seem so smothering or overwhelming. Take the quiet time for yourself. It will give you a true perspective that, really, stress is only a short moment of time of being uncomfortable or overwhelmed, something that can be overcome with observation.
I look forward to continuing this morning ritual. Who would have thought that one monk’s words can make such an impact and provide such simple ways to look at life?