1st Bi-Weekly Report

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10/26/2011

This past week in Thailand has seen us arrive in Bangkok, experience torrential downpours, flooded streets, the largest reclining Buddha in the world, the coastal town of Ranong and a tropical island monsoon for an afternoon. It has also seen us fail miserably at entering a Burnese refugee camp but has also reintroduced me to the Thai street market scene and the joy of failing to communicate with fishmongers and sharing nothing but smiles.

My pen has constantly been scribbling in my notebook, poetic phrases flowing forth as the swollen river flows through the streets of Bangkok. My shutter has been in a constant state of “click click clicking” and yet it is hard to believe we have only been here a week. It feels as if a month has passed since our arrival. Excitement rushes through me as I write this and look back on my poetry and photos so far. Merely a glimpse into the amount of amazing things we are seeing here!

I have posted nine poems/reflections/meditative exercises on my blog so far. A few of them were in preparation for this trip. Two or three of these will soon have a photo or two attached with links to my flickr.

I am almost done with Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace is Every Step” in preparation for my ten day meditation retreat in Chiang Mai that I will be beginning in a few days. Two of the meditations that really stuck with me as I prepare my mind and body for my retreat were his sections on “Sitting Anywhere” and “Sitting Meditation.” I know that the meditation retreat I will be in will be sitting for most of the day, upwards of ten hours, without a break. I worry about this because of the extreme discomfort I feel when sitting straight because of a back injury of mine. Hanh’s says, “In some meditation center, practioners are not permitted to move during periods of sitting meditation. They often have to endure great discomfort, to me, this seems unnatural. We sit in meditation to help us cultivate peace, joy, and nonviolence…To change the position of our feet or do a little walking meditation will not disturb others very much, and it can help us a lot” (17). Thanks, Thich Nhat Hanh, for giving me permission! He goes on to warn against the negative uses of meditation that some people fall into. Using it as a means of escape from our everyday lives, for example. He says that it is important to use meditation as a means by which to enhance our lives, to reflect on our lives, and to further ourselves, not a means through which to hide from our problems. He says that by practicing meditation for a little while every day, “we dwell in profound communion with life” (18).

I look forward to the weeks to come, to the Loi Krathong festival honoring the river spirits that includes people launching cylindrical hot air baloons into the sky, my meditation retreat, exploring the street markets of Chiang Mai, visiting a longneck village and some other hill tribes, and of volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park. I plan on spending upwards of three weeks in Chiang Mai, experiencing all that the beautiful city and surrounding hills have to offer.

You can see my flickr account here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/67320150@N03/?saved=1

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