"Beauty abounds in broken spaces. For this is where you dwell." Kylie Johnson
When I returned from my first trip living abroad in Hong Kong in 1991, I literally wanted to kiss the ground, overwhelmed with the feeling of pride for the United States (in the midst of the Gulf War) and tired of the pollution, noise, and lack of personal space mixed with intense home-sickness that only a young 19 year old would feel.
Years later, a different, more grown up feeling overwhelmed me on a return trip from expat life in Kuala Lumpur. I was traveling alone with 2 small boys in tow and felt that twinge of familiarity upon arrival to the US, the sensation that perhaps it was my last trip for some time. The feeling of gratitude was palpable as the the immigration officer simply said, welcome home, Ms. Smith. Tears spilled onto my cheeks and the boys, oblivious, immediately commanded my attention and snapped me back to the present moment.
Returning to Southeast Asia this summer, I recognize as a unique privilege. Barraged with encouraging messages from friends via email and Facebook, in support of my solo journey to Thailand, I also had more than a fair share of "how could you possibly be away from your children so long" and other comments tainted with I imagine some jealousy and not worth repeating. It was enough though, that half way into my trip, I had proper tear-filled pity party which included a large dose of mommy guilt, some wine, my ipod filled with tunes and a whole lot of yin yoga (not necessarily in that order).
Someone asked me what I was doing in Chiang Mai... Thai massage immersion, of course. However, truthfully, it was so much more. Aching for distance, I knew I came to heal. When I really took stock of myself, the hardness that was building in my relationships, the short tempered nature of my parenting, and the need for making my life so busy in order to numb the feelings of loneliness... I was there to put right much of what had fallen out of place in my life.
It came in the form of community. Embraced by people from all over the world, no encounter was accidental. I felt the Invisible Hand of the Divine moving in and through me to orchestrate this magical adventure.
Along the way I met...
a samurai warrior and angel who could call the wind & rain
a blind man who taught me the therapeutic art of Thai massage and healed my shoulder
a tiger who through the guise of teaching Thai massage, showed me how to laugh again
a sister healer who within in moments showed me how to pull energy from a sustaining source
a kindred sprit full of indecision and yet who's innate beauty set her apart
a yin yoga guru who's charm infected us all
a capoeira master who could always make me smile
a joyous yogi in pigtails who's light shined for all to see
the prince of mince who exposed a sliver of the courageous me
a spiritual gangster, young and in love with life
a gregarious, loving yogi who teased me endlessly and who I could never make a class hard enough for
a woman so full of radiance whose singing voice during savasana melted the hearts of all
a gifted soul finally owning his talent whose lengthy Thai massage helped heal my heart and body
a mesmerizing dancer who showed me how to move freely with eyes closed and heart revealed
a conscious speaker with the gift of generosity
a connector who allowed us all to be uniquely our own, provided us a safe space for that freedom and taught me that gracious words spoken are merely a reflection of my true nature, a mirror to my own soul
And many, many fellow seekers of wanderlust and who found this magic hidden in plain view in a walled city in northern Thailand.
This time, upon returning, the tears came well before the plane landed, before the train ride to Bangkok, before the sung tao taxi ride to the station, before... tears fell like the healing rain did each day, until finally, I had no more. I have no more. Upon arrival, my head and heart are clear. I am home within myself. I am home.
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
- The Summer Day, Mary Oliver