It’s my last night in Chiang Mai. Tomorrow, I fly to Bangkok, and then I’ll be putting on my Smartwool socks for the 16 hour flight from Asia’s City of Angels to the USA’s City of Angels.
But I’d like to tell you about my evening. After my day at massage school (I just finished a three-day Intro Course), I had another insightful conversation with Maew, the Thai man who’s been driving me back and forth to school. We talked about Thai politics and the current situation. (Parliament was dissolved yesterday, the Prime Minister stepped down, and elections will be held in February.) He said that every time he goes to vote, he selects “no vote” as an act of protest because he believes the election system is flawed, corrupted by money and power and nepotism – but still he goes to “vote” because he wants that to change, and to somehow still have a voice. He has been doing this for ten years.
He is in his fifties, I think, and is the father to his brother’s seven year-old son. There’s a story there that I don’t know, of course. His son takes English and Mandarin at school, in the equivalent of first grade. Maew drives a songtaew and speaks nearly perfect English. I’ve appreciated our morning and afternoon chats for the past three days.
So, Maew drove me home from massage school after working with (trading massages with) a perfectly lovely (Italian? French?) young man named Moses, who was endearing and innocent and definitely worried about the fact that he had to put his hands on my hips or – as one of our flamboyantly gay, awesome teachers put it – anywhere near “Janet Jackson.”
Massage was hard work, but I can see and feel how Thai massage in particular is a meditative and spiritual energetic experience for both the therapist and the recipient. I so loved having a glimpse into this art, and I am intrigued to learn more about Reiki, Chi Gong, and Tai Chi after getting a tiny bit of insight into this type of energy work. It is fascinating, and real.
Speaking of real. For my last night in CM, I went to Bird’s Nest, my favorite vegetarian restaurant, for dinner. They know me there and I will truly miss the veggie panang curry and passionfruit/mango/coconut smoothies. Right after I arrived, I heard “Annie!” and turned around to see my fellow yoga friend, Corrine. She was sitting there, with a bright smile and her giant backpack, killing time before catching a bus to Bangkok in an hour. She was just in Chiang Mai for a few hours! We hugged and it was wonderful to see her and catch up – we were both bubbling over with stories of our lives post-yoga, which has only been three weeks though it feels like a lifetime. So much love. We talked about how we both felt like magic was happening in our lives.
Corrine just finished training in Ayurvedic Marma massage, which was also fascinating. As we talked about dosha types, she said – “Oh you’re probably Vatta and Pitta. You’re creative and artistic, but you also have strength.” I was taken aback to be described with these words that I aspire to – in truth, these were exactly the things that were missing from my life before I left the U.S. last Spring. And it is a revelation to know that in this journey, I have fostered those parts of me that I missed so much (even when I didn’t know it) and that those are the qualities that people notice in me first, now. I am floored by this.
Iron & Wine (one of my favorite bands) had just come on in the restaurant as Corrine heaved on her backpack and was on her way. We looked at each other, loving the music and the moment, and said, “How perfect is life right now? I don’t think it could be any more perfect!” I couldn’t stop smiling after she left. So I sat, smiling and finishing my dinner, in a state of total contentment.
Then I walked the mile or so home to my guesthouse, along the west side of the moat, deliberately. Trying to channel Thich Nhat Hanh’s walking meditations. And I was truly, honestly, filled with joy. I stopped and got an almond Magnum Bar. (A joyful Thailand tradition of mine!) I passed a familiar group of Thai people at their family restaurant and one of the women said a friendly “Hello!” and one of the guys said, “I love you!” as I walked by. I smiled even more broadly. Three steps later one of their tiny kiddos, a little girl, was dancing on the sidewalk. She struck a jaunty pose, with one hand straight up to the sky, and the other over her mouth, concealing her giggles. I mimicked her, a quick flashdance move, and she giggled even more. The tables of parents behind me broke out in laughter, too. A tiny moment, but so perfect.
I walked the rest of the way home thinking about one of my most important lessons from yoga, one that was a serious “Aha!” moment in the course, and in my life. I had intellectually known this before, but hadn’t really understood it. And that is that your thoughts determine your world. Literally. If I think someone is loud and obnoxious, then they are loud and obnoxious. If I think that same person is gregarious and the life of the party, then they are. Nothing about them is different, but the way I THINK about them is. And we have a choice in our thoughts. How we choose to view the world, think about people, how we react to people and judge them, how we judge ourselves – all of this is malleable. We create it. This is the most empowering, wonderful, mind-expanding thing.
And as I walked home tonight, I thought, life is magic. How joyful and serendipitous it has been! To dance with a tiny Thai girl on the sidewalk, to see a friend unexpectedly, to run out of all of my toiletries simultaneously right before I’m catching a plane home. And if I think that life is magic, then it is. And it will be. This is the immeasurable gift that Thailand has given to me.