I don’t know how long you are supposed to wait before you can say you’ve had a change in mentality or lifestyle, but I think Chiang Mai might have changed me. I’ve had a series of days where at the end, we’re all going, “this was the best day ever”, only to go on and say the same thing the next day.
So far in my life, I have seen shifts in mentality long after they happen. I don’t recognize the shift until I remember how I used to think and then I retrace my steps to the catalyst. But I think Chiang Mai has been a catalyst for positivity.
I started the new year in a funk of sorts, having to deal with unpleasantries back home. After spending most of a day moping, I just decided it was enough. Time to turn the page and start a new chapter. I realized I was so busy trying to see backwards at what has happened and forward at what is going to happen that I was missing what was happening right now, right in front of me.
Sometime in the last week, a mantra just started repeating itself in my head. It’s a way to make me appreciate what is happening around me, a way to ground myself back in the present:
This is the most beautiful moment.
This moment right here, no matter what you’re doing. Your life has never been this beautiful, and it will never be this kind of beautiful again. And its beauty is exclusively your own.
Maybe it’s easy to say when we’ve been having such amazing experiences over the last two weeks, but things that would have bothered me before, mild frustrations like mediocre pad Thai and poor attitudes, I am making a conscious effort to them go, or find the beauty in them. Even just telling myself that the pad Thai is actually great, or finding an admirable quality about the frustrating people turns my own attitudes on their heads.
This week, we made friends with monks. I mean real friends, like I am messaging one on Facebook right now if you can believe it (these are modern monks).
We had been doing the Chiang Mai activity of wandering around temples and decided we were templed out. We stumbled across another one and figured we might as well go in. This was where Khun, the monk second from the left, called us over and we spent the next 5.5 hours talking to them. It was such a fun and easy conversation; we asked about Burmese culture and Buddhism and the rules of being a monk; they asked about our families and our culture back home. The afternoon ended with us adding them on Facebook and going for dinner with John (the American at the end of the monk line).
John is a life coach back home, and we spent the dinner talking about our dreams and then John helped us set out bite-size goals to help us accomplish them (I have to send out an article pitch to 10 travel/nature magazines before I go back to Canada). Every one of us was giddy by the end of the dinner, especially John.
The next couple of nights consisted of mostly music, going to a reggae bar where this awesome woman from New York started improving with the coolest Thai band, and going to a jazz bar jam session where people who didn’t seem like the type who would rock it stood up and started shredding (my favourite was the grey-haired white guy who looked like a librarian and was shredding that guitar like nobody’s business). We also went back to visit our monk friends at their temple, got chatting about cold weather (because it’s actually chilly in Chiang Mai at night), and one of the monks gave me his hat. To keep, forever. What a cutie.
I look like a marigold in this hat, and I am relishing cool weather because I get to wear it.
During this week we had a general feeling of euphoria and disbelief, but one day we went to a meditation retreat at a monk university and spent an entire day meditating. In between our 10-15 minute bursts of meditating, the monk spoke to us about general Buddhist philosophies about happiness. He said one of the mantras to be happy is forgive, forget and let it go. Having been holding on to lots of feelings, both good and bad, this really resonated with me. Let it go. Forgive others, forgive myself, and then move on.
If I had to pin down one catalystic moment, however, it would be the day after our meditation. These thoughts of presence and observing feelings then letting them pass were percolating in my mind, but we had a stressful day. Emma and Polly were struggling trying to mail stuff back home and I had a splitting headache. After a long walk across town to the post office, we decided to go to the park to chill for the rest of the afternoon. There, we were invited to do acro yoga with some of the most charismatic people I have ever met. They are the kind of people whose beauty comes from the inside and they have this energy of positivity that exudes from them. And acro yoga is probably the best way to get rid of headaches and bad moods, because I was being turned upside down and spun around and so it rebalanced my blood distribution.
And then Polly and I went on a two day hiking trek through the jungles outside of Chiang Mai and became even more giddy and alive. After 3 hours of hiking straight uphill, Polly and I were still going on about how beautiful everything was. The sky, the rock on the ground, the vines on the trees.
The group at first was grumpy and frustrated, as they were pushing through a membrane of ailments, injuries and illnesses to climb that peak. But then their attitudes shifted and they started saying how alive they felt, how lucky they were to be here. One guy was in a funk after falling out of a tree an hour before and he asked Polly and I if we wanted to go to the top of the knoll to catch the sunset. As we walked up, the view got better and better. As the view got better and better, we walked faster and faster until we were sprinting up the knoll, almost vomiting up our dinner to catch the sunset.
This photo will never be able to capture everything about this experience: how the sky seemed to be on fire, how his attitude did a 180, how we were laughing and almost crying at how beautiful it was, how beautiful it felt to be alive in that moment and how we were the only three people in the world who experienced it the way we did.
I don’t know if I will stay this euphoric when things get rough, but I want to. I want to keep this feeling going, and become one of those people who glow from the inside out and have a magnetism to them. I want to keep chasing sunsets.
Maybe it’s the place I’m in, but I am determined to find the beauty in every place and every moment. 2016 is going to be a beauty, I know it.