All the elements are here: the confluence of two rivers, wind propelled prayers, a beautiful earth and sunlight.
In Bhutan, we are 12 yogis leaning out the bus window, to capture this lovely spot, this beautiful moment. The chortens are from Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, a confluence of different shapes, different yet neighboring cultures, offering the same reminder of the sacred that pervades everything.
Is not every moment a great confluence of past, present and future expanding into an eternal Now?
A muddy river runs through it, the lush green valley of the Elephant Nature Park. This sanctuary for rescued and retired elllies lies one hour north of Chain Mai. It has been our home for two spectacular days. From luxurious space pod accommodations of the Bangkok Novotel, to a simple hut in the jungle, surrounded by freely roaming ellies. And a lot of mud. Who knew that getting into the swift-flowing monsoon fed river with Mae Perm, my beloved grand old ellie lady, and hurling bucket-loads of water over her thick grey skin, could feel ecstatic! I, with hundreds of other people, have flown half-way around the world to do this.
At work in our jungle office.
Chris is putting hundreds of photos and video clips onto the hard drive, so we can take even more! Loads to follow.
It is probably a past life thing, but Chris and I both love temples, especially Thai temples with their out of this world extravaganza of golden architecture. And we love markets, of which there are plenty in this town. Now when a market happens in a temple, that is ultimate.
Throngs of people bustling through stalls selling food, weavings, jewelry, clothes, housewares and endless kitch. Musicians take there place in the middle of the pathways, so a cacophony of sounds fill the air. We love this harmonious chaos.
I had fun with these kids and send you a free hug too!
Sunday market Chaing Mai
And now, we are off to the jungle!
That our culture acts as our operating system is so apparent when one meets a different culture. The Thai have a very different operating system, and I am hungrily absorbing it. Smiles, gentleness and an easy going attitude to the nitty gritty of life. “Can do” says our cab driver.
Our first therapy is foot massage. While there are massages to be had everywhere in Chiang Mai, on the streets, in the markets and in temples, we fall into this lovely little shop. Ah, to let go the weariness of travel and accumulated toxins of a too- busy life.
We stumble into the next-door temple, a magnificent golden pagoda right on the busy noisy road. Is that really Donal Duck in the garden?
The sound of chanting draws us in, and for our second therapy, we join the monks at evening prayers. Call and response, but mostly we are mutely in awe.
The third therapy is a good meal. Eat where the locals go. Ha, that turned out to be a 45 minute wait for Shabu shabu. Well worth it, for a couple of hours selecting from 28 different dishes circling in front us, to cook in our own personal cauldron of spicy soup. Greens, seafood and a variety of tofu and meat, there was something for everyone. The side bar of sushi and tempura ensured that we slide off the barstool every now and then.
Santosha = contentment = easy!
I have the perfect window seat on Cathy Pacific flying out of Lax on a perfect Thursday. Marina del Rey, Point Dume, Santa Monica mountains and soon, Big Sur laze below. Truly it is a blue planet. I can even see the distant Sierras where we were in Yosemite, just two weeks ago. Oh, and look, there is Point Lobos one of the most beautiful nature parks in the world. California, you are gorgeous! We cruise silently through the blue sky over the aptly named Pacific. An auspicious and luxurious beginning of the journey. All the exertion of planning and obsessing over details, are, thankfully, over.
After lunch and several movies, I slide open my window shutter, and see it is still bright daylight out there. 10 hours into the flight and it is still blue. Folks inside the cabin however are now showing signs of fatigue and increasing misery at the cramped seating and spill of newspapers and food wrappings. Crying children, and grumpy adults avoid eye contact in the bathroom lines. I too have shifted from exhilaration to a desire to disappear into sleep. On the computer screen that tracks our flight, I see that the darkness of night is following us. Another 4 hours to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong airport, the emporium of designer label shopping, goes on for ever and ever and ever, Halleluja! Who cares about shopping? All we want is sleep……
The Novatel Hotel in Bangkok airport is a luxurious space station. Stepping into the palatial foyer is like stepping into a clear lake, reflecting lights and trees and high tech columns. It is after midnight when we check in. It could be any time of day in this round-the-clock landing pad. Bleary-eyed from lack of sleep and the exhausting business of retrieving bags from the carousel, we are relieved to land in our futuristic pod with a spacious bathroom, huge heavenly bed and best of all absolutely dark and quiet. How is it we don’t even hear any planes, and we are still virtually at the airport? A wonderful end to a day that seemed it would never end.
I wake this morning and peek down from our pod window to the lake-foyer- below. Hey, where did Friday go? It is Saturday and time to leave this very expensive short term refuge and head to Chaing Mai, Northern Thailand.
This is officially PANIC Day! Is a yoga teacher allowed such a day? Yes yes yes! The panic quality is giving me enough adrenaline to get things done. Like decide which clothes are allowed to come. Like tell Dorji of Topanga Bhutan shop, I am delighted to take his gifts to Thimpu, but cannot take all three jackets in my suitcase. Lovely to have him visit my home this morning with his wife. Like make sure all bills are paid on time, and ensure that the remnants of my life in Thousand Oaks stays in tact! Like checking all electronic equipment is in place.
The liminal world – between two zones, where time both speeds up and then stands still.
Must confess that too much panic means not being able to think clearly, so the lists are handy!
Word from Chaing Mai that the floods have not been too devastating. Also appears thant Bangkok is safe from the rising waters which coincided with full moon extreme tides. In gratitude!
how I fell in love
In April 2009 we visited the Elephant Nature Park in Northern Thailand. This is a safe haven for tired and abused animals. No rides, no shows, just feeding and bathing the ellies. It was one of the best experiences in my life. Getting up close to an animal the size of an elephant is spectacular. I felt her stillness and her depth, and I know she felt mine! Click how I fell in love to see the short clip.
Chris and I hope to get back there next week, weather allowing,to deliver the musical energetic remedy especially potentized for elephants that have experienced trauma.
Yes, that is me and a very old tree. This fallen sequoia has been intriguing visitors to the Mariposa Grove, Yosemite for hundreds of years. The roots fan out 150 feet, although they are only 6 feet long. Before it fell, the tree stood tall for several thousand years!
How small my body in comparison. Well, I believe, that thanks to a many years of practicing yoga, and my maturing body, I have reached the largest size for woman’s shoes!
It really does remind of the golden reclining Buddha in the Wat Pho, Bangkok, on account of the enormous feet/roots! The reclining Buddha has feet that rise up to 48 feet.
Check out what the US Cavalry did with the same tree!!
From the comfort of my home computer, I scour the news for reports from Thailand about the recent flooding. It is the worst in 50 years, and the river that runs through Bangkok may well flood its banks. This is devastating for the locals.
What about me? How does this change the scheduled one-whole-month of travels? It is time to practice being a yogi – time to be flexible and unflappable! Some structures are in place, such as needing to get on the Cathy Pacific flight to Bangkok on Thursday morning from LAX. Such as meeting the group of yogis accompanying me to Bhutan at 5am on November 4th in BKK airport! However, what we will do when we arrive in BKK on Friday evening, is still entirely unclear. Please, don’t let us have to stay in the airport!
Chris and I had scheduled 5 days as a pre-Bhutan get-into the time-zone and the travel mood, before meeting the entire yoga group to go to Bhutan.
What will do with that time? So far the best laid plans have been abandoned due to the flooding. I first heard of the flooding in a personal email to me in response to my request to visit the ElephantStay Camp an hour outside of Bangkok. Did you know such a place existed? Guests are invited to stay for several days to live in close proximity with the retired elephants, and to assist with the nursery of young elies. Now that is SO exciting to me. You have your own elephant to care for, feed, bath, and bond with. Oh my, such a rocket of desire in me to do that. I adore elephants! Enormous creatures who appear so still and so tuned in to what is happening around them. They are teachers of stillness and meditation to me. So, when I heard that 90 elephants had been moved to higher land, and that the staff and other animals at the Elephant Stay are under threat with the floods, I felt compassion for them, and big disappointment for me! Right now, we cannot go there.
Elephants rescued from floods in Thailand.
There are some alternatives of course, all flood depending. I can see no reports on Northern Thailand. Perhaps we could go to Chiang Mai, visit temples and go back to Elephant Nature Reserve, the place we visited last year and where the elephant affair deepened. Should I just book flights to Chiang Mai, or wait and get weather reports?? Learning again to be in the moment and to embrace uncertainty!
Updates to follow!
I love this gentle giant! May we meet again soon!
Hmmmm, only three days to departure. Now, what do I need to pack??