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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Thailand: Land of Smiles - Brett

It is not Life's job to tell you its ultimate meaning. Rather, it is the task of the individual to offer Life the best lived, most meaningful life one can manage. - Elie Wiesel

We emerged from our ten days of silence as changed persons. This was not a desire or a question or a hope – it was known in our core as fact. When you are sitting with a quiet mind – finally at peace with yourself on day 5 or 6 – the power of Truth can blindside you and leave you reeling. As I have often related through these pages, this journey is not just to see the world, but also to look for some of the Answers to those mysteries that burden one's soul. We have variously turned to religion, classical philosophy, and new age spiritualism as possible avenues of discovery, only to find hypocrisy, overly complicated theories, or ideas that simply did not resonate with our hearts or our heads. We have found isolated pieces of meaning across many different wisdom traditions, but how does one pick and choose? Jesus taught us to love our neighbors. Buddha taught us to be dispassionate observers. Existentialism teach us that we alone control our destiny. Ghandi taught us the power of non-violence. These are all ideas that fundamentally appeal to the soul – but why can no one agree on how to carry out a lifestyle based on these principals?
This journey has given us the opportunity to read and study and observe and discuss and meditate and contemplate in a way that is not possible in the everyday world of career and responsibilities. And after years of searching and months of travel and days of silence sitting at the top of a hill in northern India, four small words presented themselves to me with a clarity and a conviction that I have never previously experienced.

love, compassion, integrity, and grace

Four small words that finally found a home in my heart. Could it really be that simple? I felt like a piece of the big picture was finally falling into place. These words provide the guidance that I have been searching for to become the man I want to be.

You know, I remember reading somewhere that you finally achieve enlightenment when you realize that you've been elightened all along. Far from the heady claim of enlightenment I know that these answers have been inside of me for many years, yet I have lacked the courage to live a life based on these truths.

And if you read the saints and the mystics and the kabbalahs and the sufis of the world's wisdom traditions, you will find that they too have come to the same conclusion. Be a good person. Live with integrity. Give back to the world. All the world's religions boiled down to their most fundamental Truths. All the rest – the rosaries, the songs, the incense, the fasting, the rules – all are just trappings to help us achieve a foundation of love, integrity, compassion, and grace.

I now believe this as firmly as I have ever believed anything in my life. This is my God.
So is it that simple? Swimming in the bliss that often accompanies such profound (?) insights, we left the retreat full of promise and excitement, believing the next step in our lives was just beginning.

But the reality was that we had no idea how to put into practice what we had each discovered. We fought bitterly with each other within hours of leaving the retreat. But we were determined, and through steady work over the next three weeks we would experience a new level of love for each other as we learned to respond instead of react to the daily challenges of an almost symbiotic relationship. And the awareness that we practice every day helps us respond to the difficulties of different cultures, different values, and different environments with a previously unknown or undiscovered grace.

But to allow these newfound skills to flourish, we needed a break. Aside from the ten days spent in intense, mind-altering, sleep-deprived meditation, we had never been in one place longer than seven days, and that pleasure only once. One hundred different beds in less than two hundred days. Sounds like a David Lee Roth memoir.

So we decided to park it for two weeks of naps, swimming, reading, chess, and motorcycles. Our chosen spot was the tiny, northern Thailand town of Pai – population 3,500.

But first we had to get there.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations Brett for your journey and discoveries. I've been deeply touched by your journeys and love what you found in your 10 days of silence.