‘When you’ve seen beyond yourself, then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there.’
It’s not often that I write personal posts, but seeing as I’m trying to shake things up a bit I thought I’d let you know what I, myself, have been up to (not necessarily blog related matters).
If you’ve been reading my blog then you’ll know that I like to keep an open mind and like to experience new things. This has been a constant goal for me during my travels and is still something I’m keen on whilst living in Saigon (though the scale of new experiences has shrunk somewhat due to staying in one place).
During the last year or so I’ve experienced some amazing things, things that more than likely will remain just memories and won’t be repeated, some of these being quite intense experiences, and some of them more simple and thought provoking than anything else. A few things that stand out are a conversation with Tibetan exiles, which was in some cases a nightmarish account of the Chinese exercising power they wrongfully believe they have; the living with and teaching of Monks, which was eye opening to say the least; being taught about meditation, which is easier and simultaneously more difficult than you might think; and being lectured by a former Monk, Khyongla Rato Rinpoche, who was a former tutor of the Dalai Lama.
During these experiences I learned many things and my eyes were well and truly opened. However, one thing that I learned quite a lot about was spirituality and various related subjects and practices; subjects and practices that I’d always mocked and cast aspersions on with great relish.
Besides meditation, the other two main practices that I was often encouraged to try out were yoga (often by people I spent time with), and a simpler, cleaner way of living. Yoga had always seemed like something girls did to stay relatively flexible, and I didn’t really see it as a form of exercise or something that I’d be interested in. My refusal to try it was amusing to some people I met travelling, and I was aware that I was just being a bit stubborn; I even spent 4 days in Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world, and never even entertained the thought of stepping onto a yoga mat– possibly due to being made to feel that I ‘had to do it’ by pseudo-hippies (my arch enemies)- so, again, my stubbornness prevailed.
The practice of living a simple life came to me quite easily; no buying of unnecessary things, no meaningless relationships (which can be difficult in Vietnam), generally trying to cut down on harmful things like fast food and high amounts of meat, being mindful of the amount of plastic used, and creating less waste etc. You get the idea. Most of this is easy apart from cutting down on plastic as, sadly, the Vietnamese seem to be professionals at making the worst use of plastic possible. I’m in no way a minimalist, but every little helps, right?
As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, meditation is something that came to me easily; I don’t feel enlightened by it, nor do I believe that enlightenment is possible (not in the way it’s often described anyway) but I do genuinely feel a certain peace afterwards, for a time at least. The most difficult part of meditation is overcoming any thoughts that cause interruption; ideally you acknowledge individual thoughts and let them go, which is far easier said than done.
It was almost a full year on from visiting the yoga capital before I decided to give it a try. Living in an increasingly modern metropolis leaves you with many options for things to do; there’s an abundance of restaurants, bars, cafes, and an array of clubs to join, sports to get into, and activities to get involved in, but the reasons yoga stood out were simply that no one was trying to make me do it, and I thought it was about time I gave it a go. Soon after starting yoga, and getting past the embarrassing stage of realising how little you can actually stretch and push your body, I realised that it’s almost a precursor for mediation and that the two go hand in hand quite comfortably. It’s difficult, it’s painful, it’s embarrassing, and sometimes it’s even demoralising, but with a good teacher (which I’m lucky to have), I feel, after having been doing it for a couple of months, that there’s a strong benefit to it.
I’m not trying to sell yoga to folk; it’s certainly not for everyone, I’m not saying anyone should meditate, and I’m not pushing for people to stop eating meat or anything like that, I’m just describing small changes in my lifestyle that I find beneficial to my peace of mind, which is something I’ve been striving for over the last couple of years, and travelling through countries with very strong religious, spiritual, and social tendencies has helped enormously. I’m far from perfect; I often burst my own particular bubble in the way of getting blind drunk and gorging on a string of questionable meals and social faux pas, but my indiscretions are what make me me, and these occasional lapses of concentration can actually be quite helpful.
Normally at this point in these kinds of blogs, you’d receive encouragement to get out there, meditate, smell the fresh air, and even find a yoga instructor but, well, not one to be pushed into anything myself, I say, just do whatever makes you happy…