I feel I reached a milestone in my journey today worth sharing, for those who continue to follow these scattered ramblings of personal exploration. We have crossed the Cambodian border into the southern tip of Laos, and arrived in a small slice of paradise called Si Phan Don, or the 4000 Islands, a series of brilliant green islands and islets scattered across a vast swath of the Mekong River. We spent our first evening lazing in hammocks on the veranda of our $6 bungalow, watching the dry season’s blood-red sun dipping behind the opposite side of the river. We followed this with a day of cycling around two of the larger islands, Don Dhet and Don Khon, chasing more waterfalls and exploring the maze of jungle paths that connect them.
Then, last night admittedly failed to meet my expectations: we have found ourselves in the one place in southern Laos with any sort of party scene, and while the first night we got in we avoided the crowd on the ‘Khaosan-esque’ strip of Don Dhet, last night I was feeling like socializing and seeing what the advertised “jungle party” was all about down the west side of the island. We instead ate two plates of tasty food, drank a few Beer Laos, and fell asleep around 8:45pm. I awoke at midnight, disappointed that we were missing out on what may have been a great night of dancing and socializing with other travelers. My mind raced to contemplations of aging and how my 30 year old body feels after a day of relatively minimal physical activity compared to how it felt at 20. These thoughts kept me awake until 3am, when I finally fell into a troublingly dream-full sleep…
I awoke again just before sunrise, watching the mist roll across the river out our window. I felt myself to be on the wrong side of the bed, so to speak. I felt anger and frustration creeping in, felt myself getting annoyed with passing sounds of crying babies and polluting long-tail fishing boats, watched as my mind raced with worries about finances and began to deeply entangle myself with those thoughts, and to top it all off, I was especially perturbed when my Headspace app wouldn’t load on my phone to guide me through the last of my ‘anger pack’. I was convinced that today was to be a “bad day” where my anger would get the best of me.
Normally, I would accept that today was a wash and brood in my frustration, taking it out on my partner and those with whom I interacted throughout the day. This would typically culminate in my digging into past annoyances and blowing them out of proportion, drawing drastic conclusions about where my future was heading, and just generally being a bit of an asshole to the world.
Today I didn’t let that happen.
Instead, I put my phone and dysfunctional Headspace app away, unfurled my yoga mat on a nearby terrace, guided myself through a practice followed by a truly magnificent chakra meditation, scanning my energetic centers and pulling the wisdom of the water before me into each one. When I was finished with these healing exercises, the real test lay before me: carrying that feeling of calm and patience into the rest of the day, starting with my first interaction of the morning with my loving partner…and here’s the really interesting part that perhaps some of you can relate to: when I have mornings like this, even if I’m able to bring myself to a healthy space while on my own, as soon as I interact with those closest to me, I will somehow stubbornly default back to an air of “everything is not okay and I’m going to make that abundantly clear right now.” I’ve never understood this process, but through meditation I’ve gained a great understanding for how our minds are prone to desperately cling to emotional energies even once we think we’ve parted ways with them. For me, this manifests through these immediate interactions after I find a sort of temporary inner-peace in the company of myself alone.
Today, the remedy was simple in theory, but can be a colossal challenge for those of us who understand this process of the egoic mind holding tight to anger, sadness or general dis-ease. I committed to greeting everyone I encountered with a smile and a “good morning!” In a rare feat of self-discipline, I was able to do exactly this, and as a result, the calm and positivity inculcated through my morning meditation and practice were carried into the remainder of my day.
This may all seem a bit trivial, but it is these ostensibly small milestones that build up to the larger advances in our personal journeys, and they should be celebrated and recorded so we may solidify their significance. Whatever your journey may be, don’t be modest about your own achievements – shout them out to the world and, most importantly, to yourself, so that the rewards of each one continue to fuel your commitment to your own personal growth, even if it’s just as simple as smiling and saying hello.