Listening to "When things fall apart," while walking to Yoga in the sunny morning streets of Chiang Mai, feels completely right. Everything is falling apart, yes, but I'm told it's also exactly how it should be. I can't disagree given my surroundings.
Even here where sun beams pour out of the sky and people's faces, reality has a way of finding me. Even here, where my soul is happier than it has ever been, reality comes knocking with reminders of humanity and death and illness and impermanence.
As I walk past the smoothie stand with the swings outside, I hear Pema's words, "The very first noble truth of the Buddha points out that suffering is inevitable for human beings as long as we believe that things last—that they don’t disintegrate, that they can be counted on to satisfy our hunger for security.”
The words rattle me. The timing of them is too perfect. It's not the smoothie stand or the dusted road with the scooters that barely avoid me as I listen to my audio book that keeps shaking me. It's the text message from my mother, nearly 8,000 miles away, that enters my mind again. My Dad had two strokes this week. One on each side of his brain. My Mom just had surgery herself, half her thyroid taken out and sent away for analysis and a potential cancer diagnosis. That very day of her surgery, my Dad collapsed in their home and continued to degrade for several days until they made it to the hospital.
I have a choice to make. I can freak my shit out or I can go to Yoga, remembering how Yoga for me is a space for grounding and clarity. Freaking out right now isn't going to help, I know, but boy does it sounds satisfying.
I choose instead to talk to my mother and find out what I can. I look in to my travel insurance for the option to head back and to Texas if needed. I laugh remembering my new friend from the flight to Taiwan. "I guess if I have to go to Texas, it's basically like extending my trip to Thailand." I vow to email her this new joke, but I know I won't. Jokes come and go right now, like everything, proving the impermanence of humor and of life and of emotion and sanity.
I think maybe this is what we're always training for; those difficult moments in life that you don't see coming.
Or maybe I listen to too many self help books.
Maybe those things aren't mutually exclusive.
I arrive to yoga class and hurry in to the back of the room next to two other westerners. I recognize the teacher from a few days ago and many of the students that are there at least as often as I am. The class has a different energy to it than the ones back at home. It's nothing tangible. There's no real way to describe it. When I tried telling people back home, I simply said, "The room is full of people who don't do yoga because they have a Lululemon top. They do it because they believe in it." There's a lot of chatting in Thai and a lot of laughing. I don't understand them but it's infectious. I find myself grinning and relax in to the environment.
This is why I've chosen to go to yoga in Thailand on this day, the day I learn of my Dad's strokes. It's not just a place to go to workout. It's a place to go when you feel groundless and uncertain and maybe need a few reminders about how to breathe.
I leave class with "Khup kun ka," (Thank you), bow, and slip my flip flops back on. "See ya latah," the Australian guy from class says and I nod and smile and slip out the door. I put my ear buds back in, turn on my audio book, and remember to breathe. I am here, I am here, I am here. I am in this place I have always wanted to be and I am moving closer to the person I've always wanted to become. I am ok. There are shitty things happening in the world and I'm not ignoring them, I am breathing through them. I'm working with my body and my emotions, not fighting against them. I'll deal with what comes next, but right now, leaving yoga and threading back through the dusty streets past the smoothie shop and past the cafes and back around the corner to my Thailand Home, I realize there's absolutely nothing I can do to change anything.
And with that realization, I am free.
- Dad is going home for recovery. He had a clot that caused the stroke on the left side of his cerebellum that caused him to lose his balance and some brain functionality for speech and cognition. The clot then went through the "Circle of Willis" and caused a stroke on the right side for a "bi-lateral cerebral stroke." The treatment is generally preventing further clots from getting to the brain (or heart or lungs) and physical therapy to retrain the brain.
- Mom doesn't have to have the rest of her thyroid removed. Cancer screen came back negative. Also good news.
- I wish I had a little good news about The United States and Brexit. I blame Michael for forking with the timelines of humans.
- Don't forget to breathe. Write a sticky note if you have to. I did.
Header and Buddha from this post are taken at Wat phra that doi suthep. The notable "swing cafe" I mentioned is actually Tropi Hoola. The other photos are from my walk to and from Yoga and of my wonderful instructor Kru Biw entering and of course, my feet.
Other posts in the Thailand Series