I recently returned from a “bucket list” trip to Southeast Asia where we visited temples, stupas, and pagodas in Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia. It was an epic journey that centered around the ancient structures built by the Khmer civilization between the 9th and 12th centuries.
Click here to view some of the many photos from my trip!
They were originally built as Hindu temples but were claimed and rededicated to the Buddha in the 16th century when kings came and went. I loved immersing in the history, the obvious yearning to connect to the Divine through spiritual architecture, and the sacred cultural pride present in the people who are now the caretakers of these UNESCO world heritage sites.
I have to say the temples of Bagan (>3,000 of them) were amongst my favorites. Riding in a hot air balloon at sunrise over the villages where these temples nestle was awe inspiring. Bagan is in Myanmar and I loved Myanmar. One of the things I learned is they have a zodiac system I have never seen before. It’s based not on the day, month, year and time you were born, but rather on the day of the week you were born. There are 8 signs. How is that possible you might ask? Well they split Wednesday in half. The sign of people born on Wednesday is the elephant. If you were born in the morning you are the elephant with tusks. If you were born in the evening you are the elephant without tusks. I will explain what this all means in a bit.
One of the most remarkable takeaways from this trip was the feeling of being linked to generations of humans from the past who have also spent their lives connecting to Spirit. I felt in good company whilst in these hallowed ancient halls that still bore the imprint of hours and hours of ceremony, worship, prayer, and contemplation. The symbols carved into the walls were familiar to me and it was as though I could speak the language and understand what was being said and found myself repeating the prayers in my own head as I moved through each ancient sanctuary, each town and each country.
When my kids were small, we used to gather at dinner, and I would ask about the highs and lows of each of their days. My son began calling this the “rose” and “thorns” of the day. So, I have told you about the roses, now I will tell you about the thorns. When I was in Cambodia my husband and I got separated at the immigration terminal when we were leaving the country and boarding our flights to Thailand. This made it look as though I was traveling alone. When I approached the passport security officer and placed my passport on the counter in front of him, he stood up and began screaming and swearing at me and calling me all sorts of colorful and demeaning names…all targeted to put down women. I could feel myself freeze as my sympathetic nervous system kicked in and memories of abuse at the hands of my vice principal in elementary school flooded into my consciousness. For the first time in my memory, I had PTSD flashbacks of that time in his office in an uncontrolled environment (in other words, not with a therapist in a safe space). I could feel myself going into shock and every bit of adult brain disappear.
It turns out I had put my passport down about 2 inches from where he wanted it placed, despite the fact that there were no markings or indicators for where he wanted it. As I went in to repair the disconnect in my brain by connecting to my inner 10-year-old to reassure her that I had this well in hand and she was in fact very safe, I reflected on why he had flash raged in such a dramatic way. I remembered that on my visa, it states that I am in medicine. I am also a white female traveling alone in his eyes and therefore have enough money to make a trip that he likely couldn’t afford himself. I also likely had more freedom than he has, in spite of the fact that in his world I “shouldn’t” because I’m a woman. I saw that this man was in fact enraged about his own life circumstances and the fact that his source of power was not sustainable…the police uniform he wore rather than a connection to the Divine that showed him that he and I were both children of God.
Rather than reacting to him and potentially risking not getting out of Cambodia on time, I just sent him compassion and put an energetic boundary between the two of us. I recognized that I too have felt powerless and frustrated in my life. I looked at this fellow, my brother in humanity, as though he was a mirror in front of me and I saw how awful it feels to be on the receiving end of a temper tantrum that erupts out of feelings of powerlessness. I thanked him not only for stamping my passport, but silently for being my teacher. With the boundary between us in place, a stream of compassionate energy being sent in his direction, I headed across the tarmac to my plane where I spent the next hour-long flight soothing my little girl self and re-establishing feelings of safety within her.
This is the process I taught live on our last Solving the Autoimmune Puzzle book study group call this week. I walked one of my Academy for Integrative Medicine health coach students through a breakdown of her own. This is the powerful work that frees you from the harmful effects of past trauma and current day stress. If you would like to learn more about how to reverse chronic pain and illness, join me for our next free book study group as we take a deep dive into The Quick and Easy Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook. You can do it by clicking here. You will need to get the book on Amazon and then register for the free series.