Greetings! This monthly blog is offered in hopes of connecting with the CMHC community, which I deeply value, as one who is bringing healing to a world in need. As I take the opportunity to complete this Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Laos, I hope to share findings that I discover as it relates to the mental health benefits of cross-cultural appreciation, mindfulness, and the natural world.
I woke at 5 am and poured a cup of instant coffee and dashed in some coconut milk. The sun hadn’t risen yet, as I lit my candle and looked around my small guesthouse room in Thailand. I had come to pay homage to the roots of the mindfulness practice that I had the opportunity to learn. I was staying just outside of the gates of Ajahn Chah’s Thai Forest Monastery where my teacher, Jack Kornfield, had come to learn the art of mindfulness many years before. As hints of sun backlit the clouds above, I began to see human figures approaching me from further down the road. They were monks from the monastery who were making their daily alms round, to accept the only meal they would eat for the day. My new Thai friend, named Bom, provided me with food to offer to the monks including bananas, cakes, and instant hot drinks. I was trying out a new tradition of reciprocity. In the Buddhist tradition, community members provide the food for the monks to strengthen their bodies, and monks offer teaching that strengthen the community’s mind. As the monks approached, I took off my hat and kneeled down. I held the food offering in my hand, touched it to my forehead, then placed it into the bowl of each passing monk. I pondered how this tradition of offering and receiving has been happening for more than 2500 years. It felt good to start the day by offering a gift.