The story begins, right where I find myself: at the full moon of October which signifies the end of the rainy season here in Laos, a primarily Theravada Buddhist Country in Southeast Asia. As I understand it, the rainy season is a time for the monks and nuns to deepen their meditation practice, and the end of the rainy season marks an auspicious time of celebration where community members come to support the monastics by offerings of food and monetary support.
I entered the temple and saw families offering gifts to the monks and the monks responding by offering them blessings and tying a cloth blessing chord on their wrists. A monk in an orange robe was speaking into a microphone in Lao and I was not able to understand the words. I sat down and watched the coming and going of people with curiosity and gratitude for being able to bear witness to this vastly distinct cultural experience.
I noticed many people were heading through a door deeper into the temple, so I walked in. Inside, were hundreds of giant golden Buddhas on an altar all facing out toward people who were kneeling in prayer positions. Between the golden Buddhas and the people at prayer were hundreds of lit candles, as well as offerings of flowers wrapped in banana leaves. A mother and daughter kneeled next to me, lit 2 candles that were on a tray, then bowed three times, lifted the tray above their head, then placed it down, and bowed three more times. The sense of reverence and care took me out of whatever story was going on in my mind and I felt my eyes misting. I lit a candle and sat reflecting on my intentions and what matters most.
I found that this place of such deep respect and care was the perfect place for me to remember what matters. My question upon leaving the temple that day is “where is that place where one enters the deepest part of the temple and can remember what is most important?” May we all find it today!
Thanks for reading and look out for another update next month.
About the author:
Phillip McKnight completed a two-year training program for teaching awareness and compassion-based practices accredited by the International Mindfulness Teachers Association. Phillip has experience teaching a wide variety of ages, backgrounds, and abilities and uses his MA in Instructional Systems Design to determine the needs of the participant and help them develop skills in mindfulness meditation with tools for body, heart, mind, and community.