An Affair of the Heart
Practice for Compassion
Luang Prabang, Laos
Doors open and close a hundred times throughout the day. Such is life. Curious and receptive attention is needed to know when a door has opened inviting you into the kingdom of the heart, potential change and deep connection. May it be an encounter, words of wisdom slipped in between mundane conversation, or even a dream. Each, in its own way, may be that door, that message, that one that offers a fresh new perspective or a creative explosion of the heart. There may be no logic or reason but your deepest gut tells you that it is right.
The wheel of our propellered 36 seater, touched down August 8th, 2010 on the fertile ground of Luang Prabang, Laos, an off-the-map destination to most, but a hidden treasure for those that have visited. It all happened so quickly. With no more than 32 minutes and 6 seconds, we were instructed to select a destination to literally drop in and drop out, enabling us to avoid being fined for overextending our Thai visa. It was a random, if that exists, pin-the-tail on the map, split second, decision. This was the beginning of an instantaneous love affair of hearts to heart, souls to Soul that would inevitably change the course of my life forever.
As my feet touched the ground, I felt the warm balmy air envelop my skin. There was something, what, I can’t explain. It wasn’t the beauty of the Nam Khan wrapping itself around the peninsula and spilling into the Mekong, nor the smell of sweet sticky rice, or the warm welcome of smiles, it was something much deeper, much closer to the Soul.
Thirty-three monasteries sandwiched together in approximately 2.5 square kilometers might have something to do with it. Here, we see red, there, in Luang Prabang, they see orange, infinite orange, the colour of intuition, inspiration, Divine Love, heightened awareness, passion and fire. ‘’They’’ say, that if a particular place or thing is prayed or mediated upon day in and day out that place or thing becomes sacred. This is what was felt the moment I stepped foot on this faraway land of Luang Prabang.
It is just 6am when we returned to our modest guesthouse along the Nam River. Carrying empty bowls that were once filled with benevolent offerings that were humbly slipped into the urns of an endless silent thread of burnt orange robes, my heart felt open and love poured in. The sun had just begun its ascent above the lush emerald hillsides as we made our way down a narrow alley à la queue leu-leu squished between a monastery and a strand of closely woven makeshift homes. Except for an occasional footstep, silence permeated the air. As I followed the steps in front of me, I wiped the remaining sleep from the corners of my eyes. For no apparent reason except for an inaudible whisper of intuition and that of the open door of destiny, my eyes gazed to the left and locked with those of one Buddhist monk among many. Time seemed to stand still, suspended like the full moon in the blackness of the night’s canvas. A large white brick wall separated us. Neither spoke, neither moved for what seemed like an eternity but I knew a door had just opened so I consciously stepped inside.
Through one simple encounter on a very given day, a life- changing door cracked opened for only a brief moment on a sunny afternoon and began a chain of events never to be forgotten. The call of my heart manifested louder than any obstacle and naturally things fell wonderfully into place. This encounter became the beginning of an endearing transformational relationship between a searching yogini and a peaceful Buddhist monk. We spoke for hours, mostly question and response, politely taking turns and making the most of this auspicious encounter.
As all things must come to an end, this brief moment in Luang Prabang had its time numbered as well. Little did I know my Soul yearned for more, so much more that unexplainable sobs showered me at the airport as we boarded our plane back to Bangkok. Little did I know, the universe was magically weaving its web and had epic plans in the making. This pilgrimage would be one of many. Less than 6 months later, I found myself kneeling at the back of that same monastery amongst 16 monks robbed in orange. Chants in Pali of devotion moved me to unchartered dimensions. Thirteen days meditating day in and day out. Visions and epiphanies came flying at me as my heart cracked wide open and my mind grew softer and softer. Transformation was abounding.
This place has a way with me. Eight trips in total, 156 days to be exact, all in less than 4 years. My heart and Soul are always there and Luang Prabang and its people are infinitely present at the core of my heart. From just a random encounter in a far away land I have learned more about my true self, the meaning of love in it’s purest form and the epic-ness of mankind and of Life, than any book, class or teachings could ever offer.
The over spilling of my heart of gratitude and love sparked a dire need to humbly help where I could. So, I began where I could and with what I could, supporting one auspicious monk who dreamt of becoming a lawyer.
Profound relationships were forged through loving kindness and pure joy. From that one special monk who dreamt of studying law, 27 more orphaned teens chimed in as well as a year’s collect of overspill from the abundant wealth of Switzerland. A collection of schoolbooks, clothes, shoes, items of personal hygiene and bedding, totally one ton 200 kilos was sent and shared amongst 600 young orphaned children. Endless classes of yoga and mediation are taught for the Lao students, orphans and dear friends and family. But the most rewarding was what they offer me, love, deep love without attachment, inner joy, that ‘’bor pen nyang’’ attitude of no worries, everything will work out just fine, and endless smiles of the heart.
This past trip was unique and I even had a slight change of heart. I would be arriving empty handed, no money, no phones or computers, clothes, books or chocolate, just me at my rawest form. I had nothing to offer but my presence, and my love. I wondered, how would I be received, or even received at all? Making my way out into the balmy air from the newly constructed airport, my heart sank in humility. From all directions, by foot and bike, motorbike and tuk tuk, I was met at the airport by 14 friends/students/family with more love and hugs than anyone could possibly know what to do with, but cry in tears of deep heart connections of tender love.
Practice for Compassion was born out of love, a year to date from that first day I set foot on this life altering land. It is nothing more than a true grassroots, heartfelt, kind of makeshift foundation without a real foundation at all. I am in the field working my heart a lot and I LOVE it. I get by pretty well in pasa Lao (Lao language) and connect weekly, thanks to Face Book and email with my 98 friends and family from this tiny off- the –map-heart-exploding-sacred land. Community and love are at the root as well as passion and desire to follow the calling of my heart and my Soul.
I am forever grateful for all the abundant contributions from my family, friends, students, and anonymous donations that have helped these humble dream chasers manifest their dharma. Practice for Compassion has raised over $10’000 and helped 5 students attend university, 25 students through high school and extra-curricular classes, shipped 100 boxes (one ton 200 kilos) chalk full of golden goodness to a local orphanage, supplied 8 computers, 1500 toothbrushes to local villages and endless meals to those who want to share the goldenness of connection. Life is oh so sweet, especially in a place we can call home.
O2Yoga Breathe Life