Thai wisdom : Don’t ruin a good day by thinking about a bad yesterday. Let it go.
It’s the first day of April, the infamous April Fools’ Day, and also the first day of the 29th year of my life ; and although I’m in a paradise location, Koh Samui, after a week spent between Dubai, Bangkok and my new spiritual home, Chiangmai, I cannot help but feel a bit low.
I’m not 25 anymore…! But I’m still being asked for my ID when ordering an alcoholic drink… and now I don’t even have an ID, other than my passport, as all my documents got stolen with my wallet three weeks ago. Where are the wrinkles when we need them?
Plus, our silly human tendency is to look back into the past at transitional moments like this, and evaluate the valence of the months long gone. How does it serve us? It doesn’t or rather serves us poorly, because – as loads of studies show – we either tend to exaggerate the bad or tough moments, feeling sorry for ourselves, or exaggerate the good moments, feeling nostalgic and missing what once made us feel high. If the recent past put your resilience to a test, thinking about it can also – paradoxically – make you fear the future. At the end of the day, how can you possibly know that what future holds for you will be any better than what beat you up in the past?
So, unsurprisingly, the best solution seems to be focusing on the present – and that’s precisely what Buddhist monks here in Thailand teach. One thing I learned yesterday in a little temple in Chiangmai – or rather confirmed what I learned when travelling across Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia five or so years ago – is that there are few more peaceful experiences than strolling around a Buddhist temple at dawn and listening to the chanting of Buddhist monks. I obviously cannot prove that their minds aren’t wandering into the tough past or potentially dangerous future as they hum their mantras, but I’d like to think that they do exactly as they preach and focus on the ‘here and now’.
So, the ‘here and now’.
Truth is that March was challenging – a surgery that knocked me down for three weeks, a stolen wallet with all the valuables in it, and a couple of other minor hardships that served as the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back, left me really demotivated and simply unwilling to continue the March challenge. After 7 days of struggling, I finally gave up on the intermittent fasting and boy oh boy, did I beat myself for it.
Buuuuut, the whole point of this year, and life in general, is to pick oneself up after every hiccup along the way and keep going. So after a bit of re-centring myself during this holiday, I’m going to gently and slowly put myself back together.
I’m going to Koh Phangan tomorrow for a yoga and meditation retreat where I’ll be fed vegan, raw food and one day even undergo a complete detox, drinking some colon cleansers and Buddha-knows-what that will flush the toxins out of my body (I know exactly how this sounds, I know… but I thought I’d give it a go anyway). Hopefully this will set me back on track toward intermittent fasting.
But, you won’t find out about it until May, as my actual challenge for April is giving up social media – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Medium, Twitter, though I barely tweet. I’ll also limit checking my personal email to a short slot over lunch and in the evening, straight after work. My colleagues at work tried to make me swear off WhatsApp as well, but I use it to communicate with my family and friends living abroad, so not using it would also mean not talking to them and I cannot see how that would be good for my wellbeing. So yeah, I’ll keep using WhatsApp, limit it to a couple of moments per day and to a few people. As for the rest of you, I’ll just be calling you back for a more personal interaction (or ideally, shall we meet for coffee?) – sorry not sorry :).
What will I do with all this time and attention that social media and emails used to consume? The aim is to exercise, read and socialise face-to-face more… and, you know, just live. The reality is that I’ll probably find this new vacuum – and the silence that comes with it – deeply disturbing. I’m already having a FOMO and dying to share photos from the rest of my trip, haha!
Sometimes I think that we can no longer just be on our own – have a breakfast in a cafe without photographing it and letting the world know what we’ve just eaten, stand in the queue and not browse through our friends’ FB feeds, attend a cool event and resist tweeting about it. The default we operate by these days is to be constantly connected and active, 24/7.
I, of all people, feel really uncomfortable with not doing, alone-ness and silence, so the whole experience is bound to be very interesting at least. No matter how unsettling at first, I hope that it will help me be more present – and what’s a better gift (or present) we could give to others and ourselves than to be fully present? According to Buddhists, nothing.
So, without further ado, may the social-media-free April begin! Happy Easter and April Fools’, folks!
The last photo I shared on Instagram this morning, my bday brekkie by the sea at a nearby Bophut Beach.