The first scene my eyes registered when we arrived in Vietnam was over flowing with vibrant life and energy. Our van drove by a large park and I couldn’t stop starring at the locals dancing, exercising and at play. It was a regular Sunday afternoon but the positive energy and happiness that radiated from the outdoor space seemed to make the day quite special. “Now these people know how to live!” I thought as I made a promise to myself that I would try to absorb as much of whatever all of this was, while we were there. Vietnam warmed the cockles of my heart. It did come in a colorful package comprised of all of the elements we expected. Risking life and limb every time you crossed the street, then feeling a strong sense of accomplishment about starring death in the face and saying, “See ya later!” The conical hats, the street food vendors, country and riverside images that could turn anyone into an artist. This neat little parcel also had a few pleasant surprises in store for us. Images my heart and mind don’t ever want to forget. Constant friendly smiles that were part of everyday and came from everywhere. When I visit places where the people as a whole seem to care not only for their own animals but also for those who don’t have homes, they win me over forever. People were constantly giving away food, sometimes even their whole meal to hungry street animals. Does this come from the Buddhist ideal to give to those who have less than you do? Whatever it was it filled me with an abundance of love, love, love! Quickly plunging back into plus 30 degree weather after being in Beijing’s chilly 5 degree atmosphere was a little more than my body could handle. Exhaustion from travelling, dehydration and drastic climate change got the best of me one of the first days we were there. More than once I had to take a necessary break from exploring because I was feeling light headed and faint. As I sat on the sidewalk my breath shallow, sweat droplets furiously dripping down and my head between my legs, unexpected helping hands appeared all around me. One business owner offered a seat in his air conditioned salon. Two more graciously brought stools out from their stores so I would not have to sit on the sidewalk. I was deeply touched by this generous display of care for a foreign stranger.
One of the most amazing sights I’ve had the pleasure to experience was Halong Bay. Yes our world is magnificent; yes nature can blow you away in its non-man made majestic simplicity. The limestone karsts of all different shapes and sizes are the perfect setting for any fairy-tale. I felt like Snow White for the night, enveloped by their surreal quality. What do the locals who live in the floating villages think of it? Could this scenery ever become mundane no matter how many times you would see it? Oh Halong Bay, I hope our human ignorance never does anything to hinder your greatness.
Every moment in life is inconsistent, impermanent and ever-changing. Precious times as well as difficult ones are fleeting, they disappear. I want to treat the present like the gift that it is, uncluttering my mind of anything that isn’t NOW. Decontaminating my heart and soul from the problematic formulations my brain won’t stop trying to figure out. For the very first time I’m allowing myself to accomplish the simplest task that is undeniably also the most difficult. I’m taking the time to just STOP.