Wednesday, December 14, 2011

journey in Asia takes a 10,000 kilometer shift

This is an old story, it happened about three months ago. I was indecisive for a long time if I should write it or not. Finally convinced myself that it’s better write it late than never…

End of September, I visited the forest monastery again – this time for 12 days only (You can read about the previous visit here, here and here). Most mornings, I was giving CranioSacral sessions to the monks and in the afternoons teaching group yoga classes. In the evenings, the most senior monk in the monastery was giving me private meditation sessions. The rest of the days were long walks in the forest, reading or fruit-picking. Days were busy and very productive. Monks were getting a lot of benefit from the CranioSacral and the yoga sessions so we were all very happy.

I had two free days in Bangkok between the monastery and Bali. So I wanted to visit the monk (let’s call him Phra) who arranged everything for me and thank him in person. Phra’s monastery is 1-hour south of Bangkok so I took the bus there. By the time I arrived, everyone was busy working with a senior monk who was visiting for the day (let’s call him Ajahn). I recognized him immediately because I saw few of his photos on the walls in other monsteries. As it’s the custom I was offered lunch and cold drinks as soon as I arrived. Seeing how busy Phra was, I wanted to keep my visit short. I thanked him for everything he’s done and organized for me.

As I was about to leave, Ajahn invited me closer to his desk and started asking questions. Ajahn didn't speak any English so Phra was translating for us. He asked how I liked the life in the monastery, what was I doing in Bali etc. Phra told him that I helped the monks via CranioSacral therapy and yoga. Ajahn closed his eyes for a moment,seemed to go really deep and then open his eyes to describe to me what CranioSacral therapy is. It was very interesting because not many people know it enough to describe it in their own words just by hearing it. It felt as if Ajahn was able to contact his inner wisdom and get all knowledge he needs from there. Then he asked me where I was from, I told him and again he closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, he told me that Turkey was a crowded country, with very little Buddhist presence and spirituality. Another accurate insight! I was reading a lot about how experienced Buddhist monks were very wise and insightful, but that was the first time that I had a personal experience of it.

At that time, I was contemplating if I should spend a few months in Istanbul to practice CranioSacral. I told this to Ajahn and his response was very surprising. He told me that I should not spend just a few months in Istanbul. Instead I should move there permanently! He said it was easy to live in forest monasteries and beautiful islands like Bali and help people there. He said that in forests life can get so comfortable and relaxed, that I can even forget my name. He added that the real challenge is to live in a city with extremes and try to accept them as they are; without trying to change, even without trying to make them better. Everything he said was so true, but not what I wanted to hear... I told him that I liked living in Bali, that Turkey was too aggressive and didn't have the spirituality of Asia. Looking directly into my eyes, Ajahn said "You are born in Turkey and you are going to die in Turkey!" That was a shock to me and looking at the expression on his face, also to Phra. Softening his tone a little, Ajahn added that no one is born randomly into countries. He said I've been around different countries long enough to absorb their wisdom and get a perspective. Yet it was time for me to move back and share whatever I've learned, in order to help people in my own country. He said that I cannot achieve anything by running away; anything I needed to face, anything that would challenge me to be better was "back home". It felt like a bombardment of ideas that I didn't want to hear because at a deeper level I knew that they were true. I sat there trying to absorb everything that I heard, while Phra and Ajahn were looking at me with the most compassionate eyes.

It was too much and too shocking to hear all that, at a time and place that I least expected. In the last 2 years most of  what I did, were the things I was afraid of.  Only a few more things were more scary than moving back to Istanbul  - I tried living in this city twice before and failed miserably both times. Feeling the support and the clarity of the monks, it felt like the best time to give it a third and a final try. 

That day, Ajahn spent 3 hours with me. Not only did he tell me that I should live and die in Turkey, he added how I should work. He almost gave me a business plan; he told me whom to work with, where to be located etc. I took out a pen and a notebook and he made me write down a detailed list of things I should do. It felt surreal, sitting in a monastery in Thailand, taking down notes on how I should live the rest of my life based on the words of a monk that I only met 3 hours ago. Things could have been lost in translation, he may not have been as wise as I perceived him. It was (and still is) the biggest leap of faith in my life but I took it. That evening as soon as I arrived back to Bangkok, I made arrangements for return tickets to Turkey.

Later I've learned that Ajahn was a very well-known monk. People from all over Thailand would go to his monastery to seek his advice and he would be very selective to share it. I was told that some of the business tycoons and even the Thai Secret Service would come to seek his advice before strategic decisions. And I happened to be visiting Phra's monastery on the day he was also visiting. He chose to spend 3 hours with me, changing my life with every word... Sometimes, some things seem a little more than coincidence, don't they?