Same same, but different.
This is a very popular phrase around SE Asia and it comes in handy multiple times a day. It is such a perfect and succinct way of describing something that is a lot like something else, but not quite exactly the same. I’m going to do my best to bring this phrase home with me and I hope you will all join me in using it as often as possible. (I swear this intro has something to do with what I’m going to talk about in this post and it’s gonna be super deep and meaningful…bear with me).
On December 25th this year, I attended a beautiful gathering at a place called the Tea Tree cafe in Chiang Mai. This day-long Christmas celebration included a huge potluck, laughter yoga, a love note-making station, and ended with a cacao ceremony and kirtan music. There were around 30 or 40 people there, mostly travelers and transients, a few who had made Chiang Mai their home, at least for the time being. It was a beautiful community, a temporary family brought together for the holidays, and there was a very strong, positive, loving energy all throughout the space.
At the start of the cacao ceremony, we went around the room and each shared something we wanted to let go of and something we wanted to manifest. We had a pretty large group, so this took quite a while, but everyone sat patiently and listened while each person had their chance to speak.
As I listened to all the things people wanted to let go of, I was struck by how similar they were. Over and over, I heard the words “fear, disconnection, self-doubt”. Here was this amazing group of beautiful humans from all over the world, all on their own personal journeys, with completely different stories, families, backgrounds, and languages, and yet we were all tied together by these universal feelings of being afraid, of wanting to belong, of feeling inadequate.
It is so easy to assume that we are the only ones who haven’t figured it all out, to think everyone else is happy except for us, to get lost in the perfect portrayals of social media and forget about everything that’s going on behind the scenes. When we feel sad, betrayed, forgotten, disconnected, hurt, it is easy to think we are all alone, that we are the only one who is struggling and needs help. But I have been shown time and time again that this is simply not true.
Seeing such a diverse group of people share such similar fears was a great reminder of how alike we all are at the core. No matter where we come from, we all share a few core desires, though they may manifest in very different ways. Same same, but different. (SEE!?)
If we could all share these feelings more often, if we could be a little more vulnerable and honest with each other, maybe we would recognize that we are all just searching for love, belonging, and connection, and not a single one of us has it totally figured out. We could waste less energy trying to pretend our lives are perfect and more time building genuine connections and getting the help and support we need from our loved ones so that we can create joyful lives full of meaning and community.
These were such intimate things to share with a group of strangers, and yet somehow we as a group had created a space where people felt safe to be honest and bare their souls. After the cacao ceremony, we did some partner exercises that were even more intimate. We put our hands on each other’s hearts and let the loving energy flow, we synchronized breathing while maintaining eye contact for several minutes, and we shared long embraces, all of this with people we had just met, either that night or in the past few days.
After these exercises, we all sat together and sang kirtan songs and by the end of the evening, every single person in that room was glowing and radiating love and joy. Although it was a pretty open group to begin with, somehow we became even more connected by the end of the night and I was filled with gratitude for the people at Tea Tree who put together this event on the last night of the cafe’s existence (the space was being demolished the next day to make room for apartment buildings).
When I first arrived in Chiang Mai a week ago, my intention was to focus on my spirituality, to spend time in the many temples around town, to attend meditation talks and have conversations with monks about Buddhism. But since I’ve been here, I’ve done pretty much none of that. Everything that has come up for me in my week here has been centered on people and community and I have loved every minute of it.
Experiences like the one I had on Christmas are the kinds of things I am dying to create for myself and others back home. Not that we don’t have things like that in Portland, but I want more. I want to create a space that fosters meaningful human connections, where people can come to do yoga, meditate, share meals, create music, learn from each other, heal and be healed, be vulnerable and share their similarities and differences.
I started this trip off with the intention to go deeper within myself, to learn from exploring my spirituality, to find a clearer purpose and direction for myself. In three short weeks, I have already discovered at least one thing that I knew all along but needed help remembering: my greatest passion is creating and being involved in communities, at home and around the world. When I think about building a space in Portland to hold these kinds of events and bring people together, it lights me up inside and makes me practically giddy with excitement.
So now I am incubating this brand new baby idea, looking for inspiration in the communities I visit around Asia and talking with people who are already doing the kinds of things I want to be doing. I have no idea how this will grow or where the next few months will take me, but I am open to whatever it may bring and look forward to many more thought-provoking conversations, meaningful connections, and fun playtimes with the people I meet.
Exactly as it is
When we were sharing at the cacao ceremony, one of the last people to speak was a guy who simply said “I want life to keep going exactly as it is”. To which my inner monologue response was: HELL YEAH, GUY.
I have a lot of things I want to work on and I don’t expect that to ever end, but that doesn’t at all mean that I am not positively thrilled with how my life is going so far.
Travel has a way of reminding me what is important in life. It forces me to take stock of all that I have and be grateful for the amazing opportunities I have been given. It offers me time and space to miss my friends and family, even while I am connecting with the many amazing new people who come into my life. It shows me the best and worst of humanity and makes me realize that I have absolutely no excuse not to spend every day doing exactly what I love doing and using my skills to serve others in a meaningful way.
Yes, my life is pretty charmed, and I am damn lucky to have been born into the family, the country, the time and place in the world into which I was born. I love this earth, I love myself, I love Thailand, and I love my life, and I want it to keep going exactly as it is.