Food for the Soul
I love travel as I find observing, interacting and learning about cultures feeds my curiosity like nothing else. Yes, I love books and can have my nose buried for days; history either ancient or contemporary, biographies give you a glimpse, but there is still nothing better than hitting the ground to feed all the senses.
Anyone who know me, knows that sunrise walks are my favorite, to see my surrounds waking, listening to the early riser birds, street dogs stretching, mists rising, the very few who are getting their day started give me a peek as to what follows. I have always pushed myself to get out there and I am never disappointed. I feel I have gotten an extra little bonus gift in my day. Such is when you are in Myanmar when you see the monks and nuns out silently with their orange and pink robes blowing in the wind moving quickly to collect their morning alms.
Myanmar is on the cusp, after more than 50 years of military rule, the country is making strides to welcome travelers to share in a land of wonders. Luckily, mass tourism hasn’t yet descended. With tourism comes the need for more infrastructure and comforts in their many compelling corners and tourism groups are addressing that quickly. And now, UNESCO has bestowed its World Heritage on Bagan where the remains of thousands of temples are spread across its plains. This will be a major boost to growth.
In colonial Mandalay, it becomes clear that this is the vibrant heartland of the Buddhist community with over 6000 monks and nuns living and studying within a few miles among the hills overlooking the Irrawaddy River. At the foot of Mandalay Hills there is one of the greatest concentrations of monasticism in the world. Besides seeing them in the early morning hour, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Sakyadhita Thilashin Nunnery to glimpse at the female monastic life with 300 nuns ranging from 9 to 94, some committed to a few weeks or many years. This is a special monastery where the Burmese nuns live a very simple life together learning, mediating, and working to serve others.
It is a custom to sponsor meals for nuns either as an individual, family or group to earn merit for themselves or a deceased family member. Also people can volunteers prepare a ritual meal as offerings, now remember, it is for 300. We sponsored by making a cash donation but for that we were invited in to watch the ritual of 300 novices all in pink, line up in formation chanting beautifully when the gung was rung, placing their slippers in perfect arrangement, carrying their plates and into the vast dining room with its low table inches off the shiny wooden floor. With their feet tucked under them and their robes they recited prayers and were served lunch and ate in silence.
These are the times that make you reflect on your own life far from the daily routines. When all your senses make you aware, focused, and respectful of the beauty you are privileged to observe. Instances like this makes one grateful, humble, and swells your soul for all the good that the world tries to attain.