Photo Slideshow Above
Nov. 11, 2016
2 days after the 2016 USA presidential election.
“Where you from?” said the Burmese Buddhist monk as I passed him on the stairs to the meditation hall (pictured above). This took me by surprise because common conversation does not occur in Pau-Auk Forest Monastery in southern Myanmar. I had said no more that 10 words in the 5 days I spent there. Silence is noble in a monastery.
“America,” I swallowed.
“So….Mr. Trump…elected,” the monk said to me, not as a question or a statement, but somewhere in between.
“Oh…uh wow,” I muttered, unable to express my reaction in words because of the language barrier. We made eye contact once more, then I nodded my head and continued up the stairs, mind racing.
This was the first I had heard of the election results. In the monastery no phones are allowed, no wifi is provided, the purpose is the remove yourself from the outside world and focus on your self, so I did. I was leaving the monastery later that day and was planning on finding out the results at that time. Like many others, I had wrongly assumed Hillary Clinton was going to win. I had yet to accept a reality where Donald Trump was president.
In the monastery, everyone must follow the compulsory schedule. We meditate approximately 10 hours a day. 7 hrs 30 mins of seated meditation and the rest can be walking, laying, or seated meditation. Additional hours are reserved for studying and dhamma talks (See photo of schedule above).
The style of meditation at Pa-Auk is not one of contemplation, but one of nothingness. The purpose is to remove future and past thoughts from your mind and remain in the present, removing all agitation from the body. Breathing is the constant and the only focus. This is all I can say for now as I have not progressed beyond this in my own personal meditation.
Needless to say, my mind was distracted as the news of Trump’s election washed over me. In my journal, I wrote down a few thoughts.
- During 6 months of travel the #1 conversation topic was the USA presidential election. Being from America made me even a greater target for questioning. I can say with certainty that the LARGE majority of people I met across 12 countries are not in support of Trump, fear his potential, and strongly support Obama. Albeit, the majority of travelers are demographically young, cultured, idealist, and liberal. Additionally, the majority of local people also support Obama and he is recognized as an respected international diplomat open to strengthening ties with other countries. Interestingly, the only country that had a few Trump supporters was Croatia. Some Croats and Serbs are hardliners.
- The election of Trump should not be about Trump as much as the people who vote for Trump. The president is a representation of an idea and a feeling.
- Many people talk about leaving. If you leave, that is fine, but do not hide. Be forthright in spreading your convictions.
- I like the phrase, “what is forced is never forceful.” In your actions, do not force your ideology on others. Instead, lead with action. Let your actions speak, not your words. Spread compassion, love, and acceptance. Showing your words is better than speaking them.
Also, this is important…