For the past five years now I’ve been traveling extensively throughout Asia. In a mix of work and play I’ve found myself nestled amongst the back alleys of cultures so amazingly different from anything I have known from life in the far off West. From blazing hot 90 degree weather to the most amazing mangos I’ve ever eaten… yea… sun and mangos… that sums up life in Asia :). Of the many things I have discovered a few that I have treasured the most are perhaps the easiest of all to find. Coconuts and Dhamma.
Hopefully we don’t need to spend much time elaborating on what a coconut is but for the uninitiated we are talking about a delightful fruit that looks just like a huge nut on the outside. It’s covered in a furry hard skin that when chopped open presents a delicious delicate fruit… and a whole bunch of yummy coconut water as well! Coconuts are plentiful and cheap but put some rum, a straw and a little umbrella in them and we are talking about a truly exotic drink fit for the vacationing masses!
Dhamma? Now that’s more complicated. In basic terms (and that’s still where I am!) Dhamma is the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha was a truly chill individual who found enlightenment (ultimate peace and serenity) in-between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE. From the Buddha we get Buddhism, a truly awesome export of India and prevalent throughout many of the South-East Asian countries, including… you guessed it… Thailand!
Find your way to Google and you will learn everything and more about Buddhism, it’s history, it’s teachings and how it all came to be so popular today. It gets muddy in a hurry but Buddhism can be described as a religion but for me that misleads the intent. Starting three years ago, give or take a month, Buddhism started to creep into my somewhat resistant psyche. For me Buddhism is less a structured religion and more a way to approach life, how to live, to think… and ultimately to find peace with the madness all around us. Now that’s something I could 100% get behind! We live such incredibly fast and hectic lives rushing too and fro. And amongst it all I started to notice that I was less and less in control… as if the gas pedal was stuck flat against the floor and I was doing my best not to crash into everything around me!
The famous flight of fight reflex seemed to be turned on permanently and everything was becoming a battle to be right, regardless of whether that meant I ultimately lost. I was near to paralyzing myself with an overarching ability to overthink just about everything. Top it off with an inability to leave the past in the past, focusing far too much on on the “what if” of tomorrow and I was just simply not having any fun anymore. And let’s be honest… we were all invited to this 100 year party to have a good time… not stress out that the potato skins might not taste good!
Somewhere along the way I decided to stop letting the world and my fears sit in the driver’s seat of my life. From scrambling to keep in front of the car that is my world I decided to step right and get back in where I belonged… behind the wheel, applying my own pressure to the accelerator, choosing my own music on the radio and setting the air conditioning where I wanted it! This was an incredibly slow process! It’s amazing how ingrained our personalities and our instinctual reactions are to the many things that face us in life. In fact it started to occur to me more and more that I was less and less in control than I originally thought! I was more or less on auto-pilot letting my old habits, biases and experiences dictate my responses to what was happening around me. The more I paid attention the more I didn’t like what I saw. The more I didn’t like what I saw the more I decided to stop the video, pan around 360 degrees and see what outcome my decisions where likely to achieve. Then I decided to think about the outcome I actually wanted, rewind the tape and took another tac in what I did next.
What have I found? Well… the little boat of life called Ben still gets it wrong more often than not. I still fall victim to my own ego and my own biases on how I think things should be done. But… and that’s a big but… I feel like I am making progress. Along the way I am finding something I have always thought you would just magically find one day all at once, as it if was hiding under a rock. I find it here and there, at times for just a few minutes and sometimes for nearly a whole day. I find it lurking in the traffic jams of Bangkok’s famous rush hours and sometimes when the bumps of my late night flight are more than I like. I find it hiding in frustrating emails and difficult conversations. I find it everywhere I look and I realized it was there all along. I have it within my own power to find it everyday, every hour and one day every minute… it’s peace… that delicious state in your mind when you breath slow and deep… smile without realizing it and the wind seems to sing and the world slows down.
You see for me (there I go rhyming again!) peace is found within and not under a rock, or on the top of a temple or watching a beautiful sunset. I am 100% in control of when I am at peace even if I can’t hold onto it all the time :).
Coconuts and Dhamma? Well… hold a coconut in your hand and you have a hard unforgiving fruit protected from just about everything life can throw at it. With patience you can crack one open and what will you find? A delicious delicacy to both eat and drink. And if Dhamma are the teachings that have helped millions around the world find a way to live life at peace with it instead of at war with it then I think I have an answer. For me Coconut Dhamma is about cracking open the hard shell I put around my own thinking and finding a way to mine deep down and find the reward that lies inside.
A peaceful coconut… yea… now splash some rum on that and get me a little umbrella and we’ve got a deal!
PS: I found this happy little coconut guy on the Internet! If you drew it thank you! Let me know and I’ll give you credit :).