Between Christmas and New Year I did a flying visit to Thailand to be at the wedding of Ginger and Laetitia who live in a village outside Mae Rim. It was a beautiful wedding with friends and family from many countries present. I also went to spend time with Ouyporn Khuankaew – a feminist, activist, meditation (and more) teacher and friend. Staying in Ouyporn’s village allowed walks through the rice fields at dawn and dusk – beautiful and peaceful. The rice field next to the little house I stayed in came alive at sunset with frogs who spent the whole night valiantly trying to attract a mate.
While in Thailand I was pretty badly attacked by mosquitoes and other biting insects all over the legs – with resulting infection and swelling. Walking through the rice fields a couple of days after the attack, my legs were quite aggravated by the exercise, sore and intensely itchy. It was interesting watching my thoughts: “This is unbearable!” “I want to scratch my legs off!” “I can’t stand this!” etc, etc. Not surprisingly, those thoughts… that story I was telling myself only made the experience worse. Noticing those thoughts I remembered to pause, figuratively stand back and drop the story (to a certain extent). Yes, the physical experience was unpleasant but it was made much worse by my thoughts. That kind of thinking presumably has a helpful evolutionary element – encouraging me to take action and attend to a situation which might be harmful. But I’d already taken all the action that was possible (applying ointment) and now what was available was to accept the situation and enjoy the walk through the rice fields which was very beautiful. So instead of feeding the thinking process and getting caught up in the story, I moved my attention to the surrounds and accepted that my legs were going to be painful. From time to time I’d notice my attention fixating on the legs and the thinking mind getting back into creating a story of how this was the end of the world as I knew it! Each time was another chance to acknowledge the pain in my legs and be with the sensations without the story telling – not easy with such a strong stimulus. A great opportunity for mindfulness practice and it allowed me to enjoy the sun setting behind the mountains with the light reflecting in the fields – many newly planted with rice seedlings.
The alternative to dropping the story? A walk in the rice fields completely consumed by my mental creations.