When I was in China, I visited a temple on a rainy day.
I was there to admire the beautiful architecture and the peaceful surroundings in an otherwise too-populated city.
Little did I know, I was observing the daily comings and goings of a regular day, with people making a stop to and from their daily lives to meditate, pray and gather. The monks who lived there worked as any worker would, saying hello to people, fixing the lights, sweeping, cooking. This was their home. I felt oddly out of place, yet strangely okay.
As I sat inside, watching people young and old, lighting incense and praying, and a slew of people on the other end quietly meditating, the vibration of a large drum humming its way into the earth.
I felt so very vulnerable, as before me stood statues of grandeur. And I, not so. I was there feeling the sensations and energies in the quiet, but grand room.
On my flight over, I sat next to a someone during a crazy episode of turbulence. It was fine mostly, except i found it hard to sit still. I was trying to write, typing words and deleting. I could not form sentences that sounded authentic. No voice. All inspiration lost on me, as I battled with rejection and realities of the past few weeks.
Without saying a word, he gave me a book and put his hand on my shoulder. I held the book in my hand, though could not understand. We never spoke a single word to each other. I left it on the tray. The turbulence was intense, but it was over in a few hours. When the plane landed safely, i handed him back his book, he nodded and we parted ways.
At the temple, a man approached me. It turned out to be the same man from my flight over, except he wore something different. He was a monk who lived and worked there. What were the odds of bumping into the same person in a city filled with millions?
We didn’t say anything, for awhile.
Then he spoke first, after a few moments of silence, “You are one of our children that’s been lost to us. I can tell. Welcome home.”
I told him i didn’t know why I stopped here, and that this, this was too much.
Perhaps it was to reflect on my failures. This place. I feel completely lost here, like I don’t belong. I never will.
We walked along the perimeter of the temple, appreciating the lush greens, and the silence. I could hear birds chirping and the sound of rustling leaves. The earth a grey puddle from rainwater.
We walked toward another section of the temple, to a room that was much more secluded. He motioned me to go inside first. For all I knew, I could have been killed or assaulted, but I felt compelled to join him. Not knowing, but trusting.
We stood under the cover of the room for a few minutes. He said, “Here you can say goodbye, if you must.” I replied, “Goodbye?”, and he said, “Let it all go. Empty your thoughts.” He proceeded to walk toward an alter, grabbing a few sticks of incense and lit it in the open pit, before finally waving the sticks to extinguish its ember into a stream of smoke. He motioned for me to do the same, and it reminded me of when I used to do this with my parents. This ritual. The smoke forming and dissolving away, like the transient nature of all existing things.
I felt a certain calm after, much lighter. Like the woes of my own reality had transcended into something else. That there is light in all darkness, that darkness is where light punctures through. Over and again.
I sat there, staring at the ceiling, of the intricate framework done hundreds of years ago. Markings from so many who have passed on, leaving us with a place to reflect. To be at peace.
When I got up to leave, I noticed hours had passed and the mysterious man with me was no longer there. Next to me was the same book he gave me on the plane. A small book written with Chinese calligraphy, beautiful like paintings itself. Pages and pages of vertical text, delicately and symbolically written. Preserved.
I’d left there with more clarity than going in. It inspired me to keep writing, even though I was discouraged for a little while.
I had gotten a rejection on something I proposed recently, and I was curious as to why. Was it so terrible? There was nothing I could do but let it go, because what’s the point of wondering? I thought i was ready to share my work (I wasn’t). I am often intensely private with my work, and it took a big leap of faith to start this little blog. To share it with people, strangers.
I’d never felt more alone than I did, pondering life’s mysteries while watching the sunset in my little Hawaiian paradise before this. It was overwhelming looking at the sea of blue. All the emptiness, a mass of water that covers so much of the earth.
I sat still in my own emptiness, letting it wash over so that I, too, can begin again.
I’d also never felt more loneliness than I did at the Buddhist temple. As if the earth stopped, and I was the last creature there.
I wrapped myself in a blanket of infinite isolation. The blissful loneliness that only one can appreciate. There is beauty in emptiness, a sort of wonderment that leaves nothing to the mind. Redefining the very meaning of letting go.
And through it all, I’ve come to one conclusion. If there’s one lesson i learned In my recent travels, it is this:
I just want to write beautiful things, even if no one cares.