“In meditation,” he says, “your attention is like the flame of a candle. It flickers and wavers, but eventually it always comes back to the center.” He gives a slight wave of his hand to illustrate the point. “Sometimes it’s like a fish on a line, it goes way, way out there–“ a more sweeping gesture this time. “But you just reel it back in. Every time.” Afterwards, one of my friends asks to have his picture taken with the monk, and, emboldened, I ask the same. He nods and gestures for Rich and me to come sit by him.
Now, there’s a delicate social etiquette surrounding Buddhist monks, as some of them have taken vows never to touch a woman; even minor violations of this code require weeks of purification rituals, and I don’t want our new friend to be obliged to add that on to his eight-year plan. So as I sit down, I take extraordinary pains to keep space between us – no easy task in the cramped attic room. And then, just as a friend snaps the picture, the monk reaches out and grabs me in a bear hug.
I recently read a post by Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo, called How Travel Rewards You For Being Impulsive. Her anecdotes and suggestions include “Try a New Food or Drink,” “Accept Invitations,” and “Dance Without Caring What Other People Think.” I liked them all, especially the last. As many of you know, Rich and I once went dancing in a fountain late on a steamy night in Seville, prompting a local curmudgeon to growl, “Hey you two, is that any way to behave? You wouldn’t do that back where you come from!” And that’s my whole point. Travel is a great way to put yourself in fresh surroundings that prompt you to take chances and try new things, like eating fried flies, going to bullfights, and having Buddhist monks surprise the hell out of you.
Nora writes, “On my first-ever overseas trip (to China, when I was 18 years old), at a traditional Peking Duck dinner I was presented with fried scorpions. Being none too thrilled with scorpions while alive much less dead, I didn’t try them, and have spent the last 20 years regretting that moment.” To be honest, I would have passed on the scorpions, too. But the great thing about having regrets like Nora’s is that the next time somebody offers you an adventure, culinary or otherwise, you’re highly motivated to take a chance and say “Yes!” to something completely new. And there's no telling where that will lead you...
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