Updated: Jan 16
Let me tell you something I have learned about just being. I am content and feel okay with just living my life. To live in a place where beliefs are different and the societal pressures are different than the West - I wanted to share with you my changing views from living in the East ( of Southeast Asia) and my views as being a "farang" or Westerner in Thailand.
It has been about half a year now that I have been in and out and all about Thailand. I have had various tries at teaching jobs and I think I finally have found one that really fits and is the most reliable and ideal. I live on an island in Thailand. I cannot believe it. As a small town girl from little rural Illinois, who always was far far from an ocean, now oceans are within just 10 minutes. Other islands are just a ferry ride away, how amazing. I am so very thankful for this.
East and the West attitudes of the future
I have met a lot of Thai people at this point and something interesting every time I meet a new Thai person, is they never ask about my future career. They never ask about my educational goals or expectations of the future. They don't ask what school I went to, the degree I had or what I want to do now that I have a degree. They don't ask a "farang" foreigner and they don't ask their own friends this really either. Seriously. They ask about your relationships, what you have been doing lately or their favourite question : "what have ate today"?. This is refreshing and now by this point I find it to be the norm. I have been out of the Western environment for quite sometime now. I had a recent move to a British school-where I teach now. So there are Westerners here all around. Do you want to know what the small talk changed to? It changed to the questions of future,future, and more future. I am used to these questions, but when all of these getting to know you questions came about, I had a realization if you will.
Let me first make it clear, I am not saying that Thai people don't achieve college degrees or graduate degrees, they do. A lot of them do, but also there isn't a judgment if their kid decided to sell street food or work with their mom at her hair parlor for a couple years to save up the money to be financially stable first. Here is the thing though, they don't worry about what is to come 24/7. If their idea for what they wanted to do doesn't work out because of money or maybe they still just haven't found their "passion", then don't worry. The Thai people aren't asking you about what car do you drive or what college did you attend. They aren't as concerned about the infatuation the West seems to have with career and future life all the time. Thai's just live. If they don't know their future goals, guess what no problem. I will figure it out eventually. If something is going wrong. No worries. They have a calm and collective approach to obstacles. Also, they have a no problem and no worry kind of attitude- thus this is why I assume they have less worry compared to the West. Take it or leave it, its my hypothesis ;) All humans worry, it is part of what makes us human. I am just saying it isn't the norm like in the West to have that constant worry of the future and people always asking you "so what do you do for a living?".
What do we mean by living anyways?
Living. What do you for a living? What will you do for a living? As if there is just one response for this and a simple way to answer. There shouldn't be. To live doesn't mean to work? Last I checked the dictionary. The true definition of living is : a condition of being alive or a way of life, like a lifestyle. Alright, so maybe the West has changed our perception on the meaning of living. Living doesn't equal money. It doesn't technically mean your career. It means lifestyle and to just be. So why then do we struggle so much with the idea that we as Westerners can just live and just be?
What do I mean by live?
In Buddhism, there is the idea of contentment. You can really tell that even if the person is not extremely religious or actively trying to attain enlightenment, there is an attitude that they all have- to not worry. There is a quote that I believe sums up this attitude and a lot of Thai people have this attitude. It is " Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate your mind on the present moment". I find this extremely profound. To live a life up to this means to simply be and that is all. Nothing more and nothing less. Just live and notice the present moment.
Sure you may want to accomplish things along the way, but don't worry about how you will achieve this. Don't consume your mind with worry and what if scenarios constantly. This fogs your mind, it fogs your clarity. Check in with your surroundings and the world. What do you notice? Zoom out of your worry and look at the smaller details. Listen for the breathe, the wind, the sounds of people murmuring in the distance and all the happenings as they are. Just one thing at a time. It flows in and out. It is a notice to the object, sound, or feeling, then it leaves. You are aware. This is meditation.
What does this mean for me?
I do not practice Buddhism, but I can tell you this. People's beliefs and values don't come out of thin air. There is always an origin, a journey, or a path that led them to this belief. Understanding other cultures beliefs helps you understand them. It helps you understand the world more at whole. I view that all of the world is a big jigsaw. It is put together by many little pieces. These pieces are languages, they are values, they are people, they are nature, they are animals, they are religions, they are festivals, they are politics, they are traditions.. and so many more. It is all related. Everything overlaps in some sort of way. Just as one thing you do effects another and that effects this.. like a ripple effect. Your actions effect others believe it or not and everything is always a cause and effect relationship. It is both a minor change and then if you zoom out its a huge change.
Everything has a meaning and those meanings all create the universe. Being here has opened my view. I think this has come from a mixture of readings about culture, learning new languages, new experiences, and patience. I have an intuitive mind and if you have kept up with me on how I beginning to envision the world then I hope this has radiated loving kindness.