I had the fortune of volunteering at ‘Mindful Farm’, a little community nestled among hillocks in North Chiang Mai, Thailand.
One of the things I liked most about being there was the nutritious breakfast we used to eat, seated on the floor, in complete silence, mindfully.
After breakfast, one of us would read a little story about mindfulness in daily life to everyone else. The founder, Pi Nan, had a wonderful collection of stories to be read out loud every morning.
On a particular morning, my friend Alice was reading out a story. She read the story with such an endearing cadence that all of us just wanted to keep on listening. Giving space and emphasis as it deemed fit, she beckoned us all on a journey, like Pied Piper would with his pipe.
After she finished reading the story, we all were secretly wishing that she kept on reading !
We got up from our places and continued on to work on the farm.
While we were busy working, I took a moment to compliment her about the way she read the story.
‘Alice, how did you learn to read like that?’
‘Ah, did you enjoy it?’ she asked.
‘Yes, indeed. It was read with such empathy and emotion. I felt as if I was a kid in a nursery and my teacher was reading a gripping little tale to me.’
‘Well, I am a teacher back in Myanmar. I teach kids. I have to be able to read engagingly, don’t I?’
‘Ah, that explains it!’
‘You know, I feel that we assume that we no longer need to be read to once we learn how to read. But isn’t it a joy to be be listening to a story read with the right emotion and flow?’
‘By all means !’ I assented.
And we carried on our work in the little patch of the garden.
Yesterday, my friend’s father and I sat down to share time and space. I narrated a short story to him I had written a few days ago. He recited a few of the couplets he had composed.
He had such joy in his spirit when he recited his own poetry composed in an agreeable melody.
Once he was done reciting he spoke,
‘You know, my wife has insomnia. When she cannot fall asleep at night, I sing my poetry as a lullaby to her. Before she knows, she falls asleep like a content baby.’
‘How do you think that works Uncle?’ I asked.
‘You know, I think we all feel that only little babies need lullabies to fall asleep. But, we could all use a lullaby in our life.’
Smiling gently to his wise observation, we enjoyed the evening breeze.
These two experiences with Alice and my friend’s father got me thinking about the things we do away with as we grow up.
Most experiences we consider so precious as kids are deemed to be childish.
Who doesn’t remember sleeping to a lullaby? Or a short story performed by Granny in the dark theatre of the night, that soothed us into a dream filled sleep?
The caressing on our ruffled hair by Mom, when we were down with fever? Her peculiar scent that made you feel you’re home in her arms?
As we grow up we do not let these experiences into our lives. We dare not to sleep in our mother’s lap, rationalizing our fear, fooling ourselves out of what we might truly need.
After an age, subconsciously we seek the same feelings as we did as a child, from a partner.
Yes, we need to listen to someone with deep anticipation and intent, just how we used to listen to those childhood stories.
We need to listen to them whisper in our ear, to lead us to a sound sleep, just how a lullaby used to do back in the day. We need to be touched, lovingly, like we allowed our mother to once upon a time. We need that embracing scent of our beloved, to feel home, no matter where we are, just like our mother’s scent made us feel.
Our adulthood comes with a baggage. The inertia of all those walls that we build between us and our guileless heart.
Our heart was open to love as children.
But as we grew up, we even started feeling awkward when embracing our own parents, something that used to be so natural !
How is this growth in any sense of the word?
Sometimes, growth means to retreat.
Retreat to a state of pure being,
Of having an open heart,
An all embracing soul,
That touches and let’s itself be touched.
That seeks out an embrace,a lullaby, a story, the scent of home…