Thai New Year.
A celebration which my daughter had wanted to experience when she lived and worked on Koh Tao as a Divemaster, a couple of years ago. I felt excited this year to be able to be part of the celebrations, in my work as a Therapist on the little island of Koh Chang.
Our facility started the celebration with the monks entering and blessing DARA. We were able to sit with them in our open air lounge area as they chanted. I didn’t know what the Buddhist prayers were but as I sat cross legged in peace, on the floor. I was able to experience the hum of their chant, enter both my head and my heart. The sound reverberated through my being – as my quiet mind became one with their words.
Then, clients and counsellors made a u shape outside, under the blue sky. The orange robed monk, made his way around all of us and we each poured a bag of rice into his bowl. The emotion I felt, brought tears to my eyes.
I had started work at 8 am that morning and when I’d arrived – a couple of the thai women were wearing traditional dress. For the first time I felt like I was in Thailand. The thought mirrored the feeling. The submersion into the culture was happening today.
Our facility is an international clinic and as much as I have felt the benefit of so many nationalities under one roof. To experience the unity of one culture and way, felt very special indeed. The management had supplied us all with flower shirts, and as I entered the reception, two of my female thai colleagues, spoke to each other about what I was wearing and one came round and tied my shirt together through the middle.
For a moment, the individual part of me felt annoyance – but then – I realised they had embraced me as part of them, and were showing me the way. As soon as I felt me, I thought about what was being shared and changed my thinking – I was able to self regulate my emotion. CBT is a useful skill we teach our clients also. It’s always good to recognise when I use it myself. I understood me and I understood them. The moment moved forward.
After the monks left, we crossed our little wooden bridge, which links lounge to restaurant and as we did so – our thai colleagues hung flower garlands around our necks. We were handed small silver cups filled with water and a purple orchid petal. This we tipped over Buddha. (Water represents purity and the washing away of sins and bad luck.) Elders within our facility sat on chairs facing us and we were able to pour water in their hands and I asked to be forgiven for leaving the facility a second time.
Our celebration continued with dancing and music and I felt honoured to be part of and to watch the happiness it brought forth.
In the afternoon, clients and staff drove down to the local school, which was closed and they played games and we had fun. I was privileged to be asked to join Yu and her daughter, as she popped over to the temple on site. I was able to pray with them and experience the way in which they spoke to Buddha. I asked for blessings to be sent to my children and husband, all the people I love and those already passed. I was encouraged to shake the fortune sticks and number 23 fell out of my bamboo container. Yu showed me where the number was and then searched for the corresponding fortune.
Then came the water fun. To be taken in the way it is given. We drove in pickup trucks with water guns and bowls – being part of the celebration through Lonely Beach and Bailan. The laughter, enjoyment and bonding we all experienced was special and a moment in my life I will never forget. I was drenched, we were soaked. All division gone. Connection formed.
As I write this, I’m now experiencing the down side of celebration. I’ve been left with an ear ache and a sore throat. Exhausted to the point where I slept the afternoon and evening away, rather than laying on the beach. My usual way to experience a Saturday off.
Another memory shared with me on this island and one I will treasure forever.
How did you spend Songkran?