Paradise lost

"Innocence, once lost, can never be regained. Darkness, once gazed upon, can never be lost." J.  Milton 

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It's a starry night. I can't stop staring at the sky, there are millions of stars!
I'm amazed and confused. When is the last time I've seen anything like that?
We can't see many stars in the city...we wouldn't have time to look at them anyway.
I'm sitting next to the fire, listening to stories about the village and sipping Lao whisky...
They have a strong sense of community: they rely on each other and they are happy to give to someone in need as they know that tomorrow they might need help, too.
They don't celebrate birthdays, as many women still die in childbirth so it's not always a happy event.
They worship their ancestors and the shaman helps to make them happy.
All of this is so far from the world we live, yet I feel so much nostalgia for this simple life.
Their life are hard but they look very happy and serene,  much more than most of us...

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And there I am, in the middle of a jungle in Northern Laos, wondering how much have been lost on the way.
We have technology, hospitals, comfort, but everything comes with a price...
And looking at these people, I suspect the price was too high.
They envy us for our wealth, we envy them for their purity...we lost it a long time ago and we'll never have it back.
The pleasure of playing with a wood stick, the sense of solidarity, the joy of doing nothing and just enjoy what you have, are these things still possible for us?
I see men who work in the ricefields all day and still find time to play with their children.
I see families who have nothing inviting you into their house and share their meal with you.
I see people doing very modest jobs with dignity and pride.
I'm grateful to be here because at least I can ask myself these questions, and change my priorities.
To all the people(including me) who complain because their life is too much or not enough, just want to say:
you can be happy with what you have, right now.

I've seen it happening. And if they can, surely we can too.

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Life is what you make of it.

Take your broken heart, make it into art. Carrie Fisher

Apart from people's kindness, another thing that striked me is that everythng is decorated: even the poorest house is spotless and adorned with flowers, colourful curtains, glittery paintings...
This creates a funny mix of styles that wouldn't normally go together but for some reason look great, probably because this "mix and match" style reflects Asian people's strong dignity and love for life.
No matters how small your house is, make it as pretty as possible and be proud of it, it's the message I get when I look around.

 A pretty street corner in Chiang Mai.

A pretty street corner in Chiang Mai.

The mix of styles is very much evident in temples, where Chinese horoscope symbols, Thai decorations and Indian-looking statues give a unique feel that you can't find anywhere else.
No need to say, this makes me think that different religions already  co-exist peacefully, even if for some people might be hard to accept.

 A suggestive temple in Chiang Mai.

A suggestive temple in Chiang Mai.

The Thai style can be considered naive, I consider it as a great lesson of life:
do your best with what you have, never be ashamed of who you are, and you'll be happy.

 Lock of a temple in Chiang Mai.

Lock of a temple in Chiang Mai.

Thailand: the land of happy people

You will no punished for your anger, you will be punised by your anger. Buddha

One of the thing I missed the most when I was living in London was human warmth.
Being from Italy, social relationships and daily interaction for me are essential, so I missed it very much.
That's why these ten days spent in Thailand gave so much more than a simple holiday...
Thai people are the loveliest humans I've ever met: they come to you with an open heart, without judgement, without fear.
Most of them don't speak English, but there's not really much need to speak: a smile says it all.
The best experience so far has been in Chiang Mai; we were staying in a charming old-fashioned guesthouse ran by a lovely Thai couple: they didn't speak much English, but they were always smiling and looking so happy to have us. On the day of our departure, the woman gifted us with two cakes! And when we asked for a cab to go to the bus station, as it was pouring with rain...the husband took us there with his own car and he wouldn't accept any compensation for it! At that point, I wanted them to adopt me...I was so touched I had to make an effort not to weep.

 The wooden guesthouse in Chiang Mai

The wooden guesthouse in Chiang Mai

I told him the guesthouse was beautiful, and he explained us that the house had been bult by his father; he wasn't looking much at the street while talking, so I was a bit concerned but I tried to stick to a buddhist attitude...I was a bit frustrated as I wanted to ask him more about his house, his life, but unfortunately he didn't speak much English, and I don't speak any Thai. These people are so interesting, and I feel like they have amazing stories to tell, but language is a barrier when you want to have deeper conversations. Anyway, I am really experiencing a different kind of communication here, and it's very inspiring.

No matter what language you speak; if you really want to share something with someone, you will.
As a western tourist with a suspicious and moaning attitude, I am feeling ashamed and so miserable compared to such a joyful and meaningful lifestyle...

I am so grateful to be here, I know these people have so much to teach me and that this experience will make me stronger.

I feel like my core values and priorities are finally restored...

As long as I have sun, nature, and kindness, I don't need much more.

 New Year vows written on tiles that will be used to build a new temple...can you spot mine? :)

New Year vows written on tiles that will be used to build a new temple...can you spot mine? :)

MY MORNING ROUTINE

I never considered my self a morning person, even though I used to wake up pretty early when I was a child, mostly to read books. 
Nonetheless, I always considered late afternoon my most productive time of the day. I still believe so, but since I started having a morning routine, it definitely made a difference throughout the day.

It all started back in January 2015, when I finally decided to read "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron; I wasn't really convinced in the beginning, especially when I found out I was supposed to write the so-called "morning pages"... three pages filled with anything just comes to your mind, to do first thing in the morning!
I was terrified. I haven't written a journal since I was 16! But in the end, I decided to give it a go.
Taking time to be alone with yourself can be pretty scary...you never know what may come out, and putting down your biggest fears and hidden secrets in black and white requires strong motivation.

At the same time, I joined an "Artist's Way group", to go through the book every week. This helped me to stick to this new resolution. I finally had a group where I could express my blocks, and fears, without being judged. We were all artists, suffering from the same fear of rejection, exposure, impostor syndrome - you name it. I have never been surrounded by artists before simply because I haven't realised (or admitted) I was one until that very moment. That had been the most revealing and liberating experience in a very long time, so the weekly meeting group became essential to me.

Someone might argue that writing three pages of random thoughts before having coffee can't do any good...that is what I thought too. But the power of the morning pages is not in what you write...but in the act of writing itself, which has a double effect: 
the first one is "decluttering" your mind.
You give a voice to all your silly, mean and negative thoughts, you give them a "physical space" on your page, you can complain as much as you want, so after that you can go and create.

Because creating is what an artist is supposed to do, isn't it?

Second, it creates a positive cycle: having a routine and sticking to it makes you feel stronger and motivated to have new habits.
Because you  never would had thought you would be able to wake up earlier and write three pages of non-sense, right? Yet, you made it.
So maybe, you will be able to do some other things you would like to...
And that is how you start to change.
Since then, I stepped out of my comfort zone many times, and have been able to overcome rejections and criticism.
I just wish I had started before...
Maybe I will write about this in my morning pages tomorrow.