Three days on the river

Posted by on Dec 2, 2011 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We just returned from a three day trip up the Nam Ou river in northern Laos. We travelled the rivers currents via slow boat through limestone cliffs jutting several hundred meters skyward, and traditional Lao riverside villages. It didn’t take long for the slow, romantic, magical Laos to settle into the fibers of our being. Just as you feel the momentum of the boat ride after leaving the boat, the peacefulness of Laos river life leaves a deep imprint, revealing itself moment by moment. It is hard to believe this place and people so peaceful have been bombed more than anywhere else on earth, as a strategic front during the Vietnam war.

Yet much seems as it has been here for thousands of years. Fisherman squatting on the end of traditional wooden longboats, women working the riverside farms, river oxen and people all bathing on the banks. It is a strange feeling to be a visitor in a place like this. It feels almost voyeuristic, to travel through with so little sense of what life is really like here. How can one know in three days, what has evolved over generations?

From my earliest years venturing into the Boundary Waters, I grew up with the travel ethic of “leave no trace” on the natural world. Yet that is not the nature of human relationship in an interrelated and ever-changing world. We influence and shape one another, and the environment we share, in ways we have only begun to understand. As our global modern world becomes smaller and smaller, we can no longer thrive without recognition of how we impact one another- with every choice, word and action. If we are to survive another thousand years, the narrowness of our self-interest must be widened into collective awakening. The freedom and happiness we all seek, can only truly be found in the fullest recognition of our interdependence.

As the Dalai Lama reminds us, “We are visitors on this planet. We are here for one hundred years at the very most. During that period we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives. if you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true meaning of life.”

As I travel through the lands of the Buddha, those words and the gentle smiles of the Lao people resonate in my heart.

May you find the same in the places you travel and the lives you touch.
Be bold. Be conscious. Be well.

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