This November, I had the tremendous honor of guiding sixteen yogis on a mindfulness journey through Thailand in collaboration with Pravassa Wellness Travel. During my adult life, travel has been the healing balm my soul craves in times of imbalance. This wellness vacation seemed to have divine timing, as we were set to take off the day after our presidential election. Perfect. So through a haze of shock and confusion, we were en route to Chiang Mai and Koh Lanta for some healing and recalibration.
I wholeheartedly believe that to journey inward is our highest calling. Delving into the inner landscape of our being means to travel to the depths of our shadow selves, somehow staying connected to the truth of our inner light. The first Noble Truth in Buddhism teaches that because we live as humans on this earth, we will inevitably suffer. This suffering manifests through our felt sense of stress, anxiety, depression and deep longing for our lives to be different. By practicing mindfulness and meditation, we are able to transform this suffering through acceptance, love, compassion and peace. This innate source of goodness is our own true Buddha Nature.
Aligned with the Loy Krathong festival, the annual light festival in Chiang Mai that honors Lord Buddha, our sangha (practice community) journeyed inward together. For ten days, these mindfulness mavens courageously released familiarity in exchange for the unknown. Through the portal of presence, we’re able to awaken to our inner light. Like the lotus, our strength and beauty is birthed from the murky darkness of our fears, insecurities and hardships. As one of my teachers, Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, “No mud, no lotus.” The extent to which presence transforms is directly correlated with our commitment and conviction to the dharmic path. The truth is, you are made of all things love and light. Even in uncertain times, this remains the essence of who it is you are. I came away from Thailand with a renewed sense of commitment to the alchemy of love and connection. When we can sit and see a piece of ourselves in the eyes of another, their suffering becomes our suffering, the illusion of our separateness falls away and all that remains is love.
These three practices are dedicated to our Thailand sangha and their courage to show up, be seen and embark on the journey of igniting that inner light.
Start the day with Mindful Mantra
This is probably the number one practice that aligns my day with intention and presence. Just after my alarm goes off and before my feet hit the floor in the am, I repeat my mindful mantra (also called sankalpa in sanskrit ) ten times as I breathe deeply into my belly. When we choose to start the day with sacred intention, we reprogram our minds, hijacking the automatic stress response, which floods the body when our to-do list comes flowing into the consciousness. In this mindful moment, you proactively practice presence through this mini-meditation. Despite what the day might hold, you possess the capacity to be a grounded point in a chaotic world. Your mindful mantra might be boiled down to one single word, or, you might use the phrase “I am” before stating your intention. “I am” directs the intention towards self, which I’ve found to be particularly impactful since we’re are typically quite brutal to ourselves through negative self-talk. Mine this year? “I am Divine light.”
Exercise the Throat Chakra
Having a zen vacation is all well and good, but how do we maintain that calm when returning home? Whether you’re coming home from a wellness journey in Thailand or a yoga class down the street, verbalize what you need to your tribe (friends, family, parter, etc.). Often times, what we need is stillness, silence or support around our heart’s intentions. But how often do you fail to state what it is your soul needs, then become irritated when you’re not receiving it? Yep, I’m guilty of this. When we take loving, gentle care of our own emotional needs, we model this skillful advocacy to those closest to us. For me, solitude and silence are essential elements for my well-being to thrive. Connecting authentically with my clients, friends and family brings me incredible joy, but when I’m in my spiritual space of growth, I exercise the throat chakra to preserve what I need to stay balanced.
Bliss out with Bhavana
One of the practices I weave into my meditations is bhavana. Bhavana literally means “calling into existence” and in Buddhist practice is used in conjunction with cultivation of the heart. Our sangha visited the Elephant Nature Park, in the Mae Taeng District of Chiang Mai Province, where we fed, bathed and connected with rescued elephants. The energy of compassion was omnipresent in this sacred sanctuary. When we interface with our external lives, we come into direct contact with a moment of internal transformation. Peering into the eyes of these gentle elephants was like seeing into the soul of another. These peaceful images (bhavanas) remain alive in our consciousness and can be called on to cultivate that peace and presence we need as we re-enter daily living. In fact, studies show that when we call upon peaceful imagery in the mind, our body viscerally responds as if we’re really there. As Buddhist psychology teaches us, the self is the refuge from self. Bhavana is a beautiful way to call on our internal resources, coming back home to peace within.
To me, our Thailand sangha represented the love, light and courage that exists in each human life. My call to action is this: Can you ignite your own inner sense of commitment and conviction to transform your fear into compassionate action? Ask yourself ~ “how do I want to walk through this world and what kind of life do I deeply desire?” You are far more powerful than your conscious mind will ever know. In the words of Gandhi, “our actions express our priorities,” so what will be your lifelong priority?
From the depths of my being, I thank you sangha and I thank you universe. As I feel held in your radiant light, I’m ready to forge forward on this wild and wonderful journey.
For more on future meditation journeys and how to harness the power of presence in your own daily life, email me at Lena@LenaFranklin.com to get on my newsletter list, subscribe to my blog and follow me on Instagram here.
See you on the Path soon!