Justice vs Forgiveness

Justice vs Forgiveness

I recently attended a women’s circle in Chiang Mai at Wild Rose where we drew questions revolving around a theme. One of the questions I drew was: ‘What is more important, justice or forgiveness?’

Which one is it justice or forgiveness? Not the horrible injustices in the world, but the day to day ones we all feel. When someone has ‘wronged’ us, so often we want retribution. We’re angry. We want vindication. I realized that I’ve wanted that. Then I thought about it with a little more compassion.

I have been focusing on wise speech, and had shared this with my students:

Just think about it

Just think about it

It felt hypocritical to ask this of them, and yet, not live up to it myself. I’d said some things out of anger that didn’t make me feel good on the inside. I needed to let go of anger.

What we don’t always realize is that hanging on to anger keeps us away from joy.

A few days later, Phra Ajarn Jayasaro gave a dhamma talk at Panyaden about anger. He explained that anger is frustrated desire. He continued by saying, “Anger can only arise through a lack of understanding of the way things are.” In anger we deliberately turn away from some elements of truth.

I am paraphrasing some of what Ajarn Jayasaro said here: Every time we act on an angry impulse, we feed that anger. Every indulgence makes it more a part of us. We can’t just decide not to be angry, but we can decide not to abuse physically or verbally. We need to feed mindfulness. If we’re mindful, irritation gets nipped in the bud. If we consciously decide to use metta (loving kindness), that is what will grow.

His dhamma talk is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdXd–FRjSA

Seeing things the way they are isn’t always easy. Meditation helps, but it takes so much practice. We all make mistakes.

I just started reading a book called, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky A. Bailey. She wrote, “Each moment is as it is because the entire universe is as it is. When you struggle against the moment…you are struggling against the universe. No wonder you feel tired!” 

I was tired. It is now time to try and see things as they are. 

The antidote to anger is love and metta. The more I focus on being loving, the more I feel loved. We get more of what we focus on.

I was pondering this while riding my bike home and stopped to take this picture. What do you notice? Where is your focus? The palm trees? The cloudy sky? The wires? The elephant? The tree with the orange blossoms?  Whatever you notice, how does it make you feel?

You get more of what you focus on

You get more of what you focus on

So, is it justice or forgiveness? For me, it’s forgiveness. Forgive others for the mistakes they’ve made. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. Forgive and let it go.

Nothing like a little Chiang Mai graffiti to remind us what's most important: All your need is love.

Nothing like a little Chiang Mai graffiti to remind us what’s most important: All your need is love 

Forgiveness is a step toward love.

“Love is stronger than justice, love is thicker than blood. Love, love, love is stronger than justice, love is a big fat river in flood.” – Sting

Pictures that Captured 2013

Pictures that Captured 2013

2013 was a busy, fun-filled year. So many things were happening all the time that I didn’t blog very much at all. Here is a photo overview highlighting some memorable moments of 2013. It’s really a summary of what could have been about 20 blog posts organized chronologically for the year. Enjoy!

Starting out on January first with old friends, Cara and Katie, in Chicago.

Starting out on January first with old friends, Cara and Katie, in Chicago.

Upon returning back to Chiang Mai, I said goodbye to the rice field in my backyard and moved into...

Upon returning back to Chiang Mai, I said goodbye to the rice field in my backyard and moved into…

...this house.

…this house in the city.

My new backyard...

My new backyard…

kitchen

kitchen

and upstairs outside patio.

and upstairs outside patio

Moving into the city exchanged quiet solitude for active social life and lots more people visiting me at my home.

Visitors of all ages

Visitors of all ages

Seeking some of the quiet beauty, Kenny and I headed north to Chiang Dao.

Seeking some of the tranquil beauty, Kenny and I headed north to Chiang Dao.

Kenny chilling in the river next to the hot springs.

Kenny chilling in the river next to the hot springs.

The weekend of 3 friend's birthdays started with Kate's 40th at The Four Seasons ooh laa laa

The weekend of 3 friend’s birthdays started with Kate’s 40th at The Four Seasons in Mae Rim. Ooh laa laa!

The celebrations continued with Rose's birthday vinyasa with Vari at Wild Rose...

The celebrations continued with Rose’s birthday vinyasa with Vari at Wild Rose Yoga Studio…

...and finished with Anthony's 30th at San Kampaeng hot springs.

…and finished with Anthony’s 30th at San Kampaeng hot springs.

Still teaching outside the city in nature at Panyaden School all day Monday – Friday, living in the city has helped balance out my former semi-reclusive life with a lot more time with friends.

To make students aware of where their food comes from, we took a field trip to a rice mill.

To make students aware of where their food comes from, we took a field trip to a rice mill.

A plus about my house in the city is knowing the neighbors. An afternoon of haircuts by Guillaume, with Christophe, Rose, and Felicity, in my neighbor Christophe's backyard.

A plus about my house in the city is knowing the neighbors. An afternoon of haircuts by Guillaume, with Christophe, Rose, and Felicity, in my neighbor Christophe’s backyard.

After doing a fun run for Burmese refugees in the morning, I headed to Pai for a 3-day weekend in late February for some time to read and relax.

After doing a fun run for Burmese refugees in the morning, I headed to Pai for a 3-day weekend in late February for some time to read and relax by myself.

The school year ended mid-March before Chiang Mai gets too smoky and hot. This was one group of projects - making their own vehicle.

The school year ended mid-March before Chiang Mai got too smoky and hot. This was one group student of projects – making their own vehicles.

Friends of Panyaden (our school's PTA with me representing the T part) had an end of the year picnic at the 'sticky waterfalls'.

Friends of Panyaden (our school’s PTA, with me representing the T part) had an end of the year picnic at the ‘sticky waterfall’.

'The sticky waterfall' is an unusual type of rock formation that doesn't allow the rocks to become slippery. It is possible to walk up the waterfall, even for children. Pretty cool indeed.

‘The sticky waterfall’ is an unusual type of rock formation that doesn’t allow the rocks to become slippery. It is possible to walk up the waterfall, even for children. Very cool indeed.

Birthday flowers

An array of purple hues: birthday flowers, pretty lights, and lanna weaving.

Christophe and I went to Chiang Dao for his birthday, also in mid-March, but it was getting very smoky.

Christophe and I took a holiday in Chiang Dao for his birthday, also in mid-March, but it was getting very smoky.

To escape the smoke in the end of March, it was time to head south.

To escape the smoke of Northern Thailand in the end of March, it was time to head south.

Pong and I headed to a little island.

Pong and I headed to a little island.

Our bamboo beach hut

Our bamboo beach hut

and inside

Inside our bamboo bungalow

colorful crabs

colorful crabs

beautiful beaches

beautiful beaches

perplexing pirate ships

perplexing pirate ships

This is how cashew nuts grow. It's just the part on the end of a big fruit. They need to be harvested individually, the nut is then cut from the fruit, shelled, and dried. Quite a process. It explains why they're expensive.

This is how cashew nuts grow. It’s just the part on the end of a big fruit. They need to be harvested individually, the nut is then cut from the fruit, shelled, and dried. Quite a process. It explains why they’re expensive.

Caring for an injured hornbill

Caring for an injured hornbill

Thai style ceviche

Thai style ceviche

Cute girls on a swing

Cute girls on a swing

Our canine travel companion

Our canine travel companion

And the nightly beautiful sunset made me want to stay on that special place for a long time. Thai 'summer' school break was coming to an end, and almost 3 weeks on the beach with no internet, it was time to return to Chiang Mai.

And the nightly beautiful sunsets made me want to stay in that special place for a long time. Thai ‘summer’ school break was coming to an end, and after almost 3 weeks on the beach with no internet, it was time to return to the Chiang Mai heat of mid-April…

Just in time for Songkran, Thai New Year and water throwing festival. Alana laughing with Pong, who is  armed and ready.

Just in time for Songkran, Thai New Year and water throwing festival. Alana laughing with Pong, who is armed and ready.

This is who might soak you during Songkran.

This is who might soak you during Songkran.

Starting the new school year in May, my students wrote brochures on what they like to do in Chiang Mai province. This student gives clever tips on how to stay dry during Songkran.

Starting the new school year in May, my students wrote brochures on what they like to do in Chiang Mai province. This student gives clever tips on how to stay dry during Songkran.

Bekkah gives me a yogic lift

Bekkah gives me a yogic lift

Dogs on motorbikes never cease to amuse me.

Dogs on motorbikes never cease to amuse me.

Here are some of my ceramic pieces, glazed but not fired.

Rekindling an old passion, I took ceramic classes on the weekends. Here are some of my pieces, glazed but not fired.

My outstanding ceramics teacher Jern, showing me trimming techniques.

My outstanding ceramics teacher Jern, showing me trimming techniques.

High tea with Alana at the Chedi

High tea with Alana at the Chedi. More food than we can eat.

Pong and Rose having a laugh over kanom jeen at Chiang Mai Gate.

Pong and Rose having a laugh over kanom jeen at Chiang Mai Gate.

Backyard blooming lotus

Backyard blooming lotus in June

This stunning creature devoured most of my African Mask plants.

This stunning creature devoured most of my African Mask plants.

When I took my car to the mechanic because it was overheating, he fixed the engine problem. He was a better mechanic than driver, because he returned my car like this after he ran into my friend's car.

When I took my car to the mechanic because it was overheating, he fixed the engine problem. He was a better mechanic than driver, because he returned my car like this after he ran into my friend’s car. Don’t worry, he’ll fix it.

To learn about Thai culture and history, we took a field trip to a 700 year old temple in Chiang Mai

To learn about Thai culture and history, we took a field trip to a 700 year old temple in Chiang Mai.

Wat Jed Yot

Wat Jed Yot

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On those sultry summer days, a Thai tea really hits the spot.

On those sultry summer days in July, a Thai tea really hits the spot.

A week off in the end of July took me to these turquoise waters of the coast of Ko Adang National Park

Kru Jeab captivating her K2 students at Panyaden.

A week off in the end of July took me to these turquoise waters of the coast of Ko Adang National Park.

A week off in the end of July took me to these turquoise waters off the coast of Ko Adang National Park.

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Lovely Mon Chaem

Lovely Mon Chaem just north of Chiang Mai

One of the coolest insects I've ever seen. Anyone know what this iridescent orange turtle shaped beetle thing is called?

One of the coolest insects I’ve ever seen. Anyone know what this iridescent orange, turtle shaped beetle thing is called?

Planting rice with Kru Neung on Thai Mother's Day, August 5th.

Planting rice with Kru Neung and our students on Thai Mother’s Day, August 5th.

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We will eventually eat this rice at school.

We will eventually eat this rice at school.

The green season is sure is beautiful. View from Panyaden.

The green season sure is lovely. View from Panyaden School.

To make Panyaden even more beautiful we thought we'd attract some more birds by building them houses.

To make Panyaden even more beautiful, we thought we’d attract some more birds by building them houses.

My nickname has made it to Thailand!

My nickname has made it to Thailand!

Detail of the silver wat

Detail of the silver wat in Chiang Mai.

Surfing in Chiang Mai at Art in Paradise.

Surfing in Chiang Mai at Art in Paradise.

Pong gets some wine

Pong gets some wine

Good thing I had the bridge the little kid didn't quite make it.

Good thing I had the bridge. The little kid didn’t quite make it.

October outside of Pai

October in the countryside outside of Pai

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Spirit house Samui

Spirit house Samui

Fantastic Thai massage in the most unlikely spot - on the beach in Ko Samui.

Fantastic Thai massage from Pi Niam in an unlikely spot – on the beach in Ko Samui.

My day of luxury at Saree Samui

My day of luxury at Saree Samui

The lovely new detail to my gate.

The lovely new detail to my gate.

A day out at Huay Tung Tao with Rowan

An October day out at Huay Tung Tao with Rowan

Acroyoga in the park with Emily

Acroyoga in the park with Emily

Acroyoga in my living room with Emily, Zahara, Neko, and Vari.

Acroyoga in my living room with Emily, Zahara, Neko, and Vari.

Leading my students on a walking meditation.

Leading my students on a walking meditation at Panyaden

Taking the students hiking and playing in the river at our Doi Inthanon overnight field trip.

Taking the students hiking and playing in the river at our Doi Inthanon overnight field trip.

Moths of unusal size at Doi Inthanon National Park.

Moths of unusal size

Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon trip

Near the top of the highest point in Thailand

Near the top of the highest point in Thailand, Doi Inthanon

Hike at Doi Inthanon

Hike at Doi Inthanon

Making Krathongs at Panyaden for Loy Krathong

In November we made krathongs at Panyaden for Loy Krathong

Students dancing for Loy Krathong

Students dancing for Loy Krathong

Letting my Krathong go.

Letting my krathong go

Floating krathongs on the lake at Panyaden.

Floating krathongs on the lake at Panyaden.

The Yee Peng festival at Mae Jo University. 10,000 komloys let off at once.

The Yee Peng festival at Mae Jo University. 10,000 komloys let off at once.

Lauren and I made our own krathongs to float on the Ping river.

Lauren and I made our own krathongs to float on the Ping river for Loy Krathong

Kenny and I let off a komloy from a rooftop in Chiang Mai.

Letting off a komloy from a rooftop in Chiang Mai with Kenny.

Funny signs in Chiang Mai (there are lots of these - blog post coming soon).

Funny signs in Chiang Mai (there are lots of these – blog post coming soon).

Kate and I thinking we might have an Owen Wilson sighting as they film The Coup in Chiang Mai. Alas, we didn't see him.

Kate and I thinking we might have an Owen Wilson sighting as they film The Coup in Chiang Mai. Alas, we didn’t see him.

I had about 30 people to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. This is only a small part of the feast.

I had about 30 people to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. This is only a small part of the feast.

Some of the Thanksgiving friends, Abby, Mark, Jessica, Sara, and Balaram.

Some of the Thanksgiving friends, Abby, Mark, Jessica, Sarra, and Balaram.

Amazing insect

Amazing insect

'Iron chef' cooking competition at our Doi Inthanon staff outing.

‘Iron chef’ judges tasting our creations for the cooking competition at our Doi Inthanon staff outing.

No question that nature is the best artist. Unbelievable chrysalis.

No question that nature is the best artist. Unbelievable chrysalis.

Father's Day rice harvest, December 5th.

Father’s Day rice harvest with Kru Jan on December 5th.

Does Kenny have happy saliva? NAP fair in Chiang Mai.

Does Kenny have happy saliva? NAP fair in Chiang Mai.

Beautiful Chiang Dao at Yang Tone Farmstay.

Beautiful Chiang Dao at Yang Tone Farmstay.

Super smily girl in the hot spring.

Super smily girl in the hot spring.

Teachers and students raising money for the Philippines.

Teachers and students at Panyaden raising money for the Philippines by singing.

Our staff costume party. The theme was a childhood book character. I won second prize, probably because I spoke in rhyme.

Our staff costume party. The theme was a childhood book character. I won second prize, probably because I spoke in rhyme.

Cat in the Hat and Snow White/zombie.

Cat in the Hat and Snow White/zombie.

Silly breakfast shot at Good Morning Chiang Mai with Joe, Zsa Zsa, Johnny, Rose, Lorenzo, and Emily.

Silly breakfast shot at Good Morning Chiang Mai with Joe, Zsa Zsa, Johnny, Rose, Lorenzo, and Emily.

Fun day out in Warorot Market and at Thamel Tea House with Rose.

Fun day out in Warorot Market and at Thamel Tea House with Rose.

Fun to see Armando, who I met here two years ago, and meet his girlfriend.

Fun to see Armando, who I met here two years ago, and meet his girlfriend.

Lovely, yet chilly, Ayurveda and yoga retreat at Om Waters.

Lovely, yet chilly, Ayurveda and yoga retreat at Om Waters.

Yoga at Om Waters

Yoga at Om Waters

Angie, Dao, Heather, Balaram, Yan, Hannah, Sarra, Rose and Surya for our Om Waters retreat.

Angie, Dao, Heather, Balaram, Yan, Hannah, Sarra, Rose and Surya for our Om Waters retreat

Temple dogs

Temple dogs in sweaters

Having old friends Dan and Mila visit for Christmas.

Having old friends Dan and Mila visit for Christmas

Dan and PJ jamming silly songs in Chiang Dao.

Dan and PJ jamming silly songs in Chiang Dao

Happy birthday PJ in Chiang Dao.

Happy birthday PJ in Chiang Dao. Very chilly December 28th.

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Lots of love and gratitude to everyone who made 2013 such a wonderful year. Happy 2014!

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108 Images – A Year in Pictures

108 Images – A Year in Pictures

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, here are 108,000 words.

Acroyoga at the Park

Acroyoga at the Park

Suan Buak Hat is the only park in Chiang Mai Old CIty. If you head there on a Sunday afternoon, you might find a gathering of acroyogis basing and flying. It was set up by Wild Rose as an acroyoga play group, no teacher, just fun. Most of those who join are expats, travelers, people here studying Thai massage, and every once in a while a Thai yogi.

I decided to go play in the park after already doing a 3-hour Anusara Inspired class. Upon arriving I ran into Alok and Anjuli, the couple who had spent a week living with me at my house. Alok is a yoga teacher in the Bay Area and so he was an excellent base and luckily Anjuli snapped some photos for me. Time to fly!

Alok, as the base, guided me on what to do.

It takes strength, flexibility, balance, and trust.

Smiling and waving to Anjuli. This is fun!

I love flying!

Anjuli hooping

Alok handstanding

Looking for balance while upside down with my new base. Not quite there yet.

Being upside down is exhilarating!

Just hanging and being stretched feels so good!

This reminds me of a game we played as kids called, 'light as a feather, stiff as a board'

I am being spun around by my strong and coordinated base.

Thank you for such a fun afternoon acroyogis! I will join you again!

A Snake Eating a Huge Gecko…

A Snake Eating a Huge Gecko…

…is what I thought I saw.

According to Thai legend, as explained by my teaching partner Goy, this was not the case.

What actually happens is the gecko has eaten too much. The snake comes along and eats the insects out of the gecko’s stomach. It is a golden tree snake and a tokay gecko. So apparently the snake does not usually kill the gecko, but rather just makes it regurgitate its food.

Is it true? Oddly, I think it is.

Did I see this in the countryside? No, I did not. This was right outside Wild Rose Yoga Studio in the Old City of Chiang Mai. Just goes to show that nature and all her mysteries are alive and well, even in the city.

The Unsettlement of Settling In

The Unsettlement of Settling In

Moving into a new house can be stressful. Moving into a house out of town, in the countryside, by myself, in Thailand, when my only transportation is a bicycle (at least for the moment), is kind of isolating. Even though the house is furnished, I need to buy so much stuff. I don’t have pillows, sheets, cleaning supplies, food, or anything. I had the realtor drop me off at Big C to stock up on the basics. My favorite songthaew driver, named Mr. Neng, took me home with all my household goods. Today, she wasn’t there, but usually he drives with his little one year old daughter happily riding along with him. No such thing as a car seat in a songthaew, she just has a little spot with a blanket.

I cooked my first meal in my new house thinking that it would help if I listened to Fresh Air, like I often would when cooking dinner in Portland. The interview was about Portlandia. This made me homesick. I got the feeling something wasn’t right.

I was doubting my decision making and feeling like maybe I shouldn’t have moved here after all. What am I doing here anyway? The house is nice, but I’m feeling like now I’m just far away from where I need to go. I don’t want to drive. I do love it here, I’m just feeling very anxious. Everything from driving to snakes is making me nervous. Snakes and driving? I know it’s a weird combination, but there are snakes around as I live next to a rice field. Driving here has a whole different set of road rules and types of vehicles.

What a difference a day makes. I awoke the next day feeling immediately better when I looked outside and saw this:

View from my back porch. January 7, 2012. There will be rice planted soon.

The rice farmers are planting way out in the field.

View from the backyard

I cleaned inside, unpacked, my internet was installed, my washing machine was dropped off, I went sheet shopping (FYI decent sheets cost a bloody fortune here). A nice lady named Nok, a friend of my landlady who works in my neighborhood community, picked me up and showed me the back way in and out of my neighborhood. She was extremely friendly, had good English, and wants to make sure I’m comfortable in my new home. My tension started to ease.

Doing laundry here is a bit of a process. Since I haven’t done laundry in a machine in months, I thoroughly enjoyed it. First, the washing machine gets filled with a garden hose. When the grey water gets drained, it just comes out another hose, which I use to water the garden. It takes a while, but I found it soothing. I love my view and my garden which has some herbs, flowers, tons of medicinal plants, and fruit trees, and I look forward to planting some vegetables in the backyard.

My outdoor washing machine - filled with a garden hose. The grey water is used to water my garden.

View from my house on January 7th at sunset.

Feeling more settled, that night I called Mr. Neng to take me to Yoga Tree to watch a documentary film called Freedom Ahead about seed saving, self/community reliance, and permaculture around the world. Some places not faraway from here, The Panya Project and Pun Pun, were featured. I saw a bunch of people I knew there, and was invited to a party where I stayed until very late. I’m beginning to feel like I am starting to find a little bit of a community here.

After that late night, I went to yoga at Wild Rose the next morning, out to lunch with some new friends, then for a Thai massage, and Sunday Walking Street. I found some little lamps for my house and a dress. The woman didn’t have a mirror, and asked, “You have camera?” It was not a bad idea.

Good looks with the yoga top and dress at Sunday Walking Street. I bought the dress, which I usually wear without the yoga top underneath.

Tomorrow will be my first day back at school after the break. I’m feeling much more at home in my house, ready for working, and grateful that Mr. Neng, the songthaew driver, can take me to school. I think it’s all going to be OK.