Peace and Gratitude

My mind was filled with cluttered thoughts a few days ago. I was worried about my grades, feeling anxious about whether or not I will be graduating this summer, and stressing over scholarships. My body was in the beautiful land of Thailand, but my mind was far away. I wasn’t fully present. I observed my surroundings and took some time to reflect on my experiences, but I noticed that there were always voices in my head interfering with the present moment. I was constantly worrying about something, or planning for the days ahead. It wasn’t until we visited the Hmong village where I began to realize that often times, Americans are encouraged to be fearful, efficient, and needing to always be on the move with constant planning. With this system set in place, it is difficult for us to be in peace with our minds and bodies.

Experience in the village:

We drove into the village and were welcomed by the beautiful mountains and fog. The houses were very different from the buildings in America. The homes had brick walls and metal rooftops. The dirt roads were wide and bumpy, and there were various stray dogs walking on the road. The village was also surrounded by mother nature. But most importantly, there didn’t seem to be wi-fi in the area.

I looked around and noticed that there were Hmong women on the side of the road selling hand-made clothing and accessories. I approached them and were greeted with warm smiles. It took some time for me to switch from the American mode to the Hmong mode. I was so embedded into the American bubble (speaking English, conversing about American issues and media, and thinking with an American mindset) that it sometimes require some time to switch over to the “Hmongness” in me. But after a few moments, I managed to gather the confidence and interact with these wonderful ladies. It was fascinating. I learned that one of the woman spent one whole year making the Hmong skirts, shirts, and other pieces of clothing. In her free time, she would sit outside and stitch Hmong clothing for her family and for profit. It’s amazing to see how resourceful these women were with their surroundings. They maximized what they had, and were grateful towards what was available to them. The conversations I had with the Hmong men were also very interesting. I learned that though they had to worry about providing for their families, living in the present moment and making the most out of each day was most important.

The experiences and conversations I had in the village were inspiring and life-changing. It helped me reflect on my life in America and gave me a better understanding of the system I live in. This also made me realize what I need to do in order to be in peace with my heart, mind, and soul. I realized that the American system places great emphasis on success, efficiency, and independence. Though this may bring in wealth, riches, and achievements; it doesn’t necessarily bring in happiness and peace. In the village, my mind felt at peace. I interacted with the people around me, embraced mother nature, and my mind was free of cluttered thoughts. I wasn’t worried about what I needed to do the next day, did not think about checking my Facebook notifications, nor was I distracted by external stressors. I was in the present moment, and I was grateful. I was grateful to be alive… To see, smell, taste, hear, and feel the wonderful creations around me. I was smiling and laughing with the villagers and our group… I also dedicated a few moments of silence to this land. This was unlike any experience I’ve encountered before. For the first time ever, I learned how to be in peace with my heart, mind, and soul… And I realized how crucial it is to stop, breathe, and be grateful for what I have.

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