By Paula Ulrich
A good 20+ hours into our travels to arrive in Cambodia, I began to feel really uncomfortable. The third and last flight seemed to be the hardest. I had to go through security one more time, I was tired, I was sleep deprived, I was disoriented, and I began to lose my bearings completely. I even had a few minutes of panic when I misplaced my wallet and passport in the wrong pocket of my backpack. I began to become emotionally hard, pushing up against any sign of possible discomfort, including a persisting fasten seatbelt sign. I was frustrated. I was angry.
And I was causing myself so much suffering.
In the midst of my mental worsening of the circumstances, I turned my iPod to an audio recording of Pema Chodron’s “The Places That Scare Us,” and began listening to her talk about how we so often shield ourselves from pain by building up walls of anger, frustration, and craving. In this moment, I saw the additional pain I was causing myself in hardening to the fact I was genuinely scared. Scared of leaving home. Scared of unfamiliar surroundings. Scared of the unknown. Scared of everything.
In hearing these words, rather than continuing down this habitual path of aversion, I was able to open up my heart to my experiences, and though I was still afraid, I was no longer in so much pain.
I see this moment as a beautiful reminder for this whole experience: face my fears of the unknown and hold myself with care. So today, I ran with the moment – and LOVED IT.
Our first day in Siem Reap we rode in on a tuktuk (a buggy attached to the back of a motorbike) on busy streets with no stop signs and a lot of organized chaos. We walked around the busy streets, popped into store fronts, failed at an attempt to read a map, got a massage, drank some fresh coconut juice, and more. We even dipped our feet into a tank and let some fish nibble on our toes (a $3 exfoliating service – though I found the benefits of crazy ticklish laughter to be even better in softening my heart, rather than my feet). Seriously, I bet if I ever am having a bad day here, I will just let some fish suck on my toes and laugh my heart out.
Even now, I feel an anxiousness creep up into my mind thinking about everything we will be doing. But rather than hardening against it, I just try to breathe and open my heart to whatever comes along, and then I can experience love.
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