landscape image - Burma, the golden shadow
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  • Fly to: Yangon, Burma

  • Internal Transfer: 4 flights to Thandwe, Heho, Mandalay & Bagan

  • Visa required: Yes if British

  • Currency:Myanmar Kyat (MMK)

  • Time Zone:+6hrs30mins GMT

  • Journal:Click here

Day 14, 19/02/11: Burma - The Golden Shadow

I have to pinch myself regularly as this trip is evolving with such depth. Historically I'm a planner but here, through not controlling things; anticipating or pre-empting, the richness of the experience is so much more than I could or would have possibly imagined; I mean seriously, my imagination just isn't that good.

Talking to Ken & Paula about the ancient healing practices, about Bali, Java and the orang-utan communities of Borneo fills me with glee. I'm finding the people of whom Ken talks, the practices and his experience all massively synchronistic, like I'm receiving a daily affirmation of my being here.

To me this guy is the epitome of integrity & compassion, his teaching ability is astounding but this is not something I experience through words, instead my experience is through his actions, through some sort of energetic exchange.

What a turn of events, how different things could have been when in that moment when I conceded defeat, gave up my fight, my struggle. How different that moment could have been when out of sheer exhaustion I turned to face my shadow and though at the time that pain was horrific, even soul destroying the sense of liberation since then has been a continual & unfolding blessing.

People talk to me of courage, but my realisation didn't come in a moment of glory, a moment of strength, mine came out of desperation, out of defeat... mine came from the floor.

I'm sat on a long boat, the air is filled with the aroma of diesel, the sun warms my face; droplets of river water nourish, hydrate my skin and I'm here in Burma, penning my journal... when, where or how did this all come about?

All around I'm flanked by beauty, wooden houses rise up on stilts from the murky waters. Vibrant gardens appear to levitate exposing fruits, like a seductress revealing her sumptuous bosom. As a light wind skims the water surface its spray gently caresses my lips, I feel a sense of awe, a sense of my own journey, a sense of wholeness.

No sooner had my feet touched dry land they were boarding the plane for our 35min flight to Mandalay. After an amazing curry and naan out by the pool, we boarded an open, cage frame truck to take us into the shanty region where we would watch the Moustache Brothers. These comedy brothers have delivered this same performance, every night for umpteen years; despite serving long prison terms for their political jokes they remain dedicated to their cause and dedicated to exercising the people's right for free speech.

I'd like to blame the fact I had a cold but for some reason I felt a great unease throughout the performance. Energetically something wasn't sitting well with me; although the performance was delivered with vigour & enthusiasm something within me recognised a detachment, a dissociation of sorts.

I felt a great sense of sadness, of shame almost, these people were trying so hard, using so much energy but for what, for who's benefit? The energy felt physical, it felt exhausting but for me there was no emotional buy-in, for me it somehow lacked sincerity, authenticity. Like the performance was delivered out of duty rather than out of a genuine want or enjoyment.

The discomfort I was feeling was my own realisation of all the times I have felt I 'should' do things rather than being authentic to my 'self'. Although these Moustache Brother performances make a huge statement upon Burmese soil I can't help but feel a far bigger statement would be for them to just stop, to sit down, to take stock of who they are, what they've endured and honour that. Live the life they want rather than continue to deliver the same performance just because it's 'what they do'.

How difficult it is to break patterns, to act out of choice rather than out of a sense of duty; who are the Moustache Brother's anyway if not for this performance and what would just 'being' mean to them.

The immediacy of this discomfort, this anger was generated through seeing my own situation; my own 'stuckness' mirrored back to me in such a crude way. The questions whirling around in my head were the same questions I needed to answer myself.

Having all this mirrored straight back at me in a stuffy room filled with gallows laughter just made my skin crawl and if I'm honest I'd even go as far as saying it repulsed me.

...Reflecting on that now, perhaps that was the point... perhaps that was part of their message. The Moustache Brother's are bound by oppression but in the West we are merely bound by ourselves, our fears, our insecurities, our vulnerabilities; bound by our own ignorance...