Lessons From Cambodia For Current Times.

 

 

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Angkor Wat, Cambodia

 

Cambodia is a beautiful, photogenic country with much to offer. We can treat it like a two-day holiday and enjoy the spectacular sights. Or be overwhelmingly dismayed by its Killing Fields. 
Or, we can pay close attention to the whole and learn some invaluable lessons.  

Humans are capable of outstanding creativity as well as deplorable behavior. 
Conflict, terrorism, and political fallouts are not something far and distant, but immediate and impactful for all of us today. The growing levels of intolerance, separatism and violence are evident everywhere. Experts who understand NLP, group and individual psychology, economic unrest, strategic power plays, audio-visual influence and the craft of words and pictures are actively misusing their knowledge to influence the masses for their own vested interests.

While in the thick of things, one can miss the ripple effects of our actions and non-actions. Only time will reveal the full consequences of our denial or active/passive/participative response.

With this essay, I hope to invite the more conscious reader to consider engaging mindfully with what is happening around us, rather than stepping back. For if everyone turns away from the difficult and challenging, how are things going to get better?

In Cambodia, is an example of the far-reaching ramifications of history, alive and visible together, all in one frame: Provoking us to examine and understand how our individual choices unfold to a collective repercussion over time. 

Below is a brief, simplistic summary of the complex impressions I carried back. I share the highlights of what I consider as the three divergent filters through which we can view what we see today.

  1. Impassioned, unquestioned beliefs and their self-indulgent imposition on others can lead to unspeakable horrors.

It is estimated that one out of every four people in the country died during the relatively recent Khmer Rouge regime. 

“Modern research has located 20,000 mass graves from the Khmer Rouge era all over Cambodia. Various studies have estimated the death toll at between 740,000 and 3,000,000, most commonly between 1.4 million and 2.2 million, with perhaps half of those deaths being due to executions, and the rest from starvation and disease.” ~ Wikipedia.

We aren’t talking about an ancient, primitive occurring here. This happened as recently as a few decades back. Educated people were deliberately targeted and urban folk were driven out of the cities and forced to work at the fields in dismal conditions. The unbelievable horrors inflicted deliberately and otherwise during this civil war, are described during the audio commentaries at Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields. Locals add that a hugely significant percentage of the Cambodian forest cover was also lost. Landmines were planted all over, animals were killed and infrastructure was destroyed. Subsequently, those who could simply read and write became teachers and the younger generation face the consequences of this difficult legacy.

Some say that when those who were a part of the Khmer Rouge were asked why did they do what they did (to their own fellowmen), they say they acted out of fear for their life, or because they were brainwashed.

While the torture and executions were being carried out, people in surrounding areas, and escorted foreign visitors often had no idea as to what was really going on. Much of the world did not realise what had occurred in Cambodia until much after. As impossible as it seems, facts can remain hidden from public scrutiny, and propaganda can leave us deaf. 


For those who believe attack, subjugation and violence are an answer to things, they may do well to pause and reconsider. Heroic movies and video games are one thing. The cost on the ground is another. Can you imagine living in an area where every single family has suffered in one way or the other? Where life, limb, livelihood, dignity and everything honourable has been lost? 
Without the human story, every telling is simplistically reduced to soulless, cold numbers.

The effects of the chilling 1975-1979 years are still reverberating through the population today. And humanity at large would do well to pay attention. For God knows, we have many similar situations (some nascent, some churning, and some full blown) occurring all over the world today.

2. Together, with our intelligence, skills, imagination, creativity and co-operative action, we can create amazing wonders.

The stunning engineering, architecture, and intricate craftsmanship from hundreds of years ago, inspires thousands of visitors even today. These awe-inspiring monuments indicate that the science, arts, and skills of those days were of an extraordinary level. It is almost as though the very boundaries of what we could produce were being stretched.

These megastructures provided employment and inspiration to those who came hundreds of years ago – and they continue to provide a livelihood to hundreds in the tourism and hospitality industry there today. Not only archaeologists and artisans but also NASA and other scientists take an interest in understanding the mysteries of these structures.

Equally impressive is the demeanor of the Khmers. Despite the continuing economic, political, emotional and physical challenges(let us not forget the many innocent victims of landmines and war) Cambodians are largely warm, smiling, helpful and resilient.

They are apparently also rather forgiving. While many of the surviving Khmer Rouge have left the country, I am told, many have integrated back into their villages.


All this raises the bar on what we as humans think ourselves capable of: whether that be physically, intellectually, emotionally or spiritually.

3. We need to recognise, respect and work with the powerful energies and presence of the land and forests, instead of exploiting them like lifeless resources.

 Those familiar with energy ley lines and energy vortexes consider sites here to be significant and powerful locations. A visit to these lands makes it easy to understand why animism predated Buddhism and Hinduism here. Every space has a geomagnetic force and that is something that not even the skeptics can overlook. (If you are interested in learning more about the electromagnetic force fields we generate, how they interact and the correlation with the earth’s force field and solar activity, do have a look at Heart Math Institute research.)

In Cambodia, especially in the jungles, the raw, intense vibe of the land and it’s forests is yet palpable. The fact that those ancient people knew enough about the stars to build the temples in a configuration that reflects the Draco constellation at equinox over here, gives us some food for thought. Perhaps, that civilization knew something we are yet figuring out? For they must have had some compelling reasons to go out into those thick, snake-infested jungles and carve out these temples in those places. 

Whether you are a sensitive who understands subtle energies, or someone who is open to the possibility that an ancient civilisation was more advanced than we are today, or an environmentalist who cringes at the destruction wrought by civil war and modern, short-sighted thinking, one is reminded here that any potential needs to be handled responsibly, with care and respect.

Technology (whether new or ancient) and energies(whether subtle or measurable) can be harnessed for good, or carelessly exploited.

Each of the above three ‘filters’ highlights a different aspect of today’s reality. In a 3-D world, the very same object will concurrently appear different from varying perspectives. And until we learn to listen, to co-exist, to interact with some modicum and mutual respect, we are doomed to fail to see the whole picture, let alone find a harmonious view point.

We inherit not only DNA, but trapped emotions, beliefs ,and even memories from our ancestors. Unhealed wounds do not fade away. World over, we have people still reeling from historical Partitions and Wars. Episodes of mindless mob contagion that leave scars for generations.

Do not for a minute underestimate your contribution to current times.

The unquestioned, passionate, verbal and physical outbursts that news and social media encourage, endorse and multiply – is adding up to the legacy we leave behind. 

A recurring theme at Angkor Thom is the ‘Churning of the Ocean’ motif. Every bridge across the moat has Devas(Gods) lined up on one side and the Asuras(demons) lined up on the other. The walker is thus encouraged to consciously choose the mindful middle path.

For myself, I believe change begins with me. So I continue to work at walking mindfully, staying in the present moment, without being carried away by any extreme, polarized views.

I have no simplistic solutions to offer. All I can do is share my thoughts and hope that they provoke some introspection in at least a handful of readers. 

Thank you for your time. 

(For a photo album showcasing lesser known sites and more details on Cambodia, please visit my FB album.)


(If taking responsibility for the world we co-create appeals to you, you may like to read: “Poems: Restoration of Peace”.)

 

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Ta Prohm. Cambodia

 

‘Life Amusement Theme Park’: Travel Information.

Welcome!

  1. Essential supplies– Include a sense of humor, tissues and eyeglass cleaners.
  2. Know that it is impossible to cover all of this vast and diverse terrain in a single trip.
  3. The landscape is changing all the time.  Your choices and actions also contribute to this change.
  4. Routinely consult a map to understand your current position and reorient yourself.
    (Updated, local area maps are available at all pit stops.)
  5. Whether long, short, direct, winding, easy, or difficult, all roads eventually lead home. 
  6. Expect to feel pain at times. Design excellence ensures that this discomfort feels real and true. It is an essential component of the acclaimed reward-punishment matrix. (But be assured that at the end of your journey, you will find you actually came through unscathed.)
  7. You may proceed at a pace of your choice.
  8. Different routes will appeal to different individuals. To each his own.
  9. You are free to experience as much as you can, or as little as you want.
    (Cautionary Note:  Some popular attractions can be captivating. High Drama, Romcom, Monopoly, History Repeats, Gurudom and Lost are addictive rides and may consume all your time and attention.)
  10. You are free to change direction and speed at any time. However, consequences of these changes are non-negotiable: costs and benefits are both to be borne in full.
  11. Co-travellers are free to part ways, as also to regroup.
  12. Mirrors are present everywhere for your convenience. Simply pause if you wish to reflect.
  13. Speed breakers are in place to remind you to slow down, enjoy the scenery and smell the flowers.
  14. When the nights are darkest, the light shines the brightest.  Look to the skies for highlighted signs.
  15. Travel logs are optional. Your observations and reviews may be curated for those seeking travel assistance.
  16. Innumerable treasures have been hidden in obvious sight. Be attentive or you will miss these.
  17. Frequently, you will encounter forks in the road. Rely on your subjective inner navigation programs at such times. (Integrating these with your personal value system is helpful in ensuring optimal functioning.)
  18. Befriend your shadow. It never leaves your side, hints at your true immenseness and points back towards the light Source.
  19. Dive into your experience fully and whole-heartedly.  This mind-body will pass through just this once.
  20. Help-lines are open at all times.  Ask and you shall receive. (The messenger may be different from what you expect, but the answer arrives.)
  21. This beautiful place is nothing if not unpredictable.
    Hence, some or none of the above may apply.

Enjoy the rides, surf the waves and leave the world a better place!

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“Don’t talk to Strangers!” – Really?

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I stepped out tired and disoriented from Manchester Airport.  The information desk helpfully directed me towards the railway station, but urged me to rush.  If I missed the train I wanted, the next one wouldn’t be for a couple of hours. It was already past 8 pm and I had been travelling for a day now. In the fading light, the deserted corridors were not a welcome sight at this point. As I raced with my luggage towards the platform, I noticed a middle aged man, in a long overcoat walking briskly behind me.  As I turned corners, he appeared to keep up with me.  I rushed into the elevator and emerged on an empty platform.  I confess a small part of me was relieved not to see the same person around.  I rushed towards the train and was informed that there were still a few minutes left.  I sat on a bench to catch my breath and adjust my time.

When I looked up, the same man was now standing before me.  I looked around once again at the empty station.  The train driver was nowhere in sight.  As I felt a pang of anxiety, I recalled my first time alone on a train.  It was at the age of 9.  Feeling small and insignificant, I had taken a local train from Santacruz to Churchgate.  Anyone who has been on a Mumbai  local, would understand the stark contrast here.  At that time, the hustle and bustle of a sea of humans had seemed intimidating.  Now, the stark desolation was equally disturbing. With the flash of this memory, I also remembered one of the instructions I had been given when I left home: “Don’t talk with strangers.”

Now as it happened, just before I embarked on this trip, I wrote an article on some of the lessons we need to unlearn from our childhood. Here was a fresh opportunity right before me.  Did I really need to be so wary at this point? As an adult, couldn’t I be more alert and discerning?   I looked at the gentleman with fresh eyes.  He looked tired and hesitant himself.  Sensing the change in my attitude, he cautiously asked me if this was the train to York.   Before long, we progressed to a polite conversation.  Within minutes, I learned that he was a neurologist from Dublin who visited a local hospital a few times a month.  We boarded a carriage and only one other passenger joined us.  With earplugs on, he paid us little attention.

When the neurologist heard about the kind of work I do, he was most intrigued.   He said he had a back pain for months and could I help him?  So I taught him Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).  Can you imagine the scene?  The two of us tapping away as the youngster with the earplugs watched with mild curiosity.  Within minutes, both of us felt fresh and energized and his back pain was almost gone.  He was smiling and laughing and saying he should probably share this with his patients.  I was beaming at the possibility of EFT reaching more people and that too through a neurologist!

I referred him to websites as he left the train and I hope and believe that because he did feel a significant change, he will actually look it up and share it with others.

For my part, I was delighted with the rest of my journey.  As  passengers  got on and off, they were no longer strangers to be wary of, but individuals who held the potential of interesting conversation.  I could watch the tipsy revelry of young footballers without concern and converse with a senior gentleman about football and world economy.  Two young York University students shared their project presentation and by the time I got off the train late at night – I was delighted with my “talks with strangers”.

I do not intend to encourage carelessness by sharing this anecdote.  But I do hope to invite a more open mind set, a greater self –awareness.  If we are able to notice our conditioned response and instead choose what is more prudent in the present moment, we may bring down more walls than we can imagine.

Because the doctor and I got over our internal dialogues, we were able to exchange some valuable gifts.  The ripples of this stray incident may be far reaching.  It is not rare for me to learn how EFT has benefited people whom I have never met but have learned it from those whom I have taught.  Who knows how far this one doctor could take it?

Speaking at a broader scale, is it not dialogue that will open our hearts  to those we distrust or know little of?  The more we interact, the more we see our commonalities.  I remember reading that if you are attacked or held hostage, you should start telling the perpetrator about yourself.  Apparently, the more that he/she knows about you, the more difficult it becomes for them to cause you harm.  You are no longer a random statistic but a human being to them now.  I don’t know if this is true in all cases, but it certainly does make some sense.  Perhaps that is exactly what the world needs today.  Less silos, walls and isolation.  More open hearted dialogue.

So would you consider conversing with a stranger today?