As some of you already know, I was born and raised in Thailand. For a lot of people who
have been to Thailand, they might say that traditional Thais are superstitious, there are a lot of dos and don'ts that evolve around beliefs. For example, hair salons in some places are still closed on Wednesdays because you're not supposed to cut your hair on Wednesday. People consult monks and fortune tellers for auspicious baby names and the time to buy a house or a car or start important events. Spirit houses are basically everywhere, especially if your house has a garden, a yard, it will be in a corner somewhere. Offerings to spirits in public places are also common especially on certain holidays. So learning to meditate from a young age is basically nothing out of ordinary if the ordinary already involves a lot of 'magic'! Yes, those things aren't just superstitions, they are magic practices/energy work that hardly anyone knows or remembers why they do it, they do it because they were told to, because their forefathers did it. So for a lot of people, many practices have become 'superstitions'. Although a lot of 'modern' Thais are rejecting old 'superstitions (because they see no point to the practice), a lot can still be observed if you ever visit the country.
For me, that was my upbringing. That was what I grew up with. I was born into that kind of environment. Naturally, when I went to buy my first deck of Tarot card, it wasn't a shock to many people. Try that in Finland (where I live nowadays)! Actually, many religious people in the west would label you as a witch, while people on the other extreme end of the spectrum
would say it's nonsense and no one in their right mind should even be interested in that sort of thing, especially if the person is educated. And I am pretty highly educated so I have been told that it was quite unacceptable that I should get into this 'woo-woo' thing. You see, where I'm from, you could be a rocket scientist and religious at the same time, one thing does not exclude the other because science is a way to explain things so that our human minds can understand, belief, faith doesn't require understanding (although understanding helps you become more aware and conscious and blind faith in some circumstances might not prove to be beneficial, but let's not go there). Besides, science still cannot explain everything, we don't know everything and scientists are discovering new things everyday, so by saying that if science cannot prove it, it cannot exist, you're already in contradiction with the fact that there are still things that we don't know, don't understand and need to be explored. So for me, with my cultural background, science is great and exciting, but it doesn't replace everything else in my life.
So in my first years in Finland, I had to keep my spiritual practice to myself. And by spiritual practice, I meant my daily meditation. There was no one to tell, to talk about and the people who knew had an issue with it. Eventually, I decided that it was a part of me and I had no problem being a researcher and meditator at the same time and began to look for like-minded people. I found some spiritual people in the area and that was a great relief for me. At least, I wasn't totally alone. Moral support is very important. Whatever you do, whoever you are, as a human, you might not want to be all alone, you wouldn't want to be discouraged from being yourself and you definitely could use moral support. And that's what I needed. So I found my crowd, yay! But being me, my story continues.
I became more open about my spiritual practice and healing abilities and I noticed very interesting things. The mentality! Well, people are people, wherever they are and local mentality shows in many things. What do I mean? Once I told someone I could help people
heal. The response was 'Do you have a certificate?'. My first thought 'Was I supposed to call God and prove this to them?', I didn't say it, I know I can be sarcastic at times...and what else could I say, other than 'it runs in my family'? At the time I did not understand that in the west, you can go take courses to become a healer and then you are a certified healer with a certificate on the wall. I seriously didn't know it. Where I came from, you can be a natural and help people, no one would ask for your certificate. You can also learn from a known healer, magic practitioner, monk, etc., and say who your teacher is, if you want, but there is no such thing as 'where's your certificate?', with the exception of traditional Thai herbalism and traditional Thai massage that you would need a certificate in order to open your practice because these occupations are recognized by state and is reserved as part of traditional ancient wisdom of the country, it's a cultural heritage, so to speak, so one needs to be certified.
It was strange enough for me to land in a country where herbalism and homeopathy is not only not recognized but are frowned upon. Stranger, when people started asking for certificates. I don't go around asking for a certificate from chefs in restaurants I go to, I just see what they offer, try out the food, see if I like it! Same with many other services. I understood later that people are scared of fraud and scams, the paper gives them some sort of reassurance that they won't 'get hurt'. On the one hand it was absurd to me but on the other hand, I can see their point. We do, have a lot of people who claim to be healers but would just rip you off with some really nonsense, non-existing rituals. Although it is pretty clear to me what is a 'fraud', there are people who have absolutely no clues on how to tell if something was fishy, in other words, common sense doesn't appear to be very common at all.
Back to the certificate business. It's also interesting to observe how far people go with that. Once I told someone that I could help guide a meditation session. I got the same reaction 'where is your certificate?'. And this, I didn't quite understand. I was raised in a Buddhist country, most people in Thailand would come across some sort of meditation somewhere in
their lives, usually quite early on. Although my mother tried to raise us as Muslims, we didn't quite resonate with it and having the other half of the family being Buddhist, and being raised in a Buddhist country, it was impossible to not come across meditation and other things Buddhist! As I have mentioned in some other post, my first encounter with meditation was at school, when I was 6 years old. Though I had an on-and-off relationship with meditation in my childhood, I started meditating on my own more regularly in my twenties (and I'm turning 40 next month). So for me, I thought I could help people get started with meditation. It turned out, some scholars studied meditation in Buddhism, adopted it, called it mindfulness, it became more popular in the west and suddenly one has to be trained in order to become a certified meditation practitioner or trainer. From what I understood, in the west, you have to be either a monk or be certified. That was mind-boggling to me. Of course, there are people who accept me for what I am, without questions, I to find the type of 'questions' I get to be peculiar, something of a cultural shock, if you can call it that.
Luckily, no one has every asked me yet, if I'm certified to read Tarot cards. That would be even harder to answer because, guess what? I learned it on my own, I started when I was 11! I'm still learning because I can't say I know absolutely everything about the cards and how to use them, but I know enough to be able to help a lot of people and I'm grateful that there are people who trust me enough to accept my help, whether with the numerology, Tarot
readings or healing sessions. This is something I'm truly grateful for, because as people in the west are becoming more and more open to spirituality (and metaphysics), where I'm from, people are walking away from it, which is sad to witness.
Nowadays, in Thailand, more and more people rely on conventional medicines. A lot of Thais would opt for an operation for the slightest possible things. Natural remedies are a thing of the older generations. C-section is just an option for mothers to give birth, hardly anyone I know go for natural labor to give birth these days. Energy medicine is for the superstitious. Energy work is as good as placebo. This is the tendency of modern Thais' thinking. Although, a lot are still open to trying something different if given a chance, it's quite sad for me to witness. The environment I grew up in gave me a lot of insights and wisdom I need for my personal growth, spiritual path and ways to work with energy. How?
Let's go back to the Thai 'superstitions' for a bit. As I mentioned, for me, they are no mere superstitions. They have everything to do with energy work. Take that 'no haircut on Wednesdays' for example. Some say that because in the old days, royalty and aristocrats had their haircut days on Wednesday so that meant that a lot of hair dressers and barbers would not be available, others say that Wednesday is the day of growth so you should be
growing something, not cutting it. This reflects in the color-day system in Thailand. For Thais, Wednesday is related to green, green is vegetation, green is growth. (Although, personally, I would put the day of growth on Thursday, because Thursday is governed by Jupiter and Wednesday is governed by mercury, but that's my opinion.) You might ask, 'well, isn't that already the superstition'?. It very well may be, but this is how I see it. Let's say if you're doing your laundry and you are the type to hang it dry, would you prefer doing it on a sunny or rainy day? You can do it on a rainy day but if you could choose, wouldn't you prefer a sunny day? What if each day carries its own energy and vibration? And you know which day carries which energy, would you choose a certain day if you can? And this doesn't mean you will drop dead if you choose a 'less auspicious day', either. That is what it's all about, energy and harnessing it! It's energy work, plain and simple. It's little things like this that help me see the nitty gritty bits of energy work that no one can teach me, I lived it, I grew up with it.
Another plus about growing up into something is that it's not borrowed, it's not 'foreign', and it doesn't require 'interpretation', it was 'ingrained', in me. I want younger generations to have the same privilege and access to this wisdom like I have. I find that losing your roots and having to search for something else to fill that hole to be a sad and scary thing. Think of how many people in the west, where a lot of ancient wisdom is lost and people try to get away from religions and look for wisdom from the east. Thanks to this we can share many many practices wherever we live in the world. However, somewhere along the line, people want to modify those practices according to what they think suit the practices when traditionally, people who were raised with those practices would not even think about those things. I mean, do you think any Indian would come up with beer yoga, for example? Or goat yoga? I
cringe to the thought that if the Thais lose all the wisdom and heritage, then start looking for it from somewhere else, what would they do? I mean, to give you an idea, I'll give an example from food department. Did you know that in Thailand there is such a dish as 'American fried rice'? I doubt most Americans even know about this. So what is this dish? It's fried rice, with sausages and normally served with a fried egg, sunny side up! Rice, is pretty Asian, fried rice would be quite a typical Asian dish, but suddenly it became American because of ... hotdogs??? Not that no westerners have ever screwed up Thai dishes, I have seen Pad Thai recipe with rice vinegar on the internet, and for your information, we don't use rice vinegar in Thailand, you'd be lucky to find that in a local supermarket in Thailand... We take things that we don't understand and mess them up by thinking we can improve them, basically.
Think about all the confusion that can happen if people only look for some foreign wisdom, but without deep understanding of the nature of it or the cultural background, then start 'improving' it because it is so foreign it doesn't mean much to them and they might not have respect for it. Doesn't that sound chaotic? I'm not saying everyone should just practice their own local things and no foreign practices are allowed. I'm not saying that we should all dig up every single thing from the past, either, some things are better left buried. What I'm saying is, keep the good things you already have, and when you learn something new from somewhere else, also learn the context and practice everything with respect. Otherwise, it would be just another chase for something fashionable and we will only look at the papers instead of seeing the essence and wisdom. Instead of chasing for the next spiritual trend, can we learn to see wisdom around us and exchange and share the experience?
So here I am, in between the two 'worlds', an eastern 'witch' in the west, and possibly a remnant of the magic past in her home country, watching, observing people, trying to help when possible, passing on the knowledge and sharing experience to those who are interested.