Myanmar: Day 213/214. Goodbye to Week One.

You know you weren’t made for teaching when you catch yourself cheering and clapping like a baboon when the kids get the answers wrong! Oh shame. I can’t help it I’m being dramatic and depressed, half of the children left the programme to return to actual school last night (I bet it’s not as much fun there as it is here). What’s that quote I love from Moulin Rouge? Oh yeah.

“Outside it may be raining but in here it’s entertaining!”

Calm it Chris, you’re not in Soho now mate and it’s definitely not raining.

Whereas the older students receive two weeks rest bite from the snarling jaws of government education my younger kids (yes they are all mine, I am mother hen) only receive seven days. Those seven days with the little’uns have only been possible because of the great teachings of David and Noam. Sadly they have left the village also and right now are probably aboard a plane to Thailand. (Insert crying American emoji here). They planned a week and a week they did, these children will probably never understand how lucky they have been to be donated such powerful tools as those laptops, their life’s potential just sky rocketed.

So now there is one teacher left. “Hi” said Chris.

I didn’t realise how much I’d enjoyed this weeks energy until I returned to the school this morning. Usually I’d stumble into the open space of the village (having dodged the huge pig that always grunts at my legs) into the dust and suddenly have a thousand “good morning”s screamed at me. I have a routine, it involves shouting “morning, morning, morning” one hundred times and waving blindly into every direction as if I’m wafting away flies.

If I’m lucky Noam will have the youngest class engaged in a lesson, if not I’ll be savaged as they jump on me for the whiteboard pen.

This morning I wasn’t savaged and my clothes aren’t covered in dirty hand prints.

Meh.

Before I came back to Myanmar I was in two minds whether to cancel and head to India prematurely, I’m realistically predicting five years until I recover from my previous stint teaching, at least! Although there was no way I was ever letting them down I wasn’t as enthusiastic as first time round. I predicted over planning, dark circles, questions only a scholar would be able to answer, more dark circles and an energy level comparable to an eighty year old Myanmar rickshaw driver.

In contrast this week has been the most fun and uplifting time I’ve had in quite a while, my soul is fully charged and it’s really thanks to the endless buzz of these little people. Between their infectious excitement, their deafening screams and they’re cheeky ability to hit me and then run off laughing I’ve felt like a big brother in charge of making sure everyone is moving forward. That coupled with the knowledge and professionalism of David, Noam, Seng Mai, Seng Pan and Seng Aung this week couldn’t have been better balanced. There’s no place I’d rather be than right in this very spot, and rather astutely I’ve worked out why… this village fills me with a nostalgia for my street back at home.

Here we go…. memories.

Looking back, home was an odd set up, definitely not the type of environment I’d want to raise my children, but then the hustle and hassle of Market End filled me with a warmth I couldn’t find anywhere else, it was the closest to Euston Train Station a street could get without a rickety old track.

Shaped like a squashed horse shoe we had maybe sixteen terracotta homes with a dark tarmac driveway all connected to each other in every sense of the word. You see back then I thought it was normal, now I realise it’s totally bonkers, every person in our street walked into each other’s home as if it were their own, no knocking, no warning, just in and out as they pleased at whatever time they pleased. It was a never ending house party and everyone was invited.

Me “where’s mum”

Sister “she’s around Dawns”

Me “Is my mum here?”

Darren “no they’re around Denise’s”

Me “Mum? Mum are you in here?!”

Mum “No I’m in Tracey’s garden! Climb over the fence if you want me”.

My street growing up. Our house was second from the left.

I’m surprised I wasn’t snatched from my bed the times I’d go downstairs at night and my mum was next door having a “tea” and a “fag”.

It was if our street was a rabbit warren and no one had realised we were above land, trying to find a person was logistical Armageddon. When mum would say “go and ask Tracey if she wants anything from the shop” I’d be sure to run around like I was trapped in a fun house hours before I’d find her, guaranteed you’d hear at least nine front doors slam before I’d trophy success.

“What do you mean she’s already at the shop?!” Urgh.

Winters were quieter, summers were great fun. It’s really the warmer months which made a lasting impression on me and honestly I hadn’t realised how much I loved it until this week. I write a lot about the pain of my childhood because that’s the cloud that stalks, but it wasn’t always grey, there was this soft layer of summer air inviting you to play in the street, we were a big family bound together by our social class (working) and the terracotta walls which kept our little English fort safe.

I make it sound cute don’t I? As a kid I thought it was, but it was often referred to by outsiders as ‘The Witches Cauldron’.

The families in my street were meddlesome, challenging, territorial and frankly depressed. Some of the kids had got off on they wrong foot and had already began miming the actions of their peers often leading them into suspended school periods or worse, jail time. Like a pack of wolves the mothers stuck together, feeding off of each other’s misery they looked onto the outside world with pinched eyes as the people beyond the walls did right back.

Now that sounds more accurate. There really wasn’t much cuteness involved.

We weren’t an educated street, nor were the spliffs keeping them stable through the torturous government benefits process. Like any large family our street found reason to battle one other as often as it did drinking mugs of tea. It wasn’t uncommon for one house to break and enter another. It wouldn’t be strange to see broken glass scattered about the driveways when you’d walk to school. There were rapes, battering, severe adult bullying and more hush hush gossiping about each other than a report from the Daily Mail.

It sounds like hell doesn’t it. Imagine growing up in a microclimate of busybodies and scoundrels, let me tell you for most of my childhood I quite liked it, of course it wasn’t the drama I loved, it was all of my friends, the dramas offspring.

It’s summer I’m reliving, a time when my mother was much easier to find because absolutely everyone was sat outside their porch smoking, drinking and gossiping about some poor soul from off the estate. On the one hand it makes me cringe, when I watch those old tv shows like Skins or Royal Family or Benefit Street I can very quickly be dragged back to that time of insecurity and unease, the guys coming to my door to buy drugs from my mother saw those feelings set in stone. That was the dark side of street life and I could explain much more than that too. But on the other hand I often felt love and acceptance when I’d walk out into the close, that’s where the nostalgic warmth comes from. My street was the only place I was never bullied or questioned or teased for the way I looked or the things I couldn’t do. I was raised side by side with my neighbours and some of them I’d been at school with since four years old.

Every mum from each house felt like an old auntie and every one of their children turned into a close cousin. There was Nathan, Luke, Scarlett, Rhys, Darren, Danny, Claire, Sarah, Daniel, Paul, Charlie, Samantha, Me, my sister Kerrie, my sister Alex, Leigh, Jordan, Brandon and Tyler… and that’s just some of the kids of the street.

When the sun would start to set and the air became cooler I would venture out of my house and into the ball pit of childhood mayhem. Footballs would be flying into neighbours gardens, skipping ropes spinning around like wind turbines, bicycles propped up against lampposts, rollerblades, chalk to draw on the floor, hose pipes and water pistols big enough to start wars!

And wars we started.

There’d be our parents puffing away on one porch (usually number fourteen) and all of us running around the maze of orange walls playing tag or laughing as we fell over onto the grass. I’d have this weird way of shouting “I’m OK!” before I’d even hit the floor. Thump!

Back at the school I’m reminded of that time. When I see the younger kids running in and out of classrooms I remember running in and out of houses, specifically Brenda’s. When she first moved next door her three children (soon to be four) ranged from three to eight. At first they were unsure of me, they’d stare at my skin and then look back up to their mum for answers, pretty much like everyone else. But after a while, as Brenda became accustom to the nature of our street, I was soon in and out of their home as often as they were mine and everyone else’s.

After a few short weeks I’d already been signed up as official babysitter as she went and sat outside with the parents or took herself shopping. During that time there would be what seemed liked hundreds of kids running around my feet, all of them wanting to play games, fight with me, show me their school work, drag me to the locked sweet cupboard. Her three kids turned into five, then six, then seven as more and more of her friends trusted me. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be watching eight children at one time and for thirteen year old me that was quite a feat.

I loved it.

For eight years I stayed with her children, I played with them like they were brothers and sisters, I went from teaching them ABC to scratching my head when the algebra came flying out of no where. “You’re how old now? Oh crap”.

“They all look up to you Chris. You’re like their big brother” Brenda would say as I walked in the door. It’s true, the second I’d sit in the armchair and start talking to her all of the kids would run over with their homework wearing huge smiles and holding out their pens. What could I do but sit with them and be the person they needed.

I’m lucky to still have her children in my life. Even if I don’t have her.

Those are the days I should treasure. It’s easy to get caught up in the darkness, especially when so many things are painful but I should take joy in the good times too. Like the time I got my foot caught in the wheel of my friends bicycle after trying to kick her onto the grass. It was so funny, lying on the floor screaming in pain Sarah goes running over to number fifteen and finds Dawn to come and help. Now Dawn was not a small woman let me tell you, not back then anyways, I remember her running over with a plume of ginger hair and wire cutters to try and rescue me. I thought she was just going to cut the spokes, but no, unluckily for me this large bloody woman places her foot on the god damn spokes almost severing my foot. Ha. I can laugh now because it’s completely ridiculous, back then I wasn’t best pleased let me tell you.

No Chris’ were harmed during the process of that small memory.

I should indulge in those more.

…..

So David and Noam have left, they packed their bags full of heaven knows how many wooden elephants and marched off into the sunset. We had a lovely final day with them yesterday, David gave a sermon to the church, he spoke of ‘tithes’ which as far as I can work out is a process of giving 1/10th of your earnings to god. I sat a little confused with Seng Mai, she frantically tried showing me his readings in the bible as he spoke them… that was nice of her if not hard work.

We had beautiful ‘end of term’ photos with the children, the family and the older villagers. (It’s nice to finally have a school photo where I don’t stick out).

Top two rows: The older class plus David in pink. Third row, left to right. Seng Pan (head of organising this scheme), Seng Aung (church pastor and husband to Seng Pan), Seng Mai (sister of Seng Aung), Me, village people and then Copa at the end. Bottom two rows; children from the two youth classes, middle boy in white is Naw Naw (Seng Pan and Seng Aung’s son).

Me at eleven years old.

We visited the mountain, Seng Mai cooked amazing food using an open fire, hollowed out bamboo and a variety of foods… like ox tongue!! I thought it would be gross, actually served kebab style with peppers it’s pretty good! The guys thought I wouldn’t be able to stomach even one, I ate four! Hurrah for trying new things.

Urgh but I’ll never forget how my tongue felt when I saw her peeling its skin. Grim.

In other news I haven’t decided what to do about Copa although it is certainly at the forefront of my mind. What’s good is this following week will be focussed on the older students as everyone else has left. That means maybe I can work closer with him as I’ll have more time. Right now I’m leaning toward sponsoring him so he can continue his education once I’ve left. I’ll try (with Seng Mai’s help) to source a retired English teacher from the city and have them come out to the village to see him five times a week. I’m unsure how logistically that will work or how much it’s going to cost, but I’m happy to forward any idea if it means he isn’t left behind. What I’m conscious of is he also needs to work to support his family, if I put him into education full time I’d need to support them also.

Hmm let’s see what develops.

I’m having such a great time here, when this ends it will be the brightest highlight of my travels, to be able to share time with these wonderful people means a lot because it’s teaching me lessons I thought I already knew. Every single day I’m reminded why leaving London was the best decision. Sometimes it’s hard to think about, but when I look at these kids faces I’m reminded the world goes beyond my own thoughts and feelings.

Goodbye kids. Goodbye David and Noam. See you soon I hope!

Myanmar: Day 210/212. Responsibility.

Glancing at him from across the classroom he’s frantically looking through his Myanmar to English dictionary as if his life depends on it.

We were all building sentences, using three choice words which I wrote on the board I asked my students to write a story including each one. We had a statement about liberty, a story of giants, a lyric about the future and a poem about god.

“God is with me, I am with he, together we will be, together we are free”.

As we cheer and applaud an incredible answer from one of the girls I take a second to check on him again.

He’s silently drowning in the noise of their success.

Hmmm.

Changing the words to try and help I go for the basics. DOG. HOUSE. ME.

Seconds later all hands are up followed by a chorus of energetic “pick me pick me” noises. As the endless excitement dances around the room and “Teacher Chris” becomes background noise I’m giving him time to form his sentence and be involved.

“…….”

Holding his head in his hand I watch his pencil shake as he notices I’m waiting for him. The classroom may have been full of lifelong village friends but here he sat a total stranger. I could see the beads of sweat form on his forehead.

Hmm. What to do, what to do.

Placing my whiteboard marker down on the churches window I call three of the girls to begin writing their answers up for the class to see. Pushing my way through the joy of the room I approach him and kneel down.

“Hey Copa. Are you OK?”

Looking up from his page he tries to smile sincerely but his beautiful eyes speak over him. Lifting both of his shoulders and looking at the board he drops his head to the table and sighs.

“Teacher Chris he doesn’t understand you. He’s never been to school so he finds it hard. Do you want me to translate for you?” says one of my students as she lends her skill and bridges the gap in our languages.

“Could you please translate the meaning of Home, Dog and Me for him. I will take pictures of everyone’s answers today and give them to him translated tomorrow”.

As she relays what I’ve said and I see the despair evaporate from his face I’m struck by an unusually intense wave of empathy.

“Everyone I am changing the schedule. We will read this afternoon instead. Girls could you please help Copa with translations when it’s his turn. Thank you”.

Handing out a children’s story I found earlier that morning called “The Greedy Bird” I place one copy in front of each of the thirteen students and announce we will be reading one paragraph each. The last time I taught here we did intense work on pronunciation, the girls had a decent reading level but couldn’t say the words properly. Now we nail it almost every time.

My hope was that Copa could handle reading easier than writing.

Placing one copy in front of him I put my hand on his shoulder, look at him in the eyes and say “are you OK?” to which he nods and smiles back. “Good. Don’t worry”.

Sat at the front of class we all have a good belly laugh over the new words no one can pronounce. This exercise allows me to extend their vocabulary, as we move through the story I help define each of the stumbling words which get in their way. A new story everyday brings not only a new word but context to its use.

“OK Cherryoo you begin please”

The class has a variety of levels, we have half of the group with great English and the other half who can communicate well but aren’t confident. The children with better English get two paragraphs each so they can flex their skills a little more. Randomly choosing students keeps their attention levels high all the time, if there’s a system some will day dream until it’s their turn.

“Sein Paw Htoo please read the next paragraph”.

There’s an infinite energy working with the girls, every class is saturated in laughter, smiles, love and support for one another. In my opinion their behaviour is really a reflection of their humdrum day, back at school they are sat in silence under the rule ‘seen and not heard’, here we mix learning with teamwork and self expression. I want each student to feel connected to a bigger experience, with me at the front as big brother making jokes and firing grammatical problems around the room we find that balance with ease. These kids are learning quickly because neither of them fear being wrong.

But there’s a problem with Copa.

As we pass through the story and words are being said and understood correctly I turn to my left and look at Copa at the end of the table. He’d been laughing and smiling throughout all of our light hearted pronunciation mistakes but hadn’t yet had his chance to read.

“Copa. It’s your turn now. Please read from the beginning”. Jumping in with a quick translation one of the girls helps the process. Falling silent they abandon their fun in place of giving Copa room to think, and all eyes turn to him.

Waiting patiently I’m wondering if this is his first attempt at reading English… it could well be…

“Copa are you happy? Are you ok?”

Rolling and unrolling the sharp corners of his A5 copy and brushing his hair back his words arrive as awkward coughs and his breaths turn into struggled sighs…

“Can he also not read?” I think to myself as I sternly shush two giggling girls in the corner.

“Th… th… the greedy… th… the greedy burr, bu, birrd” he stammers as his index finger underscores each syllable. Initially I thought his nerves were getting the better of him, although the girls were quiet and respectful I could appreciate his apprehension, especially in this context.

“Well done Copa. Keep going”

Beginning the second line his stammering becomes worse and words don’t seem to be able to find their way of out his mouth. So kneeling back down beside him I say them first for him to repeat… but something is wrong. As I’m underlining the words and saying them for him he reads the words above the line, missing the word I’m pointing at completely.

Hmmmm. “Sein Paw Htoo could you please ask Copa if the words move around when he tries to read them? Thank you”.

As she translates for me I suspect he’s dyslexic, it didn’t seem to matter how hard he tried he couldn’t latch onto the words. I was silently hoping he wasn’t, this country isn’t equipped to help anyone with a learning difficulty and I know first hand how hard it is to read with dyslexia.

(You think these blogs happen quickly? They don’t).

Looking at me directly his eyes grew larger than dinner plates as they shook with embarrassment.

“Yes” Sein Paw Htoo says to me “he says the words move so he tries to keep them in place using his finger. He finds it hard to read in Myanmar too”

“And can you ask him if any teacher has helped him with this problem before?” I knew the answer to this before I’d even finished saying the question, there’s no way Copa has had any support during his short lived education.

“No Teacher Chris he’s never had help”.

Standing up and watching the faces of all the girls I could see there was a sense of unease about the room. They wanted to know what was wrong with him, I suppose some of them felt a little guilty laughing at him in previous classes.

Putting my hand on his shoulder I’m lost in what to do. The small fixes for his dyslexia were simple (like coloured paper instead of white for him to read off) but there was a bigger problem here… how was he going to learn English in our remaining time? I understand every child has their obstacles, mine are yet to sink away into my past, but there are some which shouldn’t be faced alone, there are some which need genuine help. After watching the passion and determination of this guy there’s just no way I could sit back and ‘pray’ for his progression.

As we finish the class and the girls bounce their way into sunset I’m stood with my backpack and watching Copa slowly walk down the mud path to home. Throwing my bag over my shoulders I’ve quickly made my decision, there’s just no way I’m leaving this village without knowing Copa has a chance in the world.

“Hey Chris how was your day? Your class once again sounded a lot of fun” Seng Pan giggles as she hands me a freshly made avocado juice “they love you so much”.

“Actually Seng Pan I’d like to talk to you about Copa if that’s OK?” I reply sharp and directly softened with a smile.

“Of course”

As we both move to the wooden benches of a different open classroom and I lay my pens neatly on the table I ask about the process of dealing with Dyslexia in Myanmar schools to which she confirms there simply isn’t one, children at state school are dismissed as stupid and left to learn at their own pace.

“Well dismissed as stupid isn’t something I’ll be doing here” I explain.

“Copa was taken out of school at thirteen because his fathers job could not support the family”. Says Seng Pan as I sip up my final bits of avocado. “Since then he has been working at the rubber tree plantation in another village six days a week sixteen hours a day. He isn’t married, he doesn’t have a girlfriend (although many girls try) he just wants a better life for himself and his family”.

Looking around I’m trying to see what chance anyone would have at making their dreams come true let alone Copa. The love here is outstanding, a community like this is exactly what I needed growing up, but academically there’s nothing for them to build their future with other than hope.

Well the passive act of living in hope doesn’t deliver many things to even the most hopeful of people.

“Chris you know Copa left his job to come and be a part of your class?”

Slowly placing down my red plastic cup as the sun falls behind her I suddenly feel the importance of what I am doing here.

“He’s done what? What do you mean he’s left his job? What about his family?” I counter shocked and surprised “Seng Pan that wasn’t a smart thing for him to do no?”

Seng Pan has the calmest of faces, it doesn’t matter what I talk to her about I feel totally at ease. The fact she didn’t seem worried helped calm the burn of her words but I was still a little fearful of Copa’s decision.

“He wants more opportunities in life Chris, he’s too old to go back to state school, he doesn’t have the money to school himself privately, this is his one chance”.

The more she speaks the more determination I have coursing through my veins. I was certainly going to help him, the question was how…

“His parents will try and support the family without his money, it will be hard for them but they want the best for him. He’s a very very good guy Chris and he’s very thankful for your efforts I promise”.

Rubbing my face I reply to her “yeah but my efforts aren’t enough Seng Pan, he needs more than what I can give him here”.

“CHRIS LET’S GO” shouts Seng Mai as she rallies both myself, David and Noam from the village and to the back of our terribly uncomfortable taxi truck.

“Seng Pan I’ll see you tomorrow. But I’m worried about Copa that’s all I can say”.

……

It’s now 11pm, I’m sat upright in my bed lost in the chaotic memories of my past. It wasn’t long ago I was in school not focussing on my lessons because the violent teachings of my mother back home filled my mind. It wasn’t so long ago I was desperately planning how to conquer my exams either, I was fighting the wind with my fists as she threw me into the street the day before they started.

I don’t know, I can’t stop thinking.

When I was in school I found it too much to bear. By 10am the white collar of my school shirt was covered in blood from the eczema on my neck, my fingers-nails were filled with dry skin, blood and scabs from whichever body part needed scratching in that moment.

Why am I saying this?

Well because from 10am until 3.30pm I was a freak. You can’t concentrate on your education when there are thirty eyes staring at the blood which is rolling down your face 6.5 hours a day. Not as a boy and not as a man. I remember hundreds of times being on the brink of tears with my hand in the air asking teacher if I could go to the bathroom just so I could scratch, cry and clean my skin without an audience.

I can’t count how many hours I missed of school because I needed to focus on other things. I remember sitting in those cubicles wishing someone would help me, wishing the teacher could come into the bathroom and teach me away from embarrassment and judgement. No one noticed but I fell way behind everyone else, my skin, my violent home life, all of this stopped the progression of my education.

When I look at Copa I don’t see the blood or the pain, but I see a guy who is screaming out for help in exactly the same way as I was back then. He needs someone to support him and let him know it will all be OK, he needs a teacher who can stand by his side and help him ascend to places he cant reach on his own.

I’ve seen the everyday struggles of people here in Myanmar, I’ve seen young men drunk in the middle of the day stumbling around roads and aimlessly wandering the villages. I’ve seen them high on drugs passed out alongside rivers and lakes too hopeless and uninspired to see life beyond their life. Many times I’ve wished I could speak Myanmar so I could sit and give them the words they need to turn their lives into something fulfilled. My reality is I’ve never been able to help beyond giving food or offering water.

Until now.

I see much of myself in this guy. He’s made a decision to fight the norm and find his own way in life. I did the same, although I was judged for it. When the kids back home were down the park drinking and smoking I was at home doing my homework. I remember my mum asking me why I wasn’t out doing the same things as everyone else, I also remember thinking “what she wants me to steal from people, fail my exams and become a teenage alcoholic?”.

At nineteen years old Copa has chosen to take responsibility and put himself back into education to focus on his future. I don’t know many young people back home who would do that…

So! If he can turn his life upside down for these lessons I can do more for him.

But what?

Myanmar: Day 208/209. Take The Chances You Are Given.

I guess god works in not only mysterious but quite technologically advanced ways also, the village I’m teaching at have just been given laptops!

David and his son Noam arrived yesterday fresh over from the shores of America. Information on them wasn’t exactly easy to come by, I knew there was a man and at some point he had a son, end of lesson. I must have walked passed them one hundred times before Nweni stopped to introduce me.

“Chris! Good morning how are you?” she says as she frames her face in her hands in funny flirt “You want breakfast? Noodles? Rice? Mohinga?”

“Nweni I’ve eaten breakfast twice already, that’s noodles two times, you gave them too me”

“Ah follow me I show you the Americans, your teacher teach friends from America” and she grabs my arm and drags me along the shiny floor of reception without a seconds warning dropping my laptop onto the floor. Great.

“Hello, Mr David” she continues as I’m trying to grow from a small child to an independent man, “This is Chris, oh he’s such a good boy, he’s a teacher too at the village”. Before I knew it she’d manhandled my entire body into a chair and walked off.

Well hello embarrassment.

“Oh and he teaches on an evening too!” she shouts as she draws her eyebrows in behind her reception desk.

Thank you Nweni, for that marvellous introduction.

Aside from being reduced to an infant by the ever hilarious techniques of this Myanmar woman I’d come to realise what I was wearing, a zebra repeat patterned shirt over elephant patterned floaty trousers and a Mickey Mouse cap… holy mother of fashion. You see my intention was to appear semi professional, don’t get me wrong I didn’t want to pretend to be school principal but I didn’t want to look like I’m mid nervous breakdown either.

This job is serious to me, my entrance said otherwise. Luckily god is forgiving and my two new Christian teachers paid no mind to my abominable choice of style.

“Hey! I’m Chris it’s very nice to meet you”.

David is a very open friendly man, he carries that warm vibe you get from a true believer of faith. Sat in his sunhat and plain formal shirt he looked undoubtedly middle class cross legged trying to work his smart phone. Next to him sat Noam, an equally tall human being who seemed to be the spitting image of his father in his early days. A mound of thick blonde curly hair sat on top of his fifteen year old head, you’d be forgiven for thinking this hopeful lawyer was in his early 20s.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from David, I imagined someone like that crazy American guy who visited a restricted Indian island and then was harpooned to death by tribesman… no they don’t need their souls saving my friend they need leaving alone. David isn’t like that, he’s a quiet and intelligent man whom I enjoy to be around.

Hiding my legs up under my body as I imagine my clothes hurting his eyes we begin to talk about the education system in Myanmar and how a lot of children living rural don’t stand a chance. For instance, here in Myanmar a state education is officially free which we all can agree is fantastic, when you’re in a country as economically stretched as this it’s somewhat of a miracle. But sadly almost 50% of children here never enroll into secondary education because families take their children out of school to work. Those families who keep their children in school passed the mandatory five years often find the fees too expensive. Transport, uniforms, stationary and illegal requests for “building maintenance fees”’ asked by schools mean parents have no choice but to prematurely end their kids chances as early as ten years old. Because of this Myanmar’s youth are underdeveloped, undervalued, underpaid and overlooked.

Interestingly though during occupied Myanmar this country was the lead English speaker in Asia. Heading for greatness with the power of language alone Burma was walking in some promising economically sound directions… until it claimed independence. Now Myanmar ranks something like 164th out of 168 for public expenditure on education spending only 2% of its GDP on schooling.

Back at the village you only need to spend a few minutes talking to the older students about education to realise how basic it is. Their classes seem to follow the same process day in day out. Teacher gives them an old out of date textbook, they rewrite the words which they see in front of them, they don’t ask questions, they don’t communicate, no computers, no visuals, no energy, no chance, done. These are happy, enthusiastic, intelligent children who want to better themselves and they are put on an old dusty conveyor belt left to pass through school like an old toy at an abandoned factory.

It angers me so much.

Instead of supporting and growing the lives of their young, you know, the future of their country, the Myanmar elite spent 4% of their GDP on the Military… that’s double the education budget. Don’t message me saying Myanmar needs to spend more on the military because of the violence, the Military are causing most of it.

Anyway that’s controversial chat and I’m not here for that. Well not in this context anyways.

Anyhow. The village I volunteer with here have very little to share other than the elders knowledge. To put what I do into a wider context there is a small neighbourhood a few miles outside of Taungoo. In this neighbourhood (that word makes it sound kinda white picket fence, it’s not) there is a state school and various religious offerings dotted about. When there is a school holiday the village pastor and his wife organise what they call “Youth Week” or two weeks to be exact. This is where I help and it happens three times a year. This initiative provides extra education for the local kids to supplement what they don’t get in school. It’s funded by an incredible American woman (Gloria) and her husband (Leon) back in Thailand and I actively asked to be involved.

I can’t say the village have much, a few pens, books, white boards, they have money to feed all the kids who attend (most kids haven’t eaten anything but rice in their lives) and they have a tremendous amount of love.

Love, knowledge and time is what I bring, but by (as they would say here) “the grace of god” David and Noam have arrived with something much more impressive.

“So Noam started this fundraiser back home after we decided we were coming” said David as he cleaned his glasses with his lovely plain shirt “and managed to raise enough money to buy six laptops for the village to help fuel the kids education”.

What strikes me wonderfully is the humbleness of this man and his son. Firstly they won’t take credit before praising the people who donated and when I bring the focus back on them they selflessly smile without needing any attention at all. Their applause is the success of the children and I could really learn from that.

…..

Side note: For those wondering this isn’t a school you can just apply to visit, if you want to know more let me know, there is no website or organisation for you to contact. Also if you’re just wanting to go as a tourist (turn up, take pictures, fuel your instagram) I’m not going to respond. These are the lives of young people not a zoo. Ok? Ok good 🙂

…..

Stepping into the village today it was all silent and academic until I started running and shouting good morning at the top of my lungs, considering the school is also partly the Pastors house I should probably be calm… but calm doesn’t get kids ready to learn! Let’s go crazy!

My day, actually my schedule for the next two weeks is fairly straight forward. I will teach the three groups each day for around two hours each. The little kids are in the pastors house, the middle kids are in the outside classroom and the older kids are in the church. Boom!

What I enjoy more than the teaching is the love, it resonates from every single person and every single class. When I walk into that place it comes alive, I come alive, I’ve made it clear from the beginning, I don’t want the students to see me as teacher I want them to see me as a friend.

And we have a lot of fun being friends.

Today with my young class we drew animals, or more accurately I drew very odd looking aliens on the white board and my ‘under tens’ copied them into their workbooks. I have to say that considering I’m a very well established designer I suck at elephant drawings… I mean look at this.

Yeah, it’s unforgivable.

This age group don’t yet have basic English so I use a lot of visual aids and drawing to help them develop their vocabulary. Understanding the creativity of a child and how important it is to include every single one in the activities I’ve devised the pen game, which on reflection could have benefitted from a little translation from Seng Mai (the pastors sister and helper at the school) before beginning.

The game is this. I draw the numbers 1 through 30 on the board, then each child takes my pen and draws a circle around the correct number. The suspense almost kills every single one of them.

“OK everyone. Who can tell me where… where…. number…. FIVE is?”

Suddenly the class will erupt with arms and hands flying all over the place. We’ve got kids throwing each other in friendly headlocks, two girls holding hands jumping together like they’re skipping, the ones that are less sensitive to the sugary things I buy stand quietly but that’s only if the boys haven’t ploughed them into the wooden floor trying to get to my hand.

“Oooo. Ahhhh. Me. Heeeyyyy. Ah ah ah. Oo oo oo. Me me me. I know I know. Hello.

HELLO!”

All they want is the pen.

Usually I then stand at the front of the class and choose a child but it’s not safe, they’ve worked out if they stand on the table they can jump directly onto my back and wrestle me for the pen. It’s a war zone out here and I love it.

Once I’ve entrusted one of the kids to guess the number I hand them the pen, hope they don’t start drawing an elephant and continue until all numbers are found. Circles. Circles. Circles.

Then all hell breaks loose.

“WELL DONE CLASS. CLEAN THE BOARD!”

This is their favourite part, initially I was scared their clothes would get ink on them, then I realised each kid is layered in muck already so it didn’t much matter. My English is also useless at this point, in order for the carnage to begin I pick up the board eraser and shout “GO!”.

Before you know it I’ve disturbed the whole school and the quiet bible study that is happening in church has been thrown into hell by my teaching style.

Sorry David. I guess we should go back to drawing elephant…

Crossing the dusty courtyard I head to my older group as I hear the slam of their bibles closing. I ADORE teaching these kids because we’ve built this amazing bond that’s stuck since my last visit, every single night Seng Aung messages saying how much they love my teaching and it fills my heart with more love than I can articulate.

Usually I moon walk into the room and do a funny dance whilst cleaning the board. If you read my blogs from the last time I was here my older group are exactly the same kids from before, only we have a new arrival, Copa.

Copa is a very shy nineteen year old guy who lives not two minutes away. His parents (as is very common) took him out of school when he was thirteen and sent him to work at a Rubber Tree plantation to help support the family. What I love most is he’s swallowed his fear, realised the opportunity is at his doorstep and has grabbed it with both hands. Copa has joined with almost no English at all into a large group of girls all of which have great speaking and writing skills. He’s clearly terrified sat in my class because he knows very little, yet he turns up everyday with a clean shirt, clean Longyi and a huge huge smile. When I ask the class to build questions using the word “why” or “how” or “when” his face panics and I can see he feels stupid. He looks over to me from the end of the table with these massive eyes like a puppy needing food.

He may be afraid, he may be out of place but he’s here everyday, smiling and fighting for a better future.

Right now I’m putting a teaching plan together, I want to figure how I can teach Copa so he doesn’t feel left behind or stupid compared to the girls but at a level that is correct for him, probably around grade 3. I’m going to help this guy, I can see the me of my past sitting in his seat and I have a responsibility to help.

After all that’s why I’m here.

But not all is difficult for Copa. At the end of the day David and Noam began their first laptop class and Copa was amazing. Specifically for the older group each pair of students has a neat little Del computer assigned to them which they will be taught the basics of using a tech.

Isn’t that an incredible thing?

These kids average at seventeen years old and they’ve never touched a computer. They sleep on mattresses on the floor in open houses, they have no television, minimal electricity, no iPad, no iPod, most don’t have phones. They wash their clothes in buckets, they cook their food on fires and now… well now they use laptops. This will truly change their lives.

I’m like a proud dad seeing his children off to their first year of University. I’ve been standing back beaming with pride as I see them taught how to use a keyboard. On the flip side it’s brought me great pleasure to see the despair smattered across all their faces as they keep accidentally turning the machine off instead of loading Microsoft Word haha. I know I’m evil but honestly it was like watching babies try and push the square blocks into circle holes.

You know what’s been lovely about today? To see what happens when you give people who want the chance the chance.

Right I need to go. Time to plan for Copa!

Children should be taught how to think, not what to think” – Margaret Mead.

Myanmar: Day 204-207. He’s Back!

Whoah, for a second there I thought I was about to pack up my crap and head back home, when did Myanmar become so chaotic?!

Getting off at the airport was a fairly easy affair, I was slightly nerve ridden by the fact I’d overstayed my previous Myanmar visa and was expecting instant deportation, alas they let me through.

I’ve been incredibly excited about being reunited with my kids, my instinct to help almost had me leaving Bali early but given heavy circumstances it obviously made sense I stayed. But whoah, I wasn’t prepared for the madness.

(Please read this like a child on E-numbers… for that is my current mood)

My journey from the airport to Taungoo bus station has been filled with more stories than I could ever have noted (yes my blogs are backed up with scribbles because like a nan I have no memory). My taxi which became stuck between heavy traffic at 5am did a great impression of me food poisoned as it spluttered it’s way along the road inevitably breaking down in the middle of a five lane motorway. The three starved puppies who were hanging onto a half starved child monk seemed in better condition as they held onto their rickshaw for dear life. Again I made the mistake of wearing my white shorts, I shouldn’t have bothered they were soon pebble dashed with a red saliva that is shot around this country like raindrops. Thanks Betel Nut. Of course as soon as my white ass stepped out of the broken down cab and into the road I was catapulted back into my seat as eight ravenous road sellers came rushing toward me. Thanks taxi man and thanks for the concussion.

I can’t see people without, not out here where there is nothing “500kyat for everyone!!” I’ve given near a thousand pounds out in Asia and I wouldn’t change that for anyone.

“No one has ever become poor by giving”

As a scrawny man with a old bike pump and a tool made from his mother’s table spoons shows up to fix our ride I realise I’m high. Yes, you see over time my eyesight has steadily been suffering so when the double vision kicked in I just presumed it was that. Nope, good morning Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

Oh what a lovely sunrise.

Oh look a little girl carrying a bear and a sword. Cute.

After making it to the station to catch my Taungoo coach I sit quietly in the trash and pretend I can’t see many folk staring at me by writing notes from my travels in my phone. In the hour I waited I was offered a little girls clown costume, original Ray Bans from a hand made shoulder shelf, a photocopied book on Buddhism, popcorn made in 1970, three dirty handshakes and help to the toilet… the toilet which housed a dying dog.

What I needed offering was a return ticket to Bali, that or an oxygen mask to block the coach load of fumes which were being pumped into our open waiting area. Carbon Monoxide 2 – Chris 0.

Oh look a man blowing bubbles… why?

No need to worry I’m alive as you may be able to tell. I think I’m still high from two days ago but we are cooking with gas and everything is running smoothly.

If you missed that pun you’re dead to me.

Returning to Pathi Hostel was the escape I needed. The love of my life Nweni was there awaiting my arrival with drink and food in hand, this woman is my Buddhist Nana Maud. When I say “ My Myanmar Family” I mean it, I know everyone here, like old Mr Gums who has been given that name in secret by me, he lives next door to the hostel and calls me “HARGH”. Mr Bale is a fan (again he doesn’t yet know about his new Christian name) because I help him collect heaps of grass from the lake across from my room… he laughs when I think I’ve touched a python.

Nweni (hostel manager) on the left and her boss on the right.

Chomping down some sweet and sour chicken which Nweni had practically assaulted a small child to cook for me I drag my things into my little private room and sleep… for eighteen straight hours.

(Yeah when I tell you Bali knackered me I wasn’t in any way being dramatic).

In all seriousness now I’ve had a few days in Myanmar and I’m happy to be away from Bali. Don’t misunderstand I wouldn’t change a single minute of anything that happened there, the people were incredible, the island is stunning and the experiences were life changing, but I really need a break from it. Myanmar, in a psychotic hellish kinda way feels sane. Sane is what I want and that’s what I’m gonna get… in the form of my new class.

“Welcome back Teacher Chris!!!”

When I arrived in Myanmar the first time my intention was to find my uncles old family house and then bolt! I was told “Myanmar is dangerous”, unchartered and ill-fit for tourists. In light of this ‘advice’ I decided to do what I must and the head to somewhere safe and beautiful like Thailand.

After one week in this fairytale of dust, dirt and chaos I didn’t want to leave.

Teaching wasn’t easy, I didn’t have any official qualification, no certificate, just a passion to help and an unwavering determination. In the first instance I thought it would be impossible, the stories I’ve heard about the military here led me to believe this was a risky endeavour… but I didn’t care. So listening to my heart I forward the idea of teaching on a whim, “do you know if there is any way I can teach here” I asked about. Well someone was listening because within two days I’d found a remarkable woman called Gloria who sponsored a village outside of the city. In perfect timing I was to be a substitute for an American ‘no show’.

Awesome! Once again thank you Universe for that gift.

Before I knew it I had taken on teaching six days a week from 10am until 4pm for that village and then 5.30pm until 8/9pm for a private class in the city. (Do you remember that post where a teacher tricked me into teaching her group? Yeah that class).

After three weeks of heavy sweating, dusty eye infections, planning, stressing and unreasonable amounts of hours working I thought I’d never come back. By the time it came to say goodbye I’d signed myself up for another four weeks. I wanted to sing words, dance to grammar, scream out the names of animals and lift the bar of inspiration and possibility again.

How could I leave these kids behind? We have so much to learn from one another.

Things are a little different this time around, previously I was the sole teacher to twenty children, this time I have three groups of twelve. Group 1 is 6-10 year olds, Group 2 is 11-15 and Group 3 is 16-22. Some of these students live at the village and some have travelled to be apart of this experience. Rightly so everyone who needs help should be given it.

Fear not my friends, this is not as tough as it sounds ho no, there’s help on the way in the form of two American guys, David and his son Noam.

Haaaaaaleluhjah!

And you know what’s almost as good as that? It’s cold season here!! Ohhh yes. So today was delightful, as I blasted my way through the mountains the air here no longer stripped away my skin like being repeatedly hit with a frying pan, it’s England heatwave temperatures!

It bares repeating. Haaaaalehluhjah!

What does this mean? Well it means that when I turn up for school I don’t look like a slow roasted tomato scraped off an old pizza. It also means I have more energy because the heat is significantly less. Less heat + more help = insufferably happy energetic Chris.

It’s now the end of day one teaching and I’m feeling really well, it’s like someone has pushed a wall in front of me and my Bali life for now and I can focus on something more… I don’t know I guess real? When I do something good here I can see it reflected back in the children’s eyes, back there it took a long time staring in the mirror.

Arriving on the back of that motorbike I slid into the open square of Kyat Thai Village very nervous. Seng Pan and Seng Aung (the amazing people who run the church and the school) had sent me so many compliments about my teaching I had cold feet. I knew there would be more kids but… BAM!

“TEACHER CHRIS YOU’RE BACK!” they all scream as they run over to say hello, even the tiny kids who I’d never met came shyly over to smile and then hide behind their hands. Do I go forward to teach the young ones? Left to teach the mid or backward to teach my precious group?!

“Welcome back Chris we have really been looking forward to your return, we feel so lucky you have come back says Seng Pan as she beams carrying her future child. You know what, it felt like I’d stepped into Brenda’s house, the sound of the kids, their tugging at my clothes, their want for me to help with homework. I felt at home again.

It’s been an overwhelming day because I haven’t forgotten the position these children are in. My blog may read flippant at times but this is serious, these children have minimal chance in the world unless they learn an international language. Myanmar isn’t getting stronger, at least it’s education system isn’t, the kids that have ran around me today are dirty, they are thin and they are living by a standard we wouldn’t hand to an animal back in the West. Be assured, your cats and dogs live a cleaner more comfortable life than my students right now.

I’m trying to work out the new dynamic here, understanding how exactly to give three completely different age groups a fighting change at English is going to be tough for me. I have a lot of hope riding on David and Noam tomorrow, I teach from my heart and with a lot of energy but realistically I could do with some pointers. This village has been blessed with David before so he knows how this works, he’s also in his sixties so totally tops me in experience.

I found a quote earlier today that says,

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”.

I hope that with all my enthusiasm and passion I can bring not only knowledge to the table, but inspiration and empowerment.

I want these kids to flourish.

I’m back 🙂

Bali. Day 210-203. Those Who Don’t Believe In Magic Never Find It. Part Three.

“SHUT UP!” … omg did I just shout that at a holy man? Retract retract retract!!

“Sorry. Sorry Sukaya” I blurt quickly as I’m rubbing my eyes and trying to get my jaw to snap shut. “Yeah I know a little… as of three hours ago”

Did he just say Kundalini? I’m sorry is my life a friggin comedy or what? Someone needs to pay me for this crap!

Keeping his eyes on the road he doesn’t engage anymore than “My priest did Kundalini, you don’t need to know anymore”.

Sitting here right now I want to know more but back on that leather car seat in Bali I wanted the universe to do what it promised. Swallow me whole.

Before I launch into the other half of this blog I want to apply some Chris realness because it’s not my intention to turn the seriousness of my life into a paranormal game.

I write this to my friends in the West, to the ones who haven’t felt much more than the excitement of a twenty pound note resting in their hand or the twitch of life when they get a pay rise. I don’t know if you know this (I honestly didn’t) but many people in the East live their lives similarly to what I’ve experienced here. This is real life. These guys have connections and understandings beyond what we want to accept as even potentially true back home. We laugh when someone begins hugging a tree to rebalance their energy, what’s the word… hippy? We laugh at them doing something that makes absolute perfect sense and then when we are done laughing what do we do? We go over to the tree, cut it down and make a twenty pound note. You can laugh at that and say “yeah but I’d rather die rich” but you know as well as I do you’re being short sighted.

I believe, I do, that there is more to this world than we understand. In many ways we are a little underdeveloped in the West. If I put myself in the shoes of you guys I would find this nonsense. It’s like someone telling you to drink your tea through a Twix bar, until you’ve tried it yourself you’re going to think it’s a joke… try it!!

What I hope you haven’t forgotten is my normality, my ‘down to earth’ way is the skill which has kept me alive since I’ve been a kid, it kept me strong and full of hope when there was little else. This experience, the spirit, the priests, my energies, Kundalini awakenings and whatever else, they’re real and they’re scary.

When I started this blog I wanted to record every step of my journey. I didn’t come here for pictures, or parties or applause I came here to grow, to develop from who I was to who I’ve always known I could be. Bali has done that in ways I’d never have imagined.

And here is where it continues.

Riding around in Sukaya’s car we pull into a dusty street which looked like it had been abandoned some decades ago and park outside a grand metal rusty blue gate.

“OK get out” says Sukaya as he tries to remove me from the car with a waft of his hand.

“Are we here?” I ask as I again consider the possibility of ritual sacrifice. It wasn’t the most wholesome looking of places. Where was the gold paint? What happened to the usual smattering of Hindu gods that littered everything like the contents of a piñata.

“Oh well we are here now…” I sigh as I look beyond the gate and into dereliction.

“Why are you standing there? It’s here we are going this way” and he points to a clearing between two bushes a good two properties away from the offender.

Oh look it’s a hotel.

Excited I wasn’t about to spend my late afternoon with cockroaches and prayer I pull my hands out of my pockets and await instruction.

“Chris go and sit over there.” Sukaya says wafting me under the garden parasol to a long bench by the hanging botanicals “wait here until I call you over”.

Sat like a dog waiting for its owner I look around at the courtyard and spot two tourists come out of a room just ahead of me. The first was a big tall broad man with long blonde hair and the second, a short thin girl with brown hair. Partners? Friends? Strangers? I had no idea.

Resting my hands in my lap I’m a little insecure as I watch Sukaya go over to them both so I begin picking at the vegetation that’s attached itself to my shorts.

Pick pick pick (throw curious side eye over to them) pick pick pick, continue the process. I thought I was handling the situation well until I realise Sukaya is pointing at me…

Head down! Head down! Oh crap.

Feeling a little exposed sat on my own in the middle of a courtyard I wave over to ease my tension. I then overhear/tune into Sukaya saying “that is Chris, he is my student, he will be helping today”.

No.

No. No.

No. No. No. No. No.

Watching! I came to watch right?

That’s what I thought. What he meant by “helping” I didn’t know but I can tell you the fear of god began to run through my body. Suddenly I was thrown back to sitting outside the exam hall of school for my maths G.C.S.E. Failure was looming and all I could do was try to soften its blow.

So waving again through a queasy smile I mumble out loud “what have you gotten yourself into now you moron”.

Sukaya then takes them around the back of the hotel and out of sight, I’m scratching my head, my leg, my arms and anything else to distract myself. I’m knuckling the wood of the bench, the leaves are scraping along the floor as I kick them back and forth.

Realising I’m turning into an anxious mess I do what I’ve always done. I sit up, accept the situation for exactly how it is and get ready to adapt / lie. Right now I’m a student healer from England, I have been trained in the basics of healing and I’m here to represent Sukaya and his brother.

“Please god if you are real spare a minute for me and don’t let me embarrass myself”

Appearing around the corner Sukaya quietly calls me over and I follow him along a small alleyway to a little space at the back. Walking ten steps behind him a young girl grabs my arm and begins to tell me how beautiful I am and how much she loves my skin. I’m entirely sure she wasn’t part of the healing ‘team’ but some local girl who wanted to be involved.

“Ok wait here Chris”.

Pointing down to another concrete step I realise he had sat me next to one of the tourists who had come for a healing.

Shit. Shit. Shit!!!!

Ok Chris it’s time to start acting… well I’m about to go down as best supporting actor let me tell you.

“Hey how are you? Are you feeling ok?” I ask in a whisper as I understand this is quiet time. In my head I’m shouting at myself “of course she’s not feeling ‘O’ bloody ‘K’ Chris she’s sat outside a strange healers house in the middle of nowhere!!”

Just keep smiling Chris keep smiling.

Looking back at me with these bright twinkling eyes I understood the hope which lay in her heart. I can’t tell you what the problem was but it was clear it was emotional. I could see it beyond her smile.

Enthusiastically she tells me she feels great and that she’s excited to see what “we” can do for her and her friend. Obviously not wanting to tell me too much about her life she flips the question and asks about my time with Sukaya, luckily (as you guys know) I’m well rehearsed in this story so we pass a good five minutes in spiritual chit chat.

“You seem such a beautiful person Chris. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for helping us”. she says as we come to the end of our brief meeting.

I felt like a total fraud, as soon as she said thank you to me I just wanted to blurt out “I don’t know anything about healing I can’t help you!”. Out of respect for Sukaya I maintain my forced professionalism and say “You’re welcome”.

Peering from behind the curtain ahead Sukaya asks us to come through, so I take off my flip flops and carefully enter the room. In front of me already laid down was the huge blonde man on a table with Sukaya’s brother at the head. Unsure of where to be I stand at the entrance and await instruction. The room was silent, peaceful and full of fresh expectation.

Taking my elbow Sukaya walks me over to the side of the table next to his brother and positions me like a doll. Nodding at me he finds a silent hello and I follow suit.

Smile Chris smile!

“Chris my brother will help you through the steps” Sukaya whispers over the breathing of this half sleeping man “I will be healing the girl on the floor, please focus, OK see you later”.

Abort mission!

At this point I’m feeling a little beyond stressed. I haven’t been this on edge since I thought my dad had worked out I was gay. The way I work is simple, you have a clear and concise brief, it contains problems, objectives and ways of working.

My brief was this… “follow what my brother does”. I didn’t know any of their names, I didn’t know why they were here, I didn’t even know why I was here!

“Hello sir” his brother whispers to me so quietly I could barely hear him over the sound of the crickets in the field beyond, “I need you to synchronise OK”.

What did he say? He wants me to what?

Lifting my shoulders and then my hands into the universal pose of ‘I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about’ I’m making muted mouth movements at him in a plea for help.

Did Sukaya warn him that I know nothing? I think not.

Walking around the table he comes and stands next to me with his hand on my shoulder “I want you to synchronise with me” he whispers directly.

“But I don’t know what that is”

Was I supposed to connect to his soul? Or read his mind? Was I supposed to shadow his movements?

Someone saves me before this guy wakes up.

Looking at me like I’m a little void of intelligence he says “just feel whatever is in the room, connect to the space you understand?” Nodding my head as I smile the answer is definitely no.

“And put your hands here and here. Great”.

So now I’m stood over this guy with both arms out in front of me, one hand hovering over his heart and the other over his stomach. Looking around I’m asking the sky how I got myself into this mess, looking at his brother I’m praying he doesn’t tell me off and send me out of class.

Deep breath. Here goes.

“Synchronise Chris”.

Closing my eyes I do only what I know, I try and meditate by focusing on my hands and imagining them in some way connecting to this guy. My mind is remembering the time I passed energy to Sukaya and how I could see his hands in my mind eye before it happened. So I wait and I wait, trying to settle myself I tell my imagination to… well do something of use. But it can’t.

After around ten minutes of trying to connect I’ve kinda given up and so open my eyes to see what’s happening. At the head of the table continued to stand the healer who now seemed to be conducting the air in the most sophisticated of fashions. Swishing his hands up and then pulling them down, sliding them from side to side, pinching, grabbing and moving the space above the mans head I’m fascinated. It was like he was playing with an invisible string, tying it up and knitting it together.

Looking over the table I see Sukaya sat on the ground with his hand firmly pressed on the girls spine. For a second I drift away from where I was and remember the first time he did that to me… (shivers).

As I watch them I realise why I can’t “synchronise” to the situation. Every time I’ve dealt with energy I’ve made Sukaya sick because of my negativity, I was really worried about passing that on. This guy had came here to be healed, not to be hurt.

Closing my eyes I try again. I focus on my hands and try to imagine a force connecting the pair of us, I try and imagine his chakras, I try and feel what he feels…

Although nothing spectacular had happened my body began to react to my efforts. As if someone had replaced my hands with someone else’s they quickly began to turn cold. A few moments later it was like holding a pin cushion as thousands of tiny needles poked me from the inside out.

“Is this the healing process or is this bad circulation?” I think to myself as I pay close attention to what’s going on. The sensation didn’t rise up my arm, it didn’t do anything but intensely influence the nerves in my hands then suddenly I felt a surprise hand on my shoulder. Jumping out of my skin the sensation drops away as I sharply look at Sukaya’s brother. Oh god what I have done wrong? I’ve killed him haven’t I? Shit.

“Calm down” he says quietly into my ear “just relax, let the process happen stop forcing it”.

But how did he know? Feeling a little scalded I turn back to the guy and focus again.

The room felt odd, I shouldn’t say room because it was actually outside in a small area secluded by walls and plants. Nevertheless something was out of balance and fluctuating rapidly, the air that moved around us didn’t know how to feel. You know when you walk into a room and there’s a bad atmosphere, the kind of feeling that stops you in your tracks and questions whether you should just turn back around? Well it was that and then it was peace and then it was that again.

Damn! Why does this fly keeps landing on me!

Ten minutes later the healer finishes conducting the energy and walks over to me. “Ok Chris I want you to ask him to turn over please”, so leaning down to greet his ear I whisper just that and as if by magic he did (see I knew I had super powers).

Taking my hands again the healer places one in the centre of his back and the other at the base of his spine (Kundalini danger area). They didn’t touch him rather hover above maybe two inches from his body (and for those wondering yes he was fully dressed).

Returning to his position at the head of the table the orchestration began again. “Let’s see what you can do this time Chris” I mumble to my mind. Truth is I was really nervous I can’t paint it in any other way, I felt like I was performing surgery without any license. I didn’t want to mess this guy up, yeah it may sound stupid but I believe I could have hurt him. One wrong cut and perhaps he has a reason to live his life in upset.

As the air slowly passes between us and the sound of insects call out to one another from miles away I’m suddenly in awe of what’s happening. To my knowledge I was totally useless here, but I felt fulfilled to be invited and elated to at least try and be a positive part of this guys life. Since I was a boy I’ve enjoyed helping people, I’ve honestly never been particularly selfish at all. One year I gave up my entire summer holiday from school to paint murals for all the neighbours, I wasn’t paid, I just loved seeing their faces when it was done. I’d given them a gift. Back then it was painting on walls, now it’s visiting villages in third world countries and teaching English.

Giving love is the only thing that has ever overpowered the indulgence of my own pain.

Closing my eyes I begin again.

It didn’t take long, maybe thirty seconds for my hands to start buzzing again only this time instead of being distracted I focussed on it. Bit by bit as I found my patience the minutes that passed revealed a phenomena I much thought was fake, but I think the delusion has maybe lifted.

This is what Sukaya wanted to prove.

Allowing my body to truly relax I’m standing over him and focusing on the sensations. First the hands went cold, then they buzzed and then it faded away into nothing as something more important crept forward.

I could feel his energy.

As my hands hovered about him these continuous soft jets of air moving in opposite directions passed along my palms. Like a motorway they moved either side of his spine in what I presume to be a cycle.

Taking a little breath of disbelief I’m fascinated by what is happening. We weren’t connected at this point, or at least I don’t believe we were, but it was like I’d tuned into who he was. I don’t know what this energy does, or what it was doing to him but it’s there. It’s there and it’s in all of us.

Opening my eyes to check I haven’t started dreaming I look to the healer who is now moving up and down this guys body pulling air up and pushing it along his legs and out to his feet. My presumption is that this practice was similar to the mediation I do where I cleanse myself “allow the light to pass through your body and out of your feet” I can hear Sukaya say in my head. Everything started to make sense, this wasn’t silly little ideas somehow pieced together, there was a way, a specific practice and system used to help heal.

Pharmacy what?

Making eye contact with me the healer winks expecting some kind of response but all I can give back is zombie pose at Christmas. A part of me wanted to put my thumb up in excitement but I wasn’t risking the loss of this feeling. No way!

Closing my eyes i secretly hope the sensations will increase and with an extra bit of ‘oomph’ I try and spur that on.

Well it worked.

As my excitement for the moment churned up my own positive energy I’m undoubtedly connecting myself directly to him. All of a sudden I can feel this cool sensation rise up through my palms and sneak up my arms until eventually turning into nothing. It was a similar sensation I had with “Him / Hong Kong guy” only much less intense. The coolness of his energy rose up and into me as if I was extracting something from him. Slowly, tenderly the jets of air had found a new road. My body.

Drama didn’t come (thankfully) the intensity of the sensation got to the point of making my hands shake but that was all. My physical body didn’t react much beyond that, at least not in comparison to my emotion.

I have seen some heartbreaking things out here in Asia. From animal cruelty to the disposal of living children, my mind unwillingly focussed on a hurt not dissimilar to that. Piece by piece my heart began to feel heavy and dark as if I was sucking the emotion out of a story I had ever read. Heavier and heavier I grew.

What’s wrong with me…

Before I knew it I could feel tears rolling down my cheek, they were cold like the energy in my arms and slow like the movement of the air. Wiping them away with a dramatic lift of my shoulder I understand I can’t break the connection but the wetness of my nose needed drying.

Sniffing very very quietly I don’t want to disturb the process however it makes little difference. Suddenly I’m overpowered by the heart breaking sound of this mans soul crack as he connects to himself. If you could have seen him, this 6ft 5inch monster of a man was reduced to the strength of a small child. He could crush a man between his two little fingers and yet here he was, as broken as I’ve ever been.

Opening my eyes I cannot understand what’s happening, the energy continued to pass up through me, the tears continued to fall as his entire body shook on the table so hard his back met my hovering hands. Watching him suffer was awful, I was no longer paying attention to any energies, it was about him. What could have happened in his life to make him cry like this. There was nothing I could do, just keep my hands in place and watch the healer continue to do his thing.

We should never get to a place where our pain chokes us. How does this continue to happen?

I must have stood there for another five minutes with my arms out, the breeze had began to cool as evening was drawing closer, the insects which once sung had fallen into tiredness. Much like me.

“Chris I want you to tell him we are finished and to sit up” says the healer as I’m feeling awkward about crying. Leaning down I inform him we have finished and quickly wipe my entire face before he opens his eyes and looks back at the world.

Standing in front of him with our arms at our fronts we wait to hear what this guy is feeling. Or more accurately I am.

“I just realised I’d convinced myself my life was worth nothing and that killing myself isn’t going to help. I’ve been fighting with who I am for a long time and I’m exhausted.”

Looking into his eyes I could see the little boy inside of him hurting so I quickly give him my story for him to understand.

“I could feel your hand pushing down on my back. Thanks for that man it really made me feel like you were there for me” he says as he wipes away the final tears hanging onto his jaw.

“Ha” I reply “You know what, my hands weren’t touching your back… they were floating above you the whole time”

“That’s a bit fucking weird isn’t it man? Look anyways just thank you, you really helped”.

As he stood up and began to walk back to the courtyard I find myself cemented to the spot entirely confused and completely answered. Did I just do that? Yes. No but did I cry because I could feel his pain? Yes. Am I dreaming? No. So this is real? Yes.

Meeting them both on the bench the girl takes my hands firmly and says thank you for being a part of their experience. In her words “I can see the world in your eyes, wow you have the most amazing eyes, it’s like you look beyond my words and into my soul”. Taking the compliment and changing the subject I ask how her time with Suakya went.

“I feel better. I have visited a few healers here and there and they always rebalance, I don’t know, me I guess. Your healer has made me realise a few things today”.

My healer? Oh no no.

Then she goes onto ask me “What happens with negative energy when we release it into the earth. I don’t want to pollute the earths energy with my feelings so I never let them go”

Ok Chris go back into actor mode.

“I think what you’re trying to tell me is you feel like you’re a burden on other people’s lives and that probably you don’t like to express your feelings because you’ve had them rejected before”

Alright Chris calm yourself down man.

But I was right. I knew I was right.

“Yeah. Wow. Yes you’re right. How did you do that? How did you know what I meant, not even I know what I mean?” she gasps as she holds my hand.

“Look. Don’t worry about the Earth, it can handle your energy, just like you it can renew itself” (gibberish inserted) “And you know I’ve been through a lot of things, like you said I can see into your soul. Maybe that’s my gift?”

Standing she picks up her bag and walks away, closely followed by a very happy but sad man.

I didn’t know what to do in the moments following, I think I just stared into space and randomly giggled to myself in hysterical confusion. Even as Sukaya and his brother came over to say well done I must have laughed myself into silence.

“Congratulations Chris, now do you believe me? Well done, you synchronised as I asked you too”.

Taking a breath and staring at his car I say “I believe you Sukaya, finally I get it. You’ve really changed me you know. I never expected to be able to connect to life as you have taught me. I’ll always be grateful. Now… take me for chicken!”.

…..

And that’s the end of Bali.

My final day was spent healing another human being. After five weeks of fear, terror, emotional upheaval, confusions, uncertainties, facing the paranormal, hiding from it, looking at things upside down and back to front I’m at the other end of pain and helping others.

What more could I ask?

I thought I’d leave Bali with a ton of loose ends and a load more questions, but on my final day it felt like someone was watching over me and handing answers to everything I needed.

It was such an intense twelve hours, between the Kundalini Awakening and then Sukaya cementing this exact theory with a healing session my whole understanding of life is blown to pieces.

And you know what… I kinda like it.

I guess I’ll continue with Myanmar. I can’t wait to see my students again. I really can’t.

Teacher Chris is back guys! He’s here!

Me and Sukaya 2018

Bali. Day 201-203. Those Who Don’t Believe In Magic Never Find It. Part 2.

“CHRIS! Be here at 4pm OK?”

Thumbs up and off I went.

Skipping down the streets of Ubud like a child with a lollipop I’m hopping over gaps in the paving slabs wondering what I’ll see later. My knowledge on healing is basic, since this began I haven’t had the urge to research or ask many questions at all, the guru’s I did ask became much more focussed on that spirit who I thought was keeping me awake.

For the last few weeks I’ve been endlessly telling my story about the ritual and my alleged gifts, I mean why wouldn’t I it’s incredible. What’s interesting is people’s reactions when I do. The third eye thing confuses people but quite frankly it does me too. But the healing thing, well the healing thing makes people sit up. I’m not going to quote people because it’s a bit self indulgent but the response is an overwhelming “yes you certainly can”. Healing is the only thing I want to be good at, especially emotionally. The gauntlet of life is hard, really hard, I’d love to give people the stamina to continue on through.

Maybe one day.

Given it was now 1pm I figured I’d take some lunch at Atman and maybe write a bit of my blog before heading back to meet with Sukaya.

“Pad Thai Please”…

Sitting on a few cushions the floor felt like a good place to ground myself as I listened to the rice fields just beyond the paneless window ahead. The decoration was now familiar to me as if Ubud had become my home, paintings of Hindu gods and Mandalas graced the walls, brightly coloured gem stones adorned the shelves, T-shirt’s with generic inspirational Google messages printed on them and stainless steel economic straws filled any empty spaces. It was nice here. I felt safe.

After a few minutes I began to lose myself in the soft sound of a mantra which was being played at the front of the restaurant. I’ve become quite the fan of a good mantra chant, especially the ones that linger in your chest as you sing.

Question: When’s the last time you paid attention to the vibrations of your own voice? Probably never, yes I’m presumptuous.

“Time is up Chris. You’ll be in Myanmar in a few days. What a journey this turned into hey?.” I sing to myself as the tasteful chanting continues.

For those who know me you already understand I like answers and I don’t like waiting for them (I’m not the most patient person). Many of my close friends are a little confused why I haven’t pushed this further because it’s not like me to wait around. My answer is simple, I’m too scared to dig, I’m unsure of what might happen if I look for more.

“Chris type into YouTube ‘spiritual healer’ and see what happens”…. there I go again chatting to myself. So I did just that.

Initially I’m watching a Chakra video seemingly narrated by an American lady robot, she was interesting if not lacking in humour. Then I viewed an explanation of what the third eye is (which was very insightful, I should have watched it five weeks ago) and then… well then I start fighting with myself.

At the bottom of my screen pops up a little recommended video, sitting inside this tiny box I can see the face of a guy in front of a huge mandala pattern with his hands in prayer.

“Oh I’m not clicking that it looks terrible” I think to myself as I eat my first chopstick grab of noodles “I struggle to imagine he knows anything about spiritualism that’s probably why his propping is so theatrical”.

Looking at my plate I close my phone and eat… and then I reopen my phone. “Hmm I wonder if I should watch it. Symptoms and Signs of a Kundalini Awakening, maybe it’s worth a watch?”

“No Chris it’s ridiculous don’t bother!”

“Shut up brain! OK I’m curious let’s watch”.

Clicking on the video I’m already exhausted as my screen fills with a crowd pleasing montage of various spiritual words and images ready to introduce this guys wisdom.

Oh god there’s backing music. Heaven help me.

Putting my chopsticks down and sitting with my back against the wooden wall I’m preparing myself to be educated and humoured all at the same time by this American guy with long brown locks. Watching intently to his genius I accept I’m a little interested and perhaps I should stop being so cynical, so pulling up another cushion I stretch out my legs.

At the beginning of his video he talks about Kundalini energy and how it is present in all of us. Apparently it’s an energy based in the bottom of our spine and can lay dormant there for our entire life. In his words “It’s the most powerful energy in the universe,” Listening to him talk I’m thinking about Sukaya and how he always checks my energy levels from the base of my spine and during mediations keeps me grounded by pushing his palm against my back.

Huh. Interesting.

Slightly hypnotised by the blue Mandala which draped the wall behind my new spiritual educator my mind wanders off to something Satyatma said a few weeks ago. You’ll remember this from the title of a previous blog “You’re Being Awakened Wake Up!”

Awakened… Kundalini Awakening… was there a link? Maybe.

As he continued speaking my hands start shaking just a tiny bit in light of what was being said, if this video was leading where I thought then it was in my interest to focus on Pad Thai.

But I didn’t.

Watching that video was like watching a slowed down recording of a car crash intertwined with a child reunited with her long lost father. Half of me yearned for more and the other half squinted and squirmed at his words. It seems dramatic I know, but I could feel he was building up to something bigger.

Eyes focussed like a cat stalking a moth I turn up my apple earphones and slowly fall into disbelief as he begins to make sense of my past.

“I knew there was something special about him, I knew it”

Maybe eleven years ago I was invited to go for a night out in Cardiff with some new friends from Wales, it was nothing special just an excuse for some young twenty year olds to get drunk really. I say that with confidence don’t I, ha, I actually have no recollection of why I was there, it could have been someone’s birthday for all I remember. Forty-eight hours I was in that city and I remember one thing. Just one.

Him.

I write ‘Him’ for a reason because I didn’t know his name for a long time. If I try and put down my memory it would look like this.

Standing in a very dark club with a vodka in my hand (it’s always vodka and lemonade) I’m leaning against the edge of this clubs balcony looking over at the crowds of drunk dancers but not vodka’d enough to join in. In my memory I can’t see anyone in particular, not even friends, just a small pond of people blurred in time to some 90’s remix of heaven knows what.

Watching watching watching I’m ready to go home (my stamina ended at around 3am back then) and then just as I’m about to move my whole body comes alive. At first I didn’t know where to look, it was if my soul knew something I didn’t, but slowly as the crowd began to part I could half see this guy badly dancing away with his back toward me. I never saw his face, heard his voice or asked his name, I stayed glued to the spot and watched as the pounding music and screaming people melted away into nothing. If ever the phrase ‘tunnel vision’ were to have a visual it’s in my head right now.

Honestly it was like nothing I have ever felt in my life.

It was attraction but not as you’d expect, something under my skin was fighting to get out like a caged puppy when it sees it’s owner… but I couldn’t work out what all the fuss was about. Trillions of tiny sparkles danced inside me as I watched this faceless nameless figure move around. It wouldn’t surprise if someone said I began glowing in that moment.

I’d later learn who this was.

I left shortly after that connection, practically dragged away from the balcony by my friends I thought I’d never know anymore.

But I was wrong.

Maybe two years later, after a whole treasure trove of dramas I decide to move to Cardiff after completing my Graphic Design degree. Back then I didn’t have the confidence to do what I eventually did, moving to London was too scary and I was convinced I wasn’t good enough. Cardiff worked fine.

Walking back into the same club as an official ‘local’ my friend tells me he wants to introduce his mate, given I was new (or fresh meat as they called me) it seemed like a good idea so soberly I wait as I sip my drink.

Within a second of seeing his mates face my heart jumped into my throat.

Holy shit… it’s him.

The club could have fallen down at that point and I wouldn’t have noticed. I promise you there are senses in our body which science does not yet understand. It was him, I knew it because my body began pulling and pulling me forwards, the exact same feelings that controlled me two years before had returned in precisely the same way.

I fully believe our bodies contain so much more power than we allow. Whatever was happening in that moment outweighed all of my understandings, even ten years on I can’t really make sense of it.

It’s from there I believed in energy.

A lot happened from that moment onward and he grew to be very close to me very quickly. I wasn’t looking for a connection I didn’t even know what a real connection was, but it was given to me and I’ve always wondered why.

Well today I may have figured that out.

Sitting over my noodles my heart is beginning to beat harder than usual. As this YouTuber is outlining his experiences my mind can’t help but relive all of my own, it was like watching a life story played at lightening speed.

He says in his video (and I’m going to paraphrase here) Kundalini tends to be awakened in people who have had a lot of trauma in their life, especially from their childhood. There’s usually a specific event which triggers the beginning of the awakening, you’ll know when it starts because you’ll not only lose sense of your surroundings but you’ll feel this incredible joy that’s incomparable to anything you’ve known. At least in the moment you will. He goes onto explain his awakening and this upset me. Why? Well because I realised this is probably what happened to me.

When his awakening happened he was trying to write a book about his time in the army, sat at his desk he was analysing himself and his experiences from back in the field (I’m happy not knowing what painful things he saw). As he did this and began to relive those times a wave of incredible energy flew up his spine leaving him in a state of shock. He quickly understood he needed to go and ground himself so runs outside and lays down on the earth. Later he was to learn this had been his awakening.

As the Kundalini Awakening begins you take on a higher state of consciousness meaning you see yourself without the filter, you see yourself and the world as it is. The problem for most who endure the Kundalini Awakening is they aren’t prepared for the trauma of their past to come back to them. They aren’t prepared to be exposed to themselves because… well this isn’t exactly what they teach you in biology class is it.

So as he’s talking about the process of awakening my mind is thrown back to something that happened, I don’t know, maybe three years ago… when “he” returned.

I’ve written about this before, if you go toward my Hong Kong posts you’ll know clearly the part this guy played in my life. In a nutshell when Brenda died my whole world fell apart, she had protected me for so long I’d never thought about what life would be like if she ever left. Until she did. During this pain I was lucky enough to have this guy taking time to keep me safe and help me feel strong. He was there the day I found out about her death, he was there for the funeral… but then was gone without a word just before Christmas. Suddenly I’d lost my adopted mother and that undefinable and incredible connection. It felt like someone had snatched the world from under my feet.

The pain of loss that came after was huge. I mourned them both heavily but slowly and with great determination I began to feel better. The odd thing is this guy never left my head, it didn’t matter who I’d meet, what I’d experience, how many years would pass it was impossible to rid me of the connection. Something inside me knew there was more to come.

I was waiting for the moment.

As I’m watching this YouTube video I realise the moment had already arrived, I just wasn’t knowledgeable enough to recognise it.

Back in London I was out with my boyfriend and his friends at a bar in soho. Chatting away in our friendship circle I remember spilling my drink down myself as I was laughing at something his best friend had said. As I wipe myself and continue talking I can feel a familiar sensation begin to move around my body as if I’m caught in the beginnings of a tornado… well I guess in many ways I was about to be. First it spun around my neck, then down my arms, along my spine until it reached my feet…

“I know this feeling”.

It was like I had eyes in the back of my head, as if someone had given me the exact position of where he was standing because incredibly I turn 180 degrees and stare directly into his eyes.

It had been eight years waiting.

Leaving a few seconds of unscripted silence he begins walking toward me and my soul understands exactly what is happening, every step added another trillion invisibly vibrating cells to my body each one of them excited to be reconnected to… well whatever we would call him. In that moment we weren’t in a club, we were somewhere away from the noise and the laughter.

It was here did everything change.

And I mean everything.

As he stood next to me and smiled he reached out his hand and placed it at the bottom of my back. As it connected this dramatic force began to immediately blast up my spine in the most incredible way.

This was the night the universe passed through me.

In my minds eye I could see the energy spark, rise and explode like a firework. Its vibrancy and power could have overshadowed the aurora lights as it stunned my nervous system. (Wow for a guy who doesn’t like over dramatic pretentious English I’m sure doing a number on this one… but how else can I explain? It was like an atomic bomb filled with colour and emotion? Never mind).

But nothing lasts forever, before I knew it time was up…

“Chris it’s weird I should see you tonight, I move to Asia tomorrow” he says as he squints. I could his eyes questioning the curiosity of this moment but I could barely speak to keep the conversation going.

In truth I wanted to ask him not to go, I was bound to this unbelievable connection and I didn’t want it to end. The longer his hand stayed in place the higher I floated into the air.

As quickly as that I found my words and wished him well on his move. Dropping his hand my body wanted to drop to the floor but I stand strong and immediately walk out of the bar. Like an old drunk I found my way home, disoriented and at a loss of what to do with myself.

I am sure this was my awakening.

What happened following this is totally accurate to the signs and symptoms of this process. The video explains you’ll immediately be swamped with your past and I was. Every trauma from my life began creeping into my mind and poisoning all my positive feelings the second I stepped out of the bar that night. The two hour walk home had me stopping on curbs and crying onto my knees, I couldn’t understand what was happening.

Within a week I was in trouble, unbeknown to my boyfriend my very happy and stable life had flipped, I was suddenly on the verge of hurting myself, everything that was certain turned insecure, everything that was insecure turned into my friend. I was in need of real help and what’s sad is I didn’t have the courage to ask anyone for it.

For a time I thought I’d lost my sanity, the more I tried to understand the further I slid down that cliff face. Not only did every painful thing my mother did come rushing back but the insecurities of my awful childhood skin returned too.

Before I came to Asia I put myself into therapy, it was me pleading for someone to save my life, I needed someone to help me survive this. Therapy did a lot, it didn’t stop me feeling crazy but it did quieten me down somewhat. Around eighteen months after starting therapy I left for a Asia.

I guess I was looking for answers.

Back in the restaurant I’m overwhelmed, anxious and dumbfound.

“It all makes sense. Me. My past. That moment. Asia. Bali. The Priest. Sukaya. Satyatma. Punnu. The meditations. The ritual. The gifts… Him.”

YouTube guy goes on to talk about tiny lights that start in your vision when you’re awakened. In his words it’s “like when you stand up too quickly and you get those flickering lights in front of your eyes” but after Kundalini they become permanent.

You see for as long as I can remember I’ve suffered with something called ‘Visual Snow’. For those who don’t know it’s a condition where you see billions of tiny white lights across your vision like static on a television.

Sounds annoying right? Correct. 24/7 annoying.

Shortly after my Kundalini experience I went to the hospital panicked because I genuinely thought I was going blind. After tests and an MRI scan the neurologists had to be honest “Christopher we don’t know what this is. We do see a few people a year with this condition but we cannot treat it. At the moment our guess is it’s something cellular happening but right now we can’t help you”.

So much for London’s leading eye hospital.

“But what I really want to know is has anyone gone blind from this. Does it ever get to a point where the sufferer becomes visually impaired?” I ask plainly as I look for something to ease my anxiety.

“There’s no record of someone going blind from this no”

YouTube’s spiritual guy explains that these lights are a physical example of what happens during awakening “you realise the world is just a screen and you can see the energy that is all around us”.

….

I’ve sat and thought about this a lot, this condition can’t be explained in the West because the rules of Science fall flat. Tell me, why when I’m in a pitch black room with no light I can see a billion white lights. You see, there’s no scientific answer. It is not ‘normal’ to see light when there is non!!!

Hey maybe I had a little awakening when I was young?

I’m trying not to be hard on myself writing about this Kundalini Awakening. Before I began forming these sentences I feared judgement but now I’m writing it down I believe in it more and more. I’m unsure how this writing is coming across, maybe a little crazy? There is no intention from me to live my life as to the rules and pathways of this ancient belief, but I’m open to accepting it’s real.

Wiping the snot and tears from my face I make a deal with myself. “Chris you are not leaving Sukaya’s side until he gives you an answer. What did they do during that ritual. You need to know”.

And an answer I got.

Sukaya has always been a little defensive when I ask him about the ritual, either he just says it’s the priests power or he shuffles away and leaves me in silence. My time in Bali was falling away by the second and I wasn’t leaving without something concrete.

The clock soon turned four and that meant it was Sukaya’s time to make me a believer.

Jumping in his car I make the usual awkward small chat but Sukaya has plans of his own. Pulling out a phone that looks like it’s supported scaffolding he types into YouTube… actually I have no clue what he wrote, all I can tell you is he hooked that bad boy up to the cars speaker and began playing a video of Hindu/Buddhist people meditating in time to a strong and direct Balinese narration.

Oh this is… nice?

Twitching at the decibels and not understanding a single word I’m trying to smile and look interested without looking miserable and bored. Did this guy forget I’m English? Someone should tell him the English don’t learn other languages we are too entitled.

As the gods pay me a kindness and disconnect his signal the grainy black and white videos of floating Gurus clicks away and gives me some space.

“Ok ask Chris. Ask him what he and the priest did to you that night…” Jeez it sounds like I should have called the police.

“Sukaya I need an answer from you. What exactly is the name of that first ritual your priest did? Was it an exorcism?”

Laughing at his own reflection as he accidentally takes a selfie he clearly sees me as a dramatic comedian. “An exorcism? Is that what you think? Haha”.

I’m sorry was that an answer? I think not.

“Then what was it. Sukaya just tell me. If you want me to believe in this I need more information, we can’t go into business if you hold back knowledge” I reply sweetly as my charming inner child comes out to woo him.

Ok I think we’ve got him with the business guilt chat.

“Chris it’s called Kundalini. Do you know Kundalini?”

…..

“WHAT?!”… omg did I just shout that at a holy man? Retract retract retract!!

“Sorry. Sorry Sukaya” I blurt quickly, “Yeah I know a little…”

Did he just say Kundalini?

Universe you’ve got to give me a break.

To be continued…

Bali. Day 201-203. Those Who Don’t Believe In Magic Never Find It. Part 1.

… and then just like that everything made sense, the tears that fell into my noodle bowl were only a shining trophy of my exhaustion, finally I had context to what’s been happening… but it wasn’t really the reality I’d been hoping for.

Let me walk you through days 201-203 and get comfy, this is another nonsensical account from a day in the life of… me.

Five weeks ago I returned to Ubud Bali with an intention, I wanted to talk to someone who could potentially, possibly, probably-not connect me to a spirit who has followed me around for a very long time.

I came here thinking it was going to be a one time barrel of ridiculous laughs only tourists could enjoy. I imagined me sat hand in hand with some medium from the deepest depths of insanity spouting wrong information they’ve craftily read on my Facebook. I pictured someone hiding in the bushes throwing china cups through the windows and a set of old chairs mounted on an oversized camouflaged turntable.

Genuinely I believed I’d be out of this slow motion vegan town faster than a Hells Angel looking for a burger.

But it didn’t happen like that did it…

“Chris we can see you have two gifts. The first is your third eye is open and the second is you have the ability to heal people emotionally and physically. We’d like to invite you to stay at our temple and train with us for free. Usually we would charge 800,000 rupiah for this but you are special, we cannot. All we ask is you use your gifts for good back in England” so says a priest and a medium/healer at the back of an old Hindu Temple.

I didn’t know my ability to see this little girl meant anything, I thought I was just one of a handful of people who could see spirit, it’s not uncommon let’s face it.

My insanity grew as we began training, the incredible realisation I could share my energy with another certainly shocked my trainer Sukaya as it did the life out of me. I’d always believed in energy, you’ve got to be an idiot to not, but it never occurred to me it could be shared and certainly not with these hands.

Suddenly I felt like a superhero again and again and again.

But for all of the wondrous cartoon-like happenings there’s been an overflow of apprehension which has been spilling out into my blog since my return. This path has been akin to trusting my enemy to lead me to safety.

My paranormal journey may have been uncalled for but it has given unprecedented power to my healing. You can raise your nose to my training with Sukaya but I’ll be forever in his debt, his words and encouragements have blown my perspectives wide open, it’s he who introduced me to meditation, a practice I know bloody buggery nothing about. The second I sat, placed my hands open on my knees and closed my eyes my mind boomed into action as if it had been practicing my entire life. Those meditations which have passed so far have been outstanding. I can sit with a priest and mediate as hard as him.

Bring it on!

No wait go slowly yeah…

What I write here is the happenings of a twelve hour period and it’s actually the last time I saw Sukaya. I’ve been searching for answers since I met him and I think I’ve finally got them.

The world works in mysterious ways.

Here goes.

Sitting at the breakfast table I’m hanging onto reality by a thread, another sleepless night had tormented me, another 8 hours wasted tossing and turning. It’s not that I can’t drift off it’s just there’s a crash landing the second I’m away. Last nights upset was the repeat of a baby cow dying slowly on a concrete path, it’s legs were moving as if it were a sleeping Golden Retriever but it’s kept calling out for its mum as it got weaker and weaker. I’d fall asleep and it would appear again. Then I’d sit glaring at my phone for ten minutes and the same process continued, the baby cow continued to die. It’s awful.

Sipping some painfully granular coffee which practically pebble dashed my larynx Ashley says brightly “Hey Chris what time do you want to go to the disabled School? I’m thinking about 10am?”

Looking up from behind my cup and wincing at her enthusiasm I’ve already decided I can’t go.

“I’m sorry Ashley I’m going to try and meet Sukaya I need answers about what is going on. This isn’t right. Maybe I can join you when I’m finished?”.

It was a shame, I’d really looked forward to heading over there and playing with the kids. The sad reality is that sometimes Hindu as with Buddhist do not give disabled children the care they need. Often ignored by religiously driven governments these kids are left to scrape through their education and indeed their life’s chances.

Maybe your child was reincarnated that way for a reason?

I can’t abide by that kind of thinking.

I hadn’t seen Sukaya in some time, since the Black Magic scare I’d drifted away from his help and focussed more on caring for my inner child but I was due to leave Ubud very soon and wanted to say thank you. A WhatsApp message seemed like a good way to do this, I’d hoped he would invite me to see him before I left. Thankfully he did.

And so off I went.

Jumping on the back of Nicks scooter we head down Monkey Forest Road, dodge the rebel animals who are throwing nuts at innocent passers by and meet Sukaya sat on the side of the road.

What on Earth was he doing sat on the side of the road? Oh wait. Look. He has an A4 laminated sign saying TAXI. What?

No no this can’t be true. What? How did I not know my very powerful and knowledgable spiritual teacher was a street heckler of the four wheel variety.

Raising one eyebrow and giving him a smirk I put my bag down and sit beside him on a thick concrete step of an abandoned shop. He was in nothing more than a pair of Christmas equered grey three quarter trousers and a dark blue T-shirt. Nothing special, but then again he never did float into our sessions draped in gold.

“You’re a taxi driver too?” I giggle as I’m still confused, if I’d known him better I’d have gone straight for the mock but Sukaya deserves respect.

“Yes. How else do you think I make money. You think I sit around healing all day long?” he replies with his soft yet gravelly voice.

“Ha ok. I just never imagined you sat on a step in the street with your mates touting for tourists. but I like it carry on”. I reply as I give him my inappropriate blessing,

Leant forward I look out into the street and wonder what life must be like sat here all day. Boring no? I mean sure there would be a good looking tourist walk by every now and then, some light monkey sex on show for the masses but otherwise it’s a busy road filled with yelling cab drivers.

Hardly the peace and quiet I’d hoped for when sitting with my spiritual master.

“So how are you?” says Sukaya in-between flirting with the tourists and organising food from a decrepit old guy with a box full of rice, “you want some?”

My sarcastic mind and muted mouth reply “I think I’ll pass thanks, I’ll just sit here and eat the car fumes. Mmmm delicious”.

“Actually Sukaya I’m not so good, I haven’t mentioned this to you before but I can’t sleep properly”

Stuffing small mounds of rice into his mouth he stalls me for a second with “mmhmm” sounds before finally swallowing his late breakfast “you know why you can’t sleep?” he continues slapping his hand across my thigh “do you know why?”.

I couldn’t quite work out if this was rhetorical so figured I’d speak anyways. “Yes it’s like I just said via text, I think the spirit of the little girl is bothering me. I can only sleep at certain parts of the night and I have terrible dreams”.

Waiting a second for him to finish caterwauling across the street I kick the leaves under my feet and listen to his response…

“No. You’re wrong. It is not like that. You are not being bothered by the spirit, you are being bothered by yourself”

Looking up from the pile of natural crap I’d collected between my sandals I scowl and wait for him to continue.

“When I first began this cleansing process 20 years ago I could not sleep either. The only time I would rest is between 3am and 6am and…”

I quickly interrupt.

“That’s exactly the time I sleep. Between 3 and 6. It’s a nightmare, IN MORE THAN ONE WAY… it’s odd don’t you think?”

“Not odd no” he replies with an academic voice “this is not about the spirit it is about you, your mind and body are dealing with the negativity of your past. Nothing strange”.

And he throws in another mound of rice.

“Here, let me check your energy” he mumbles as he chews away and then turns toward me. I knew what was about to happen but I felt a little exposed you know, I was sat on the street!

Starting at the base of my spine his hand hovers as it moves very slowly up my body. Fairly uninspired I pay little mind and instead stare at the dog going by on the roof of a moving truck.

Hah these people are too much fun.

“WHOAH” I call as my head turns to look at him. “Whoah Sukaya what was that?”

Looking at me the same way as I looked at that dog he smiles and says “your energy, I told you I’m checking it”.

As soon as his palm reached the space in between my shoulder blades my spine hummed as if millions of iron filings were being magnetised up through my skin. It’s similar to that ‘someone just walked over my grave’ feeling we all get. You know when your body seemingly connects to something you can’t see. Whoah was an accurate word to use. Because.. Whoah!

“You are still powerful Chris don’t worry about that but you need much much more training”. Taking his hands and placing them on my arm and then my legs he sucks in my excitement through his teeth and says “but your body is so so hot…”

Why thank you…

“You are still full of negative energy, remember heat is negative, cool is positive or neutral”.

It was like having a doctors appointment by the road side.

“Touch my skin” he orders.

Compared to mine his skin was almost ice cold, I could have held onto him for a while the sun was cooking me from the inside out.

“Sukaya I’m pretty sure my skin is hot because I’m in Bali… and I’m English, not because it represents energies”

Flicking pieces of rice from off of the step he replies “You still don’t believe do you, you’re still in your western mind”

Crossing my arms and then my legs I cast a moody stare out over to the trash bins that are overflowing like fountains. “No it’s not that, well you know I.”

Taking a minute I put together what I think.

“You know Sukaya this is so hard for me to grasp I’m really struggling. I didn’t come here looking for this, but it’s happened. I believe on many levels it’s true, but there is something strong inside me fighting the idea. My western brain can’t join you in your beliefs. How am I supposed to believe I can heal someone, I made you sick remember! I made someone sick a few days ago too”.

I felt a little rude saying this to the man who believes in me, I mean he’s taken a lot of time out to bring me forwards, the last thing I wanted to do was throw everything in his face.

But wow that energy thing he just did was amazing. Quick think of an excuse Chris. Think!

“Chris there are many people in the world who could use our help. Many people come to Ubud to see people like us. In the future when you grow your power I would like us to work together but you need to keep training”.

Scratching my stubble I’m entirely confused, now he wants us to work together?

“Chris you listen. Let me prove something to you, meet me here at 4pm. My brother will be healing two tourists later today, come and see. Can you?”

My answer was a forthright yes, healing is the gift I’ve been most interested in although I’ve not been trained a single day unto how to use my own healing powers I was excited to watch him work.

Picking up my bag from the dust I agree and walk off back down Monkey Forest Road.

“CHRIS! Be here at 4pm OK?”

Thumbs up and off I went.

To be continued…

Instagram @christopherjameslynn

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