After many hours of travel and who knows what day it is we arrived in Myanmar. On our first daylight in Yangon, we received instruction on Buddhist meditation. Later, making visits to the Shwe Nyaung Bin Pariyatti Monastery, the Shwe Dagone (Shwedagon) Pagoda and the Chan Myay Meditation Center, we participated in exercises to bring greater mindfulness and inner peace. The focus increased my own self-awareness and the call to silence was a refreshing reminder to be still before God. There seem to be whispers of the Spirit calling us “Godward” (an expression from our reading). How might the Spirit of Christ ease our troubled minds? How can God fill our impoverished hearts or provide meaning to nourish our souls? From a foreign land the Spirit beckons. I am hopeful for great learning.
Other questions arise as we visit the sites. What can Buddhists teach us? Within whom do we see the Spirit? To what extent do others see Christ in us? What will we learn about peace in a country struggling with religious and political conflict?
Yangon is a city of six million – one tenth the population of Myanmar. Western style ads of light-skinned young and beautiful Burmese cover homes, businesses and buses. There appears to be a great disparity between the images and the culture. Yangon seems to be a city caught in time and yet a city potentially ripe in futures. (at the airport, I overheard a traveler discussing her plans to get in on the action). Angry Birds have made their appearance in Yangon; I saw a furry Angry Birds gearshift cover in a passing car. Angry Birds products were available for purchase at the Shwedagon Pagoda (but I did yet not find a postcard). This 368 foot tall ancient gold covered pagoda seems an odd place for mindless games and assorted merchandise. Flashing LEDs radiated from the heads of several Buddha statues. This did not help my meditation, but I am sure there is an essence of truth that will provide meaning. There were numerous devout Buddhists observing their rituals with integrity. Initially I was surprised to hear that only 10% of Buddhists practice meditation. I wondered what percent of Christians engage in devotional meditation. How many people fail to see the value in pausing from the busy activity of life?
On Yangon’s dusty streets moves an assortment of traffic: bicycles adapted into cargo carrying vehicles, push carts, a variety of cars, pickup trucks over loaded with riders, new tourist buses like our own and old buses defying the limits of repairs and availability of parts. PreGel Gelato from Italy has been available since 1967. (It was a delightful surprise that did not disappoint). There was so much to absorb in this busy day. I did pause for reflection back at the hotel. I found an unexpected guest in our bathroom a salamander or gecko, I’m not certain. We shared some moments of silence. He posed for my pictures and allowed me to reflect on the Spirit’s breath in all of creation. I think I’ll use his picture to make my own postcards.
I am a bridge builder who reaches across theological, geographical, and cultural divides to relate to people and pastors in many different kinds of situations, always bringing people closer to each other and closer to God. I am someone who listens deeply and responds out of a recognition of God’s giftedness in each and every person before me. I am someone who cares widely and looks for ways to be attentive to God’s ever-abundant grace in our midst.