As I reflect on my first week in Cambodia and even my time since I left New Zealand, a common thread of thought has been woven through each day, where is my peaceful oasis? I have grown an even deeper appreciation for the land of New Zealand; the luscious bush country, the clean air, and the copious amounts of space. I miss my oasis. I miss my haven.
On the other hand, I accept the challenge that lies ahead and the one that I currently battle, finding peace in the chaos. I find it interesting that most of the sacred or spiritual places on Earth are surrounded by pure chaos. Take for example the travelers that often speak of the chaos what surrounds places like Nepal and India, two places that are considered to be a destination for those on a spiritual or soul searching journey. Yet these places are full of people everywhere and have a certain disorder. What is so peaceful about that? How can you listen to the soul amongst all the noise and confusion?
Each day on my Tuk-Tuk ride to and from my placement I see chaos at its finest. I am bombarded with traffic, people, noise, smells, trash, dust, smog, and the list goes on. I have even found myself having a sore throat from inhaling all these toxins. Even at 6:00 a.m. there is no reprieve from the confusion while on my runs, full of stress, I try to dodge the disorder.
There are a some lovely volunteers who are staying with our host family in addition to us. They have recently spent a month in Kathmandu, Nepal, and over the past week as we have shared experiences, they have mentioned how much cleaner and organized Phenom Penh is compared to Kathmandu. Interestingly, yet, when it is time to engage in a spiritual practice the persona changes, the people immediately find peace within the chaos of Kathmandu.
In the book The Prophet, there is a line that says “a seeker of silence am I.” Where is the silence in Phenom Penh? Where is the beauty within the chaos? I have been quite the seeker this week but to no avail I am empty handed. Or am I? If you step away from the thinking that peace and beauty should be in a specific package with a bow on top like a birthday present, you miss out on the art of knowing that peace and beauty lie within. You always take this gift with you. Whether you are in New Zealand, a Third World country, a busy grocery store, or a beautiful garden, there is a certain level of chaos we think we deal with each day. We can choose to be part of the toxic cycle or we can be part of the beauty. That is what I have learned from the Cambodians this week, to find the beauty in the chaos. Amongst a repressive government and poverty a Cambodian is always enjoying life with a smile. A true pioneer in finding beauty amongst the chaos.