Buddha & the Scooter II

This post is the second in a three part series. Start at the beginning here.

Continued from Buddha & the Scooter

… it was a deeply personal message, tied to a very specific memory of my mother. I took it as a sign that she would be okay. Here in the land of Buddha, I decided I might channel some inner compassion and rise above the uncomfortable emotions I was feeling that morning. They could all float away. A special experience was on the horizon.


I don’t think my mother would have enjoyed exploring those temples in Bagan. She’s not adventurous in that outdoorsy way. However my parents did have a hot air balloon when I was younger. They shared it with my uncle and some other folks in town and I have this specific memory of them preparing to take off from the large park to the southwest of our home. The fan that filled the balloon was loud and enormous; the process was captivating.


Stupa Sky Bagan


I remember tiptoeing in my bare feet, peeking inside as the fabric envelope slowly expanded with air, and the jeweled tone of the light softly diffusing through the material. Once everything was ready, my parents went up with their group and my grandparents watched after my sister and me. We followed close on the ground. My grandfather’s truck pulled the trailer that would collect the basket and its passengers once they returned to earth.

I can hear my sister wailing like the tiny banshee she was, screaming to Mom as our grandparents sped us down the highway. I found everything about our adventure exhilarating and tried to explain to her that we were still connected to Mom and Dad. We could talk to them over the CB radio; things would be fine.


Many Balloons Bagan


Like I said, our mother had never been the adventuresome type, at least that I can recall. An exception is that balloon ride. I remember she seemed so intrepid then – looking forward to the quest.

I spent several weeks with the maternal side of my family this summer; two dozen immediate relatives rendezvoused at the Atlantic Ocean. Gatherings with this part of the bloodline guarantee tales of synchronicity. But the tradition was derailed this time when a guest took the position that our observations were actually delusions. After each story he would say something like “the mind chooses to see patterns and connections where none exist.” He dug in firmly and continued to undercut.


All Balloons Bagan


I started to think about my own experiences with these universal winks. What story would I have shared had the storytelling not been interrupted? Those balloons in Myanmar came to mind. But what if these patterns had no intended connection or uplifting message? Was this delusional?

Ethnobotanist and author Terence McKenna framed synchronicity as observations of coincidence in this world that reaffirm interconnectedness beyond the mental plane. When acknowledged these confirmations send a wave of regenerative energy through the system. He reminds us that these elusive moments almost always happen in solitude. They are deeply personal, anecdotal, and one shouldn’t get any credit for them. Most of the time, they don’t mean anything to anyone else.


Balloon Single Bagan


The exchange at the Atlantic lingered with me. I reached out to my mother to confirm she had prized her balloon ride. To my chagrin, she recalled that she had not. An obnoxious, drunk member of the group had groped her and tipped the basket during their landing. His behavior upset her, spoiling the memory. I scrambled for my footing. Okay? This was not the validation I wanted.

Her perspective made my recollection of the balloons in Bagan more complicated. This was now an unpleasant memory for her tied to my own reaffirming experience with synchronicity. A few days later she reached out to clarify. “It was the potential of the slow hover, and the silence, magically suspended above the earth that I mourned afterwards. A missed opportunity for a new and wonderful memory, lost.”


Completed in Buddha & the Scooter III

In her work, storyteller and social researcher Brené Brown explores the emotions I grappled with that morning in Myanmar – vulnerability, shame, disappointment, and so forth. She also presents the concept of the delta, this confluence of experience and sensitivity, where we actively work through…

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