Buddha & the Scooter III

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

Continued from  Buddha & the Scooter II

… days later my mother 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.”


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 difficulties to arrive at key lessons. I’ve just finished devouring her book Rising Strong, which is filled with stories of people grappling with incredibly complex feelings. The intense self-reflection she prescribes ain’t easy.


Bike Bagan


In each story Brown’s protagonists fall flat on their faces in sensitive situations, wading through transformational challenges. Eventually her heroes arrive at new wisdom, processing painful situations by talking them through with others. This seems incredibly therapeutic, but I’m not sure this colloquial process is always an option. Sometimes you’re stuck in a rut, on the other side of the world and not even your travel partner is speaking your tongue.

I didn’t hear until later that my mother’s surgery went well, but the sunrise balloons over Bagan had already confirmed it. As that day continued, deeper memories began to bubble up. Several years earlier my father had his knees replaced, but this surgery resulted in life-threatening blood loss, emergency transfusions, and future heart procedures. Sadly, on the exact morning Dad was under the knife, his own mother died. Maybe I could give my partner a pass. Mom’s surgery had unearthed deeper memories of long-buried sadness. He had no way of empathizing with what surfaced, but I could offer compassion where he could not.


Small Ruin Bagan


Months later, when faced with the argument that synchronicity is for quacks, I arrived at the delta of my experience among the temples. It became very clear that I was alone. This uplifting message, implied through the balloons, had no significance for anyone else. The connection held no worth for the man I was traveling with and it wasn’t even a positive memory for my mother, who was central to the synchronicity. Still Terence McKenna had exposed that this was the nature of these occurrences. However non-existent the correlation was to others, those hot air balloons were the perfect relief for me at that moment. They triggered an apt memory, a metaphor about rising above for a complete shift in perspective.

My mother’s recollection of her balloon ride developed the lesson further. No matter how self-involved those we journey with can be, we still control the outcome of our own experiences. That day in Bagan was the most blissful of an extensive trip, even despite its rough beginnings. Had things not unfolded precisely as they did, the experience would not have been as meaningful. Without the awful fight that morning, I might have spent the day hiding in my blanket fort. Or out exploring temples, distracted by worry and desperately waiting for word from home.


Buddha Bagan


I can ignore what I perceive and consider the patterns delusional, or I can savor them as exclusive, humbling messages. I may feel vulnerable, denied empathy and seriously pissed off, but the universe can offer compassion that I can absorb and return in any direction I choose. This all sounds very enlightened and I find it amusing that these lessons involve a river plain saturated with thousands of smiling Buddhas; it makes me giggle, a lot. Hopefully I’m better prepared for future adventures in the delta, but first things first… get back on that scooter. Dawn is approaching.



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

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