The Work of a Healer
Do you ever wonder about the hidden memories that form us?
I was just going through thousands of travel photos looking for a particular image for a story I’m working on.
Along the way, I came across this image, above, and it just arrested me.
I’d completely forgotten about it, but now, I can remember it in vivid detail as such an important piece of what was to come into my life.
Soon after I lost my job (over five years ago now, I can hardly believe it!) I started travelling on my own through Southeast Asia. I ended up falling in love with Thailand’s Northeast, called “Isaan”. It was here that I spent a lot of time working toward healing many wounds, and where I would eventually find a path toward becoming a healing practitioner myself.
But the beginning of that journey was still months down the line. For now, I was bumping along in local buses, traipsing around from village to village, stopping where I felt I needed to be. I was working on letting my intuition guide me, and this hot, arid land was pulling me in.
Nakhon Phanom is a tiny town along the Mekhong River with Laos on the other side and Hanoi not far away. Of historical interest is the fact that during the Vietnam War, some U.S. forces were stationed at an air force base there.
But this is just context; once in the town, the rest of Thailand, let alone the world, falls away into the deep recesses of the imagination. In my memory, the sun is always shining, the people smiling, the days lingering, the river a breezy, pleasant backdrop to the town, and you can easily go days without spotting another foreigner.
I found a strange, charming place to say, a large, rather imperial looking hotel that may once have hosted dignitaries but was now barren and spare, though clean. I was referred there when I asked locals where I might find somewhere to stay, and the older couple running the place seemed really nice. I got a room on fourth floor for reasons I still don’t quite know, and felt like the little girl in the fairy tale who closes her eyes one day and ends up a princess in her own castle, a little isolated by bedazzled nonetheless.
I spent days whiling away time at the Internet shop across the street, trying to discover the movie showtimes at an old Soviet-styled, one-cinema movie theater in town, and embarking on a 4km odyssey in unimaginable heat to visit a house Ho Chi Minh once hid out in. I ate street food, and spent evenings writing in my journal, staring at a clear black sky and feeling unbelievably solaced.
Then, one morning, I was heading out in the morning after paying for another night at the hotel, and I saw what you can see now, in the photo. A woman – a wife? A friend, or neighbor? – treating a man who sat, quiet, eyes-closed, in a gentle act of receiving.
It took my breath away. Something stirred inside of me I honestly didn’t have a language for. I don’t know if it was the selflessness, the kindness, the power of human touch or the dawning knowledge that a combination of love and attunement with universe – with self – could make balance in a wounded being …
For a fleeting moment, I became vividly embodied, somehow brought back to myself for what felt like the first time.
Then I quietly walked away, had my breakfast, and by the time I returned, they were gone.
A couple of months after that, this image and all it stood for long out of my mind, I found myself drawn to a place where I was introduced to Reiki, where I had some profound experiences involving the woundedness in myself, and began a powerful and ongoing journey of and with healing.
As I take the photo in, I have to wonder about that healing session in Nakhon Phanom, a magical little jewel lighting up a path I’m still on today, arrived at by a series of movements – choices, instincts, stumblings-upon – that defy anything the logical mind could produce, and yet are still, gloriously, majestically there.
I couldn’t be happier for that, or more grateful to these two beautiful human beings who stepped out onto the sidewalk that morning in a gentle riverside town to share their beauty and harmony with the world. May they be at peace.