A Thai Kayan lesson that changed my life

Someone one said that every journey starts with a small step. The moment we step into this world, with the first breath, blink of the surrounding world we open a new chapter in our life but also those whose life would be touched by us.

There are many pathways and turns to explore, we may feel lost at times, exhausted by walking for a long time without seeing any signs, powerless. We may even forget why we have started the journey in first place or doubting that we will ever get to where we want to be.

To desperately keep moving we are blindly trying to find another path. We turn, walk, run or crawl, to move forward regardless of directions. Stopping means losing.  We make sure we keep busy and occupied to proof to ourselves that we are achieving our desires.

There are times when we cannot move forward. Everything seems to be frozen and static. Everything looks pointless and without a purpose. Like a caveman we are hiding in the cave surrounded by darkness where you cannot see what is around you. This place may be scary, lonely and empty but as long as there is a fire to keep you warm there is still hope that you survive and this light will guide you in how to leave the cave and see the world once again.

We all have moments when we become cavemen in our lives. Although, these moments might look terrifying and lonelier. These are also the most treasury periods in our lives when we have the chance to connect with ourselves and see if our GPS is set into right direction.

I only realised that I was in the cave for a long period after my trip to Thailand last year.

Seeing this amazing part of the world made me leave my cave and see the light again.

Suddenly, I saw the world where people who have so little are the most generous and kindest that I have seen for a long time. They would not hesitate to share with you their last piece of bread, well in this case a bowl of rice 😊.

One of most empowering moment that completely change my perspective on many things was seeing the Kayan long necked women living in guarded villages on the northern Thai border. I sat down next to a young, beautifully dressed woman who has a temporary status to stay under “conflict refugee” status, similarly to the rest of the 500 inhabitants of the village.

Two decades ago, an intensive civil war between Karani separatists and the Burmese army caused Kayan residents to flee Myanmar. The Kayans survived and in remembrance of this day, the women wear rings to create the appearance of a long neck. However, the victory has its own prize, the Thai government refused to grant them citizenship. Without it, they are no longer free and cannot access any benefits such as healthcare or education.

Why do these women stretch their necks. Watch the video from National Geographic showing what the rings mean to Kayans

You may think they have become prisoners in their homeland, encapsulated in despair, sadness, and powerless. In fact they are nothing close to that, in their eyes I saw peace and acceptance.

We could not speak the same language but I felt that our souls are going through an unspoken dialogue. She looked so magical to me. At that moment, I knew that this woman who has never seen the world outside of this village, who has never sat down at a school desk, who has never read a book knows much more about life then me, who finished universities and travelled the world.
It has taken me a long time to see the world through the same eyes as hers. I am still not there but what I know so far is that acceptance and absence of expectations set you free.

I know what some of you may think that a lack of expectations translates to a lack of ambition, and that a lack of progress equals to allowing other people to make decision for us.

That is not what I mean, the acceptance means taking life as it is and appreciating things that we take for granted every day. Be present in every moment, when you look at someone and talk to this person, see them as a whole, listen with your open heart and senses.

Like this woman, she could read me without saying anything, she smiles when I felt that her situation is not fair. She taught me that we cannot be judgmental, we never know what is the top of the iceberg for others. Let us not judge people through our perception which only limits us to the things that we know.

Being in the village as a refugee may look hopeless but this woman made me realise that she was more free than most of the people which are a victim of modern society. She had peace and love in her heart something that can never be taken away from you by force.

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If you are planning to visit please do not just be a tourist who wants to take selfies. Try to understand what they are going through, be respectful and openminded. This visit can show you the light in your cave and realise that the paths that you stubbornly follow might be moving you away from your dreams.

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