Reading my diary entries from my time in China, there are some themes that become evident.
One is trust. From my first few days I found this quote, “Trusting people has so far paid dividends… “. I wrote this on my way from the eastern seaboard to the western-most city without my phone, without any Mandarin, alone, on my first jaunt abroad… I had no issues. Through the month’s-worth of writing that followed that statement I found repeated references to a belief that everyone is fundamentally good; that people should be given the chance to help; that smiling and being respectful of someone will see you receive smiles and respect. That supporting and caring for others results in good karma. Because of bad things happening in my life before I left, I arrived in China questioning this faith. I left with it resurrected.
I also had a clear, contiguous intention to “create” while away; to read, write and draw. And, more broadly, to create new neurological pathways – to have to think in ways that living in Australia has subsidised me of. I left for China “(with) the intention of recording everything (in writing or by illustration)”, but I lost that urge. I thought that my time there was going to be an incredibly productive block of time – that I was going to dedicate a lot of time to art. I did not. Early-on, “I realise that I carry a lot of stress because of the pressure I place on myself to record and ‘produce’.” Thus, I questioned myself, “… what is my writing actually worth?” And then decided, “I would like less to be thinking about what I have been doing and will be doing than what I am doing… The point is not that I record all of this, it is that I live it.” My tone transitions gradually as I flick the pages, from worrisome to grateful; and in the middle-part of my journey I simply write, “Every day has its story.”
Time, on an immediate scale and in a lifetime’s context, is another prominent theme in my entries. I found a schedule of my days at the temple. If I hadn’t joined morning prayer, I was walking to the river by 6. Bedtime was 9. The day consisted of three training blocks. They were mental, remedial and physical. We ate three good meals in a day. We had four hours of personal time per day. “How busy and slow this life (could) be”, amazed me. I also found it “extraordinary how quickly people can come together when they share one thing as powerful as travel.” I learnt that “it is deceptive how much you can get done whilst truly taking your time.” These comments on the pacing of days are throughout my diary and relate to my very non-Buddhist obsession with western ‘productivity’. While in China, I challenged that ‘head down and work hard for your future’ ethic with a “head down, work hard for now and the future, and look around sometimes, too”. China upended my extremely money-orientated view of the world.
For now, that’s all that I’ve extracted from my diary entries from China that I think could be of benefit to myself, my friend that asked me this question, or you. I think these couple of pages answer the question of how the trip has developed me. I’ll leave you with a quote from June 29.
“I thought, while I walked, that the hike is a good metaphor for life and striving to achieve. The path is tough, the temptation is to take shortcuts and get distracted. Distraction will only satisfy you for so long and may result in fatal strides off the path. Shortcuts diminish achievement and associated satisfaction. The journey is beautiful and dangerous. Take in your surrounds, but do not settle for them.”
It doesn’t flow well, but it holds good principles and a tone of cautious encouragement that I flew back home with on my shoulder.
A month is only a short time, but it is also a long time, and I am grateful for it.