Hello friends! I write to you all now from Thailand, sitting cross legged on the balcony of my adobe home, which my wife and I have been building together for several months now and, I am proud to say, is almost complete! The mountains in the distance are filled with thousands of “indigenous” people who originally came from Yunnan province in China. My wife is one of these people. So are many of my closest friends. As I take a break (sipping on puer tea which is also from Yunnan) from building and reflect over the ten years since I was last inside “the middle kingdom” it is not hard for me to find ways in which this curious country has influenced my life, and how it is currently shaping the future of the country (and world) I (we) now live in.
Ten years ago, when I first visited China, I was only 26 (I know, that no doubt seems old to some of you!). I had grown weary of life as a ski bum and wanted to learn more about the world. A friend had recently introduced me to Buddhism and had set in motion a love affair with eastern philosophy that would eventually result in me taking Buddhist vows, working almost entirely in Buddhist countries and falling in love with a Thai woman who herself was then on the path to becoming a Buddhist nun! I was living then on a farm in Maui (I know, not much snow there, right… long story… don’t worry we have three months ahead of us, I promise, I’ll fill ya in!) when I was offered a chance to teach at a university just west of the Chinese city of Chongqing. I was more than a little obsessed with Tibet at the time (still am!) and anything offered to me that could feed my insatiable appetite for learning more about this mythical place I devoured as quickly as a steamy bowl of dan dan noodles on a cold Sichuan night. I soon found myself wandering through mysteries that I would be slowly unpacking for the next ten years.
China is huge. China is incredibly complicated. China is stunningly beautiful and startlingly destructive. Indeed, China is one of the most important riddles of our lifetime. What happens because of China has just as many implications on the global stage, if not more, than what happens because of the U.S. or any other so-called “developed” country. China is to be taken very seriously.
To be certain, China can be challenging. And I tip my hat to all of you for opting to venture out of your comfort zones to take the path less chosen, to travel, as it were, where there be dragons.
I am honored to be co-instructing this trip with a great team and equally thrilled to be sharing the journey with all of you.
Happy (American) New Year!