“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi
The barriers to self-love and self-care in Yangon are countless, or so I have found. Thus far, I have greeted the morning to meet a rather large lizard in my cereal box; I have been chased by a deceptive pack of sleeping dogs twice; I have been eternally cursed by a taxi driver in an altercation over a price disagreement of 37 cents; I have curled up like a mangled, wet dog after having been caught out in more than a handful of daily monsoon rainstorms; I have put up with a white girl prices from all of my sweet mango salesmen; I have outlived nightmares of Asian ants running through my hair; I have learned never again to touch local roadside food through a mind-shattering bout of Burma Belly; I have healed a fractured rib despite the jagged, deconstructed sidewalks that allow every potential of pounding to re-injury; I have lost my body weight in sweat from nights of fever; I have considered pulverizing my laptop each time a rainstorm cuts out my precious wifi connection; I have tasted locally-made cardboard failed attempts at Western world brownies so bad that I’ve questioned my existence in this country altogether; And most recently, I have been struck in the foot by a sink that fell from its wall, its glass cutting through to expose vein as I ran from the forceful spray of plumbing, screaming, spraying blood, feeling nothing until the stitches were laced inside of me in the ER.
No, I’m not in my family’s heritage of Kansas anymore, nor am I in the comfort of my home sweet hometown. Yet I am nowhere near alone. The ex-pat community in Yangon is alive and thriving. We are each trail blazers in this foreign land, here to learn, to grow, to experience a different way of life, to literally pave the streets in this rapidly-developing goldmine of opportunity. The simple reliability of appliances, electricity, water, and basic infrastructure may be things of the past that we once took for granted or perhaps things of the future that will someday be universal truths. And so in this adventurous present interim, we build a strong structure of community.
As a community, we came together last Friday to celebrate making it through yet another week of unpredictable challenge through an evening of community self-care at Yangon Yoga House. A candle-gazing sunset meditation, followed by candlelight slow flow, proceeded with a luxurious savasana, finished with a mindful tasting of my vegan dessert creations, served with wine as the cherry on top. Along with my reliable co-chef, I crafted a sampling of mango cheesecake bites, Myanmar spice brownies, salted caramel banana nut muffin bites, triple-layer cheesecake pods, and chewy chocolate chip cookies for savoring while socializing during our sweet finish to the night.
The act of baking a few batches of my shareable creative passion gained insurmountable meaning by the arduous feat it was just to stand on my own two feet just days before the event. Similarly, the simple and succinct union of our breath in yoga transformed to an indescribably harmonious chorus of resilience. The uncomplicated experiencing of our senses through dessert was metamorphosed to an intricate artwork of biology and an amazingly functional labyrinth of social connection. That night, we arrived to our studio safe haven by collectively deconstructing all the barriers of excuses that were built both within ourselves and that the Southeast Asia had dropped upon us. Together, within the studio walls, we found the self-care and self-love our bodies sought in a candlelit community oasis.
Here’s to forever conquering the lizards, outrunning the rabid dogs, dodging the crumbling infrastructure, and banishing the cardboard brownies for the victorious reign of wellness. If we can build it here, we can build our deep and collective breath anywhere to evoke this sense of gratitude in the simple acts of life. If we can bake them here, we can bake our rich and chewy homemade vegan chocolate chip cookies everywhere to globally and eternally inspire much-needed, mindful self-love and community wellbeing.