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Friday, 01 January 2016

Nirvana’s Horizon: Discovering the Soul of the Golden Land as a Buddhist Monk in Myanmar - Page 7

Written by Kevin Dimetres
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The emotional changeover from American traveler to Buddhist monk was remarkably effortless. Levels of stress began to melt away like a block of ice.  With a greater emphasis on mindfulness, I uncovered the ability to truly live in the moment.   The concept of simply living took on a new, rewarding meaning.  Even the sun seemed to shine brighter, the flowers smelled sweeter, and I just couldn’t stop smiling.

Attempting to sleep on the hardwood floors of the monastery was quite an experiment; amusingly enough, this may have been the greatest challenge I faced throughout my journey to Asia.  When I imagined all of the comforting indulgences that I missed from my life back home- drive-thru combo meals from Freddie’s Steakburgers, Seinfeld reruns, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, etc. - what stood out most was a comfortable mattress and cushy pillows.  Apparently, I still have a ways to go before reaching enlightenment and achieving nirvana.  

Inevitably, I knew this journey would eventually come to an end. In Myanmar, that meant 28 days after the date of arrival until my American Visas expired. I packed away my robe and prayer beads.  I dug up my wallet from the depths of my backpack; my passport indicated that my name was Kevin Dimetres, and I had a signature to match.  With my plane ticket in hand, I donned a knock-off Myanmar soccer jersey, cargo shorts, and Nike trekking sneakers. The time had come to kiss the Golden Land of Myanmar- and my moment as a Buddhist monk- goodbye.

I arrived in Singapore with a sense of shock and awe at the modern world. The sensory overload seemed so unnecessary; the modern comforts so trivial.   Part of me wondered if I had returned from the rabbit hole; another part of me contemplated if I had it all backwards, living in Wonderland my entire life.

Life seemed like a high-stakes game of high-speed hamster wheel Olympics.  The hubbub of everyday life was one brash, flamboyant distraction with a cherry on top and a commercial jingle to boot. 

All I could do was smile.  

Prior to this moment, I wasn’t sure how my Buddhist tutelage would carry over into the “real world.”  Despite my hesitations, I realized that I was more apt to handle the cultural terrain of our modern society than ever.  I had developed an arsenal of emotional tools to combat the unnecessary stressors found in any environment.  I was no longer compelled to seek happiness externally; I could easily find it within.  Everything else is just background noise.

Growing up as part of the Catholic Church, I chose “Lawrence” as my confirmation name, inspired by my youthful admiration of the Boston Celtics legendary Larry Bird.  I couldn’t help but contemplate the spiritual integrity of double-dipping religious identities; nevertheless, part of me will always remain Lawrence.  People continue to ask me about my religion today- am I a Buddhist? Christian?-  But I’ve never been one for labels.  The short answer remains the same- each religion has positive elements which we can apply to our own lives, and a greater understanding of each religion can lead to greater spiritual peace and social harmony for all mankind.  We are all people, it’s our world, and we’re all in this life together.  Labels should not divide us, nor should beliefs define us.  The human experience is so much deeper than that; beauty can be found everywhere and within every person, and it’s limitless.

Life has a funny way of giving you what you ask for.  I wanted to learn about Buddhism, Dahmapalla wanted to teach me, the opportunity presented itself, and the rest is history.  I am no longer a Buddhist monk, but part of me will always be Teelahwontay, and I still can’t stop smiling.

Kindness and compassion above all.  I can dig that.



©Kevin Dimetres


(Page 7 of 7)
Last modified on Tuesday, 05 January 2016

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