Created: 07 December 2012
Sometimes an experience far from home can be a time for personal reflection and emotional restoration. That’s what Florence Meyers, from Hudson, New York, discovered on her recent Myths and Mountains trip to Myanmar with her husband, Victor.
During their trip, the Meyers’ guide, Saan, invited them to witness a special memorial ceremony for his father, who had passed away a month earlier. “We went to his house and met his mother and his sisters. Community members came to their home, and we all sat in the living room in front of the altar with a Buddha and flowers and other offerings,” Florence remembers. Then five monks were invited to come in. They sat down in front of the group, and chanted, with the community answering. Following the prayers, tables were set in front of the monks, who were served food on behalf of the community. “I had read in one of the guidebooks that the way the Burmese tend to their guests is that they feed you but don’t eat; they just make sure your plates are filled,” Florence says. “That’s what they did, and then they gave each monk an envelope containing money since the monks live only on offerings.”
Once the monks had finished and the remnants of their meal had been cleared away, Florence, Victor, and Saan were invited to sit down, and were treated to a meal in the same way. Along with the wonderful openness of the community, what made the experience even more special for Florence was the fact that her own mother had died two months earlier. “So in the midst of this frenzied two-week vacation I got a chance to sit quietly and think about my mother,” Florence reflects. “It enabled me to witness a ritual in a cultural context that had meaning. I have my own rituals in my religion, but this was Buddhist.”