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  • Dean Bainbridge

KindaMindful in Chiang Mai : The Labyrinth

Frans enjoyed his holiday in Chiang Mai so much, he never left. Don’t blame him.

The former emergency services CEO from the Netherlands sought calmness and clarity to aid in his complex conundrum of a profession. He eventually detached completely from that world, returning permanently to the Northern Thailand oasis that had inspired him. I imagine he left big shoes to fill, but Frans was walking a very different path.

Frans' sala... meditation studio

We attended a few of his guided meditations which take place in the rather theatrical 'sala' which is an open pavilion atop a hill above the retreat. One misty morning, Frans took us through a walking meditation. In a traditional meditation, you’re invited to concentrate only on your breath in order to empty your mind of conscious thought. In a walking meditation, you must be thoughtful of every step and the elements of each foot fall... Raise your foot - move it forward - lower it - touch the floor - shift your weight and complete the step.

Pause and repeat.

When you apply such concentration to a process as unconscious as stepping forward, your mind becomes consumed with it and, if you’re so inclined, you can find a profound change in your head space. We walked for about 20 minutes in a slow circle but you can go for hours.

It’s not hard to understand how this principle of walking slowly and treading lightly has its larger lessons. Be mindful in the smallest of actions. Make your impression on the world slight and subtle.

Frans also had a bit to say about the persuasive nature of marketing and advertising, which made me wholly shameful for my profession. But that’s mine to reconcile and a story for another day.

From conundrum comes contemplation. Frans has added a labyrinth to one of the salas. The idea is not to ‘complete’ the maze but to simply meander along it to its centre and then come back. I’ll fondly remember watching my lovely wife slowly and deliberately navigating the maze on a balmy and restless night.

He’s also working on a larger labyrinth within the main courtyard of the resort hotel. I watched him toiling at it one day. Discarded beer and energy drink bottles are ironically re-purposed and placed into the sandy base before pristine white pebbles are added for the main floor. I suspect the process of creating it is a meditation in itself. Making tight straight lines with string. Raking the stones flat. It’s a place I look forward to seeing completed someday.

The new Labyrinth under construction

In creating a labyrinth here, Frans has made something permanent. If his life is in tune with his teachings, it may be the only thing here that is truly lasting... other than the impression he has made with countless wayfaring visitors to this part of the highlands.

Permanence. Impermanence. If that’s a concept you’d like to explore – and it’s a wise thing to consider – first think of this. How long would it take for your presence to disappear from the Earth? First your physical self. Then evidence of your existence like photos and documents. How long before you’re not recalled by any living human?

Then ask yourself this... Does any of that even matter? You won’t be around to be disappointed anyway. Or perhaps you never really leave anyway?

I invite you to walk slowly and tread lightly. Be more aware of the time you have. You might find power in the subtlety. Potential in the conservation of action. Just walk the labyrinth, yeah?

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