We often travel to escape. To escape from work, break ups, our past. But in the process of trying to lose ourself while traveling, more often than not, we stumble head-first into everything we were trying to avoid. Last week I set off to Colombo, the buzzing capital city of the tropical island that is Sri Lanka. While the purpose of my visit was to present a research paper at the World Conference of Women’s Studies, it was the few moments of free time that found me confronting my fears.
On my last day (my only full free day in Sri Lanka) I visited the Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo. The Buddhist temple was a hive of activity, partly from Sunday morning prayers and partly due to the impending Vesak or Moon Festival in celebration of the life, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. What started as a visit to check out another temple, quickly turned into almost half a day lost deep in thought and pray amongst the gold or concrete buddha statues and under the shade of the Bodhi tree.
Now I’m not one to usually get lost in prayer. Meditation maybe, but I’m usually of the mindset that the universe provides exactly what we need when we need it mixed with the belief that dreams don’t work unless you do. So it was with a mixture of guilt, fear and understanding that I was exactly where I was supposed to be on that Sunday morning – sitting under the Bodhi tree watching crows, rats and squirrels pick through the offerings at the base of the tree while devout Buddhists walked laps around the tree trunk, placing their hands on the damp bark, pouring water and laying lotus flowers in offering to Buddha to bring their prayers to reality.
I was exactly where I was supposed to be, because there are some dreams that no matter what you do, what work you put in, changes you make, your dreams won’t come true without: 1) asking for help; and 2) having a little faith. Faith in the universe, God, Buddha, yourself, and the grand plan that has already been laid out for your life. Having just completed a goal that I’d been working on for the past few months I was now left to face the dream that I struggle with the most. The dream that lingers in the shadows, never far from my mind, the dream that no matter what I do to bring it to reality, there are somethings where only divine intervention will get you over the final hurdle. Sitting in the temple, I realised that the only way my next dream was ever going to come true was to put my faith in something else and ask for help with what I want.
And so I prayed. I prayed for health. I prayed for fertility. I prayed that I would fall pregnant naturally and carry a healthy baby full term. I prayed for help and guidance and a miracle. I prayed that the stars would align and all the work we’re doing to fix my body up would all come together in one divine moment and the universe, Buddha, God would would step in and take control over the one step of my goal I have no control over. I surrendered.
Here I was, a world away from my home life, a vibrant city to explore and all I could do was wander through the temple for hours and sit deep in prayer. I lit candles and lay lotus flowers at the feet of Buddha, all the while my prayers on repeat in my head. And I was okay with that, because I was exactly where I was supposed to be in that moment.