I’ve always known that.
But, Luang Prabang at this time of year…
…well, it then becomes a thin place.
A friend of mine just recently introduced me to the phrase. After being in Luang Prabang, Laos, for some time, we were both marveling at the special quality of it. The tranquility. The natural beauty. The softness. The je ne sais quoi.
It’s hard to describe.
So, just in time, I’ve been given a decription. Accorrding to an online article in the NY Times (wonderful, btw), thin places are those where heaven and earth come closer together.
In thin places, we become our more essential selves. Therefore, it is an individual discovery.
There are no criteria, no judgement, no exclusiveness. For one person, it may be sitting in dimness on a pew in an old church, for another it may be the magnitude of Nature at the peak of a mountain. It can be a garden, a town square, a shore, a bar.
Chances are you may have found your own thin place already.
This year, October 31st marks the end of Buddhist lent. For a couple of nights (the 30th and 31st) the town celebrates through Boun Lai Heu Fai or Festival of Lights. Throughout several days, all the temples in town have prepared for the festivity by decorating with paper lanterns and elaborate bamboo boats.
Color hangs on a string from tree to tree, wall to wall, creating a labrynth of glowing orbs. Made from thin bamboo frames, Buddhist monks and novices craft petals, stars, even playful forms like sharks and a Laos Airlines plane. Each wat has its own decorated facade.
Walking around this at night is nothing short of magic. Candles cast golden glows on Buddha statues as brightly robed monks light each lantern. Apart from the occasional sounds of delight from children, there is a tangible stillness here.
A distinct moment for me happened at Chum Khong Wat:
I followed the lantern path to the front of the wat and listened with other monks the unusual melody of a string instrument being played. Looking up above rooftops were large, white lanterns sent to the heavens with the past let go of those who set them aflame. The moon, perfect and round watched too, its light casting shadows in the night. These sights and sounds swirled slowly and I found myself happy.
This is my thin place.