The Beauty of Complete Presence
There is something so special about Sri Lanka. The joyous laughter is almost as thick as the humidity, the call to prayer boldly echoes through the cement homes, and each village’s mosque seems to harmonize with one another. When walking through the villages, it’s difficult to not see someone sitting outside, smiling, and saying hello. When a tourist passes by a child, he or she is greeted with a smile and a thick accented, “Hello, how are you, I’m fine!” If he or she replies warmly, there is a high chance of receiving an invitation to enjoy some tea and some cookies in their home, implying the greater opportunity to make a friend for life.
While I was walking through the dusty streets, I came across this beautiful elderly woman. She was sitting in her doorway, her eyes enamored with the sky and the wonderful simplicity that surrounded her. For some strange reason, tears filled my eyes when I saw her. All I knew was I had to meet her and I absolutely adored her. I awkwardly entered her yard to say, “Hello.” The second she saw me she grabbed my face and kissed it several times. Her face was contoured with age and her toothless smile stretched across her wrinkled face. We just sat there and laughed together and that’s all the communication we needed.
The people in Sri Lanka just get it. They understand the fragility of life and the importance of complete presence. Each person I met reiterated the importance of seizing every moment, because in an instant it could simply slip away. This attitude truly developed after the tsunami in 2004. The waves wrapped all around Arugam Bay and took everything away. Each person I met would have their own story and personal encounter with the unexpected waves. One woman informed me that she clung onto the trunk of a tree and witnessed everything she ever owned be swept away, including her husband and two sons. She said seven waves rolled through and she witnessed wave after wave consume everything in it’s path. Ever since then she explained that it has never been the same. While so much darkness and sorrow came from the tragedy, it instilled a spirit in the people to hold tight to every moment. Upon meeting these people, I could feel their desire to be present with me. It’s a precious thing to experience and something I will cherish in my heart forever.