Kunming, China to Luang Prabang, Laos

Here is the view from our hotel in Kunming, China. We are next door to a Catholic Church that is under construction.

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Jesus looks out at Kunming. Between 2-4% of Chinese are Christians. Most Christians are Protestants, living in rural areas, but I think the number of Christians is growing.

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We take the metro to the South Bus Station. It is easy to do — there are announcements and signs in English. Here is our “Sleeper Bus” — a bus with beds for our all night/day journey to Luang Prabang, Laos.

The beds are about 5 feet 6 inches long and I am 6 feet 3 inches tall so I had a difficult night.

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We are submerged within the world of mostly Chinese bus travelers.

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We arrive at the border of Laos around 10 AM in the morning. All the other passengers got off the bus to go through customs but the bus driver had us stay on the bus until we arrived at the office to obtain entry visas. This turned out to be time consuming and by the time we got our visas, the bus was gone. Karen was a bit freaked out — and a complex situation evolved — a taxi driver wanted us to give him money but I was unclear if this would resolve the problem. I asked another man for help and he called someone by cell phone — yes, we needed to take a taxi somewhere, the voice said. By that time, there was no taxis available. Eventually, another bus gave us a free ride for about 7 kilometers and we were reunited with our bus!

We ride through Laos — the roads are not so good and it is slow going.

The houses are rustic but have satellite dishes.

The roads are under construction. I practice a Taoist meditation exercise that involves focusing on the breath while staying aware of energy centers in the body.

Here is a basic Taoist meditation: while breathing in, become aware of your heart and upper lungs. Allow the chi energy to be stored there. When breathing out, become aware of an inner place below your stomach, between your navel and sex organs. Allow chi to be stored there. Let these two energy centers become balanced.

We pass through a number of villages. Meditation differs from traveling through the physical world. Some people are disturbed by their meditation experience because they feel that they are not making progress — but the meditation journey does not involve going anywhere. It involves “not doing” — a slowing down and stillness and balance.

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When on-coming traffic passes, it is often a tight fit.

Some people say that they can’t meditate because thoughts come into their mind, but this is the nature of the mind — thoughts come.

I struggle to practice the Taoist meditation exercise. I feel weary, exhausted, hungry, and cramped.

Our bus arrives in Luang Prabang after 27 hours of travel. My sinuses, throat, and lungs had been hurting from the air pollution in China. I had developed a chronic cough. These symptom are diminishing.

Taoist meditation typically has the objective of “doing nothing,” a practice that allows awareness of chi (energy) flowing through the body. Such awareness helps the flow and balance of this energy. “Doing nothing” as a form of meditation means slowing everything down by focusing the mind — not doing rather than doing. Of course, everything is a matter of degree. The bus was swerving from side to side, bouncing over a rough road. Many people were talking loudly in Chinese. I practice even when conditions are not optimal. My chi energy was not balanced — but it is what it is!

We arrived in Luang Probang around 9:30 PM after 27 hours of travel — a long, tough journey.

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