Friday, August 7, 2015

Mai Pen Rai

Mai pen rai” is a common Thai expression that means- “Whatever will be, will be” or “no worries.” There are simpler examples of this in Thai culture, like the fact that many people run on “Thai time.”  The Thai people are generally less exact about time than Westerners. For example, a member of our group went to take some clothes to a laundry service about 15 minutes past their posted opening time, but was shooed away by the sleeping owner.  
            Our sessions have also shown this trait. Often, a session will start up to 15 minutes before or after it’s scheduled start time. In America, our sessions are typically very punctual to accommodate both our own and our client’s structured schedules. Here in Thailand, the session begins when the client and therapist are ready to begin.
The Buddhist monks are a more prominent example of the mai pen rai way of life. We have seen monks all across Thailand and none of them are paid. They rely solely on donations for sustainment. This, to me, is one of the deepest practices of mai pen rai. The monks detach themselves from the security of having specific items at specific times, and trust that their physical needs will eventually be met.
Last weekend, we stayed at a resort along a canal near Hua Hin. Each morning, the monks of a nearby temple come down the canal one by one in boats along the canal to receive donations from the public. We woke up at 6 one morning to give the monks toiletries and a morning meal. Our tour guides, Pat and Hui, explained to us that Buddhists believe that if you do good, then good will come back to you. Below is a picture of our experience that morning. I don’t mean to make a show of our donations, but I wanted a reminder of the experience and the things I learned that day. 

For more information on the lives of Buddhist monks, visit:

I had always thought I was okay with going with the flow, and I am now realizing this isn’t as true as I once thought. I love trying new things and I am often bored with repetition, however, I like to be well informed. I ask a lot of questions in order to learn from the experience of others. I am afraid to learn solely from my own experience because I don’t want to fail. My fear of failure often hinders me from trying at all. I am unnecessarily attached to these fears, but my experiences in Thailand have shown me how to begin letting go. Embracing mai pen rai means letting go of fears that will only stand in my way and knowing I am better off without them. Embracing mai pen rai means living freely like the monks, and having faith that I will be okay no matter what happens.
This trip has been an exercise in embracing mai pen rai for all of us by learning to improvise and handle uncertainty. When we travel around Thailand on the weekends with Pat and Hui, we often have limited details of the schedule for the day, and we change plans often. At first, I began to ask questions out of habit of wanting to know what we are doing so I can prepare. I now try my best to sit back and go along for the ride, asking questions only when absolutely necessary.
Our clinical schedule has also been moved around quite a bit. We have added a few sessions to the schedule, and had some cancelled last minute by clients. The other day, at Siriraj Hospital, I was scheduled to facilitate a session with two other Thai students on a unit for patients with ear, nose, throat, and eye issues (for more information about Siriraj hospital, visit: We met the day before and wrote up a general plan for the session. When someone came to take us to the unit, we were told we would now be doing a session on a pediatric unit instead. We were handed a bag of props and small percussion instruments and told to improvise a session with 12 children. I did not know the order of the session, and there were many Thai songs I was not familiar with. Regardless, I let the music help me communicate with the clients instead of relying on language.  It was really reassuring to see that I could handle a situation with so much ambiguity.
It has been such a blessing to learn from the Thai people about music, language, and Thai culture. This “go with the flow” attitude has started to rub off on me, and I am wholeheartedly embracing it. In America we say, “There’s no use crying over spilt milk,” and in Thai they say “Mai pen rai.”

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