Sunday, August 16, 2015


Thailand has captured the essence of kindness. From my experiences, the meaning of "The Land of Smiles" demonstrates the positive energy the people of Thailand put into every interaction through their unfailing politeness, enthusiasm, and positivity. Throughout the country, regardless of language, cultural, or religious preferences, every Thai person I have met radiates a smile on their face. Unlike the various facial expressions I have experienced in my American upbringing, the people of Thailand have a different smile for every emotion. For more information on smiles click here. They smile when they’re happy, embarrassed, confused, frustrated…and even upset! It seems simple, but when you think about it, this is a very stark contrast from American culture.

Why is a friendly grin with eye contact a noticeable characteristic of this culture? In America, the kind gesture of a smile may be perceived as awkward when assuming the person smiling at you might know you personally or might be interested in starting a conversation. What might be an awkward moment in America is a common moment of politeness in Thailand. For example, as a 5'11'' tall female walking down a street in America and encountering a 4’7” Thai woman, the immediate reaction would be to look at each other, but only when the other one is not looking to avoid awkward eye contact. But in Thailand, when passing strangers on the street, eye contact becomes a pleasant moment of appreciation for each other with mutual smiles. These smiles create a peaceful vibe, generating positive energy.

On the left is the woman who was smiling at me throughout my meal. Afterward, she gestured for a picture, and I played angry birds with her daughter. We made new friends that day, despite the fact that we were unable to verbally communicate at all due to the language barrier. I knew everything she said was with kindness and good intentions due to her adding the word “ka” to the end of every statement. “Ka” has no true meaning other than adding a kind inflection to whatever statement has been made. “Ka” does not directly translate to anything in English, but in Thai it adds respect to whatever statement has been made. For example, when saying “I’m sorry” in Thai, the word “Ka” can be added to the end of the statement to show the sincere intentions of the person apologizing.

The ideas of kindness and positivity are so important in Thai culture that even those with the most power and privilege, the Royal Family, work to embody those traits. When you take a look at some of the accomplishments within the Thai Royalty, you can see the effects of their kindness to their people radiate through the country. To learn more about the royal family and behaviors visit  this link and also take a look at the suggested books listed. I gained a better understanding of the Royal Family when we had the pleasure and opportunity to meet the 78 year old Princess of Thailand and visit the Queen's house. One of Her Royal Majesty’s favorite poems explains, when animals die they leave their skin hide and horns behind, but for a man, all he can leave behind are the good deeds he has performed during his lifetime. The message is to live life to the fullest and take advantage of every moment to offer kindness. 

In Thailand, I learned the importance of positivity and kindness to strangers and how it can transform your daily life. I believe some people are living life with the expectation of something better when it is over, but if we live as if the best is now, the world would be a better place. What a wonderful way to live! 

This positivity can start with something as simple as a smile. When someone is smiling at you, it’s contagious and you can’t help but smile back. So next time you walk down the street and experience “awkward” eye contact accidentally, I challenge you to remember the Thai lifestyle and give a kind grin. You may be pleasantly surprised J

Monday, August 10, 2015

Holding Space

Holding Space

What does holding space mean? To hold means to sustain a certain state. Space, in this Sense, is not necessarily Distance or Removal. It is a physical and / or Mental Force field to Focus on one Task or Idea and to be fully present to that Task at Hand and not to let external Situations be distracting.  As. Jim Tolles writes in his blog , there are Four Major Components to. holding Space: Listen with the Heart, have no judgment, no intent on Needed to "Fix" the person, and give full Attention to the Other person.   This Idea Can be implemented in many Places. In Thailand, I have Heard Stories and observed. how Thai's use their religion to hold space for their people.

Buddhism is an important Aspect of Meditation . Meditation, according to the Pāli Canon, is to Change the State of the Mind. In coherence with the act of giving and virtue, the mind can reduce distraction and resentment. When practiced correctly, Meditation Can develop awareness and better concentration. We visited a Monk at the Wat Nyanavesakavan in Bangkok during Asanha Bucha (Buddhist Lent) Who Gave US a Great metaphor on Meditation. The Mind is like a Monkey; it runs around and around and around and is then quite exhausted. What do you do with a monkey (or mind) that behaves this way? You train it. Attach one end of a rope to the monkey and the other to a pole. The pole represents meditation and the rope mindfulness. When the monkey gets too far away, mindfulness gently brings him back to the focal point-all other things that the monkey can not reach fall away. This holds Space for the Mind to Focus on the Mediation without distractions. During breathing Meditation, the Mind is Solely focused on breath, thus Letting Go of judgment and giving Attention to one subject. The person Who is meditating has no intent on working on Solutions. to problems. Thus, the person doing the meditation is holding space for himself / herself.

Holding space is also seen with music. The monk talked about focusing with a singing bowl as a starting point. A singing bowl is a small metal bowl that is tapped or rubbed clockwise on the side to create a sustained tone. He gave us a case study about a woman who was constantly thinking about her husband who had cancer. She had thought about him every second of the day and dreamed about him at night. The monk had brought a singing bowl and told the woman to listen to it until it stopped resonating. She listened to it for about a minute. Afterward, she cried and said, "That's the longest I have not thought about my husband in a long time.". Here again, we see that the woman is focused on one idea with no judgment and no intent on fixing anything.

However, space can have to be a state of mind. It can also be a place. Buddhists hold physical space, such as temples, as a sacred space. The temples I have been to have been beautifully decorated inside and out with ornate images, markings, and sculptures. One of my favorite temples was on a mountain. For me, it was physically away from all other places, was quiet for meditation, and it was surrounded by much natural beauty. This time, the "Force field" is visible with a moat of Greenery Surrounding the Temples.  The sounds from the nearby cities were silenced at the top. I could here nothing but the wind, the monks chanting, and the bells hanging from the temple roof. This area is held as sacred space for prayer and reverence to Buddha.

Lastly, Thailand has held Space for me. Thailand has let me Culture Experience ITS, ITS Shared Food, Knowledge, and people with me. I have felt neither Unkindness or disdain for My Ignorance Coming into a Country and not knowing the language. Thailand put me in a completely different place than I've ever been before and I have had many experiences that will shape me for the rest of my life. It has made ​​me focus on what is truly important as a music therapist-the clients. I get so caught up in my own bubble and I miss events that happen all around me during sessions. I must get out of the mode of "performing" for clients and get in the mode of "create" and "explore" with clients.

This is a shirt that I fond at Central Salaya mall. It is a visual representation of holding space using music. 


Vulnerability-definition: not something that Rayna Goldsmith has been very good at showing in the past; a reality that has struck me many times over the course of this trip. That’s not necessarily something that should be surprising, though. I’ve been placed in a country halfway across the globe with 12 other students (most of whom I would have considered as simply my classmates before this trip), and into a culture and language that I’m completely unfamiliar with. These realities by themselves account for many of the times I’ve felt vulnerable. Add onto that the clinical work with populations that we’re not necessarily familiar with, and I sure there were times when all of us felt some vulnerability.
So, here’s my confession: I hate feeling vulnerable, especially around other people. If I’m being completely honest, this wasn’t my first choice of topic, because writing about vulnerability would require me to be vulnerable-and to a much larger audience than I would like it to be! On top of that, one of my least favorite things to do is to cry in front of people. I do my absolute best to avoid being seen while crying. Unfortunately for that part of myself, I tend to start crying when I see other people cry; and there just so happens to be people on this trip that cry much more easily than I-which usually ends up making me at least tear up. There’s probably a much more complex reason as to why I hate crying in front of others, but part of it is that I don’t like the attention and exposure it brings. I want to appear strong in front of others, but is that always necessary?
In the past, I’ve viewed being vulnerable as a bad thing, since it’s often synonymous with a weakness. However, I think it can also be used as a strength. It seems that when someone is vulnerable in front of another, there is a new, stronger comfort level between those two people. In therapy, it can be used as a strength as well. If the therapist is willing to be more open with their clients, the clients will respond by being more open with the therapist. It’s a relationship that needs reciprocation in order to function. Relationships that are one sided don’t work, because one person ends up doing all the giving, while the other just takes. So even when we’re trying to be the “Therapist,” we have to remember to remain human as well.

I came face to face with my own humanity and vulnerability during our last session with the Adult Day Care clients at the rehab center. We combined our session with the Laughter Therapist (to learn more about laughter therapy you can visit We made a rough plan that morning, and I remember her saying that she had something special planned, which I didn’t think much of at the time. But when the time came for the end of the session, everything changed. We were asked to lay on the floor and laugh and move like babies. The clients were asked to be our mothers or fathers, and we were their babies. So we laughed and flailed around on the floor like babies. It was funny at first, especially when people got really into the act. We were laughing, the clients were laughing, and then at one point I looked up and some of the clients weren’t laughing anymore-just staring at us and watching. After that, the Laughter Therapist got up and explained that this is how the clients feel at times-like babies. They need people to help them, even for simple things that they used to do themselves. Their circumstances and their accident has left them vulnerable. It was a sad reality to come face to face with, but it is the reality, and she helped us understand that.
Before we left, we sang the client’s a goodbye song-others started crying and I started to tear up. Then, one of the family members of a client asked if they could sing us a song of encouragement before we left. Remember when I said that I hated to cry in front of other people? Well, when the clients and their family members sang to us, it hit me, and I started to really cry at that point. It was absolutely one of the most touching moments of this entire trip, and it happened because we were willing to put ourselves in their shoes and be vulnerable. That relationship and that reciprocation of feelings wouldn’t have happened otherwise. All of my experiences here have led me to a great conclusion: it’s okay for me to be vulnerable in front of people. So I’ll continue to work on letting my walls come down and hoping that others will reciprocate the gesture, because that will form a much stronger relationship, both personally and professionally.

Rayna Goldsmith