It was only my third day in this completely foreign land. I was still jet-lagged. My body hadn’t integrated being so quickly fourteen hours ahead of what it was used to yet. I had traveled over twenty-four hours to get here and was dealing not only with the shock that literally flying through time and space into the future had dealt to my body, but also the shock of immersion into a completely different time zone, culture, language, and climate.
But there, sitting on the earth, in an ancient, sacred space, I allowed time to just stop. And I felt my bones and my flesh pressing down against Gaia, and I felt her pressing back up, supporting my presence. Embracing it even. And in that stillness, I felt in between the spaces of the molecules of matter and time into a deep timelessness.
I was sitting at Wat Chaiwattharam on the Chao Phraya River, in Ayutthaya, Thailand. The Buddhist temple, now in ruins, was constructed by a king of Siam in 1630. I had known I had to visit this place the very first time I read about it. And there was something about the river that had been calling to me as well.
I had originally been enamored with the restored rice barges that now offer high end overnight cruises from Bangkok, but in looking for a more budget friendly option, had ended up taking the train to Ayutthaya for a few days instead. I had read that I could still get on one of the wooden boats in Ayutthaya for just a couple of hour dinner/evening cruise. Upon arriving in Ayutthaya, after stepping off the train, plans went awry. There was a gang of tuk tuk drivers crowded around the exit of the train station over-charging for services at least by the standards I had become acquainted with in Bangkok and per my guidebook. I declined, put off, and crossed the street to a nearby hostel to get an unbiased opinion. He pointed me to the ferry to get onto the island that was less than two blocks away. I hopped the little ferry boat but once on the island there was another gang of tuk tuk drivers waiting, and I was guessing running the same racket, so I warily avoided them. I was hauling my luggage, which was getting heavier by the second, around in the midday heat. I had no idea where I was going. My hand was aching as it swelled in the heat under the weight of my bag. I could feel sweat running down my back. I didn’t have a hat. I trudged along on the hot pavement breathing exhaust fumes. Every building, every face was unfamiliar. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t seeing anymore tuk tuks, so I turned around and backtracked. I felt like I was going in circles. I finally found a couple of parked tuk tuks, but my WI-FI on my phone wasn’t working, so I could not pull up the map. They did not recognize the name of the hotel I had booked, and it took four of us to figure out where they were actually taking me. The price was still high, but at this point I didn’t care as much. The drive was longer than I thought it would be, and the driver still had to stop for directions. Then he stopped. I was on a dusty margin of roadside on a busy road, god knows where. There was nothing around - no stores, no shops, nowhere to eat. And this was it. This was where I was staying. I couldn’t check anything because I still could not get the WI-FI on my phone to work. I checked in. Yes this was it. There were free bicycles to get to town, but I just was on a fifteen minute tuk tuk ride from town. And the road outside was extremely busy with no sidewalk. I asked about WI-FI and was told they had a problem and it was out on that side of town today and they were working on fixing it. I was beginning to panic. I was feeling stranded...trapped. I really wanted to get on the river, but I didn’t know who to tell them to call to book with. They said they could call me a tuk tuk to take me back into town, but I didn’t know where to tell them to take me. There was confusion over whether I was getting a tuk tuk tour of the city or using it as a cab and if I was going to the ferry river crossing or somewhere else. I finally just had them call the tuk tuk and take me into the city. I was hell bent on getting on the rice barge on the river, for reasons I did not know.
I blindly followed my gut, and as luck (or maybe not luck at all) would have it, as I was standing there by myself at dusk in a strange city having been dropped off by the tuk tuk driver, my WI-FI came back on my phone and I was able to discern that I was only a block away from the place offering the boat tour and find my way to it. I arrived only about an hour and a half before the boat was set to leave, but the girl squeezed me on. I had my own little awkward table for one, surrounded by couples, but I did not care. Once finally out on the water, I felt a sense of peace and calm sweep over me.
I felt the cool breeze sweeping up off of the water, kissing my face, on that old wooden boat, and as we passed that ancient temple, lit up after dark, magically reflecting on the quiet water of the river, tears surprisingly filled my eyes.
The guide was talking the entire time, but I wasn’t really listening. But then something she said caught my attention. I whipped my head around to hear better. She was saying something about a Siamese queen who rode out to defend her city as the King was dying and in so doing was killed by the King of Myanmar right there on her war elephant. I felt my eyes grow hot and swell with tears again and I took a deep breath. How noble and brave was she....
Obsessed, I researched this Siamese queen killed on her war elephant as soon as possible. Her name was Suriyothai, and she was killed in the Burmese-Siamese War of 1548. Legend has it that when Burma invaded Siam and had pushed the Siamese defense back to Ayutthaya, the king set to ride out and meet the Viceroy of Burma. Queen Suriyothai disguised herself as a man, dressed in armor, and rode out with him. The two men engaged in single elephant combat, but the Siamese king’s elephant spooked and stampeded away. The Viceroy of Burma gave chase, but Queen Suriyothai charged forward on her war elephant to prevent him from killing the king. The Viceroy then engaged the Queen in combat, and she fought bravely until his spear sunk into her chest, killing her. It is said he did not know he was fighting a woman until, as she was falling from her elephant in her final moments, her helmet came off, exposing her long hair.
Sitting on the ground at Wat Chaiwattharam, as all of that swirled around me like wafts of magic smoke floating through my mind, I felt the power of that place pulling me, welcoming me, embracing me. The sun was beginning to set, and the air was getting cooler and softer. I felt my sense of self strengthening and my own power rising, and I wondered at the integrity and sense of purpose and personal power that must’ve run through Queen Suriyothai, whose name meant “rising sun”, to give her such nobility and courage.
The next day, as much as I wanted to not deal with any more tuk tuks, I changed my plans to go outside of town to the Queen Suriyothai monument. As we approached the monument, I felt a hugely strong presence around me, and my skin started to tingle up over my shoulders, all the way up my neck and the back of my head reaching up into my crown chakra. I knew this feeling well from previous experience. It was a big affirmation of what I was doing.
I stepped out of the rickety blue tuk tuk and straightened up to an awe-inspiring sight. There on a mound of earth covered with the blooms of white plumeria trees, was Queen Suriyothai on her war elephant. In the Buddhist tradition, plumeria is sacred and associated with immortality. I walked around the statue slowly, finally coming around to the left side of the massive elephant, standing next to its head, looking up into its left eye. That’s when I remembered. In the fall of 2012 I had first seen an elephant in meditation exactly like this. It was just its head, and I was close to it, looking into its left eye, and in the meditation, it was clear that in that caramel colored elephant eye was the entire universe. I knew that in the spirit world, elephants are also known to be the carriers of ancient wisdom.
I thought about the events, beginning years back but also in just the past few days, that had led me to be standing here, with Queen Suriyothai, so far from home.
I wondered what the connection was between this brave queen and the elephants that had been with me since 2012, and the strong connection I felt to those majestic animals. Maybe there was no connection at all, or maybe the elephants had just been a way to get me to here.
I pondered this as I walked away from the monument, picking up a plumeria bloom off of the manicured lawn as I passed on my way back to the tuk tuk. As we drove away from the monument, I drifted deep into thought, and then I heard a woman’s voice clearly. She said, “FIGHT. Hold your space, hold your ground and FIGHT. You’re opponent may be unseen, but you STAND and you FIGHT, just as if you were on the battlefield. YOU ARE on a battlefield, just not one that you or anyone else can see. But you still use tactics and strategy and you still are courageous and you still FIGHT with everything you have for what you value and to be who you are meant to be. Do not give up. Go down fighting with everything you have if necessary, but do not ever give up. FIGHT. It is what you are here to do.”
And I knew what she meant. I had received this message before. The power is always in the present moment. Our power is in our ability to take action in each and every moment we are breathing and alive. When our spirits are embodied is the only time we can take action in the world. So we must use the time our spirits are embodied to take right action. Our actions in the present have power. They have the power to set us free from fears and beliefs and to break karmic cycles and heal our ancestral lines both backwards and forwards, because there is nothing really but the present moment. So we must stand up for what we value and be strong in our integrity and we must FIGHT. It is what we are here to do.
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