Presence for the Road – An Introduction


Hi all! Emily here. I also wanted to introduce myself as one of the volunteers for Insight World Aid (IWA). I am proud to be joining IWA for their first overseas project, and will be helping to document our experience from the orphanage, Wat Opot. In addition to working with IWA, I have the fortune to be traveling throughout South East Asia for two months. I am currently writing from Borobudur, Indonesia, and am very excited to join the group in Phnom Penh tomorrow.

About me: I am originally from New York, but recently relocated to the Bay Area. During my first week in California, I joined a sitting group at Insight Meditation Center. On my first visit, I not only found a warm home with a welcoming group, but also learned about IWA and the Cambodia project. My heart sang.

Like many of the volunteers, I have a strong passion for travel and learning about different cultures. This passion was realized while assisting on a research project in Ethnic Geography on O’ahu in Hawai’i. Since then I have traveled to much of Europe, Central America, Australia, New Zealand, India, Nepal, and Tibet. This also marks my third journey to South East Asia, and my first visit to Cambodia.

My background is in Leadership and Organizational Psychology, and I received my Masters in Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. I am currently studying Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University and hope to combine organizational learning with counseling psychology. I have spent the past seven years curiously investigating the nature of change and transformation, and for me, it all comes down to presence.

With that lengthier-than-expected intro, I would like to share a story about a transformational experience I had just this morning. While in Borobudur, I decided to hire a local guide to help me get a better understanding of their beautiful UNESCO World Heritage monument. I met a man named Hatta, who was born in Borobadur and has studied both Buddhism and Islam for his entire life. Hatta carefully walked me around the six platforms of the monument while teaching me about the six different transitional postures depicted by the Buddha of Borobudur.

When we made it to the top, Hatta used an example to help me understand the postures better. He said — using the coincidental example of medicine — that if you want to be a doctor you first need to set the intention and invite the world to witness your goal. You must then give effort, get good grades, and pass your exams. After that you must concentrate or meditate on your intention and effort, followed by finding fearless in your practice and aiming to become an expert in your field. He then looked at me and told me that even these are not enough. The final stage is transformation or opening, which is easy to miss. He finally said to me, “Emily, whatever you do, all you need to give is love, a smile, and presence.”

I was speechless. With his words and his own presence sinking in to my heart, we stood looking at each other for what felt like an hour. After wiping the tears from our eyes and sharing a big hug, we quietly descended back to the village.

After we made it to the bottom, I told him about our mission and about how much I wished he could meet our group and share his presence and wisdom with all of us. He spoke so clearly of our goal — even using medicine as his example! Although he cannot come along, I will carry his love, smiles and presence along the way. I cannot wait to start, and I look forward to sharing our journey with you.

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