20 Apr 2016

Going to Thailand for Yi Peng was something I had always wanted to do. It was something I had wanted to do, hoped I would do, but something I didn’t think I would ever actually GET to do. Kind of like when you say “I’m going to go to the gym tomorrow” or “I’m only going to have ONE glass of wine.” Never happens (Who only has one glass of wine?! No one I want to spend a Saturday night with).

Yi Peng is The Festival of Lights and celebrated throughout Thailand with the release of brightly lit lanterns. Specifically I wanted to go to the main celebration at Mae Jo University in Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand) that was attended by thousands of people, local residents and international tourists.

I wanted this experience so badly but it seemed painfully out of reach for many reasons including money, limited vacation time, distance, and opportunity. Maybe what was holding me back above all was the fear that I’d never get to go.

I’m fascinated by people who have taken impossibly large leaps of faith in their lives to get what they want. In the hopes of emulating their actions, I ask them how they made it happen and the answer is always a variation of the same story: They knew what they wanted and everything just fell into place.

Their testimony is further proof of a long held belief of mine that is perfectly expressed by the acclaimed author of The Alchemist (and many other revelatory gems). Paolo Coelho wrote “And the old king said: When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”

Is getting what we want all a matter of magical thinking? Our thoughts create our world? If that’s the case, I want to eat pasta and cheese all day and not gain weight. I’m still waiting on that one.

When I say that I believe that what’s meant to be will be or that I trust that everything will work out the way they’re supposed to, it sounds very hippy-dippy. People disagree because they think I’m kicking back on my laurels and handing over the reigns to some invisible wizard behind the curtain. People do not like the idea that we have no control. Believing that the universe has our back is NOT mutually exclusive to taking action.

Part of our deepest desires becoming a reality are the things that we can’t explain like when the universe aligns perfectly and things fall into place effortlessly. But a lot of it is actually in our hands. We are not powerless to the winds of fate! It’s a combination of the things we can’t control that happen TO us and living intentionally; with purpose.

It’s like the lyrics from the Meek Mills and Drake song 'Amen' (before the falling out, obviously): “I’m the type who says a prayer then go get what I just prayed for.” Getting what we want is having faith (that it’ll all iron out in the end) AND action.

Here are 5 Ways to Conspire with the Universe to Get What We Want:

Sometimes our goals and dreams seem so grand and terrifyingly ambitious that we don’t dare ask for, or even admit them to ourselves. We try to cut disappointment off at the pass before it can run over our hearts by denying our heart’s desires. We preemptively avoid getting our hopes up because if they’re closer to earth, there’s less of a distance to fall. We want to minimize the potential damage. But if you don’t ask, you won’t receive so own it.

You know when you buy a car then suddenly you see it everywhere? This is an example of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon wherein one happens upon an obscure bit of information then encounters it repeatedly afterwards. As nice as it is to think, it’s not because you’re a trendsetter and now the car is suddenly in high demand. What’s changed is your awareness. When you finally acknowledge want you really want, you’re more receptive to seeing the opportunities as they present themselves.

Say you want a fulfilling career as a writer and an opportunity arises for you to write for a magazine but you reject it because you had it in mind that writing your own novel was how you’d achieve your goal. You’re so focused on the vehicle that will take you to your destination that you ignore the potential of an alternate ride. Let go of your preconceived notions of how things are supposed to unfold. Sometimes what we think we want isn’t the same as what we need. Don’t limit your possibilities.

Remember when you went to high school dances and there was a boy you wanted to ask you to dance (there was always someone)? He can’t ask you if you aren’t there and it’s more likely that he’ll ask you if you’re in his line of sight. While we can’t control the things that happen TO us, we can still take strategic steps in the direction towards the things we want. Put yourself into situations with potential.

Finally, when the door of opportunity opens (and you have to trust that it will in some form or another) all you have to do is be brave enough to walk through. It can be daunting to be faced with the possibility of actually getting what we want. Now we have something that we can lose! What if it’s disappointing and not everything we dreamed? What if it doesn’t solve all of our problems? It probably won’t. New problems will arise from the vacated space like heads from a decapitated hydra. When a door opens, don’t ask why, just run through! And if the door isn’t open? Find an unlocked window and crawl in.

Back to how stars aligned for me to attend Yi Peng:

During a financial planning course at Ryerson, they had us do an exercise where we wrote down our goals. According to a study about goal-setting done by the Harvard MBA program, having set, clearly written goals and plans to accomplish them had a MUCH higher chance of producing success than not.

I wrote that I longed to travel to Thailand for Yi Peng in my notebook and promptly forgot about it. In retrospect, this was my declaration to the universe, acknowledging what I wanted.

Not long after, I came across a flight from Toronto to Thailand for $900 (so cheap)! It also happened that it had been a busy year and my vacation time was a use it or lose it situation. Then a friend I had met on a previous trip reached out to me about the possibility of going on another adventure together. This all conveniently transpired in the Fall, just in time for Yi Peng in November. Everything just fell into place. I was scared to travel so far to a place more different than I had ever been before but I stepped over the threshold of my fear.

It was one of the BEST moments of my life standing in a crowd with thousands of people, the air palpable with shared joy. We lit lanterns that were as wide as hula hoops, waiting with anticipation as they filled with hot air, and watched them creating a glittery path in the inky darkness, floating into a sky brimming not with stars but with lanterns that we released from our own hands.

It didn’t seem real; it was too beautiful to be real. I understood the science behind the hot air filling the lanterns but it was such a magical sight that I couldn’t believe that it could exist in reality.

You’re supposed to imagine the lantern filling with all of your fear, regrets, pain, etc.. of the past year and that everything is released into the sky, leaving you with only hope and joy. I felt so connected to everyone around me and with my life. It was one of those moments where everything clicked and I knew without a doubt that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was meant to be doing. Laughing and screaming with glee, jumping around too fast for my friend to take a non-blurry photo of me (hence the lack of photos in this post).

What I’m trying to say is don’t flinch away from the things that you want. You don’t have to yell it from the rooftops of email bomb your contact you list or even blog about it (unless you want to). You just have to be brave enough to admit to yourself what you want and hold it close to your heart and when the time comes, to gather your scraps of courage and dare greatly.

Where: Mae Jo University in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand
How: I booked it through the hotel I was staying at. They arranged for groups to be shuttled by vans to the location. Ask around well in advance because the actual day the event is on varies every year.
Wear: Cover yourself up. I know you’re on vacation but it’s a religious ceremony and a show of respect to the culture you’re observing. Or you can make due and release lanterns from your backyard.
Lanterns: You can buy them on site for very cheap. I’d buy at least two in case one breaks. They’re delicate so be careful! If they rip, it’s not going to fill with air.

ETC is the overflow of thoughts in the mind of Teri Yeung. It’s a place full of stories of travel adventures, imparted lessons learned from life’s achievements and failures, behind-the-scenes of projects and experiments, and anything else that inspires excitement and joy.

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