Books by the old Leather Chair

  • Snow In The Summer
  • My Bible
  • The Power of Silence
  • What Comes Next and to Like It
  • Encore Provence
  • A Year in Provence

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


How can I not share this letter from my beloved son.

So full of wisdom and compassion he is.
Mom will be happy when he is back in the states - for awhile.

Hi Mama and Daddy !

Hope all is well back in Tennessee and this email finds you both peaceful, happy, content, fulfilled, and at ease.

I am having a great time this trip to Thailand - it is very quiet here due to tourism being down because of the recession and flu - in fact, my apartment building, where I have stayed 4 trips now, is almost empty - which makes it all the more bizarre that I met someone from Green Hills on the elevator the other day ! - a small world indeed - he is a teacher at Belmont and is here marrying a Thai lady. My apartment is very small, modern, and Zenlike - as in minimalistic - as I prefer - one room studio,hardwood floors, mattress on the floor, about 300 square feet and centrally located downtown with a small balcony overlooking the city. On the same floor is Holt, from Georgia, retired from the US Army and at about age 60 decided to sell everything and he and his wife are traveling around the world - they spent 6 months in Australia, 6 months in New Zealand and have been here in Bangkok for 2 years because Holt does not want to leave - anyways a very good chap and always good to know someone from the U.S. military when hanging out in a foreign country !

This trip I will do no side trips and play no golf - it will be cheaper to play at McCabes back home and cooler to play there in the fall. It has been nice just hanging out here in Bangkok. I do about 5 hours per day of yoga, pranayama ( yoga breathing exercises - increases lung capacity and calms the nerves ), and Vipassana meditation - one of my Nashville yoga teachers, Chris, is coming Tuesday for 2 weeks to visit his parents and sister, so I get to take him to a class or 2 here and meet some of my teachers here which will be fun. His family is from the states, but his parents and sister and bro in law have lived in Nepal for many years working for charitable organizations and have recently moved to Bangkok because his parents are getting older and healthcare here is worldclass and dirt cheap.

Tuesday night I am going on a dinner date with a very nice Laotian girl who lives on my street. We will have Thai food at an outdoor restaurant nearby - speaking of Thai food - it really grows on you - as in I crave the hot spicy stuff everyday. The streetfood here is cheap and safe to eat - on every block there is every king of food cart making soups, omelettes, rice dishes, noodle dishes, grilling everything, fried chicken, all kinds of fruit, coffee drinks, papaya salads - you name it - a good meal is about one dollar.

Every trip I go to several movies - the theatres downtown are amazing - they have the huge old ones like we used to have downtown and also enormous ultra modern multiplexes - today I saw a Thai martial arts movie subtitled in English. I learn a little more of the Thai language each time I come over and plan on being fully proficient one day.
I also saw a really great French movie with subtitles that Daddy you would like if you see it at Blockbuster sometime - "L'instinct de mort" parts one and two - also called "Public Enemy Number One" - a true story about a famous French gangster in the1960's and '70's who escaped lots of times from prison - a very bad dude......

I also read alot here and back home, usually about 4 books at a time - so far this trip I have read:
"Great Expectations" - Charles Dickens
"Sirens of Titan" - Vonnegut
"ABC Murders" - Agatha Christie
"Radio Free Albemuth" - Phillip K. Dick
"The Stranger" - Camus
"Everyday Zen" - CJ Beck

- and am currently reading "Silas Marner", an economic book by F A Hayek ( that Ron Paul would love and I am sure has read ), and I read over and over "Food for the Heart" by Ajahn Chah a Thai monk. I am very interested in studying Buddhist philosophy ( particularly Theravadan Buddhism which is practiced here - there are many types ) and own and have read about 100 books on this subject - and am now realizing that there are about a half dozen books on this that sum it all up nicely - Yoga and Buddhism can go hand in hand and come from similar roots in ancient India - it is said in yoga that you cannot truly meditate well unless you are physically fit - so the yoga makes one limber and strong to withstand sitting cross legged for hours at a time. To make the body healthy one must be active part of the day, to make the mind healthy one must try and make it inactive part of the day - thru meditation - not easy to do - one of the major tenets of Buddhist philosophy is mindfulness - mindfulness is being fully present right here, right now - not thinking about the past or worrying about the future - mindfulness is increased thru a meditation practice - Buddhism is an ethnic religion in Asia, but can be practiced or studied as a philosophy and combined with Christianity, Judaism, ect....

The nice thing about my primary interests and hobbies in life such as meditating,reading, practicing yoga, studying various philosophies, and learning a new language is that they do not cost anything, or at least very little.

I also like to read books about world history, yoga philosophy, travel books by Paul Theroux, and books about other religions - Christianity,Hinduism, Islam. Taoism ect... - I think an interesting major in college would be comparative religion. And, oddly enough, I think another interesting area to study would be the study of trees ( dendrology ? ).

Given my love of books it is not surprising that I think it would be really cool to have a used bookstore. Play jazz records, drink tea, and read - while customers browse...

So even though I am not undertaking any side trips this time over - in the future some top choices of places to visit for me would be Kyoto, Japan - Bhutan - and a few spots in China and Taiwan - I always fly thru Taiwan so it would be very easy and cheap to spend a week there sometime in the near future.

I will not see Tim this trip as he is hanging out in Vietnam and I am hanging out in Thailand and we are both attempting to spend less during this economic crises - also I saw him in Nashville in April and he is coming back to Nashville in October.

When I was here last winter some friends from a local meditation center and I traveled up to a National Park ( Kow Yai ) in the foothills a few hours away to visit a forest meditation retreat. While there we had tea and talked on the front porch of an American guy in his 60's, Frank, who has an apartment next to the retreat. He is an English teacher to the Thai military and enjoys meditating so gets out of the city from time to time to his rural pad next to the park and a meditation center - anyways he mentioned that before he got too old he wanted to become a monk. So last week I was attending part one of a 6 part philosophy lecture down the street and notice this little shaved head guy in brown robes sitting on the stage - it turned out to be Frank so we chatted after class and at one point he asked me how much is a load of concrete these days ? ( after inquiring what I do in the states ) - so I laughed and told him and mentioned how odd it was to be talking concrete with an American ordained Buddhist monk in Bangkok - it turns out that he is from N Carolina and used to be a contractor and has lived in Thailand for 20 years. So he gave me a map to his temple and in a few days I will go visit him and see what his new life is like - visiting a monk ( especially when he can speak english ) is very helpful because you can get advice on your meditation practice. When visiting a monk here you usually pick up some kind of gift basket which are available at a store on the temple grounds - the monks own nothing but their robes and and a begging bowl for food so rely on others to help them out and they in turn give you advice and good merit. He mentioned at the lecture that he had attended 3 ten day silent retreats thru the years on a little island in the Gulf Of Thailand - Koh Phangnan - so I am thinking about going in February - I already have a book about the place in Nashville and it is highly regarded center for meditation.

Hopefully the economy is bottoming out back in the states and housing construction will start to pick up - it would be great to have the plant still going when I am 50 and Daddy is 80 ! Though I may retire in Thailand, I don't think I can afford to do that until I am about 60.

Mama I hope your arthritis is not too bad and I hope you both can increase occasional moments of peace and calm to last throughout the days and nights.

I am looking forward to fall in Tennesee and driving around in my big old truck after walking everywhere for several weeks !

I am leaving around the end of this month so I shall see you both soon !

Love, Jimmy

One Woman - special memory


Marcie said...

Ernestine, That was fascinating. Your son sounds like a dedicated and thoughtful young man. What an interesting life he is leading. :)

Val said...

How interesting did I find his letter?? Very interesting!

My first contact with Buddhism was Theravada and I was taught and practised vipassana meditation for many years. My first teacher was a Westerner who was ordained in Thailand and the first one to be told to come back to the UK to teach. He did.

Ajahn Chah, too, was a wonderful man too, who established a forest monastery in Egland that is still running.

When I moved away from London and had a family, it was difficult to keep up the practise without the support of a local group.

But I discovered Thich Nhat Hanh (your son may enjoy his books, a Vietnamese Zen monk of great wisdom and humanity) and found a local sangha meditation group so close to me in rural Dorset. Hurrah.

To read your son's words reminds me of myself when younger - though we travelled to the East we never settled.

It was a great joy, when on a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh at his monastery in France in June, to find a famous Thai monk studying there with him. Two threads of my life pulled together. Wonderful.

Sky said...

well, this is someone i would certainly enjoy being friends with. i wish he'd settle near us until he moves back there for retirement! everyone i know who travels has said thailand is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

please send him our way!

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Aisling, thank you for visiting. Val, you sound so much like my son and yes all of Thich Nhat Hanh's books he has in his library. Sky, as always I love your comments.
Each of you have a wonderful day.