If you haven’t read January 30 yet, you can do so here.

If you stumbled onto this post by accident and haven’t read any of the other stories, head over to this post to find out more about this project.

Gabi had never been religious. In her mind, religious teaching was limited to the kind of nonsense that started wars and led to people like her being persecuted throughout history. She knew enough to know that the Christian Bible didn’t actually teach hate, but she wanted nothing to do with the followers who had twisted the message of acceptance and love. On the other hand, she had barely given the Eastern religions any thought. Those were spaces of spiritual mumbo jumbo and not the kind of thing any sane person would engage in. Indonesia had changed her. She’d felt drawn to the temples there. The same kind of pull that overwhelmed her as she awoke their first morning in Ho Chi Minh. 

A quick search pulled up far too many options to visit in just two days. Contrary to her usual method of detailed pro and con lists, Gabi decided to just head out and see where life took her. 

As it turned out, life took her to the Jade Emperor Pagoda, something shifted in her as she took in the unassuming, slightly overgrown temple. It was still early and there were only a few people crowded around the fountain out the front. Turtles swarmed around chirping for food. There was a majesty to their slow movements, a kind of wisdom that Gabi had never experienced. She realized in that moment, she’d been going about the whole thing all wrong. It wasn’t about getting to as many temples as she could, it was about the depth of feeling she experienced. She resolved to explore the temple at a turtle’s pace. To take the time to really embrace what the pagoda was about. The mixture of many religions into one place of worship. 

The atmosphere felt heavy as she made her way inside. It descended over her like the dim light and the burning incense. 

There was a magic to Jade Emperor that Gabi hadn’t expected. As if it had been there all along, except now she was open to feeling it. 

As she strolled through the many winding rooms of the tiny pagoda, her gaze drifted to the decorations, the stories they told. Chinese zodiacs next to Buddhist messages, all wrapped in Taoist stories. Three different belief systems. They all boiled down to one thing. 

She traced the pathways of the temple, barely aware of the other people seeking answers from the Jade Emperor. Gabi didn’t notice how much time had passed as her mind turned everything over. She was drawn repeatedly to the symbolism of the ten hells. For a moment there was fear that she would be judged and sent to the hells. As she returned to the same place over and over, that fear turned to acceptance and then to resolve. 

All the religions of the world had just one major tenet in common. Love. Love and acceptance. Of everyone. 

She would live that ideal and if she was judged unworthy as a result of her previous actions, then it would be a fair judgment. 

Night had fallen when she finally emerged from the temple, bathing the city in bright lights. She watched the turtles some more and thanked them silently for setting her on the right path. 

Even as Gabi returned to the ship, she felt the magic crackling around her, a sixth sense she’d never been aware of but would never be able to ignore again. 

You can read February 1 here.

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