April 5th, 2007

Buddha Had A Big Round Face Too

For those of you who thought the idea of me getting up at 6AM to do yoga was funny, you'll find this hilarious:

4AM-Wake up bell
4:30-6:30 Meditate in hall/cell
6:30-7:00 Breakfast
7:00-8:00 Rest
8:00-9:00 Group meditation in hall
9:00-11:00 Meditate in hall/cell per instructions of the teacher
11:00-11:30 Lunch
11:30-1PM Rest
12:00-12:30 Personal interview with teacher (optional)
1:00-2:30 Meditate in hall/cell
2:30-3:30 Group meditation in hall
3:30-5:00 Meditate in hall/cell per instuctions of the teacher
5:00-5:30 Tea Break
5:30-6:00 Rest
6:00-7:00 Group meditation in hall
7:00-8:30 Teacher's discourse in hall
8:30-9:00 Teacher's instructions in hall
9:30PM Retire to room, lights out

It's really hard already to look back on those 10 days and remember everything that I wanted to write.  There were many times that I wished I had my journal, thoughts and experiences it pained me not to capture right then and there.  I can say that through the course one cannot help but go through some sort of transformation, realize at least a thing or two about themselves.  The teacher kept calling it a deep surgical operation of the mind.  This is a pretty fair statement.  I could feel myself go deeper as the days went on.  The mind still chattered, but the manic quality faded.  

We took on five precepts, like no lying or killing, but also--and most interesting--was the vow of noble silence.  This meant no talking, no eye contact, no body gestures, no reading, no writing.  You were only allowed to ask the teacher questions about the technique and to ask the volunteers for any material needs.  I think the hardest was no singing!  On the fourth day I forgot and was singing Feist songs in my bathroom, and an old lady knocked on the door and scolded me in Hindi.  Not talking, I thought, was actually kind of nice.  But trying to meditate that much everyday...your mind really goes into all sorts of places.  I think the thing I thought about the most was how I want to buy a mini-schoolbus and convert it to biodiesel, and how I would arrange the furniture.  I also thought about more serious things, had some moments of forgiveness even.  One morning I woke up and found that  I had been doing the technique in that state between dreaming and awake.  Several nights my dreams were very intense--in themes and characters--my childhood, my family, and other central figures.  I found myself excited to be there probably 80% of the time.  Even if I left the meditation hall glad to get out, by the time the brake was over I was ready to go back to it.  My time alone in my room was extremely essential.  If I hadn't had that, it would have been a lot harder.  On the tenth day, when the noble silence was over, I felt flooded with emotion, almost an altered state of consciousness--like everything had caught up with me.

The technique itself comes from the Theravada school of Buddhism, and is, in a nutshell, about observing the sensations you are experiencing in the body in that moment, without judging or forcing anything.  I really like that it is a body-centered technique, and that it is about being present in the reality of that moment, whether feeling pain or pleasure.  I really highly recommend this to pretty much everyone.  And the ten day course, though difficult at times, gives you the space to get rooted in the technique.  No instant nirvana, but at least a grasp on things (and even some blissful moments) which help to establish the long road ahead.  It is also completely free to do the course, food, and lodging.  If at the end you feel you would like to contribute, you can, but I didn't think they were pushy about it at all.  In fact, they appreciate you donating your time to volunteer more than your money.

After the course was over, everyone was so happy!  Glowing, really.  I took a taxi to Pushkar with a British girl I had talked with before (Sophie) and a guy from Belgium (DiDi).  I've been spending time with them ever since.  Pushkar is amazing!!  The town hugs a holy lake and is surrounded by these soft, rolling hills.  I've been getting up for sunrise on the roof.  At first I thought it was a fog that covered the city in the morning, but later realized it was smoke from all the temple fires.  Also, everything here is insanely cheap, so my temple-mania has been replaced by shopping-mania.  The days here are slipping by so easily.  We were all interested in doing some sort of course, so we spent the first day sorting out the genuine article from the imposter, and finally found this great man to teach us Reiki.  Yesterday I had my Reiki attunement--something I've wanted to do for four or five years now--and today and tomorrow, class for two hours.  Now my schedule has become humorously full between yoga, Reiki, and two hours of Vipassana a day, and I'm having to make some choices about how to spend my time.

Day after tomorrow I am leaving with Sophie to meet Katie in Delhi!!