Second Day, Awareness Breakthrough

I rely on either the morning bell or one of the other lay guests to wake me up, so I have no alarm. Sure enough one of them gets us up, so I shoot up and head for the shower. There’s chanting and meditation again with the group of lay people and then they leave the monastery and their Buddhist holiday practice is over. Some stay however to help with the meal preparation. I go out to sweep the main path ways in front of the monastery. Once done, I go in to help with the food preparation. There are all kinds of delicious dishes with different smells and colors. A lot of this I have never seen before, so I’m craving to try. It’s interesting to see how my body is reacting to the food after not having eaten for 24 hours. I have to say even with how great the food looks, I’m not as hungry as I though I’d be.

Back at the main sala we chant and meditate again, then go to eat. After waiting for the monks to get the food we go with our one, giant, bowl to collect food. This type of Buddhism and I think many others say that it’s best to eat alms out of one bowl. That means you can’t get chicken soup and eggs. Or if you like soggy soup eggs, that’s fine. Then we sit down and do our own chanting about the food. Basically say we will eat the food just to help us sustain our body to practice and nothing more, specifically noting not for pleasure.

After eating I go to the schedule board and run into the work monk. He assigns me to clean the lay people’s bathrooms. I finish the task quickly and then have free time until 3. I go to do some walking meditation to mix things up a bit. I think I’m not very skilled at every type of meditation, but I do think that I will make a break through with the sitting meditation. The walking is too easy for me to drift off.

It’s strange how my body would rather suffer long term, then to sit and suffer a lot for a short period of time and then feel much better. I really believe in that breaking point as it happens in sports as well, with the runner’s high or finally relaxing into a position in a hard (bikram) yoga class. Those are primarily physical releases with mental benefits and now I’m trying to push my self to a mental release with the added physical benefits afterward. I try to do sitting meditation again, but chicken out, three times! This is embarrassing to admit, but now that I’m finally here, I feel like I’m scared to death of doing it and what will happen when I do. It might not make much sense logically, but it’s how I feel and what my body is holding onto. Ajahn Chah (the guy that made this specific type of forest tradition popular) gives a few examples in his teachings of times when he’s broken through that wall and even describes it as something necessary in the beginning of practice. Well, no wonder not many people want to practice Buddhism this way. The beginner levels of a skill should be easier than this!

Cleaning time with everyone in the main sala. I’m tasked to clean the gecko poop off of the bottom of the pillars. Now, I feel like I’m starting to earn this pampering I’ve received so far. At 4:30 we stop for evening tea and this time it’s just with the lay men, which means it’s much more talkative. Startin from the people who’ve been here the longest, there’s a Chinese guy, one from South America, another from China (different part), one from Vietnam, and the last from Canada. This is certainly an international group and quite interesting to be the only American.

After tea is over I have a realization of my patterns here so far. I’v erealized that I’m over consuming. They don’t limit food or drinks here and everyone takes so much. I just followed along at first. The food is amazing, we have a giant bowl to fill, and everyone knows we won’t be eating for another 24 hours. It’s hard to calm down and not eat until extremely full. Yesterday, I ate until I felt sick and today was only a little better in that I didn’t feel sick, but was still very full. The same thing happened at the first tea time. I drank more cups of tea and juice than I would every normally do in one sitting. All of this hit me really hard after just finishing this tea session. I’m setting my intention tomorrow to really watch and limit my intake, which will hopefully also make my meditation a bit sharper.

I finish the night with sitting meditation in the sala and lying meditation on my mat as I fall asleep.

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