“The Machine”, Eating Less, and a Chat with Two Monks

Today is Saturday, day 8. Since I was up so late last night, I sleep in today until about 4. As they start the morning chanting and meditation, I’m the only lay guest out of 6 of us total who made it on time. Two more trickle in during the chanting and meditation at some point. I feel more tired than usual, but not enough to make me fall asleep during meditation. My issue is still calming myself down enough to meditate well.

The alms round was easy again and they don’t need me. It seems like it’s only on holidays that someone should go to assist on this alms round. I still enjoy going and think it’s something important to experience as part of my monastery stay.

Yesterday, a big Russian guy came to stay. I’ve only heard him say a few words, so I don’t really know anything about him. I gave him a nickname, just for myself, “the machine” because when we’re meditating in a group we’ll all be packed up and leaving and he’ll still be there sitting in the same position. Well, today at the meal he goes through the same motions as everyone else and then when it’s time to eat he puts his dishes away and fasts. Again, I like what Ajahn Chah said that it’s harder to do something just a little bit with mindfulness, instead of completely taking it out of your life. I don’t really have an opinion on fasting and I know that a lot of different religions take part in the practice. However, if I wanted to eat less to help with my spiritual practice, I would want the most delicious food I’ve ever had and to only take a few bites. I think that would be harder than just setting my mind to not eating or even considering it. Or an example would be some one how has a problem with, eating cake for instance, if they were to take one bite, they would probably go overboard, so most who are avoiding it, do it fully. Anyway, the Russian guy inspires me, so I decide not to fast, but to eat very little to see if it helps my practice at all. Apparently it’s supposed to give more energy and leave the mind clearer with less food in the stomach. Great, more energy, that’s exactly what I need… Even though I grabbed too much food, I eat a little bit of it and throw the rest away. It’s really hard for me to throw food away, but I was encouraged to do so by the guest monk if I take too much food. He told me it’s better to waste a little food and feed the animals, then to eat too much and not be able to practice well. Still my mom’s voice is ringing in my head that I can’t get up from the dinner table until I clear my plate. Normally, I’m licking the last grain of rice off of my plate.

Back at the Kuti I hand wash my clothes in a bucket. It’s a good thing that I’ve had plenty of practice with this is Antoa. I get it done no problem and then go to meditate. At 3 we all go to do a big clean of the main meditation hall. Most of the time I just spend wiping down the shutters with a wet cloth. I run into the monk from Luang Prabang and he tests my Lao a bit. We’re also talking with the monk in the purple Burma monk robes, who told me not to ordain here and instead go to the place he will go soon in Burma. I talk with him for a bit and then out of nowhere he tells me that I’m a very calm person and will be a great meditator some day. Calm!? I feel the opposite of that. When I meditate I feel like my knees will flap so hard they’ll lift me off the ground. I thank him for the compliment and appreciate something like that from coming from a serious monk, who I know limits what he says to things that he feels are totally necessary.

Tea time was nice to talk with the other lay guests. The Russian guys talks a bit and tells us that he stayed up all night last night and decided to fast along with that. I asked him how it went for him and he gave me a general answer that didn’t really help much. I’m not sure eating the amount I did really helped me focus any differently either. I’m not sure I get that part of the practice. I think I will need someone much more experienced to help me through that if I ever try it again. I go back to my Kuti after and try to practice before I give in to sleep a little early, especially to catch up after the lack of sleep last night.

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