Lots of Holiday Food, Last Full Day, and a Disappointing Dharma Talk

Today is Friday, day 14. Today up at normal 2:40. At the morning group meditation I have to get up out of the sitting meditation because I’m worried about hurting my knees or anything else I use to sit. After a quick sweep, I go back to my Kuti because I gave my alms round away to one of the new lay guests. I’m really enjoying this extra time in the morning I’m now getting to do some extra of my own practice. I’m feeling a bit more tired than usual still though. I’m not sure why, whether it’s because the charm of the place has worn off a bit, the early mornings in general are catching up to me, or just because of those different sleep schedules when I was helping with the dying. I go back over to help sort the food and talk with my lay Thai woman friend there, Paet. She thanks me for all the help every day and apologizes if she ever got frustrated with me or any of “my friends,” meaning the other lay guests. I chuckle and tell her it’s no problem and that everyone here likes her and that she’s probably the reason so many of the lay guests want to come and help set up in the morning. She’s the one who give the food prep its efficiency and direction.

At meal time, I’m still toying around with how much to eat. Still grab a heap of vegetables, fish for protein, fruit, and some sticky rice to keep me full. A new guy from the U.S. came during the funeral, but now I’m able to give him a bit of an orientation. I’m also happy because he picks up half of my chore that I got put on me after Bing, the quieter Chinese guy just left abruptly. Everything else in the day goes like the normal routine.

I’ll add Saturday, day 15 into this same blog post to give it some more meatiness. I wouldn’t even know what to make the title from the first part I added. Maybe something like same ol same ol with a little Paet mixed in… Now you see why I’m continuing here.

Today is the moon holiday again. That means there are a lot more people donating the food today and some of those people stay for morning chanting and meditation. The real troopers will stay all day and practice throughout the night before they leave after the morning chanting and meditation tomorrow morning. Most people just come and bring in a special dish of food and get the hell out of dodge. I don’t blame them, I wouldn’t want to stay and meditate all day either… Oh wait.

I don’t make it through the meditation again without stretching my legs, but I manage not to get up and instead just get right back into meditation. Then after sweeping I go back to sort the amazing amounts of food people bring. This almost beats the first holiday combined with the New Year celebration when I first got here. The other lay guests and I are all sitting around the food laughing at how much there is and how delicious it all looks. My mind is totally going crazy with all the wonderful smells and colors. Every new dish has a different wonderful aroma of garlic or freshly cooked chicken and fish. I’m not even hungry though, so I’m not sure what my body is trying to say to me. I think it just comes from my body being in emergency mode from only eating one time a day. Part of it is also just being more aware of my relationship to food and it reveals probably how often I used to eat when I just thought it was time or saw something delicious, instead of stopping to think if I was actually hungry. I realize before the meal that I’ve been eating less food, but my craving for the food has been squeezing out desires that I don’t normally have, like craving and indulging in the sweets every meal. In the beginning the fruit was enough for me, but the last few days, I’ve really had a craving for the sweats as well. That’s definitely something that is very strange for me. Normally I like sweets and will eat them on occasion, but don’t really crave them, like I do with other foods. Pizza and fruit on the other hand are much different, those cravings will probably never go away, no matter how long I stay in a forest. At the meal, I eat closer to an appropriate amount of food to keep me full, but still cave in a bit and get a small chocolate drink and some crunchy rice sweet thing that I’ve never tried before. It’s amazing to see how my cravings will fight so hard and create all kinds of arguments to justify caving on my resilience. I thought, oh the drink has extra vitamins and minerals in it and oh I haven’t ever tried that rice dessert. Even though I already get enough vitamins and minerals from the fruit and vegetables or with the other less sweet drinks with the vitamins and minerals and the rice thing is just one of many types I haven’t tried and it would be nearly impossible to try them all in my short stay here. I’m still making progress though because I’m now aware of my cravings and things my body does to justify giving into them. I’m definitely proud of my progress so far and developed a real passion to keep exploring and learning about my relationship to food. It’s such a great tool for learning more about myself, specifically how I deal with cravings. I think also it’s something I would have never brought to my attention because it was never bad, but only eating once a day has brought the small issue right into my awareness and now it’s shattered the glass of my previous ignorance.

I can’t believe today is my last full day already. My plan is to leave tomorrow right after the meal so I have plenty of time to make it over to the next town where I will join the new monastery for a night. I spend most of the day organizing things in my Kuti and getting ready so I don’t have to rush around tomorrow in the morning before the meal.

At tea time the new American guy brings out some honey that he raised in a bee farm at his house, some dark chocolate, ginger pieces, on top of the already prepared tea snacks of black liquorish and chocolate ginger ball things. Steve from Philly is preparing the snacks and tells me to try the black liquorish and I tell him no thanks that I really don’t like that candy. He says he has never like it either but will try some. I say okay, why not, I haven’t eaten some since I was a kid, so I’ll try it again. It’s wrapped in some natural earthy flavored thing and the taste is so mild that it’s actually really wonderful. I think the candy we get in the US is just overly potent and this candy takes away everything I hate about that other candy. At the tea time I grab some more because I liked them so much. My mind is going crazy again and I can’t resist the snacks, ahhh! I grab an extra drink because I want to try it with the amazing honey. Now that this craving thing is in my mind, it’s really interesting to keep watching the craving after I indulge and to see how It just goes away. There’s no sense of relief or real lasting pleasure, in fact most of the time I indulge in the craving, I’m thinking about something else. How crazy is that! That has also really helped me to look at cravings in a different way. Before I indulge in them, I think what will I get out of doing this anyway, and then it goes away for a little bit. I think that also opens a mental discussion to see if the craving is of something that is actually important or not. At the end of tea time, I grab some of the hard candy sweets to keep and give out to the other lay guests in the morning. One of them did that one morning and I like the gesture, so I figured it would be nice to do on my last day with them.

At night we go through the chanting and meditation in the sala and then over to the Dharma talk. Tonight will be the guest monk and I’m excited to hear what he talks about. He pulls out a book and says that he wants to read something to us. I immediately start to grumble and then stop myself and try to stay open to the possibility of it being quick and leading into his own thoughts on the practice.  He reads about the upper stages of development in the practice, those that are so close to enlightenment that they just don’t even mean anything to anyone here. No one can even relate in the least and as I’ve ranted about so many times, why the hell are we even talking about this part of practice and trying to put it into words. Who cares if it exists and even if it does then why are we trying to fit it into conventions that we can’t fully understand it with. I can hardly even put into words the way I dealt with my distractions, let alone being able to describe the practice right before reaching enlightenment. He also defines a lot of words and does it so often that he probably loses the attention of most people in the room. Who cares about the big made up words, if he’s going to talk about it then I think he should just stick with the small words used in the definitions. I was really hoping this would have been better! The talk ends and the new lay guest asks a question, which makes me think of another one. The answer to the question is so drawn out and the answer has beaten the dead horse so much, there’s just dust on the ground now. I almost fall asleep a few times and by the end almost forget my question. Out of pure stubbornness or just plain stupidity, I still ask my question as well. I ask about the object of meditation being the breath and he mentioned if we pick that then to stick with it. I ask then if the object of walking meditation is supposed to be on the feet touching the ground, then how we should fix those conflicting suggestions. I answer goes around in circles and floats by a few points and then wisps away like smoke in the air. I’m not even sure what the answer was to the question, but I try my best to be respectful and thank him for his time. There are no teachers here who speak in short provoking answers or similes that make you then go back and think for a long time. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies at this point, but I want a teacher to answer my question with another question or give me a puzzle that will nudge me toward finding the answer for  myself. I also wish the teachers would take a second to take a breath and think about their answers before speaking. They should also speak in in a grumbly voice with backward sentences. Oh wait, that’s Star Wars, okay that confirms it, too many movies.

I head back to my kuti right after the talk in order to get plenty of sleep before the big day of traveling tomorrow. I’m really excited to experience a new monastery, especially one on the Laos side.

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