Practicing on My Own, Crazy Eyed Old Man, Too Much Talking

I wake up a few times throughout the night, still fearing the possibility of sleeping through my alarm.

After a quick shower my neighbor calls me over to have some coffee and tea. I like hanging around him the most because we talk a little bit when we feel like it and then just sit there in silence. I really enjoy that and I think it’s something that my generation feels is a bad thing.

We go to the session and my legs are still a bit ouchy from yesterday, so I try to take it easy to make sure I make it through all the sessions today. I’m thinking about just resting during one of the afternoon sessions.  The session went fine, but still not back to that same level of relaxation. I do get to the point where one of my dreams comes rushing right back to my memory, as clear as yesterday’s lunch (I have much better of food than most things). That’s also something strange that’s happened to me ever since I first started meditation and I’m not sure exactly why or if there’s any significance there. For some reason, with out trying, when I first start to meditate well (whatever that actually means), dreams will fly back as if I just remembered that I need to do an errand.

Breakfast is nice because I sit with the older people as usual (they talk less while eating and I like that) and after they get up no one joins me again. I’m not against socializing, but it’s really nice to get a break and eat a meal by myself. Especially since I’m treated like a celebrity here.

The session after breakfast is normal, but my legs are still hurting quite a bit. I guess that’s what I get for practicing a religion in a country that is mostly used to sitting on the floor. The floor sitting culture is changing a bit now, but the older generations, especially those who haven’t been exposed to much outside of Laos, don’t understand why everyone doesn’t have the same flexibility as them.

At lunch I decide that I’m going to rest in my room during the next session and then join everyone again after dinner for the evening session with the long sitting meditation. I return back to my room and lock it from the inside. Now there’s only me and this very distracted mind of mine. I start just by lying down and letting my body rest. Before long, I start to drift, probably mostly because of the meal I just ate, so I get up and stretch a bit. Then I bring a chair into the room and meditate there for awhile. I take out my phone and listen to a few dharma talks before going back to the chair. From there Im fully awake, so I can lie on the ground without any sleepiness. I keep doing this in a cyclical pattern and really try to understand the process that happens from when I’m “in the moment” to when I’m lost in my thoughts. It’s a battle, but I begin to relax to the point where I can feel the tightness in my chest again. I can feel it exactly where my heart is in my chest. The three hours fly by and I can hear people outside, so that must mean it’s time for dinner. I feel relaxed, but nothing else noticeable. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made and I think the relaxation is an essential first step, so that’s all I expected.

Then, when I get to the food hall I  really notice a subtle difference I couldn’t before. I feel just slightly lighter and more relaxed than I did, even just at breakfast. Even talking to people I feel a light, but steady confidence I didn’t feel before. This is the kind of response I look for from meditation. Feelings like this tell me I’m doing the right thing and makes me want to continue. I’m not expecting to levitate or read people’s minds, but I am expecting some kind of positive feedback and this feeling is exactly what I’m looking for.

Walking back from lunch I see my neighbor and greet him as I pass. A few feet away, one of the other old guys who I see at my neighbors drinking coffee a lot says he didn’t see me in the meditation hall. I told him I was practicing in my room. They didn’t quite understand my Lao, so my neighbor walks closer to join the conversation. Then they get what I said and the old guys demeanor completely changes as he turns into a crazy eye (quite literally, I didn’t know if he was looking at me or if I was even addressing me), mean old man. I look back at my neighbor and I catch a smirk on his face that looked like he was thinking “oh great, here we go again”. My neighbor then started walking back to his hut. My ability to read his reaction was something profoundly deep I can’t quite explain. I think it’s really funny when sometimes I meet people and without really even knowing them for long, I feel so connected to them. If was trying to find any empirical evidence to point toward reincarnation that would be the one I’d use. I felt like just in the look he gave, we just had a conversation and I completely understood what he was trying to get across to me.

The crazy old man keeps talking to me and tells me I should go to the meditation hall to practice. I tell him that I understand, but my legs hurt and I want to sit in a chair in my room to rest my legs. As if my words were just the passing wind, he keeps repeating himself about the meditation hall being the source of feeling good. I find it impossible to have a reasonable discussion with religious people like this. I’ve found these types of people in America, Ghana, and here. I guess anywhere there are religious groups there’ll be religious nuts. The part that bothers me is that these people are then around long enough to become respected leaders (like this crazy eyed guy talking to me now) and then take younger, more impressionable people to spread their ideologies. As if I needed another, this is just more reassurance that not joining a religion is the correct path for me.

The nighttime session was frustrating again because that same damn woman from last night would stop talking during the whole meditation. We constantly chant about restraining ourselves and talking is listed as one of the big parts. She’s breaking the precept right in front of everyone, RIGHT AFTER saying them together with everyone. Okay okay, I could also see the arguement that she’s just giving guidance in the form of a Dharma talk. That’s fine, but the talk doesn’t have to be for an hour and I think there should be some time of silence to absorb it all. Meditation is also hard enough trying to control my own mental chatter, it doesn’t help for this woman to be adding another level of difficulty. Time finally gives in the theunrelenting woman and we all leave for sleep. I get back and pass out immediately.

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