Monday, 17 August 2015

My First Almost Week at the Meditation House

My first full day at the house set the pattern for the rest of the week. There were four of us sharing a room and we all got up early for our morning chanting and mediation. First we put away our mats and bedding turning our bedroom to a meditation area. Given the choice I elected to have breakfast between chanting and meditation and one of the girls kindly waited for me so she could transfer for me.

Post meditation the girls set about their daily tasks of sweeping, mopping and preparing food. I was told to relax so I read the translation of the evening and morning chants and tried to stay out of the way.  Later in the morning my host went over some of the basic words used in the Buddhist teachings and in the afternoon I was invited to join the class with my host translating. We watched a video of an autopsy with the message being that no matter what our eyes may see on the inside we are all the same. As well as teaching us to see beyond someone’s looks we were also instructed to keep this video in mind when we saw handsome men as it would remind us that inside we are disgusting and thus help us to not give in to our desire for them.

I’m not sure about the last bit but I did remember the video during my meditation and it did help me concentrate on the here and now. I imagined my breath entering my lungs and the oxygen passing throughout my body organ by organ. I know that’s not how it works but it was a good tool to help me keep my concentration. During meditation we are taught to concentrate on our breathing using the word Bud-dho to help us focus. On the first syllable we breathe in and imagine our breath and the path it follows. On the second we breathe out again following the path the breath takes. Initially this is a conscious and controlled movement but as the mind calms breathing becomes more natural and we become still. Since I had been doing rather well in the sitting still department I thought I would try to meditate on my own. This is how I found out just how powerful the transference was. I managed all of 30 minutes on my own. I was told this wasn’t actually too bad for the first time on my own so determined that I would try again soon.

Whilst I was keen to learn that evening I had someone transfer for me and again and once more was able to sit for longer than I had on my own that afternoon. Post mediation we discussed the importance of practice. Though in reference to meditation I immediately resolved to download the app my friends had told me about so I could practice the Spanish I had taken such pains to learn the previous two months. As well as this development we discussed what I was hoping to learn and gain from my meditation.

The next two days followed a similar pattern. The differences were that I downloaded the Duolingo app on my phone and started practicing my Spanish in the mornings as well as reading my book Also despite the fact anyone who has lived with me will tell you I’m terrible when it come to housework but with no job I found myself in need of activity so took to sweeping the garden.

On Saturday evening one of the girls took me to the local market. Here I was able to buy some tops more suitable for mediation and some long yellow trousers which as well as being suitably modest also looked different to my usual attire but in a good way. I also bought some fruit for the house and my new friend bought me a herbal drink which tasted a little like grass and was surprisingly enjoyable. As much as I love the food here I constantly find myself at a complete loss as to how to describe the different flavours. Suffice to say so far everything I tasted was good!

Monday was a day of rest and the house felt very empty as most people had returned to their families for the day leaving only three of us in the house. One of the girls prepared some soup for us so we didn’t even have to cook. (And yes of course it was good!) Since it was quiet I took the time to practice some stretches and exercises I had been shown the previous afternoon by a lovely Thai lady who also used to have problems with her flexibility. One of the girls had her own plans for the day but the other offered to take me to a park she thought I would enjoy. My day off was shaping up to be something different yet again.

The park was very peaceful. There was a building at its entrance which my friend informed me was place people could go to learn about and research Buddhism. As calm and peaceful as it was I decided I preferred the methods used at the meditation house. I was however very impressed with their mediation room and my friend said we could return later for our afternoon mediation. For the moment though we went to the market over the road from the park. We weren’t too hungry which was fortunate as the market was very busy and quite a shock after the peacefulness of the park. Instead we decided to walk through the park where we stopped at a small store to top up my phone and indulge in some cooling ice-cream, well it was a very warm day and it was technically our weekend.

We then headed back to the market which was winding down and therefore much quieter. I was proud that I managed to eat a fair amount of spicy salad which was unsurprisingly tasty and happy to try the friend banana and sweet potato my friend bought to accompany it. By the time we were done we were ready for our afternoon meditation. Beside the mediation room there was a small garden with a smooth pebbled path around it. Here I was introduced to walking mediation where the emphasis is on feeling the ground beneath your feet as you walk. Instead of thinking Bud-dho in rhythm with the breathing it was as each foot was placed on the ground. So the heel was Bud and the soul of the foot dho as the rest of the foot made contact with the ground. Before we started we stood very still and slowed our breathing then walked slowly round the path. It was a very different sensation from the sitting meditation yet relaxing in the same way. Once we had walked around the path we went straight to the mediation room keeping our movements slow. Once in the room we settled down and very soon I was in a familiar calm place.

By the time we were finished my friend suggested we head back towards the house as traffic would become increasingly bad the longer we waited. I was happy to comply. After a fairly short ride though Bangkok’s idea of light traffic we met up with the other girl and their Buddhist master. They took me to a noodle house where I was introduced to more tasty food. By now I should have known better than to ask what might be in it but no I asked and was told chicken blood. The soup itself tasted good and was pleasantly filling but the lumps of congealed blood I decided I could do without. I did try them but they didn’t taste very nice, finally I had found something in Thailand I didn’t like the taste of. Back at the house I was on more familiar territory as I opened up my laptop and tried to remember everything I had experienced in the last few days. I couldn’t believe I had only been there five days. I already felt at home and was looking forward to everyone coming back the next day.

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