Meditation Boot Camp: Part 1


Saturday 26th January 2008

Ok, obviously I have been almost completely silent for 11 days, so these emails will be very long and detailed. You have been warned, so no complaining! I intend to outline pretty much every day blow-by-blow, so feel free to take your time reading these – there will be many parts!

I registered at the centre in Kathmandu at 11am on Monday, 14th Jan, and after a 5 hour wait was on the bus to Dhammashringa, the meditation center in the hills north of Kathmandu, just below the Shivapuri national park and forest. During my wait I met a lovely Sri Lankan girl called D, so we had a great chat and it was nice to have a friend, even if I wasn’t allowed to communicate with her most of the time!
We arrived at the centre, and I was actually really excited about the course. I was a little surprised to see that most of the center was under construction, but figured I should wait and see how it goes.
Our introductory lecture was mostly about ensuring we are willing to follow all the rules carefully and strictly, and were willing to stay the full ten days no matter how hard we found it – I resolved to give it a fair trial and stay no matter what.

They also repeatedly referred to the center as a prison, and said we should consider ourselves captives or prisoners to the course for the next 11 days. (We arrived on Monday evening, and day one started on the Tuesday. The tenth day was Thursday 24th, and we left the centre on Friday morning – so 12 days altogether, but only 10 of solid silence and meditation). The noble silence was a silence vocally, physically and mentally, so we weren’t allowed to look at anyone else or make any hand gestures/facial expressions either.

We were told to imagine we were there completely alone, and encase ourselves in an imaginary bubble of isolation.

Our schedule went like this:

4am – Wake up
4.30-6.30am – Meditation in the hall
6.30 – 8am – Breakfast and rest period (in other words have a cup of tea and go back to sleep for an hour!)
8-9am – Meditation in the hall
9-11am – Meditation in the hall or in your room
11am-1pm – Lunch and rest time
1 -2.30pm – Meditation in hall or your room
2.30-3.30pm – Meditation in the hall
3.30-5pm – Meditation in the hall or your room
5-6pm – Tea and fruit and rest
6-7pm – Meditation in the hall
7-8.15pm – Video discourses on the technique
8.15 – 9pm – Meditation in the hall
9-9.30pm – Questions with the teacher
9.30pm – Lights out.

We were allowed to communicate with the Dhamma staff if we needed anything/had any problems, as long as we kept it to a minimum and mostly used hand gestures. Also we had discussions with the guru every other day, but mostly he asked us questions and we nodded, but we were allowed to whisper to him if we had any questions.

So, just to clarify there were occasions when we did speak (or whisper), but very rarely.

So, we started our noble silence on Monday evening, although immediately after our first meditation session I discovered the toilet was broken and had to break my silence in order to get some help. The woman (who later became known as Evil Jailer 2 in my head) turned off the water to our toilet and handed me a bucket.
Oh goody, I thought.

Day One

Meditation goal: To keep a calm and quiet mind and focus entirely on respiration – observing natural breath. (Annapanna method)

Even though I maintained total silence on the outside, during the first five or so hours of meditation my inner monologue went something like this:

“Ok, let’s do this. Calm, quiet, calm….. and breathe, in, out, in, out,
(do, do, do-do Every little thing she does is magic, everything she do just turns me oooonnnn…….)
Damn, that song’s been stuck my head since I woke up this morning.
Ok, block it out, breathe.
In.
Out.
In.
Out.
(I resolve to call her up, a thousand times a day, and ask her if she’ll marry me…..)
No No No!
No singing!
Right – oh, my legs are getting sore already – I’ve only been sitting cross-legged for 5 minutes. I wonder how long I can stay in this position for?
Stop! Concentrate!
Ok, breathing, in, out, in and out, calm and quiet, in, out…..
(Crash, bang, bang, clang) – God that construction site is noisy! Why on earth have a meditation course when they’re rebuilding the entire centre? Ok, must try to block out the noise and concentrate.
In. Out. In, Out, calm, and gentle, in, out, In. Out.
Like waves breaking softly over my body, in, and out, a gentle calm tide, in, out, like sitting in the water on the beach, like when I was in Unawatuna, in Sri Lanka, oh that was so much fun! The sea was soooo warm, although I was still afraid of seaweed..
NO!
Shhh! Stop thinking!
Calm and quiet mind, breathing in and out, in and out, in, out, in, out…..
Oh my legs really hurt now! My right leg’s going numb. Ok, I’ll have to straighten out my legs now. Ooohhhh that’s better, I can feel all the blood rushing back into my legs.
Right, In, Out, in, out, in, out……. in……. out…… in …… ou-ow ow ow ow ow OW OW OW!!!
pinsandneedles! pinsandneedles! PINS AND NEEDLES!
Ok, keep calm and quiet, stay still, it’ll pass.
Focus on the breathing.
In.
Out.
In.
Out.
Oh, they’ve turned the tape on again. I really wasn’t expecting so much chanting on this course.
Focus!
Breathe in and out.
In and out….
Keep focused on the goal – I’m starting the first step of my spiritual journey.
Journey – Oooh! Journey! I love that song!
(Dum dum dum dum, Just a small-town girl – dum dum dum – Living in a lonely wo-orld)
NO!
NO NO NO!
No more singing – total concentration – get it together Maya!
Breathing in and out, in, out, in….. out….. in….. out…..
(Took the midnight train going an-y-where….)
Damn.”

And so on.

Later in the day I had to get another Dhamma worker to come and show me how to work the shower. Like the other one, she was very angry looking and glared at me, even though I hadn’t spoken this time, and indicated that the shower, like the toilet, was broken. Then she pointed to the toilet bucket.
Oh joy.

All of the Dhamma staff seem really unfriendly – always glaring and tut-tutting, shaking their heads at me – I wonder what I’ve done wrong? Must be the prison-like atmosphere, although those two in particular are really giving off severely bad vibes (from now on they shall be known as Evil Jailer 1 and 2).

Highlight of the Day: I was really proud I got up at 4am!

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