Breaking Burma Day 87: Striving for an Open Mind

I began my day at the much too early time of 3:30 in the morning as the wooden drum from atop the hill cut through the silence of the early morning’s fresh darkness. Still bleary-eyed, I walked the slow march from my kuti all the way up the stairs to where the meditation hall stood. Since I had no stool to sit on anymore, I had no choice but stack a tower of cushions one after another to find a decent sitting position. Possibly due to the fact that it was too early in the morning to actually think, I found myself having the clearest of mind to this point, inching a step closer to where I would like to be on this retreat from the backpacker life and all of life in general. Little by little my mind is getting past the normal nuances that it usually resolves itself to and is now dusting out the cobwebs of its far most stretches and delving into long lost gaps in space. Originally on my first day I was very fidgety to the point that I had to get up and move around during my first session but I expected that as a newbie trying to break into the mode so early on. However, now I am starting to calm my mind and focus on the task at hand whether that be my own breathe or posture or repositioning my mind to think on a deeper level. Most everyone sits in the standard cross-legged position for the full hour and a half, which is next to impossible for me so instead I have created my own yoga style poses that help me concentrate better. Sure my mind is still racing but now I feel those thoughts are becoming more purposeful, no longer so limited. With a limited amount of sleep from the night before, I chose to skip breakfast and make the most of the two and a half hour gap in my schedule with a nap. Since I had a full day ahead of me including a total of 6 hours of meditation, I needed as much rest as time could spare. Another meditation session went by as I looked at my life and thought about where I have been, where I am now, and where I see myself progressing forward. After another break, my one and only meal of the day arrived, a moment I had been looking forward to and now cherish. A Myanmar boy from the village with spruced up hair, possibly 13 years old, who I met the day before on the way back from seeing the abbot, helped us find our kitchen utensils before allowing us to tackle the lunch lineup full on, on our own. The serving size of rice was not as monstrous as yesterday’s but still too much. Soon atop the king size bed of rice sat a spicy deep orange mishmash of pumpkin, tomatoes, possibly figs, and a few other tasty mysteries, beans (boy do they love their beans but they need it with a vegetarian diet), nuts, herbed potatoes, and other greens I can’t piece together but oh so delicious. On the side came strawberries, oranges, soy milk, and the deepest, most refreshing brew of chai tea I have ever had and I love my chai tea. In spite of the growing heat of the early afternoon, I made more progress during the third session of the day, so much so that I decided I would stay a third night to really see where this thing can go. Unfortunately, my meditation or yogi buddy had to leave, moving on to his next destination in Myanmar. On the flip side, I met a Lithuanian guy who gave me some sound advice on my upcoming travels as we walked around the monastery’s complex exploring their trails through the woods. The last session of the day began after sunset and was probably my worst thus far. I could not quite seem to get into the groove whether due to the onslaught of my sweat or the natural sounds that reverberated through the wooden hall. Although mostly silent, the room has its fair share of natural sounds, besides the chirping of birds. Despite being dedicated, religious people, the monks are not afraid to let loose; I am not sure if it is some sort of contest but they do not hold back at all, probably thanks to the large consumption of beans in the diet. Another day of meditation came and passed. Being rested today, I anticipate what lays ahead for tomorrow’s sessions.

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