3:30 a.m. arrived much faster than I anticipated causing me to creak out of my bed ever so slightly. After dragging myself up the long set of stairs, I found myself in the by now familiar meditation hall. Something about early morning meditation just works. Starting the day fresh without any distractions entering my mind has allowed me to be more cognizant of my own thoughts and body. Along with working on my breathe, I have been trying to look more closely at the people in my life and how they have impacted me. With this time readily available, I want to make the most of it before I return to the speed of travel. Another nap and meditation passed before I went over for lunch. For having only one meal per day, I don’t necessarily feel that hungry or in dire need of some sort of snack. Sure I could eat but it is another distraction from being clear-minded. Possibly I can consider some fasting in the future. When I reached the long meal hallway, I noticed my friend the Myanmar boy who I believe is called Zay-yar-win if my poor memory serves me correctly and decided to stand by him and his friends while I waited for the monks to get their meals. Whenever a monk passed them and by default myself, they handed their large meal pot to one of us for that person to raise the vase/pot up above as that lucky person bowed slightly to the monk in respect. I got into the act as well which was a fun cultural moment for me. Once the monks began to clear out we got our trays, bowls, and utensils before waiting for a moment of chanted prayer. After getting my bowl of fixings (pumpkin, beans, greens, fish paste, and of course rice), I sat down with Zay-yar-win and his friends. The meal was delicious and not overbearing like previous lunches, which I have become fine with. Once we cleaned our dishes, they said that they would be going to their home and I asked if I could join. Zay-yar-win introduced me to his friend and brother, all of whom knew limited English but we managed. They took me to a larger sized home that locals and monks were hanging around. Probably very excited to lead a foreigner friend around, Zay-yar-win was always looking for a way to entertain me as the guest of honor. He kept grabbing chairs for me to make sure I was comfortable and offering up his oranges. After taking some pictures for the memories, we went on a short walk through the woods that eventually led to the meditation hall, as all the paths seem to do. On the way, he and his friend would point out various simple things and teach me how to say them in Myanmar. Although it will take me awhile to fully commit them to memory, I appreciated their efforts and willingness to help me out. In return, I shared some English words as well. At the meditation hall, we sat together and shared some Myanmar sweets, most of which went to me out of their unlimited kindness. These moments that I share with the locals mean much more to me than the pagodas or other buildings/sites that headline Lonely Planet; I will treasure and remember most of all the people that are so gracious enough to let me into their lives and share a piece of themselves. They are what make travel special and unique. Granted viewing a photo of the Taj Mahal or Angkor Wat for example is not the same as seeing it for yourself but at least you know what it looks like. Engaging locals and having a genuine, authentic experience with them can never be recreated. Eventually we went our separate ways so that I could get my stuff together for the next meditation session. I have gotten quite a bit more restless with the meditation. It is very challenging for obvious reasons, especially with someone as jittery and ADD as myself. I am sitting in some position or another for 6 hours in a day. Normally I struggle with thirty minutes unless something is very engaging and draws my interests. Maybe meditation in this manner or length of time might not be for me but at least I have tried. I still do believe I and everyone else can benefit from taking some time out of their busy day to quiet down and clear out the racket that typically takes over our daily lives. After being denied of the precious sugar cane fruit juice, I began aimlessly exploring/walking through the woods. While I rounded the hill assuming the path would eventually lead back around to the monastery, I saw several monk homes secluded to the middle of nowhere. A kind monk probably noticing I was more or less lost offered to lead me along a new more open trek through the woods back towards the main road. Eventually, I joined the rest of the yogis and monks atop the hill toting flowers that some women from the village handed out for good luck for the day’s last meditation session before calling it an early night.
Breaking Burma Day 88: The Local Myanmar Tour