Posts Tagged ‘travel’
I’ve been re-reading some of my travel mails and writing from a few years back and I’ve always liked this one, so I decided to share. Being much younger my writing was very different and not so good, but other than cleaning up a few mistakes I’ve left it as is. My younger self deserves I think to have it left alone. Enjoy.
So there I was, walking towards the monastery wondering to myself, ‘will I be able to float after this?’ I mean meditation does give one strange and wonderful powers, does it not?. I was heading up the very steep road to a Buddhist monastery in northern Thailand to spend 10 days learning to meditate. Clearing my mind, embracing the oneness of the universe and finding inner peace along with an understanding of the nature of the cosmos; or so I thought.
I meet my teacher, a monk called Ajan Southep, inside the main hall of a very beautiful monastery sitting at the top of cone-shaped hill with views looking out over a verdant Thai plane. The Dali Lama himself thinks my teacher may have reached enlightenment. This is a man who for all intents and purposes has found ultimate insight and peace. He has gazed into the centre of existence and understands why the meaning to everything is 42. He was very small. I stood looking at this modern-day hobbit, all eyes and feet. His huge eyes peered intently at me through the double glazing of his spectacles. He turned and pointed at a long mat and said “lets walk”
And did I walk. I walked 6 steps forward, then clicked my hills like Dorothy but I wasn’t going home. No I was going inward. Then 6 steps back. Repeat, for hours on end. I was thought to meditate in the lotus position and movements that went with it. I was thought to find the truth,confirm it,accept it and then just to be happy with it.
But there was a flaw in all this. I had stopped smoking. The monks weren’t nicotine friendly and I felt it was a good place to stop. Bad move. Three days into my climbing of the spiritual mountain that is meditation I was walking towards the kitchen for my lunch and last meal of the day. Wrapped in solitude and stillness I focused only on the movement of my feet. A sound permeated my emptiness and I looked up. Approaching me was a monk, saffron robes draped carelessly about him, his head clearly unshaven for a few days and a cigarette hanging from his mouth. I almost stumbled in shock. As he passed me in slow motion, a cloud of smoke billowed from between his lips. He looked me in the eyes and inhaled again. A deep slow inhalation of pure toxic joy. I could see the serenity in his eyes as he smiled at me saying nothing and disappeared around a corner.
That evening my mind went from glacial to chaos. All I could hear was the call of nicotine. I fought it trying everything in my power to focus on my movements. “He couldn’t have been a monk.I must have been hallucinating due to lack of sleep and all the meditation. No he was a karma thief assuming the identity of a monk and sent there to purloin all their hard-earned karma”. My mind whirled with thoughts and I snapped. I ran from my hut and into the night not sure where I was going but I was going to get cigarettes.
Alone in the dark I stopped wondering what the hell I was doing when the sound of the lawnmower engine of a moped came sauntering through the night towards me. The bike stopped beside me and the happy face of a Thai man whom I recognized as the monastery handy man stared at me clearly wondering what this deranged man was doing in the middle of the road late at night. He said hello to me in Thai. I shouted “Marlboro Lights” at him. He jumped off the bike spoke rapidly in Thai pointing to bike and then off into the distance. Ah! He was giving me his bike. I was almost on it and gone before I realized I wasn’t sure where I was going and if I would survive traveling at night on a moped in Thailand. I explained to him through gestures that all I wanted was a lift. He understood. Huzzah for international sign language.
So off we went stuttering into the night. It wasn’t until we hit the first bend that I noticed the lights on the bike were starting to dim and then they died. My driver, continued onward ignoring our lack of illumination, all the while singing at the top of his voice. “Stop! You can’t see where your going!” He ignored me and sang on. Clinging to the back of the bike fear and adrenalin coursing through me. I zoned in on the singing. I swear to you I was convinced he was singing highway to hell in Thai.
Some how we survived and managed to make it back up to the monastery, with of course my smokes. I never saw the Karma thief again.
I did however manage to survive my time in the monastery and learn to meditate to a certain degree. I even achieved total emptiness at ones stage. It was quite the experience. Ajan,my teacher became more and more fascinating as I got to know him. The more time I spent in his presence the more time I started to believe that the man may indeed be enlightened. I wanted to ask him could he float? But I always got side tracked trying to figure out his metaphors about pools with the fish of truth, the peelings of an orange and a blind man with no walking stick.