Soothing ‘shh’ of asphalt road gives place to humming cracks—our car drives down from a highway to a country road. The latter becomes narrower and narrower and finally finishes in a car park locked between two hills. We unload our backpacks and thank the driver. A small tablet says «Vipassana course starts here». Gravel road guides our eyes to a two-storey building. Welcome, Dhamma Medini!
There are houses lined up next to the road: male residentials, then main building and then female residentials. The residentials, both male and female, are two-storey: bottom levels are accessible from the front of the buildings and the upper ones from behind. Each level has 6 small rooms with separate entrance and small windows. Inside: a bed and a small table attached to it. There’s also a meditation hall and pagoda with individual cells up the hill. The whole centre sits in a valley covered like a bear in the bush. Bush is everywhere. As well as omnipresent chanting of cicadas.
It’s very quiet here—there are not more than fifteen people at the moment. Although this will change as people come and leave all the time. We are here to prepare the centre for the next meditation course which will start in ten days. I imagine, it never gets noisy here: during the course students are not allowed to talk and between the courses there are not many people around. The atmosphere is laid-back and content. You won’t hear anyone shouting here. The only shouting one can hear—is in the mind.
Observe the mind. Be equanimous of your observation. What does that mean—to observe the mind? How do you do that? So far, it has felt a lot like finding yourself in a pitch-black forest where everything scares shit out of you. At first, you have no idea what you are looking at as everything looks just the same. Then your eyes become more sensitive to subtler sources of light and you start to see silhouettes. Then… Actually, I don’t know what comes next—my forest still represents a dirty draft of shadows drawn in coal.
Food is delicious here. It’s always a couple of different dishes: both freshly prepared and some left-overs from previous days. It’s said that the food during the work period is better than during the courses as the kitchen crew cook whatever they want. Men and women eat separately. Today I eat outside on a balcony enjoying afternoon sun. Conversation is quite: people discuss what was done before the lunch and how they are going to continue after afternoon group sitting.
«I’ve just integrated what was disintegrated.»
—Deepa when thanked for preparing curry.
I try to eat one bowl at a time but always fail to do so. Even now—my mind has tricked me into going to the kitchen «to check on things». I fell for this trick thousands of times but it seems never developed any cognitive protection from it. Even more—I’ve never even considered that I need one! After all, what if something really is wrong in the kitchen? Everything seems to be fine now though. I fill my bowl with food (so that my visit to the kitchen won’t be in vain) and devour it as quickly as I can destroying all the evidence of my little crime. As if someone cared.
The lamp in my room is not the brightest one but there’s a moth flying around it. I try to remove it from the room but then ask myself—what for? I leave the door slightly open and turn off the light wishing the moth a goodnight. When I woke up the moth was gone.
As I tie my shoes preparing for work, I hear bees buzzing above my head which makes the whole process of tying utterly uncomfortable. I stand up and notice a beehive next to my door. Or should I say “A door next to the beehive?” My first thought was to tear the beehive down so as not to feel this uncomfortability (which is basically a fear of being bitten and a pain associated with it). It’s apparent that there’s a conflict of interests here between ‘my comfort’ and ‘their lives’. As long as my fear remains, the conflict is inevitable. But is the violence? It’s easy to forget how much power I have compared to these little things and it may feel OK to kill them because… just because I can. In a long run, though, what can justify my ‘killing’? Bees are crucial in the maintaining of circle of life. Am I?
Evening group sitting is done. A short walk brings us to the main road. There’s a fence running alongside the road and there are cows behind the fence. The cows get curious and get closer to the fence. So do we. They stare at us. We look at them. They chew grass. We don’t. They keep staring at us showing no sign of this activity being tiresome. The sky grows dim slowly revealing stars. We leave allowing the cows to stare at our slowly fading backs.
The night sky looks the same. But it’s different. I try to find Ursa Major and Minor but fail over and over again. Also, Orion seems to be upside down. These are the only constellations I know. I bet, hundreds of other constellations I have no clue about also are either not there or look differently. Or maybe not.
Let all the beings be happy. Let all the beings be happy. Let all the beings be happy. I hear this chanted every day. My task for today, though, is to cut down all the trees and bushes behind a female bathroom. It feels very wrong seeing all the tiny insects running away. One bird flew to a neighbouring tree anxiously singing «Beware! Humans!»
It happens that when smoking a joint you get a bad trip. It’s good if there’s a close friend next to you to calm you down saying «Relax, dude, everything is fine. It’s just marijuana!» If not—the bad trip will eventually end. Similarly, weird things come up during meditation. It’s, too, alright. It’s just vipassana.
There’s a lot of guilt in me. Where does it come from? Why am I so attached to it and can’t see pass through it? It reminds me of a circus elephant that you chain to a tree to tame him. At first, he tries to break the chain but after multiple unsuccessful attempts he gives up—he learns that the chain cannot be broken. It’s then enough to put the chain around his foot to calm him down even if the other end of the chain is loose. How many chains am I carrying?