Since arriving in Sri Lanka, I have been fortunate enough to meet many people who practice meditation on a regular basis. The elderly couple that own the guest house I first stayed in when I arrived (Auntie Nagani and Uncle Austin) were the first to greet me and make me feel welcome. When Auntie Nagani learned of my interest in Buddhism and meditation, she immediately introduced me to some friends who have been practicing for years. Immediately, we began to have fascinating conversations.
I’ve now become connected with a group of Sri Lankans and monks that meet once a month for a weekend meditation workshop in Colombo. The workshops are two 12 hour long sessions alternating between seated meditation, walking meditation, talks and discussion. I was very intimidated the first day not knowing how I would possibly make it through the time, but as time went on I was able to sit for longer periods of time without my mind wandering too much. The workshop was also great in that it wasn’t too strict. We are encouraged to move if we experience too much pain or discomfort. The idea of mindfulness meditation is to simply be aware of the moment, and to try to focus the mind on a single thing (ie: the breath). No meditation session is good or bad. The idea is that you want to sit and experience what happens without attachment or judgment.
Now, I’m trying to keep my meditation practice up on a daily basis by sitting for an hour in the mornings and my friend Ruwani and I try to meet at a temple in the evenings to do the same.
Believe it or not I haven’t experienced enlightenment yet! In fact, I think this is going to take me many more lifetimes especially since I’m so attached to things in this world such as chocolate ice cream and my macbook. During my daily meditation sessions, my mind often wanders.
The following are a few of the many random thoughts that have popped into my mind when I’m trying to meditate.
* Lately the Whitesnake song “Here I go Again” keeps entering my mind and I can’t get rid of it. The first time this happened I spent most of my meditation session trying to figure out who sang the song and at the same time trying to quit thinking about it.
* Gelato – I think about all the delicious flavours that I have not sampled yet at the local department store. Last meditation session I settled on the fact that I will try Tiramasu flavour the next time I’m there.
* Cows – Why on earth are there so many in this city and do they really have to start mooing the instant I get somewhere with my meditation? Why do we say the sound they make is a “moo”? In Asia they interpret the sound as “Ambaaa” and I swear it does sound more accurate here.
* Sinhala – How am I ever going to learn any of this language? The only thing I know about communication here so far is to bobble my head from side to side instead of nodding yes. This really gives bobblehead toys a whole new level of meaning in Sri Lanka. I wonder if they make bobbleheads of their cricketeers? I would like to have a bobble head of Ganesh, the Hindu god who has an elephant head. It would be so cute, or would that be offensive?
* International Development – How do we differentiate between a “developed” and a “developing” nation? Who sets this criteria? How is it that one group of people could possibly decide what is best for the rest of the world? Why do they make the buildings here of concrete? There must be a much cooler building material they could develop locally based on the traditional ways. I was in a mud hut once and it was much cooler than they building I’m in right now.
* Rastafarians v.s. Buddhists – Both Bob Marley and the Buddha focused on trying to achieve inner peace through nature. The Buddha meditated under a tree in India for years and Bob Marley smoked marijuana for years. Chacun son gout (To each their own)! Thank you 12 years of core French for teaching me this and many other key phrases such as “pamplemouse”, “Il y a un oisseau sur la fenetre” and inspirational songs such as “Louie la Grenouille”. I don’t know what I’d do without these key language skills:)
* Shit- my mind is chattering like a monkey again. Isn’t that I great analogy? A Buddhist monk in Thailand once shared this with me. Ironically,this monk was also looking after a baby monkey who had been abandoned in the forest. I loved playing with that baby monkey.
As you can see a day in my mind is exhausting. Good thing I’m taking up some meditation because I need all the help I can get.