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IMG_2443After 6 months of almost constant sightseeing and adventures we started thinking more intensively about settling down for at least a week or two and do something that will not only leave us with awesome memories but also will benefit us in one way or another in our future lives and careers. As we still haven’t come across the right volunteering opportunity it had to be something else. Lucia had been thinking about trying meditation for a few months. When we decided to contact meditation centres with our applications we had been in Myanmar for almost 2 weeks and we had had a chance to see how buddhism plays an important role in society. On a daily basis we saw lines of monks or nuns going around in the morning to receive offers from people in exchange for their blessing. We witnessed processions celebrating children being brought to monastery to live monastic lives. All family homes we visited were devouted to buddhism and Nat (spirits) beliefs, this combination being very typical for Myanmar. So we thought that Myanmar would be the best place to learn.

The first one to reply to us was Panditarama Meditation Centre located near the city of Bago north of Yangon. Having done our research we knew that this centre, similarly to most of the centres in Myanmar, practices Vipasana meditation method which we will describe later in the article. We were not able to exactly find out what it is that we can achieve at the end of our 10 days, but we set ourselves small goals that seemed to be inline with what the practice can give us. Mainly we were looking for being able to work better with our minds, be able to relax and ‘switch off’ or reset the senses when needed.

DSC_1015Finding our way to the centre was not easy, but as often, luck was with us. The bus dropped us too far from the centre which we didn’t know yet. After asking a few people, in a hotel, on the road, at the petrol station etc, we were still not sure how far we have to walk in the middle of the hot day and when to take a turn. Slightly annoyed, we were super surprised when a scooter pulled up next to us. It was a guy  who worked at a hotel where we asked first. As he explained, he thought we will have to walk too far, so he wants to take us there. Big backpack between driver’s legs, small backpack in a basket in front, Lucia between the driver and Mark and our second big backpack on Mark’s back. This dangerously looking cargo then rode 5 minutes down a motorway and 10 more minutes after the turn. By foot, it would take even 1 hour.

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The young nun at the meditation centre office greeted us nicely, gave us a few forms to fill in and handed us following ‘welcome kit’: an alarm clock (to be always on time), an umbrella (to hide from hot sun while walking slowly; which is a must), thermos bottle (for hot or cold drinks), a torch (to see well early morning or late afternoon and avoid stepping on a scorpio or a snake; really!?), brown scarf for the lady to wear at all times and yogi pin for clear distinction between us and staff that wore the same uniform. IMG_2428Mark had to buy a longhi – a manskirt and white top and Lucia had to wear plain dark brown long skirt with white blouse. We both were also given a brochure with all instructions and a map of the centre with our accommodation locations marked yellow. We were still allowed to talk to eachother, although quietly, so we agreed to meet one last time for a walk after we checked-in to our separated rooms.

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The same evening we met with a monk for an one hour instructions session. The monk first left us alone to listen to the instructions from a small player and then came back to repeat a few points and take us through the schedules. So what were we about to do? As you see in the schedule below, we would be alternating between sitting and walking meditation. Meditating while sitting means to focus on rising and falling of ones abdomen when breathing and noting this movement as well as what is happening throughout it. Noting has to be done by mentally describing it with a word repeated twice or trice, e.g. rising-rising or falling-falling. Of course, other senses are active too. So incase of an itch, one has to note itch-itch, in case of sound outside, hearing-hearing etc and afterwards get back to focusing on the abdomen. At some point, just by noting the itch and turning foucs away from it back to the abdomen causes the itch to disappear from ones conciousness. This way yogi can in theory eliminate all distruptions and gain strong focus. Walking meditation follows same principles, but insted of abdomen, one focuses on steps, left-left, right-right, lifting-lifting, stepping forward-stepping forward, putting down-putting down…

SCHEDULE

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And in case this looks alright so far, there are some additional rules to follow:

RULES

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We got a chance to start with evening meditation already on the day of our arrival. This was the same day when we asked for dinner as we were not ready to fully start on our day zero :) Lucia’s first meditation attempts were quite successful, Mark also managed to sit almost motionless for a while, but his start was rather typical for him – funny. We were asked to find our seats in a dark meditation room (men and women separately) and so Mark found himself a nice warm ready spot right in front of buddha’s image, when his neighbor lifted his mosquito net and gave him a look. Mark well remembered the rule of not engaging in conversations with anybody and so turned away and minded his own meditating business. A knock on his shoulder later on interupted him to find out that on his first session he took a permanent spot of a senior monk. The worst thing however was, he would have to keep this funny story for himself for next 10 days before sharing a laugh.

IMG_2425The day 1 went by according to the schedule. Waking up at 3 am was not as painful as we thought. It was like from a zombie movie to see the scene of all monks and nuns and yogis slowly gathering for the first morning meditation in their long robes and with their flashlamps on. Not having eaten for the first 3 hours after waking up, not so much fun. For every meal, or should we say for both meals of the day, all the participants had to line up in order of seniority, men first and sloooowly proceed one after another to the dining hall. Eating could only start after chanting to thank for the food and that would happen after the senior men were seated. Food was good and plentiful. Variety of veggies, noodles, chicken, soups and salads, all really tasty! Surviving without a meal from noon until following breakfast was difficult  but doable (especially with a cheat of breakfast banana being saved for 5pm by Lucia).

Walking meditations were ok too. Although our minds wandered away all the time, keeping focus for a while was easier than sitting. When meditating while sitting we were told not to change position unless really neccessary. Pain and pressure was supposed to be noted and thus eliminated. Although it seemed to be somehow working with itching, pain in legs, thighs, back or neck was too strong to keep any focus or will for the rest. Whenever it seemed to be the good position or the right focus, after a few minutes, pain would come and all would be gone. Lucia spent half of all sessions half asleep sitting with her head between knees or just watching others and counting minutes until … no, not until the end, until next session that would be probably even more exhilirating than the previous one. As we were not able to focus enough, we at least had a chance to observe the fellow participants. There were people young and old, Asians and Europeans. On the noticeboard we both saw what nationalities were attending and entertained ourselves by guessing who is who. Some of these guys were here for months already and were so dedicated and focused, there was not even an eye contact between some!

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By the end of the day, we felt that the combination of not being able to focus or sit properly, no talking or thinking, slow walking and spending the whole day totally on our own and our lack of will on top of it was the right recipe for a way out. The next morning we secretly had a chat after breakfast and agreed that we would leave and instead of giving it a chance and try for a few more days, we decided not to waste time and leave now. None of us had the right motivation to go through the challenges that the first day showed us in practice and so we packed our bags and after an understanding chat with the same nun that welcomed us two days ago we said bye to the centre. We do not regret coming there though! It was a great experience for us, we learned some meditation basics that we might apply in future and had so much to talk about once we were out of the ‘noble silence’ zone. Maybe one day we will be back for longer, this time with the right dedication.

:::

Po 6 mesiacoch spoznavania a vyletovania sme zacali intenzivnejsie premyslat nad tym, ze by bolo nacase sa usadit sa aspon na tyzden ci dva a skusit nieco co nam nielen da krasne spomienky, ale zaroven bude uzitocne do buduceho zivota. Kedze sme este nenasli ziadnu dobrovolnicku cinnost, museli sme vymysliet nieco ine. Zhodou okolnosti Lucia uz nejaku dobu premyslala o vyskusani meditacie. Ked sme sa rozhodli oslovit niekolko meditacnych centier s nasou prihlaskou, boli sme v Myanmare uz skoro 2 tyzdne a tak sme mali sancu vidiet, aku dolezitu rolu hra budhizmus v zivotoch mjanmarcanov. Dennodenne sme videli ranne zastupy mnichov a mnisiek, ktori obchadzali domy a prijmali dary vymenou za pozehnanie. Boli sme svedkami niekolkych procesii oslavujucich vstup deti do klastora. Vsetky domacnosti, co sme navstivili mali oltare venovane nielen budhovi ale aj tzv. Nat-om (bozikom). (Tato kombinacia nabozenstiev je velmi typicka pre Myanmar.) A tak sme usudili, ze Myanmar bude tou spravnou krajinou meditaciu vyskusat.

Prvi, kto nam odpovedali boli z meditacneho centra Panditarama, ktore sa nachadza pobliz mesta Bago na sever od Yangonu. Na internete sme vyskumali, ze podobne ako vacsina ostatnych lokalnych meditacnych centier, toto praktizuje metodu meditacie zvanu Vipasana, o ktorej budeme hovorit nizsie. Nedokazali sme uz zistit, co presne sa nam moze za 10 dni podarit dosiahnut, a tak sme si stanovili kazdy pre seba male ciele podla toho, co sme realisticky mohli ocakavat. Hlavne sme mali zaujem naucit sa lepsie pracovat s myslou, naucit sa relaxovat a dokazat vypnut ci zresetovat zmysly, ked je to potreba.

Najst cestu do centra nebolo lahke, ale ako sa nam casto stava, stastie stalo pri nas. To, ze mas autobus vysadil pridaleko od naseho cielu sme pri vystupovani este netusili. I ked sme sa spytali niekolko ludi v hoteli, na ceste, na pumpe atd, stale sme uplne netusili, ako daleko este budeme v tejto horucave slapat a kde musime odbocit. A tak sme trochu otraveni slapali, az kym nas neprekvapil zastavujuci skuter. Bol to chlapik z hotela, kde sme sa pytali hned na uvod. Povedal, ze si mysli, ze budeme musiet kracat daleko a tak, ze by nas tam chcel odviezt. Jeden batoh vodicovi medzi nohy, maly ruksak do kosika vpredu, Lucia medzi vodicom a Markom a druhy batoh na Markovom chrbte. Tento nebezpecne vyzerajuci naklad sa vydal 5 minut po akejsi dialnici a potom este 10 minut po odbocke. Peso by sme to isli skoro hodinku.

Mlada mniska v kancelarii meditacneho centra nas milo privitala, dala nam vypisat nejake formulare a potom nam kazdemu predlozila ‘uvitaci balicek’, ktory obsahoval: budik (aby sme vsade prisli nacas), dazdnik (proti slnku ked budeme povinne pomaly kracat centrom uprostred dna), termosku (na teple ci studene napoje), baterku (aby sme skoro rano a podvecer videli na cestu a mohli sa vyhnut skorpionom a hadom(!)), hnedy sal (povinny pre damy) a yoginsky odznak, ktory nas ma odlisit od zamestnancov, ktorych uniforma je rovnaka. Mark si musel kupit longhi – muzsku suknu a biely top a Lucia obycajnu cistu tmavohnedu dlhu suknu a bielu koselu. Obidvaja sme tiez vyfasovali  brozurku s instrukciami a mapu centra s nasim ubytovanim vyznacenym zvyraznovacom. Este stale sme sa mohli rozpravat, i ked uz len potichu, a tak sme sa dohodli, ze sa este posledny krat stretneme na prechadzku potom ako sa ubytujeme do svojivh oddelenych pribytkov.

Hned prvy vecer sme sa stretli s mnichom na hodinovu instruktaznu lekciu. Najprv nas nechal v miestnosti samotnych pocuvat nahravku a po polhodinke sa vratil, zopakoval niektore body a presiel s nami denny rozvrh. Tak co nas vlastne cakalo? V rozvrhu dna nizsie vidite, ze sa strieda meditacia v sede s meditaciou pocas chodze. Pri meditacii v sede je dolezite upierat pozornost na zdvihanie a klesanie brucha pri dychani, uvedomovat si tento pohyb a urobit si poznamku i nom a o tom, co sa pocas neho odohrava. Poznamku si je potreba urobit v duchu zopakovanim slova opisujuceho, co sa deje, dva ci trikrat. Tak napriklad pri nadychu poznamename “zdvihanie-zdvihanie” a pri vydychu “klesanie-klesanie”. Samozrejme pocas sedenia ci chodze aj ostatne zmysly pracuju. Takze napriklad v pripade svrbenia, yogi musi poznamenat “svrbenie-svrbenie”, v pripade hluku zvonku “zvuk-zvuk” atd a v zapati upriamit pozornost naspat na brucho a jeho pohyby. Takymto sposobom sa yogi teoreticky zbavi rusivych faktorov a moze ziskat plnu koncentraviu tym, ze ich eliminuje v povedomi. Meditacia pocas chodze ma podobny princip, len namiesto brucha sa yogi ma sustredit na chodzu – pohyb noh, ako napriklad “lava-lava”, “prava-prava” a v dalsom stupni “zdvihanie-zdvihanie”, “posun dopredu-posun dopredu” a “polozenie-polozenie”…

DENNY ROZVRH

3:00 – budicek

3:30 – 4:00 – meditacia pocas chodze

4:00 – 4:45 – meditacia v sede

4:45 – 5:00 – Metta chanting – motlitba / podakovanie

5:00 – 6:00 – ranajky

6:00 – 7:00 – meditacia v sede

7:00 – 8:00 – meditacia pocas chodze

8:00 – 9:00 – meditacia v sede

9:00 – 10:00 – sprcha alebo meditacia pocas chodze

10:30 – 11:30 – obed

12:00 – 13:00 – meditacia v sede

13:00 – 14:00 – meditacia pocas chodze

14:00 – 15:00 – meditacia v sede

15:00 – 16:00 – meditacia pocas chodze

16:00 – 17:00 – meditacia v sede (17:00 – dzus)

17:00 – 18:00 – sprcha alebo meditacia pocas chodze

18:00 – 19:00 – meditacia v sede

19:00 – 20:00 – meditacia pocas chodze

20:00 – 21:00 – meditacia v sede

po 21:00 – meditacia v sede alebo pocas chodze vo vlastnej izbe

A keby sa niekomu toto zdalo ako med lizat, tak pridavame este zakladne pravidla centra:

:: meditujuci maju absolvovat 14 hodin meditacie v sede ci pocas chodze za den

:: meditujuci musia byt osamote a potichu. Bavenie sa nie je podporovane

:: meditujuci sa musia vyhybat rozpravaniu

:: meditujuci musia limitovat citanie a pisanie na minimum

:: ziaci musia dodrzovat 8 pravidiel. Fajcenie je zakazane

:: meditujuci musia striktne dodrzovat instrukcie ich ucitela a nepraktizovat ine metody meditacie

:: meditujuci sa nesmu venovat cinnostiam nesuvisejucim s intenzivnou meditaciou (napr. pocuvat radio, masaz, fotografovanie, zbieranie knih, akupunktura, prijmat navstevy, varit, ucit sa anglicky, mjanmarsky alebo pali (jazyk budhizmu))

:: meditujuci musia obmedzit ich zmysly na minimum. Musia sa spravat ako slepi, hluchi, hlupi, chori a mrtvi ludia

:: meditujuci musia vykonavat vsetky aktivity v spomalenom pohybe

:: spanok musi byt obmedzeny na 4 az 6 hodin denne

:: meditujuci musia praktizovat meditaciu s:

– respektom

– vydrzou

– uprimnostou

– heroickym usilim

– volou

– trpezlivostou

– sustavnym povedomim a poznamenanim o kazdom ukone od zobudenia az do zaspania

:: pocas intenzivnej meditacie nie je miesto na premyslanie, kontemplacie, spekulacie, analyzovanie ci vysvetlovanie

Uz v den nasho prichodu sme mali moznost pripojit sa k vecernym meditaciam. V tento isty den sme si vypytali aj veceru, kedze sme neboli este 100% pripraveny zacat uz v nas nulty den naplno. Luciine prve meditacne pokusy boli vcelku uspesne, Markovi sa tiez podarilo sediet nepohnute slusnu dobu, ale jeho start bol typicky pre neho – celko vtipny. Mali sme si najst miesta v tmavej meditacnej sieni (separovene pre muzov a zeny) a tak si Mark vyhliadol pekne pripravene miestecko uplne vpredu hned pred obrazom budhu. Ked jeho sused nadvihol svoju siet proti komarom, aby sa naneho nevrazivo pozrel, Mark si dobre spomenul na pravidlo s nikym sa nebavit a tak sa otocil, prestal si ho vsimat a vrhol sa na meditaciu. Az ked ho jeden z mnichov poklepal na rameno, vysvetlili mu, ze toto miesto patri jednemu so seniornych mnichov. Co ale bolo najhorsie na celej situacii bolo to, ze si Mark tuto historku musel nechat pre seba dalsich 10 dni pred tym, ako sa na tom mohol s niekym zasmiat.

Prvy den presiel presne podla rozvrhu. Skory ranny budicek o 3 nebol aztak hrozny ako sme mysleli. Mnisi a mnisky v robach schadzajuci sa pomalicky za svetiel bateriek pred meditacnou sienou vtipne pripominali sceny zo zombie filmov. Nejest prve tri hodiny po prebudeni – nie az tak vtipne… Pred kazdym jedlom – alebo pred obidvomi jedlami – sa vsetci ucastnici zoradovali do lajny podla seniority, muzi prvi, a az potom sa cela rada pohla pooomaaaliiickyyy chodzou do jedalne. Jest sa mohlo zacat len potom, co sa akousi motlitbou podakovalo za jedlo, a az ked sa mnisi – muzi usadili. Jedlo bolo vyborne a bolo ho dost. Rozne druhy zeleniny, rezance, kura, polievky a salaty, vsetko dobre a chutne. Vydrzat bez jedla od obeda (12h) az do ranajok bolo celkom namahave ale dalo sa vydrzat (hlavne s bananom ponechanym z ranajok a tajne zjedenym o piatej – Lucia).

Meditovanie pocas chodze sa tiez dalo zniest. I ked nase mysle neboli schopne udrzat pozornost na jedinu vec, bolo to jednoduchsie, nez pocas sedenia. Pri meditacii posediacky sme mali instrukcie nemenit polohu, az kym je to absolutne nevyhnutne. Bolesti a tlaky sme mali eliminovat tym, ze si ich v duchu poznamename a obratime povedomie na pohyby brucha. S pocitmi svrbenia to vyzeralo, ze to funguje, ale bolest v chodidlach, stehnach, chrbte ci v krku pripadala byt nezastavitelna. A samozrejme, ked sa sustredime na bolest, vsetko okolo je druhotne a sustredenie ci chut na meditaciu je fuc. Lucia takto stravila polovicu sedeni pospavajuc s hlavou medzi kolenami, pozorovanim ostatnych, ci pocitanim minut do… Nie. Nie do konca, ale do zaciatku dalsej hodiny, ktora pravdepodobne bude este horsia nez ta predtym. Kedze sme neboli schopni udrzat pozornost po celu hodinu, zabavali sme sa pozorovanim ostatnych. Na nastenke v meditacnej sieni sme si vsimli zoznam ucastnikov s ich narodnostami a tak sme sa snazili priradovat, ktore meno patri ku komu. Boli tu ludia stari i mladi a yogini z Azie ale aj z Europy. Podla datumu prichodu tu niektori boli uz niekolko mesiacov! Vacsina dosiahla uz takej koncentracie, ze nevenovali niekomu ani len ocny kontakt.

Nakonci dna nam bolo jasne, ze kombinacia slabej koncentracie, neschopnost sediet poriadne bez utrpenia, nemoznost rozpravat sa ci premyslat o veciach, pomala chodza, cele dni stravene osamote a navyse nase slabe vole bola jasnou cestou von. Na druhy den rano sme sa po ranajkach tajne dohodli, ze odideme a namiesto toho, aby sme to skusili este dalsich par dni (a pravdepodobne to aj tak vzdali), nebudeme stracat cas a odideme uz dnes. Ani jeden nas necitil tu pravu motivaciu pokracovat a zdolavat utrapy, cez ktore by sme denne prechadzali a tak sme si zbalili vsetky saky-paky, rozlucili sa s mniskou ktora nas tak pekne privitala a po obede odisli. V ziadnom pripade ale nelutujeme, ze sme v centre vobec boli! Naopak, bol to zaujimavy zazitok, naucili sme sa zaklady meditacie, ktore mozno budeme pouzivat v buducnosti a po odchode sme si mali toho tolko co povedat! Mozno raz sa vratime s tym spravnym odhodlanim a stravime v centre nejaky cas.

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3 thoughts on “Short-term yogis

  1. Pingback: Rocks and Buddhas | Take it and go

  2. Pingback: Seoul has got a soul! | Take it and go

  3. Pingback: Short-term yogis « Travelers « EcoBurma – travel to Burma / Myanmar

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