If you already followed our blog you might remember that meditation is really interesting for us. Since we’ve been in Thailand I practiced every day a little bit and I always had the desire to stay longer at a monastery than just five days.
After Helen and I decided to spent some time seperate I searched opportunities to do mediation around Kuching. I found the Tusita Hermitage (http://tusitainternational.net). The images of the place on Google were amazing. While studying the rules and schedule of a retreat I became a little nervous. Getting up at 3:30 in the morning, eight hours of sitting meditation and no talking at all are just some of the rules 🙂 I thought that’s to hard for me and so I dismissed the idea going there.
Some days later we arrived in Kuching. Helen and I splitted up for around two weeks. She went into the city to find a dorm bed and I moved to the Kuching ISKCON temple. I had some work to do and spent most of the time in front of the notebook. The idea to do a meditation retreat was still in my mind so I contacted Tusita if I can come there and do meditation and volunteering instead of a whole retreat. This way perhaps it’s not that hard. The reply I got was simply that I can apply for a retreat. OK OK, so no light weight retreat for me, just the full blown thing. Between my fear that it’s to hard and my curiosity I finally applied .
That’s how Helen”s and my Tusita experiences started. First I stayed ten and afterwards Helen seven days there. To share our experience separately we split the article from here on.
Oh my good, I’m so nervous. Yesterday night I was skyping with my mom, my kids and one of my best friends in Germany. I told all of them how hard the retreat will be and drove myself a little crazy with that. I had only a few hours sleep and now I’m tired, exited and anxious.
I call the number of the taxi driver that the staff of Tusita gave me and pack up my stuff. While waiting I try to distract myself by chatting with the Krishna people. I’m upstairs when the taxi arrives and I’m rushing down. While driving out of the city I have a nice chat with the driver. He is a Buddhist and member of the society that supports the Hermitage. Because he can speak English, he is the one who picks up all the non Chinese guests from the airport. The way leads through industrial areas, over a bridge and then into a suburban space with a lot of one story buildings. It’s getting more and more green around us and finally we are there.
The first thing I see are a lot of smiling and welcoming people. It’s lunch time and some people are sitting in front of a monk. I join them to pay respect. He is talking about something in Chinese. I have no idea, but that’s OK.
The food is arranged as a buffet and ranges from absolutely delicious to somewhat strange. Most bowls and plates are filled with vegetarian food. It’s rice, different fried vegetables, tofu, bread and a big variety of deserts. I like it!
Filled up after lunch it’s time for me to settle in. Hui, a Chinese Yogi (lay practitioner) helps me by showing me the dorm for men. We share together with three other men the upper floor of a multi purpose building near the main meditation hall. During preparing my bed I ask Hui about the schedule and the rules. His answer surprises me a lot. He tells me that everybody can handle things like he wants. Only chanting at 5:30 AM is mandetory. Beside that I can do what I like!
That’s so different from what they write on their website that I need some time to grasp it.
The next days follow more or less the same pattern. Waking up at 4. Meditation. Chanting. Breakfast, Learning Japanese, Meditation, Lunch, Resting, Meditation, Exercise, Meditation, Sleep. Mostly I’m just meditating around four to five hours a day and not eight like in the schedule. Every second day I can visit the teaching monk and it’s always an inspiration. His charisma is full of peacefulness and happiness. Some other days people from outside joining for a guided meditation or a dhamna talk (a monk shares Buddhist teaching).
It is one of the happiest times ever. Everything is so pure and easy. After some time all the sorrows and concerns that our current culture supports starts to fade away. A deep feeling of inner peace and happiness arises. It makes everything so meaningful. Even swiping the meditation hall becomes somehow holy It’s impressive for me to see with how less it’s possible to be so happy.
To say good bye after ten days causes conflicting feelings. Seeing Helen again makes me happy but leaving this place is a little hard. One of the staff members is taking me with her into the city. I’m waiting for Helen at a mall. While sitting there and watching the people the difference between the live in the monastery and outside gets quite visible. The suffering because of desires and fear is written clearly into the faces of the strangers passing by. I wish all of them, that they may be happy!
My heart makes a jump when Helen finally arrives and I can take her into my arms!
Thank you Tusita for this great experience!
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
It seems, I sometimes cannot stop myself doing things in the same stupid way I did all the time, but lucky me, now I jump of my habits.
What does that mean for meditating at Tusita? After checking the schedule and rules and even after knowing that Seven decided to go there for 10 days, I’m sure, I’m too weak to follow this structure and if I don’t feel able to do it strongly disciplined I better don’t do it all. But why putting so much pressure on myself, why not just trying? It seems I’m stucked again and made my decision…. But after Seven is back, tells me about his experiences and we visit the place for some hours I change my mind and apply for a 7 days mediation stay.
One day after the Rainforest World Music Festival I shut down all access to the outside world, no internet, no phone, etc. and start focusing on the object of mediation, breathing. Two different monks teach me about Anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing) and guide me through the first three days of struggling with pain from 7 hours sitting meditation and difficulties to stay concentrated. Buddhist Monks like to compare the mind with it’s wandering thoughts to a restless monkey jumping from one tree to the other. It seems my mind is like a hundreds of them. It’s no bad thoughts at all, it’s a lot of nice imaginations and daydreaming and I feel happy and peaceful all the time. But still, it’s not like it’s meant to be so I worry, my thoughts won’t stop….After three days staying disciplined but without pressure and getting a lot of helpful advice from the teaching monks, something is changing slowly. My mind calms down step by step. It’s hard for me to describe how I feel now but I know I connected again to whats sometimes covered by worries and daily hazzles. The next days I cannot stop smiling and feel like walking on clouds….even when concentration stays hard sometimes and I get distracted by different thoughts, I don’t loose this peaceful and happy feeling…
The days pass by. I’m the only non-asian yogi and I don’t speak any Mandarin, what makes it hard to communicate with those who don’t understand English. But it doesn’t matter. The nuns, monks, yogis and all the other people at Tusita create and atmosphere of support, encouragement and kindness without expecting anything back. Staying that close with them is so inspiring and impressive to me. I share the room with Nicole from China and her mother and I really love spending time with them. It’s sometimes hard to stop chatting with Nicole….I will miss her a lot.
One week is short and I’m kind of sad about leaving, but I also feel so much empowered. Okay, I’m also looking forward to get some sweets and ice cream…
Perhaps it’s too optimistic or even naive, but it feels like I lost substantial fears. Maybe I just found another way to handle them. Anyway, it has been an amazing experience I’m deeply grateful. Would love to come back. Thank you so much, Tusita!