Diary of a Buddhist Retreat Experience Part 3

Kittisara, and Thanissara (I hadn’t mentioned her previously); she is the wife of Kittisara (real name Mary), decided to hold the meditation in the meditation room that we where in. Obviously I had a concentration lapse and consequently didn’t hear them. I ended up spending the lecture in the assigned lecture room (on  my own), and they were all in the meditation room.

The chairs were neatly set out, I assumed that’s where it would be held. I even lit a fire, thinking they won’t be long. Another inmate briefly passed through – he also thought the same as me, we must have been on the same spiritual wavelength! All of a sudden I felt this sense of isolation and loneliness as I sat by the fire.What the hell am I doing in a Buddhist Retreat Centre in the middle of Africa? As yet, I haven’t had a ‘calling’ – but feel the experience will teach me the discipline of Buddhism..

There is a small but informative library – the book I have borrowed is: Buddhism Explained – I will let you know when I have learned a bit more, who knows, I maybe an expert by the end of five days. I hope the black beetle doesn’t have a brother – it’s sleep time.

Sunday morning – get me out of here. Woken up with a stiff neck, so much so I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow. Had to miss first meditation, and certainly won’t be able to do Yoga. Think that was the culprit. If it doesn’t improve I don’t know what I will do for the rest of the duration – thanks Bud!

This Retreat is really testing my sense of humour. There isn’t a picture on  the wall – who needs one anyway (trying to convince myself), when I have the most magnificent vista on earth looking down the valley.

If we ever find the time to take a walk – there are ancient rocks, small dam and water cascades to add to its stunning beauty of Buddha’s home. I can see in the distance a dome that could be in the Middle East. It’s called a ‘Stupa’ – I feel stupa sitting here feeling sorry for myself with a neck that will only turn 20 degrees.

I may paint Buddha today – bought a miniature watercolour palette. I will stare at him until he feels embarrassed – then he might divulge his secret of Nirvana – that is the state one reaches when complete happiness is found.

Today has been my anus horribilus My jarred neck is so painful – a few retreatants are suffering. Some have headaches, and, others like me have stiff necks. I did a little yoga –  but struggled. Decided not to paint Buddha, instead, I have been in my room all afternoon and slept.

The group tell me; when we are allowed to speak, that they love this place and come here regularly. They are professional and intelligent people, from all walks of life. I have quickly realised that buddhism is not a religion – it’s a way of life. The teachings are not harmful or brainwashing – it’s about good and decent morals and old-fashioned values. The ultimate goal is to achieve a state of peace and harmony with one’s self. In turn this reverberates to others. Hurting my neck has actually helped me to be alone and absorb more knowledge by reading the array of books.

The evening lecture was quite inspiring. Katrine (Yoga teacher), talked to us about the interrelationship with Yoga and meditation. It’s making a lot of sense. However, I’m finding the meditation difficult. To try to focus on ‘nothing’ for an hour is impossible but, not according to Buddha and all my contemporaries who achieved this supreme state of peace…I will try harder tomorrow!

Monday 9th December – one and a half days to go. How am I feeling? Very tired, as all the retreatants feel. It’s such a different way  of life that the body goes into crisis – a healing crisis, I suppose. My neck is a little looser after all the lotions and potions I have applied. Also feeling more in tune with meditation, and the Yoga session was enjoyable, although I was limited due to my injury.

In between Yoga and meditation, Jane and I went for a walk to find the ‘Stupa.’  After trailing and winding through a man-made path, we came across this sensuous and curvy shape. Pure white, and surrounded by rondavels (little huts), and exotic wild flowers. the view across the mountains was breathtaking, wild birds flying around like dots in the distance adorned this spiritual place. There were stepping-stones strategically placed around the ‘Stupa’ – these are for walking meditation; a never-ending circle for all these moving oranges.

9.25 p.m. – didn’t want to leave the lecture room – not because it was mind-blowing or anything like that, it’s just that the fire was still burning, welcoming the inmates to stay behind to chat about the evening. We all agreed the lecture went over our heads.

I have come the conclusion that Kittisara and Thanissara, aka; Harry and Mary are not of this world. They are highly intelligent, so why are they here?  Is it escapism from reality or, have they been truly enlightened? To me, it’s like an open prison; looks like I’m having a bummer again, cannot understand why anyone would stay for more than five days. One staff member has been here for 20 years – she looks mad!

Meditation, at times has become quite amusing. When we do the laying on the floor session – it’s interesting to hear all of the bodily sounds. We had a couple of snores today; in fact, one didn’t get up when the session had finished, and unfortunately for him he was still snoring!

It has suddenly dawned on me – Missionaries – that’s what they are is some capacity. They actually run an Aids Project here. It is rife, and they have already lost two staff members here last year who contracted the disease. Everyone knows someone who is HIV positive. They are dropping like flies.

The Zulu’s, sadly, are ignorant of the virus and naively believe that ‘white people’ drop bad medicine from aeroplanes. This misguided information was told by a witch doctor.

So, Kittissara and Thanissara are true Buddhists, the whole concept is to give compassionately and selflessly. Now we know  why they are here.

During my time here so far – I have had a fight with my own demons. Realising that I’m a rebel who runs away…because I can.

When I was about 10 years old I went away to school for one term only…I ran away. I also ran away from home once, only for a few hours. Mother found me…oh dear! It appears that’s what I do when I’m hurt, upset or angry.

One of the contemplations written all over this place sticks out in my mind: