As I mentioned before, meditating in front of the dead body didn’t scare me. Luckily, there is another thing this temple offers to scare the crap out of you.
I wouldn’t say that I have a fear of snakes. While at Tayrona National Park in Colombia, I almost stepped on what I thought was a tree root. Only the root moved because it was a snake. No butterflies, no fear. Just a “holy crap” flash through my mind and a big smile.
Similarly, in the meditation room one day while we were doing walking meditation, we turned around and saw a huge black snake, at least 2m/6ft long. It slithered away, but wow..
This was different!
One of the things about being at this temple is that I could only speak to Bunny Rabbit and the Australian monk due to the language barrier. So I could never ask others what the experience was like ahead of time.
Before the experience, I pictured myself sitting in a relatively big, open area where I could meditate with pythons potentially slithering around. I assumed they wouldn’t be poisonous, but who knows.
Well, in reality it was in this pen.
I was there with Camilo, an American teaching in the town where the temple is: Bang Mun Nak. He decided to go first. So they took him off to the snakes and I patiently waited.
While I waited some old ladies tried to make conversation but it just didn’t work due to the language barrier.
Five minutes later a guy told me to follow him. We walked a few minutes and I could hear Camilo talking to Bunny Rabbit. I assumed he was done and that they stayed with him throughout his meditation.
They were setting him up, but I had in mind that the experience only lasted 5-10 minutes…
So they led me to another area. And as we walked, look what we found.. I mean, come on. I’m about to go sit with snakes and we happen to find a poisonous, black scorpion at nighttime? Geez…
We entered a crude building with mesh windows to keep out the bugs. Inside was a very small area to sit in.
It was at this point that I realized my mind had been totally underestimating this situation!
This was for real. The area was tiny and it would be impossible not to be in contact with the snakes for the entirety of the time.
I sat down and Bunny Rabbit kept telling me they had some big spiders they’d put in there too. So, a tip for all of you.. if you go to a temple, don’t tell them what you are really afraid of 🙂 I’m not arachnophobic, but I definitely don’t like the idea of a big hairy spider crawling on me.
I closed my eyes and sat in the meditation pose: legs crossed, hands in my lap, back straight.
As my eyes were closed, I heard the snake hissing. Bunny Rabbit asked if I wanted to see the snake. I said no and I realized my heart was beating really fast!
They put the snake inside the pen.
HOLY CRAP was it big!
I mean, it was like a boxing punching bag had just fell into my lap. It was heavy and huge.. and long! It’s like as thick as my arm? And yes, that is one snake in the picture above. It was at least 3m/9ft long. I still kept my eyes closed though.
The snake was agitated and was hissing like crazy. A few seconds after they lowered the two snakes into the pen one bit me. And then it bit me again.
It was weird. I knew it bit me, but at the same time it was a relief to know the snake wasn’t poisonous. But ya, it bit my knee. It didn’t really hurt, or my nervousness prevented me from feeling pain. The snake bit both of my knees and kept hissing.
I told Bunny Rabbit that the snake bit me and she told me to forget my body.. that it doesn’t matter any more.
They put a blindfold over my eyes. Then the lights were turned off. Then I was there alone with the snakes.
But then I started feeling the snake hit me kind of. I remembered that the pen had holes in it, and the guy was probing the snake to keep it actively moving around and angry. Nice..
But that stopped after about ten minutes and then it was just me and the snake. Everyone had left. Also very scary!
The snake was still upset for a while, and I kept saying my meditation in my head. I would say the fear helped me concentrate on the meditation for sure. Either I could concentrate on the meditation or I could sit and worry and focus on what the snake was doing (it kept moving) or I could just give up and poop my pants.
I focused on the meditation.
The snake kept moving, but it would also stop for minutes at a time. And when the snake didn’t move, I almost forgot it was there. Or, I knew it was there and tried to focus on the beauty that this cold-blooded animal was next to me, absorbing some of my heat and it was kind of keeping me warm at the same time.
But then it would move. And somehow my shirt was up a bit in the back, so I could feel the snake skin directly against my back. Similarly, I think the end of the tail was usually by my left foot and I thought it was a spider crawling around on my foot.
In the end, everything went fine. I focused on the meditation, and tried to love the snake.
The only problem was sitting still. Really, it’s hard to sit still for an hour. If you remember my first meditation post, I sat in a chair because it was so uncomfortable for me to sit Indian style for an hour. Well, this time I had no choice. I was not going to move no matter what, even if it meant my legs would be cemented in place forever like that (which is how it felt at the end).
Oh.. I almost forgot…
The snake encircled me and started squeezing.
Yes, it had me encircled completely and it started squeezing. Again, I was sitting Indian-style, so I kind of thought I had the upper hand. If it squeezed, I could just lift up one or both legs and it’d just constrict, almost forming a circular chair for me to sit on.
Still, it freaked me out to feel the raw power of this animal. And it was at this point that I realized how big this snake must be.. how meaty and how thick.
But back came the snake handler and Bunny Rabbit. She took the pictures you see in this post and I survived. Somehow I stood up and walked – perhaps an even greater accomplishment than not losing my cool with the snake is the fact that I could sit uncomfortably for so long.. after all, one of the central tenants of Buddhism is that existence/life is suffering.
When all was said and done, Camilo and I were talking about what we just experienced. And it was strange. We both felt awesome, like we’d accomplished something big. But it was 100% our egos talking. The ego is the mind, the brain, the part of you separate from your consciousness or soul.
So it, in a way, seemed counterproductive. But I guess recognizing the ego is half the battle. The other half is eliminating it so you can live in bliss from your heart. And I think the snakes helped me get a little closer to that goal, even if it was half a milometer 🙂