Meditation is at the core of Buddhism, at least it seemed that way to me. Your connection to god is found within, which you work on achieving through meditation.
To be honest, I had never really meditated before visiting the temple. But I think there are many ways to meditate. Doing yoga in my apartment in Denmark, focusing on matching my breath to movement, was in essence meditation in my opinion.
But at the temple they had two meditations for beginners to work on.
The Meditation Hall
The meditation hall has a shrine for Buddha, perhaps unsurprisingly. It’s a covered structure with a thin layer of dust so that it’s like walking on solid earth, but maybe slightly more comfortable. It’s raised up from the ground a little bit so it is resistant to the rain and flooding that can occur here.
Below, a picture of the hall being used for walking meditation (with someone’s cell phone camera.. sorry about the quality).
You start out with an hour of walking meditation in the meditation room.
Walking meditation consists of walking back and forth a total of six times, starting with a very simple step and ending with a more difficult series of steps. In fact, each time you turn around you add on an additional step.
Below is the cheat-sheet Bunny Rabbit gave me to help me learn. Each step, from 1 to 6, has a particular cadence to it. We’d sing as we walked, and the words were exactly what we were doing (for example, heel up, foot up, etc.). The difference was, of course, that everything was in Thai and I had to learn the words.
I wasn’t a huge fan of walking meditation. I guess it’s good for discipline, but I don’t know, somehow sitting in place was less boring for me than walking back and forth chanting. Thus, I’d often find myself making mistakes. I wondered if I would make the same mistakes if I were chanting in English and the words had real meaning for me.
But in observing the Thai people I was with, it didn’t seem to matter. They made mistakes as well. Doing this simple activity with 100% accuracy is quite difficult. I guess that’s what it’s meditative. You really have to pay attention and focus your mind on this task, otherwise it’ll stray and produce largely inefficient thought as usual.
Below is a video I took of walking meditation. Unfortunately, you can’t hear the chanting very well because the rain hitting the metal roof drowns out what is already low-volume, mellow chanting.
I have to start off by saying I am a baby… or I am a fragile creature… I don’t know how, but the Thai people could sit for hours on hard floors Indian style or with their legs off to the side. I couldn’t last more than 20 minutes. So, guess who was sitting in the chair…
Sitting meditation is more similar to what you picture meditation to be. You sit Indian style, though everyone here can take that one step further and put one foot above the calf of the other leg, put your hands in your lap (not on your knees), and close your eyes.
The first sitting meditation is to discover the energy within. To do this, you tap into your internal, infinite source of energy. But how…
You spin.. unconsciously. You can see the cell phone video below to see what I mean. Yes, that’s me in the chair
I don’t understand the idea completely, but basically this meditation tries to rev up your internal engine. By revving it up, you can finally rediscover that it’s there.
So you sit and concentrate on four words. To be honest, I don’t remember them anymore. But in Thai they all end in “noh.”
You start off slow and keep on repeating the words, progressively trying to go faster and faster, and also breathing faster and faster.
The results…… Mine is below, but first you can see for yourself the unconscious reactions when these people rediscover their energy source.
In all honesty, I was kind of thinking this was all a bunch of crap. I saw the guy spinning in the video above and thought to myself “This is crazy. I can’t imagine myself doing the same.”
It was my first day meditating and I really didn’t know what happened when people learned how to “spin.” I had never seen anyone else pass to the next stage, so none of my behavior could attributed to learned behavior.
I didn’t spin. But something got triggered. And Bunny Rabbit could see. It happened while I was sitting in the chair. She told me to get up, but not to lose my concentration as I sat on the ground.
She kept telling me to breathe faster and faster all day, and finally I understood. I found myself breathing faster than a woman trying to push out sextuplets. I’ve never taken in and expelled air so quickly in my life. But it wasn’t like Lamaze. It was more like silent, turbo-rapid breathing.
And I found that this breathing was the key to achieving the desired result.
All of a sudden Bunny Rabbit was yelling “noh-noh-noh-noh” in my ear. She’d yell “faster, faster, faster” as well.
Then it seemed like I was surrounded by a million people, though I never opened my eyes. I didn’t really care what was happening outside of me, actually. What was happening on the inside was too much to process let alone what people were observing.
The monks and other students use white cones to amplify their “noh-noh-noh-noh” yelling and create kind of like a cave of echoes that hit you deep on the inside.
I kept on leaning back and I didn’t know why. I was fighting to stay upright. Bunny Rabbit told me if I wanted to lie down I could.
So I did.
Then things went crazy.
I don’t know how to explain it other than the most intense feeling I’ve ever had in my stomach before. It was just below my belly button, the traditional center of energy in all Eastern belief systems. And I felt like it wanted to get out the way the alien wanted to get out of that guy’s stomach in the movie Alien.
Although all this unexplainable craziness was happening, I was conscious throughout the whole experience. I had stupid random thoughts like I always do. For example, I was convulsing. I think a lot in Spanish to keep up a decent level despite having no one to practice with. So I was thinking to myself “how do you say convulsing in Spanish” as I convulsed.
I also remember having the thought cross my mind “I shouldn’t be alive” because it seemed like my fast breaths had gone away and I just wasn’t breathing at all. I guess I was still doing the fast breaths, but after doing it for so many minutes it seemed like I should have been oxygen deprived.
So no, I wasn’t transported to another planet or something like that. I was firmly here on planet earth, aware of everything that was happening to me.
It was just that energy in my stomach that I felt for the first time.. it was incredible and reminded me of feeling warm and fuzzy all over after trying Ayahuasca (before the vomiting and diarrhea) and finding it true what I had read in The Power of Now about what absolute bliss feels like.
At 5pm the gong rung as meditation time was over. The master was there along with many monks interested in seeing how I handled everything.
You can see my interaction with the fellow student at the end of the video below. I was back to normal right away. But at the same time, life would never be the same.
The monks all congratulated me on passing step one, and were excited because the next step was … different. You’ll see in the next post.
A fellow student took this video and it was a huge surprise my experience was caught on tape. I don’t look very flattering so I hesitated to share it. But.. who cares.. At the worst you turn it off and think it’s all crazy with a capital C. At best, you are a little more open to trying something like this yourself.
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About Adam Pervez
In mid-2011 I left my cushy corporate job and took the plunge into a life incorporating my passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, educating, and telling stories. I study what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my engineering/MBA background as a volunteer, and try to leave each place better than how I found it. Read more.