Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oops... I'm doing it again

I guess it's time to come clean. I love Nepal. It's true. But I guess it wouldn't be fair to characterize my trip here as merely another adventure in a foreign land. Because if it was, I wouldn't be spending my days so lazily. I'd be trekking in the Annapurna; safari-ing in the Terai; pilgrimage-ing to Lumbini... The truth is, I spend an awful lot of my time with just one person. A boy. And his family. And the truth is, I'm not sure that I would still be here if I wasn't spending so much time with this boy and his family.

This boy is, by the way, the one whom I briefly mentioned the last time I wrote about Nepal. He acted as a sort of personal guide and friend, whisking me away to interesting places rarely seen by tourists, inviting me to stay in his grandfather's village, providing comfort to me in a difficult time... And now, he is doing much of the same, only more. I usually eat dinner with his family. I am always hanging around his house. His mother, sisters and uncles go out of their way to help me and make me feel comfortable- even finding for me a place to live and work. (Oh yes, this is news. I've found a place to teach. Part-time-ish. No pay for now. I guess I'll renegotiate that in January if I stay here longer.) In truth I feel quite spoiled by his family. And very lucky to know them. Oh, what to do?

(Pardon me while I interrupt these thoughts to comment on the ginormous cockroach which is cleaning its antennae right next to where I sit. It's a bit distracting. I feel nauseous.)

I really, honestly, truly do not want a repeat of the same relationship events which happened in my not-so-distant past. I'm not sure that I'm repeating those mistakes (well, for one thing, this boy, he isn't married), but there are some aspects of this new relationship which frighten me. A lot . Do I really want to fall in love with someone who lives halfway around the world from my family? Do I really want to face (again) the difficulties that come with such different cultures? Aren't I crazy for trying this again when obviously it can end so disastrously?

But oh, this boy is wonderful. He's smart, extremely stubborn (oh it's a often battle of wills), somewhat serious, but also creative, generous, a talented singer, open-minded, eager for new experiences, loyal and loving with his family (who do no appear to be dysfunctional at all), and of course, we share many of the same political beliefs (though we argue a lot about politics)... He's a good person.

But still, I guess I feel a bit unsettled about this. Maybe it's the distance from my family. Maybe it's all of the uncertainty I feel about being in love again. Maybe I'm afraid of losing myself to this person the way I lost myself to Masum. I guess what ever it is, I'm learning to let it go. I'm trying to let it go. Because when I turn off my brain and appreciate what it is NOW, without thinking about the past or the future, it's amazing. And shouldn't we always feel amazing?

Monday, November 17, 2008

10 Days of Silence

So I missed the election. Totally missed it. I voted, yes, that's true, but on November the 4th, I turned up at a Vipassana meditation center in Kathmandu and for 10 days, didn't think about the election, that frightful Sarah Palin, the media circus or much else for that matter. Instead, I took a vow of silence, actually of noble silence, and discovered what it's like to be a monk. Every morning, I woke up at 4. I meditated from 4:30-6:30, ate breakfast, rested a while and then went back to the Dhamma hall for another 3 hours of meditation. In total, we spent about 10.5 hours a day meditating. With only a few hours free everyday, little food and zero communication, you might think that one would become quite depressed and lonely, but I have to admit that I felt freer and happier those 10 days than maybe ever.

It was hard work sitting. Painful. My hips and knees were burning. My ankles felt sprained. My mind wandered, day dreamed, planned, contemplated, and sometimes was so focused and concentrated that I got headaches. But somehow, all that pain turned into nearly pleasant sensations as I learned how to observe what my body is feeling on the gross level, and on a more subtle level, with equanimity.

The theory behind this practice is that if you can learn to re-train your mind to experience pain without judging or reacting to it, you can learn to deal with life's ups and downs with a balanced mind. If you can observe your own misery, you can come out of it. I think it works. I think. I'm not sure. But how can I explain how wonderful I felt at the end of each day despite my throbbing joints and growling stomach?