Okay. So I have been back for a month, officially. I have to be honest; readjusting to coming home was extremely hard for me, and I am still trying to get through it, taking it day-by-day.
It’s official! I have bought my plane ticket and I’ll be on my way on the 29th.
I finally have my itinerary. The only change is that I’ll be working at Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage first, and then the second month will be devoted to helping at-risk and disadvantaged youth. I cannot stop thinking about my final week: the one week of silent meditation. Taking a vow of silence has been on my bucket list for a while now, and I can’t think of a better way to experience it.
Here is a typical day at the Vipassana Meditation Retreat:
04:15 Puja (Pay homage)
05:00 Porridge/ gruel called Congee
07:15 – 08:15 Meditation
08:15 Drink of King Coconut
08:30 – 09:30 Attending to cleanliness
09:30 – 11:00 Bathing and washing of clothes
12:30 – 13:30 Meditation
13:30 Drink of tea
14:00 Mediation advice usually by head monk
17:00 – 18:00 Cleaning outside areas
18:00 Puja (Pay homage)
18:30 Evening drink
19:00 – 20:00 Meditation
22.00 Rest – Lights Out
It looks extremely challenging. Particularly the getting up at 4:00 AM and staying up until 10:00 PM, and the no-eating-after-12PM rule. I know meditating will be a strange and new experience, especially doing so much of it. I’ve started reading “Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World” by Ed and Deb Shapiro. While it has been a very insightful read, I don’t know how much it will adequately prepare me for what’s to come…
In addition to the new regimen, I will be following the Ten Precepts:
1. Not to kill any living being.
2. Not to take what is not given.
3. Not to have sexual contact.
4. Not to tell lies; not to indulge in idle talk or gossip (wrong speech).
5. Not to take any drugs or alcohol.
6. Not to eat solid food after 12:30 noon until the next dawn
7. Not to dance, sing, listen to music
8. Not to wear garlands or apply scents, use makeup, cosmetics or jewellery.
9. Not to sleep on high and expensive beds.
10. Not to accept gold and silver (money)
Although the retreat will only last a week, I anticipate that the lessons I learn will last me a lifetime.
First entry. I never really know how to start these things. Do I pretend like this isn’t the first entry, and I’ve been at this for years? I also really have to think about how I want to come across. I don’t want to try too hard, but I also want to be impressive enough that my secret dream of being discovered via Anthony Bourdain’s StumbleUpon and then picked up for my own Travel Channel series could have a sliver of a chance of panning out. And I certainly don’t want to start on a tangent!
I am currently in the planning/paying/panicking stages of my next journey to Sri Lanka. I plan to do four weeks working with disadvantaged and at-risk youth and adults, followed by (my dream come true!!!!) four weeks at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage (read: cutie patootie giant baby elephants). Finally, I will finish the trip in silence with a one-week Buddhist meditation retreat. This is The Dream, folks. Well, my dream. Voluntourism at its finest. Helping people? Check. Exploring a new country and culture? Check. ELEPHANTS?! UH, CHECK. Zen wisdom and powerful, Buddhist inner-peace? Check.
As much as this is The Dream, I am also very aware that there will be plenty of challenges… but I am hungry. I am ready to be challenged. I want to step completely out of my comfort zone and push my personal boundaries – be it physical, mental, or emotional. Every time I get to really thinking about spending over two-months abroad, virtually on my own, I become a bundle of nerves. I am excited and terrified all at once. I want to cry and laugh and get all of the annoying middle steps out of the way and just be there. I can’t believe it is really happening. I submitted most of the paperwork, and I’ve applied for my Sri Lanka visa. Here we go…