07 March 2008

Mindful Meditation

What perfect timing for a nice little afternoon of meditation! After barreling through the last two weeks of school (surviving several bloody noses, more than 10 exam sessions, trying to entertain 34 1st graders between exams and grading more than 100 math exams), it was due time for a little Vipassana meditation. Sunday afternoon, Lauren, Thomas and I decided to take the meditation plunge and headed into Bangkok to Wat Mahathat - home of the International Buddhist Meditation Center!

Ever since I arrived in Thailand, I've been looking forward to learning about and practicing meditation because the more and more I read in health magazines and books, I've learned daily meditation sessions can seriously do wonders for the body and add years to your life. No lie! Vipassana is one of two schools of meditation study (the other being Samatha meditation) - it focuses on attaining mental clarity by strengthening and sharpening mindfulness. They claim it is the key to developing the wisdom to see things as they really are. Having realized this truth, one is then achieves liberation and attains nirvana. Lord knows I could use a little help on that one!

Greeted by a witty monk dressed in gorgeous burnt orange (the traditional color of monk robes), we started our journey towards nirvana! First, we were instructed to read through a small, detailed book all about Vipassana meditation before our meditation practice began. Then, we were lead to our meditation instructor who I thought totally looked like a ladyboy (others weren't as convinced). Our first meditation practice we worked on was sitting meditation. Unfortunately, when I was left to meditate in the sitting position for 20 minutes, I promptly fell asleep and elicited laughter from the meditation staff. Oops!

Then we worked on standing meditation, which is more of a meditative walk where you keep yourself very conscience of all the moves you make. Anytime you pick up your foot or make any sort of movement, you need to address it by saying "moving-moving" in your mind. This helps us practice mindfulness, which we all now know is the first step to attaining nirvana. Bring it on! It was definitely a good thing I started my new meditation practice with a 1-hour class because I am pretty sure if I went on that 10-day retreat I was thinking about, I would have gone insane!

Since Sunday's afternoon of mindfulness, I have been busy (or rather, not so busy) at school all week. Although there are no more kiddies, we are finishing up end of the year details and working on putting together the packets for summer school. Pretty much we work on the summer school packet for an hour, take our morning break, chat until lunch, work a bit more on the packet and finish the day off with a movie. Hey, it's hard work, but someone's gotta do it! Here's a shot of Lauren and I's local 7-11 - I figured after talking this place up, it was only fair I show you all the fun we have on our daily 7-11 runs!

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