in India – Chapter Eight – “The Silence Of The Beez”
When we last checked in
with our intrepid traveling pair from Vancouver, Beez was stumbling around
ancient ruins with sunstroke with his wife was getting sexed up by an
Italian super-stud in a cliff-side cave. This time around, all is quiet.
The Silence of the Beez
Perhaps it was an unthinkable plan: take a very talkative man and force him
to be silent for ten days. Yes, it would appear to be madness to my
schoolteachers who consistently indicated that my social nature was
disruptive to the entire class for 13 straight years. The Smugglers, who
when learning that I was taking a ten day vow of silence, asked if I would
be maintaining this during our tours, as they are so tired of hearing me
blabber on and on about dating a fifteen year old, chewing on someone else’s
band-aid, trying to smuggle hash out of Morocco… etc ad infinitum, and my
dear wife, family and co-workers have never considered my extreme verbosity
a virtue. Needless to say, I like to talk a lot.
yes, and this being a meditation class, it might have been even more
ridiculous to think that a man with a famous “skipping” brain, 20 second
blackouts and a spectacularly unfocussed presentation style, would be able
to spend ten days in strict focused meditation.
Could I pull it off?
Corrina and I attended the Vipassana Meditation course in Chennai from
January 20-31st (Buddha originally created Vipassana after he
reached enlightenment 2500 years ago).
Everything is completely free for the 10 days (accommodation, food,
teaching). At the end of the course, you can make a donation for another
student to learn if you wish. Hmmm... Everything is free… maybe it will be
like a spiritual Club Med! We knew it was a serious commitment, but we were
excited about the challenge.
When we arrived, we were given the instructions:
(thus no talking)
Basically, we were not allowed to do anything but eat, sleep, walk and study
day started with wake up bell at 4am and ended with a thud as my head hit
the pillow at 10pm. The schedule was tough; we meditated for 11 hours and
only slept for 6 hours. That’s 17 hours a day with your eyes closed! I
really didn’t understand how tough this schedule was until after day 1.
After reading the instructions, we were quickly divided by our sex, then
filled in our registration information. We were asked to put all of our
worldly possessions (passports, travelers cheques, cash, credit cards etc.)
into a metal box to be returned at the end of the ten days. As we had no way
to contact the outside world, I pondered the extreme potential outcomes. I
could see the headlines:
run amok partying on foreigner’s credit card!”
“Nuns go nuts at ‘ladies nights’ with cash missing from whitie’s wallet”
“Master masters Moron’s MasterCard”
Anyway, this paranoia quickly evaporated.
4pm on January 20th, Corrina and I started on our own individual
experiences at the meditation center. Women are separated from the men, but
do meditate in the same large hall. No communication should occur between
the students, so Corrina and I agreed not to look at each other for the 10
days. It was like going on separate vacations in the same resort. As we had
our eyes closed for 17 hours a day, I left my glasses in my room most of the
day, so I couldn’t see Corrina even if glanced over to her part of the
weather was consistent for the whole 10 days: 28 degrees Celsius, clear
bright sunny sky, and very little wind. My room was simple and pleasant
(western toilet, two single beds, shower… but no hot water) and I didn’t
have a roommate. Whoohoo, a little privacy for my naps! That first night I
went to bed nervously thinking about the next day. I was concerned about
sitting on the floor for such a long time period; at home I become
uncomfortable after 15 minutes. But, as meditation is a mental process, hey,
what the fuck, I’m sure I will be able to get a chair or back rest to make
sure I’m extremely comfortable during the next very relaxing 10 days.
4am, the next morning a very loud bell starts clanging. I jump out of bed,
have my very quick wash (cold water in a bucket, I couldn’t bear the idea of
a cold shower) and head to the meditation hall. It is still dark outside,
and as I enter the hall, I am assigned my seat, a 2 foot square cushion,
with a tiny pillow on top, both about 2” thick, with a serious blue cloth
covering it. I will be sitting right here for every minute of my next 110
hours of meditation.
During the first day, most of the unpleasant surprises become
vegetarian meals are served twice a day, with supper consisting of only a
handful of puffed rice and a banana.
meditation hall was directly under the Chennai Airport’s traffic path; every
day there were at least 15 planes roaring overhead, close enough to see the
a constant “tink-tink” of Indian construction workers building more
finally… the butt numbing, backbreaking, hand wringing, horrible torture of
sitting on the floor for 11 hours was basically unbearable.
here is the kicker. It was an amazing, life changing, thrilling experience.
After two days of desperately trying to silence my chattering, racing mind,
I come up with an idea. I can’t concentrate because my pains are ruining my
concentration; therefore, I left the silence of the meditation hall and went
to the private office of the master teacher where certain verbal
communication was allowed only if absolutely necessary. I asked the master
teacher, a skinny old Indian man with a heart the size of his head “may I
have a chair?” Looking at me, he replied in a very kind and grandfatherly
way, “oh no, the chairs are for the handicapped and elderly only, you would
just fall to sleep in these chairs” I’m thinking, for the first time in my
life, “Fuck! Fuck! I wish I were handicapped!”
days proceed and it becomes apparent that the pain from sitting on the floor
is a critical part of Vipassana. Everyone has pain if they sit for more than
one hour, not just me, (wow so it’s not all about you eh?
Imagine that! – ed)
so the mind must be trained to accept that pain is part of life. I thought
this was going to be a nice, relaxing, ten days of contemplation. I didn’t
know that I signed up for the Buddha Boot Camp!
I can’t leave; I have made a commitment to stay for ten days.
There is a small dirt road about 70 feet long, called the Gent’s walking
path. During our “breaks”, I walked up and down the path in my blue Indian
Pajamas, each length taking about one minute. After day four (12 meals down,
20 to go!), I started to feel like I was some Mafia Don who never gets
dressed while serving his 20-year prison sentence (except I’m even jealous
of prisoners, they at least get to play cards!) It also reminded me a little
of that scene from Midnight Express where the prisoners walk in circles.
During one of my walks, I realized… “Whoa, hey I can just jump over that
fence, make a run for it and I will be free! I don’t have to embarrassingly
tell the Vipassana people that I am too wimpy to pull this off!” This
thought was quickly followed with, “Oh yeah, the kindly bastards have all of
my money and ID in a locked box, I guess I ain’t goin’ nowhere!”
Day five, I made two amazing discoveries. At 4am, I started my day with my
cold bath, but black water spouted out. I decided to use the other cold
water tap, and after five minutes, it starts spurting out the most exciting
love juice: HOT WATER! WHOOOOOOHOOOOOOO!! Oh, Wednesday is an auspicious day
second discovery was much more serious. After five torturous days, the
meditation technique started to work. The philosophical concept behind
Buddha’s Vipassana is that we are all suffering because of Cravings (for
things, prestige, events) or Aversion to unpleasant things (I don’t like
that person, I feel uncomfortable). We are always suffering because we can’t
get what we want or can’t get rid of what we don’t want. Buddha’s unique
contribution to this understanding of the human mind was creating a
meditation technique that slowly releases our cravings and aversions. The
first step is to stop adding new cravings and aversions, then slowly start
to release our deeply engrained habits. Kinda like waiting for water to
evaporate out of a full glass of water… if we keep on putting more water in
every day, the cup will never become dry.But
philosophical understanding is only a small step, we need to have direct
physical experience to reduce and finally clear craving and aversions. This
is the most important point. Even if I were to clearly write up what
happened, step by step, one would only understand it from an intellectual
level (Ska-T excluded -ed), which has little value, you must
physically understand the experience.
course is built for skeptics. No faith is required; we were instructed to
believe in the technique only if we could physically feel the meditation
working. I don’t mean like an emotion, I mean like a physical sensation like
goose bumps. And I can tell you, full heartedly, that I could feel it
working. I was so excited by the end of day five, that my brain literally
felt like it was on fire, very similar to having an extreme fever (which,
panic-stricken, I instantly checked: no fever). The freaky thing is that
there have been sensations happening in my body all my life which I had
spent the rest of my five days working hard to eliminate my craving for
these new sensations. Ooo, the sour taste of irony. It was like being given
a new toy and being told to just look at it.
curiosity continued to build every day. I desperately wondered how Corrina
was doing. Each morning, I would glance over at her chair. I would see her
blurry figure and think “great, she’s still here!” Every day, I got a
stronger and stronger feeling of real pride that Corrina and I were able to
stick at this often gruelingly hard work; together as a couple. The
learnings were so deep and so motivating.
Finally, day ten arrived. We did it! CC and I were finally were able to talk
to each other and she told me her version: She arrived at her room to find
that she had a roommate, an Indian women in her 50’s. Over the 10 days, her
unfortunate roommate was moaning and groaning in agony, ALL day and ALL
night. She was crying in bed, all night long. On the first night, Corrina
heard what she thought was the woman opening and closing plastic bags, which
turned out to be the sound of her mattress each time she moved, every five
minutes because of her discomfort. This meant that Corrina was unable to
sleep for the first THREE nights of the course. Corrina was asked if she
wished to change rooms, but wisely and bravely, chose to learn from the
experience. She caught on to “Buddha Boot Camp” a long time before I did!
Amazingly, she also loved the course.
Now, one may wonder if I managed to maintain my silence for the entire ten
days of meditation. In fact, I did not. I made one small error. At 4:30am on
Day 6, I sneezed and followed this up quickly with a very precise and
echoing “EXCUSE ME”. I was horrified, as were all those around me. No one
else said a fuckin’ word the whole time.
When the course ended, I was relieved. I was excited to get back to the
“living”. I instantly made a list of all of my new plans, enough work to
last at least three lifetimes! So often during my concentration I found
myself slipping into fantasy life planning. This course was a real eye
opener. I still can’t believe that my body has sensations that I haven’t
noticed. I’m starting to wonder, “what else can my body do?” There are so
many people with such crazy stories like “time travel” and “telepathic
powers” and “Aura Visualizations”. Is it possible that they are true and I
just haven’t had the motivation, the teacher or the time to learn how to
experience these things? Well, I’ll have to leave these questions to sci-fi
writers for now.
Chapter Nine, Beez and CC pack up and leave the little house by the beach in
Pondicherry and head north to Bombay and beyond.
In Chapter Ten, Beez better be on tour with the Smugglers in North America
or he’ll be in deep shit – deeper than a cow patty on the front lawn of the
Taj Mahal so get your silent ass cheeks back here Beez! Which begs the
question… did you ever fart during the ten days on the cushion? A real
ripper? “Whoa… hey sorry about that one gang! And that one! Ooop- and that