Those fluffy white clouds…

Aaaaannnnddddd…..deep breath….ahhhhhh…

Have you ever been in a plane and looked out the window to see the most incredible display of fluffy white clouds? The ones that look like a massive bag of cotton balls (without the plastic of course) which seem so soft and squishy and inviting? It’s like if you jumped into them, you would just sink in the middle and feel so warm and protected and happy. Whenever I see those clouds, I always daydream about what it would be like to jump into them, as long as I didn’t fall through the other side of course!

That’s where I am right now. No, not literally! Although that would be pretty great too! I did something really scary. I jumped into those clouds hoping they had a bottom to hold me, but not knowing for sure. I flew to London and told my second family, aka my London friends, that I’m not ok. That the smiles are hiding fear and sadness and hopelessness. I told them I need help. I don’t normally do that. Of course I’ve been through many challenging times in the 10+ years I’ve known my friends here. They’ve known I’ve needed help. Many times in the past they’ve told me to take a break, step back, slow down, etc and I always looked at them and said, “I’m fine. No need to worry about me. I’m strong and independent!” Guess what? I am strong and independent, but only because I have a great support system (sorry to bring in the psychology slang, I met up with an ex-colleague today!).

 

In the past, I was too busy hiding my feelings and charging on like a bull in a china shop (has a bull ever actually been in a china shop?) to realise that they were supporting me. That they were always behind me waiting to catch me when I inevitably fell (and that I did many times). It was scary leaving London. Sure, I sold everything to move to an idyllic part of the Caribbean to live “the dream life,” but this second family was my security blanket, they were my fluffy white clouds and it was scary to move so far away from them.

Studying Buddhism has made me realise that I’m not really as independent as I think I am. That everything around me has come to fruition through other people. That I’m a strong woman who explores the world because I had parents who taught me to be resourceful, because throughout my life since adolescence, I’ve been surrounded by protectors, aka, friends, who have led me down the lit path when I started wandering down the dark one. Because the universe sends strangers into my life when I most need them and the list goes on and on. Even this laptop I’m writing on was the result of someone else. Ok, easy because it was a Christmas gift from my parents, but they had to work to get the money to buy it. The company who sold it to them had to hire the employees to put the box in the shop, the salesman to sell it, the cashier to take the money and of course integral, the person/people who invented and made the laptop! I could keep going, but I think you get the point.

 

As I was in the coffee shop baring my inner most emotions to a very close friend, tears were welling in my eyes, as well as his. I was honest about the dark clouds that are in my head that are not inviting to jump into. I shared my inner turmoil about my fears and as I did so, he placed his hand on my arm.  It gave me comfort and strength and I felt so loved, supported and accepted. That was all I needed. He said, “I’m so sorry,” and the feelings of hopelessness started falling down like raindrops from grey clouds. He’s the fifth friend I’ve seen here and each time I seek support from someone, the stronger I feel. Most people think it’s shameful to talk about feelings. Negative or positive to be honest! But guess what? We all feel them!! Right now in order to get through this huge change in my life, I need support and in order to do that, I need to be honest. According to Buddhist philosophy, giving compassion is how we find meaning in life. I would argue that we can find meaning in receiving it too. It shows us how good it feels, making us want to spread it to others! Well, in theory that is 😉

Once I get that part of the story out of the way, I start talking about the hope that I have. About my new plans for the work I’m going to do (I’m so over the yachting industry as a full time career. I like sailing, not cleaning and serving!!), how I’m going to use Mallorca as my base and just take some time to be stable and grounded. The excitement about the new ventures jumps over to them and they offer smiles and words of encouragement and offers of help and support.

 

Sometimes I think I should move back here. The weather has been beautiful since my arrival, very unusual for this time of year and I’m taking advantage of the sunshine as much as I can! I took an hour walk today through London City today and I had a gentle smile on my face as I soaked in the sights and the vibe. Good memories of the times I had here started flooding back. I admired the architecture all around me, I could feel the energy of the London spirits past and present. I asked myself, could I move back here? The city has a great vibe and I have so many incredible friends here. Then I remembered the rain and the cold and the damp and quickly refuted that idea! It’s not necessarily about being physically around people that is the most important. I always have them. I haven’t lived here for nearly four years and they all still come running towards me to catch me, as I do to them.

As I sit here with my herbal tea, listening to the sounds of the city happening outside of the window, I remember the Buddhist teachings. We create our own reality. As human beings, each of us has the ability to train our minds to live in whatever reality we want to. That’s exactly what I’m in the process of doing. I’m going to create a new reality. My new reality is living in those fluffy white clouds and realising that everything that happens, beautiful or challenging, is teaching me a very important lesson. These lessons will teach me how to become a more patient and compassionate human being, which I have discovered, is the meaning of life. I want to spread joy and happiness to other people in whatever way I can. I want to ease their suffering and fill it with happiness.

I may sink from time to time, but through the compassion of others and the happiness they experience, I will always float back to the top. What a great reality to live in, don’t you think? Challenges are not meant to fill us with sadness and hopelessness, but to teach us how to improve. To remind us that we are all suffering and in order to ease that suffering, all we need is a bit of compassion.

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What is home?

All good things must come to an end. Like my lovely little flat in Old Town, Palma. It’s not just my flat, my ex-boyfriend and I got it together. However, he’s away a lot for work, so it always felt more like my home then our home. As you may have noticed the word ex, it means that one of us has to move out and the one with the higher salary won. I have been having very sad moments at the thought that I will be leaving my safe haven in just two short weeks.

Many people believe that I love being on the go all the time, that I yearn to be in new places and pack my bag again and go. Let me tell you something, that’s not true at all. These days, I pack my bag for work or to go to a course to expand my mind, but this uncertainty I have been living is exhausting. I’m tired now. Of course I enjoy wherever I am, but lately there has been an element of boredom. I start to think, this reminds me of this place I’ve already been to, another rock hard bed, oh just another airport full of arguing couples when they’re supposed to be happy because they’re on holiday…

My favourite part of this last year has been having a permanent home. I’ve probably spent a total of five of the 10 months in this penthouse flat, but every time I came back, I had a home. My stuff was here, it was where I left it. I know where the shops and markets are and I even got to know the back routes so that I could avoid streets packed with tourists while I did my weekly errands. It was comforting. I got off the plane, took a 15 minutes bus ride, 10 minute walk and voilà, I’m home! It was great.

 

Now I have to leave this home and I’ve become very attached to it. The monastery taught me to throw up flags when I realise I’m attached to something. For nothing is ever permanent. Nothing. I fought back tears on the realisation that I only had two short weeks in my lovely flat. Two short weeks of living all on my own and organising everything the way I want it… Then I knocked some sense into myself. This flat won’t be here forever, I certainly can never afford this flat forever and there are certain major things I don’t like about it. Like how I can’t sleep well because it’s so noisy and how the hot water in the shower lasts only for a few minutes so I freeze in the winter time.

Life is too short to dwell on things we can’t change, so I decided to change my attitude, because really, that’s the only thing in life we can change. I started exploring what home means. To me it means a place of safety and respite. A place where I can leave my belongings and come back to when I need them. It’s a calm and relaxed place where I don’t have to worry about what others think of me and I can just shut the world out. If I look at it this way, why does home have to be this particular flat? I mean, when I was backpacking, I would sometimes spend one or two weeks somewhere and make that my home too. Why am I sad when I’ll be moving my home with me? What I mean by that is that I will be taking my heart, my clothes, my books, my yoga mat and my favourite mug. Sure I will be living in a different area, but that’s fun too. I’m not moving country, I can take a bike ride or bus ride back to the old area and do all the things I do now!

Well, my attached mind didn’t like the idea that I could let go of that so easily! So then it started saying, but yeah, now you can walk to the Dr’s, the dentist, the Dharma centre, the other meditation you go to, Mercat Oliver for your weekly shop, there are bars and restaurants galore and you have three friends within 5 minute walking distance! It will be terrible to leave! Your life will be ruined!!

 

I’ve learned a lot of tools to calm this crazy monkey in my mind. I mean really Mr Monkey, how many times have we moved in this lifetime? At least 20! Each time I move, I go through this panic and sadness and each time I make something great of the new area I move to. Besides, I’m not tied into any lease, so if I never do adjust, I can always come back here. Just not in the summer time because that’s when it’s the most crazy!! I practised the skill of impermanence. Nothing remains the same. Not my hair (which just happens to be falling out at a rapid rate…), not my circumstances, not my relationships and certainly not my attitude or emotions. I pondered this for a while and accepted that I feel this way now and look forward to the time when I will feel more positive. Suddenly the sadness disappeared and the crazy monkey was back in his cage. Buddhist philosophy really works people, I can’t encourage it enough!

The miracle of Tibetan medicine

Kopan Monastery day 31: 20th July 2018

Ahhhh…I’m back in my little safe haven of a room sipping on MSC long life tea that my Tibetan Doctor made himself. Like actually made it himself, he went into the mountains to pick the plants, dried them and crushed them up for a tea used for wellness and vitality. There are a whole range of health benefits which I won’t bore you with as you can only get the tea at his office. The last time I was there, his staff were busy preparing the comforting medicinal leaves. The flavour is soft and warming and makes me feel as if I’m a little girl again being embraced by the warm and secure arms of my loving Mom.

I’ve been reading “In Search of the Medicine Buddha” by David Crow. It’s about Ayuverda and Tibetan medicine. I have been interested in Ayuverda since the first time I heard about it four and a half years ago. It was no surprise that Tibetan medicine also captivated my attention. How fascinating to be balanced or nursed back to health by the beautiful plants in one’s surrounding. A surrounding that is close enough to an abundance of nature, that is!! The book has invigorated my passion for this powerful healing method. It couldn’t have come at a better time since I am currently contemplating my next career move. It provided me with some good material so that I could start a discussion with my local Tibetan practitioner, Dr Sonam.

This was my third visit with Dr Sonam. The first time I went, it was to get some herbal medicine to help balance out the fact that I went from a 0% carbohydrate diet to one that is 99%. He was quiet and shy and didn’t say too much. It turns out that he had been up late watching the World Cup that evening and “wasn’t feeling so well himself,” as he said to me. He had a very soft way to him and I liked the way that he talked to himself as he took my pulses, looked at my tongue and carefully considered each symptom I described.

Then came the explosion from down below and the free day came at just the right time. I had been suffering for four days, just hoping that it was something I ate and it would go away. As I walked to his office for the second time, the sky opened up and although I had my umbrella, my satin trousers were drenched. He was very concerned how far I was from home and that I would get sick from having wet trousers. I smiled inside at his concern. He didn’t remember me until I gave him the piece of paper from last time where he had written my symptoms and diagnosis in Tibetan. I was nearly crying as I rattled off my new symptoms and answered his questions. I was so weak and ill and I was desperate to have anything besides antibiotics. I was hoping he wasn’t going to tell me that I had to go to a Western Doctor. He didn’t let me down. He gave me some herbal medicine to detoxify the system of any parasites and “bad stuff.” He assured me that I would feel better by tomorrow morning and told me to go back to the monastery immediately to change out of my wet trousers. I wanted to give him a hug at his sweetness! I was about to ask him if he was married, but remembered that I was just talking about my diarrhoea so kept on walking.

Today’s visit would be the last one because it was the last day I could see him before fleeing Nepal. My stomach still isn’t 100% and I’ve stopped sleeping well. I also asked him why on earth my tongue was yellow and he laughed. After he took my pulses again, he asked me if I was experiencing certain symptoms, all of which I had. He said I have an inner fever and changed my medication so that it would heal faster. I told him I was absolutely fascinated with Tibetan medicine and that I have been reading about it. I read that sometimes it was good to do a detox when leaving here. He said he didn’t think it was necessary, but asked how I felt at home. I described the symptoms I’ve been having for years with digestion and sinus problems. He gave me a two month supply of the medicinal herbal medicine to help. He also told me what foods to avoid and which energy was dominating me at the moment so that I could do my own research.

As his assistant was packing up my medicines, some fluorescent pink and bright blue pills caught my eye. I asked him what they were for and he explained the blue was for the liver and the pink was for the nervous system. They are considered the “precious jewels” of Tibetan medicine, but those who are sick or healthy can take them. For those who are healthy, it’s a type of spring cleaning. I said I wanted to try them, so he suggested taking the pink one. He gave me instructions on how to take it. I need to unwrap it from the package when there is no light, soak it in a covered glass of water over night, wake up early in the morning to take it and then sleep for 1-2 more hours with an extra blanket over me. He said I may feel weak and sweaty, but that’s ok and that I should avoid meat, garlic and alcohol for three days or it won’t work. As I said, I’ve been reading about the medicine and have grown to understand and appreciate the fragility of these medicines. I had already asked him about his training, so I am confident in his ability.

The friend I walked to town with, came into his non-confidential office half way through the consultation. When I finished, Tslil and I started talking about conditions that various friends and family members had and how Tibetan medicine can help them. I wanted to stay the whole day and learn about all of the the medicines that were neatly displayed on the wall in glass jars. I wanted to know what each of them was for, what was in them and how on earth I can bring these mystical and nourishing jewels back with me!!

As we left, I turned to my friend and said, “Isn’t he just so nice??” She gave a giant nod. I said, “I want to marry him. He is just so sweet.” She stopped on the steps and said, “Go and ask him if he is married! Actually it doesn’t matter because they can have more than one wife anyway.” I hesitated and then remembered that this time, we had an even more in depth conversation about my bowel movements. I dismissed the idea and carried on with my descent. And besides, Kathmandu is such a dirty and noisy place, I wouldn’t be happy living here.

Every time I come back from the city, I set my bag down by the door, go into the bathroom and de-robe, immediately soaking my city soiled clothes in a bucket with soap. Then I lather myself up with soap, two times because the first time I’m so dirty it doesn’t lather properly. I couldn’t imagine having to do that every day….or could I?? 😉

Getting lost in the mind of attachment

Kopan Monastery Day 26: 13th July 2018. Part 2

Ven Fedor started talking about mental wandering. Finally, a topic I am an expert in!!! Oh wait, he said it’s an affliction. *hmmpff* I suddenly had huge pangs of guilt as he said, “How one cultivates the mind outside of meditation is what one will bring into meditation.” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been able to focus on and off throughout the meditations and a couple of sessions nearly the whole time, but for the most part I have been thinking about other things. Specifically, the recent end of my relationship and what I’m going to do with my life. Many people would say, “Of course! That’s normal and ok!” Yes it’s normal for afflicted minds, but I don’t want mine to be afflicted any more because life is better when it isn’t! I’m not unrealistic, I know that I won’t be totally freed of ignorance, anger and attachment in this lifetime, but I can certainly work on reducing it.

Tibetan Buddhism is big on love and compassion, so we spend a lot of time contemplating the suffering of others before dedicating the merits we accumulate through our studies and prayers, to ease the suffering of all sentient beings. It’s much more complex than this, but I’m just giving the basics as not all of my readers are interested in Buddhism. Some days I allow my mind to wander on my relationship because it provides the opportunity to practice compassion and easing of suffering. Sometimes I’ve wanted to cause him harm too, which isn’t so good, but usually towards the end I am able to see things from his perspective. I do this by looking at the afflictions he suffers from, which are the same as yours and the same as mine.  We all have afflictions, but we have different intensities of them. With this perspective, I remember how I have suffered in the past when someone broke up with me and how I would never want anyone to feel that way. This in turn gives me the urge to take on his suffering. Although this may not be happening in his reality, what does happen is that I change the way I treat him (and others). One can only ask him to see if it’s noticeable, but I’ve seen a change in our interactions, so from my perspective, I think it’s working. I certainly say less hurtful things to him which can only be positive. I in turn feel much better for not letting my anger get the best of me and saying things I don’t actually mean.

So maybe I wasn’t focusing on the mediation we were given, but I was still contemplating the teachings. Or is that my mind playing tricks on me…. You can see how the time here has been a bit of a mind scramble!

My next attachment challenge is leaving here. Although I feel sick and tired most of the time because the food is exactly what I shouldn’t be eating. And even though I’m tired of having sour smelling hand washed clothes, I’ve grown very fond of this place. I have safety from outside distractions. We are on a hilltop with the city so distant I am merely a distant observer. Although we discuss the outside world outside of lectures, I don’t have to physically deal with the problems. It is such a respite. I have not once missed Facebook or Instagram. A few times when big words were used repeatedly, I missed Mr Google, but other than that, I haven’t missed technology. I still email my family on the break days, which was exactly what I used to do 13 years ago when I moved to the UK.

Even though I am attached to a specific type of food, I’m enjoying not having to cook and doing the washing up because I want to, not because I have to. I’m enjoying the teachings. Some of it goes way over my head, but much of it resonates with me and is giving me life skills to be a more compassionate person. I know I won’t be enlightened in this life and my goal isn’t to get as many merits as I can to have a higher rebirth or great karma for my next life, so I’m not stressing out about the amount and type of prayers I need to do in order to achieve that. What I do want and have received, is skills to have a happier mind which in turn will benefit those around me. This is the part I’m afraid of losing when I leave here. If my mind starts going crazy when I go into Boudha for one day and see all the shops and email the same four people all the time, how is it going to be when I leave here, have my phone back, am around irritating people, have a job and day to day responsibilities? Only time will tell.

Attachment strikes again

Kopan Monastery Day 26: 13th July 2018. Part 1

What a difference a good sleep makes! The night before last was the worst sleep ever. I couldn’t fall asleep (that was the over stimulation night!), then when I did, a mosquito wanted to have a hide and seek party. Whilst he was hiding, my mind was busy contemplating my next move after I leave the monastery, i.e. mission stable life. I gave up about 4.30 am and started yoga, which was equally as disturbing due to my monkey mind, as was the meditation session and the lectures, etc. Last night, a colleague of mine gave me a Himalayan salt crystal to help with my stomach, stave off negative thoughts and promote overall health.

It worked a treat! I slept like a baby and instead of razor sharp knives in my stomach this morning, I had dull butter knives. It was great! Meditation was much more focused and I soaked up the wisdom from the lectures.

Today we talked about attachment (common theme). As I am in full self-cherishing mode (as we all are, most just don’t know it!), I like to think how I’ve pretty much cracked this affliction on the head. My ego says there’s no need to apply this to myself, so when we discuss attachment, I think of others and their poor suffering. I may not be attached to material things, but I do still have my attachments! Like my parents. Today when he told us to meditate on rebirth and impermanence, I started getting tears in my eyes thinking that my parents will die one day and how life will be absolutely horrible without them. It was a good challenge to put into practice what we’ve learned about what reality is and the concept of impermanence.

Anyway, Ven Fedor said some pretty interesting things that struck a chord with me. Some people will only relate to what I’m going to say if they believe in Buddha and/or karma, but I think most of what I’ve learned on this course is useful for people in general.  So much of the material we are given is about how to be a decent human being. Ven Fedor was explaining that when the mind is under the control of the three root afflictions, ignorance, attachment and anger, it likes to play tricks on us. It invents stories to support whatever theory the afflictions have created. Ignorance, attachment and anger are defined the same way in Buddhism as they are in psychology.  However, Buddhism says that every individual suffers from these afflictions whereas psychology seems to think that not everyone suffers from these afflictions and can “work through them” through talking. In Buddhist terms, it will most likely take aeons to overcome the afflictions. That sits better with me as I no longer have to strive to be perfect, but to be the best person I can be. After all, I’m a sentient being. I will make mistakes.

We were discussing a verse that examines miserliness. Ven Fedor gave many examples of miserliness. They were very funny, a couple could have been from my life. An example of what one should do if they found $100 on the street brought up a fascinating discussion between the students. Ven Fedor said that from a Buddhist perspective, they should just keep walking because it isn’t theirs to pick up. Are we going to pick it up and try to find the owner? Of course not. Any excuse that is created in the mind for picking up the money, including for the purpose of giving it to charity (because you should use your own money if you are that way inclined), is a story created because of our attachment to wealth. He said how easy it is for us to pick up this “ownerless” money, yet we would most likely cross the street to avoid giving even just 25 cents to a beggar. He suggested that if we wanted to work on overcoming miserliness, we should bring small change with us and hand it out to beggars. It’s important not to give beyond our needs, but expressing generosity in whatever way we can, will bring good karma. If you don’t believe in karma, you can think how you made that person smile just knowing that someone made a kind gesture after so many people crossed the street to avoid them.

One of the remedies for breaking down attachments is compassion for others. If we see other people suffering, we are more likely to share our fortune with others in order to reduce their suffering. This is how I see it anyway.

For example, when I see a beggar in the street, it is obvious they are experiencing a tremendous amount of suffering. They are where they are for a reason. Maybe it is a result of their own actions, past karmic actions, mental illness or maybe it was a tragic series of events that led them to be homeless. Whatever the reason, they are human beings and are experiencing suffering. Bearing this in mind, if I’m feeling miserly, which to be honest is most of the time, I walk past them and give them a smile and a “No, I’m sorry.” I think it’s important to acknowledge them because I couldn’t even begin to imagine how horrible it must be to be so “low” in society. Not only do they have no way to fulfil their own basic needs, but people walk by as if they don’t even exist. Some people even get angry or throw looks of hatred. I mean come on, we are all human, some more fortunate than others. I don’t see the difficulty in offering a small act of human decency, such as a smile. It costs nothing. Often when I do that, I get a smile and a nod of the head in return. I may not help with their basic needs, but at least they are relieved of their suffering of being invisible for a fraction of a second. If every single human being lived their life thinking how they could ease the suffering of others, think of what a great planet this would be to live on…

An overwhelming adventure

Kopan Monastery day 24: 11th July 2018

Wow!! I feel like I’ve taken six grams of cocaine. Ok, I’ve never taken six grams of cocaine, but if I did, I imagine it would feel like this!! I went out of the monastery today. Whilst I’ve been out before in the last 24 days, I have settled into monastery life very well and have done well to leave the outside world, outside. The first time I went out, I was still involved in “worldly affairs” and the last time I went out, I was so sick, I could barely get to the Dr. In short, this was the first time I was in total “monk zone” and feeling well. Let me tell you, the world is an overwhelming place!

Ok, maybe not I’m feeling that well. I have been fighting some stomach thing off and on since I arrived in Thailand over a month ago. I took some miraculous Tibetan medicine which made me feel better almost instantly. Two days after I finished the course (today), I woke up rejoicing in the solid that came out of me three days in a row, only to start pleading for constipation when it sadly turned to liquid. Graphic, I know, but if you’ve ever been to Asia, this is just the normal chit chat. How’s your poo today? I don’t ever want to come back to this part of the world. I’ve been here four times now and I get sick EVERY TIME. Why do I do this to myself?!?!

Anyway, I got back to the monastery at 7 pm. This was just in time to take a shower before our 7.30 meditation. I was with two other girls and I said they could make the 40 minute uphill trek back to Kopan if they wanted to, but I was taking a taxi so I could wash the shit, piss, vomit and spit off my feet and flip flops. You see when it rains in Nepal, the streets flood very quickly. I just happened to be in transit when the paths were “cleaned” with the rain. The same paths where I have literally seen human diarrhoea and people pissing. Yep, that all got on my feet. I walked through the sewer river in ignorance and then freaked the hell out when the lady at the restaurant I was searching for, told us to go immediately downstairs and rinse our feet because we just stepped through some serious diseases crossing the street river.

I couldn’t even enjoy my food because all I could imagine was a million and three diseases being absorbed into my bloodstream from the bottom of my feet. Don’t worry, I took some extra activated charcoal in an attempt to flush out the toxins. It’s what they take here, so it must work. The children were running through these shit rivers and I just wanted to take them out and put them in a vat of alcohol. I have never been so grateful to have grown up in a clean country where I was scolded for jumping in puddles because I would get wet, not because I would get some horrific disease that could turn fatal.

Let’s just say meditation was not as focused as it has been of recent. He told us to focus on our breathing and despite washing my feet four times, I could still feel the disease creeping in. Then I started to think about all the shops I passed and despite not needing anything, thinking I should go back one more time before I leave to buy things that will sit in my wardrobe or get given to charity in a couple of months. Then there was a huge spider that was distracting some other people and when I heard movement, I opened my eyes to the spider being carried out and the size of it being shown to me by hands (it was a Daddy Long Legs, nothing to get excited about!!). I had to stifle giggles. There is this really long prayer that we sometimes do in English and a couple of the other students hate it with a passion. When the leader told us that we were doing that prayer, looks of annoyance were thrown (one guy sits in front of me and the other behind, so I’m right in the middle of it) and I just lost it. If you ever need a lesson on how to laugh hysterically quietly, I’m your woman. Luckily I sit in the back, so I hid behind the three people in front of me while laughing like a madwoman. I thought I got rid of the giggles, but then they kept coming back and I looked like a crazy person laughing for nothing.

The good news is that the meditation session went super quickly. I was planning my life for when I get out since I’m starting all over (AGAIN!) and was gently telling myself to put that in the back of my head for another 11 days because I can’t do anything about it now anyway. It was actually working. This Buddhism business really works.  If you’re interested, I’d love to share it with you. I really like the evening meditation, so I was jamming along to the mantras (rocking is allowed, but no foot tapping so unfortunately I probably accumulated some negative karma) and all of the sudden it was over! Then we had the usual Wednesday light ceremony in the magical garden where we lit candles and incense and walked around the big stupa. I could’ve ran around at full speed about 100 times, but I had to behave myself or there would be suspicion that I’m on drugs. Nope, I’m just totally overdosed with stimulation over non-monastery life. If I tell someone, they might not let me out again!!

I came back to the room and took some big risks. I passed gas without sitting on the toilet. I was lucky, no accidents, which is a sign the charcoal is working. Let’s hope it stays that way. I have to hand wash clothes so I’d rather not be dealing with that! I would need to either burn the clothes or bleach my hands. It’s 9.45 pm, which I haven’t seen for weeks so I’m taking a risk of being tired for lectures tomorrow. Maybe I’ll still be high and it will get me through the day!

The truth of the matter is that it’s actually scary how overwhelming and stimulating the world is. I mean, sure, Kathmandu is incredibly dirty and noisy and polluted with people everywhere, but actually less crowded then where I live. I’m glad I took this course, because it’s opened my eyes to how overwhelming the world is. Not only do we have this device where people can get a hold of us instantly through various mediums, but we have shops and people and restaurants, bars and cafes. It’s too complicated. If I could still have sex, keep my hair and wear sexy clothes from time to time, I would totally become a nun. It’s a great safe haven here totally protected from all of that unimportant stuff. I’m re-learning the value of family (even if they can be annoying) and true friendships and I’m starting to realise that the things I’ve been worrying about for most of my life are just meaningless. If I take care of the world, it will take care of me so I have all the control of what happens to me.

Now it’s 10 pm, so I should really get going. In an attempt to quiet my mind, I will read some Dharma on emptiness so that I can remind myself that the outside world doesn’t exist as it appears to exist. Don’t worry, I’ve been contemplating that concept for three years and am still trying to get my head around it. Then I’ll listen to yoga nidra to put me to sleep and hope that the gas remains gas… 5 am comes very quickly, but I still smile at the sound of the bell ringing monk (even though it’s now incorporated into my dreams and I have to set an alarm to get up to do my personal yoga practice!).

I guess the challenge will be to keep this frame of mind when I leave the monastery gate. They have given me lots of tools here which I’m excited to keep practising when I’m out. Bring on the challenge!!

Waiting for escape..

Kopan Monastery Day 21: 8th July 2018

Yesterday was hard. I’m not going to lie. My body is still in the process of fighting off this stomach bacteria, although I have to say this Tibetan medicine is absolutely great!! It works so quickly and I don’t go crazy and get depressed like I do with antibiotics. Fingers crossed there is a Tibetan Dr in Mallorca!

With the exhaustion of fighting the stomach bug coupled with the whirlwind in my mind of what my future will be, I found myself counting down the days until the course is over. Every day about the same times, air planes fly over the monastery. They are so loud, that the lecturer has to pause in order to prevent his words from getting lost in the drone of the jet engines. Some of them fly so low I want to run to the roof of the building and see if I can jump up and grab a hold of one of them.

Putting my daydreaming aside, I forced myself to keep bringing my attention back to the guided meditation. It was hard work. Eventually I gave up and said ok, you want to go. What are you missing so much? The first thing that popped into my head was food. Last night, I ate an avocado a friend had bought me whilst she was in town. It was so delicious! I started thinking about having a tomato, cucumber, olive and avocado salad drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with oregano and basil. I haven’t seen a tomato in weeks! I stopped my thoughts of this delicious treat and carried on with what I was sure would be an extensive list of what I was missing so much.

Item number two: The smell of fresh laundry. Definitely! Oh how I miss that! I hand wash my clothes and if the sun isn’t shining, a sour smell infiltrates the clothes and I’ve learned just to accept it.

Number three: My flat. Oh wait, no. I love going to bed here to the sounds of chanting or crickets at 9 pm and being gently awoken by the bells at 5 am. I feel rested and like I’m making the best use of my day. In Palma, I am “sung” to sleep at midnight at the earliest, by the drunken patrons as they enjoy the plaza beneath me. I am awoken five to six hours later by rubbish trucks, street cleaners and the ear piercing scrape of chairs and tables being pulled out as the plaza cafes get ready to fuel up hung over locals, tourists and workers getting ready to start another day. It’s not so restful.

Number four: My friends. Oh wait, they are in England or in other parts of the world, as some of them wandered off like me. I do have a few friends in Palma, but they are very new friendships. I am looking forward to building on those and hopefully meeting new people.

Next item I’m missing: Work. Oh wait, I don’t have a job. In fact, I have to frantically look for a job as well as a new home since my funds have dwindled without me realising! As mentioned earlier, I thought I was going to come out to a job, but I felt it right to pass on that opportunity and start afresh.

Number six: The weather. Nope, not that either! In Kathmandu, it’s not super humid and despite it being monsoon season, we have had more dry and sunny days than rainy days. In Palma, it’s hot and sticky and I will be cautious on the air conditioning use since I don’t have a job to pay for the extortionate electricity rates that Palma boasts.

Number seven: Having internet access. Not really. Although I miss picking up the phone to talk to my family, I’m enjoying the break from this crazy world of technology. It’s too intense. I’m really enjoying not being able to find out something immediately (Mr Google).  Instead, I have to go back to the good old days where people went to the library to learn more about a topic, or have a conversation with someone more knowledgeable. It’s great! I don’t at all miss being contactable every waking moment and being expected to respond immediately. Geez, I’m tired already just thinking about it. I’m definitely going to be making some major changes in that regard when I get back into the ‘real world.’

I stopped there. It was making me realise very quickly that despite the bland and carb filled food and sour smelling laundry, this is actually the best place for me right now. I don’t have to worry about looking for a job, because I can’t. I don’t have to worry about making new friends, because I’m with the same 14 people every day. This whirlwind in my head will still be there in Palma, plus I will have a million other distractions that will lead me to stress out. Nope, it’s best I stay here and continue learning new tools to follow the path to happiness. I’ve already learned so much and have started to implement the wisdom in my daily thinking. Like for instance, just today when we were talking about spontaneity, Ven. Fedor said that it isn’t about jumping around from place to place and acting on what’s in the mind that makes us happy.  Happiness comes from completing compassionate actions that will benefit others. I felt as though he was talking to me directly. I jump from place to place and always find a reason why I am unhappy. I know it’s in my head, but I carry on in denial and pretend it’s my environment that makes me unhappy. It’s not. It’s me and my way of thinking.

My desire to be free is not about physical freedom. It is about being free of the fear that I will do something that is detrimental to my mental happiness. I have actually said this many times and believed that “settling down” was detrimental to my happiness. Ven Fedor suggested to us that if we are thinking about a problem, perhaps the question we need to ask ourselves is, “What is most beneficial for the mind?” That actually gave me the answer to two of the biggest problems I’m thinking about right now.

So instead of looking at those planes with envy, I now look at them and think, “I don’t have much time to soak up this knowledge before I’m thrown back in the ‘real world.’ I better make good use of my time and read as many books in that library as I can!” Even if you’re not interested in Buddhism, this principle still applies to you. What can you do in your life that will most benefit your mind and aid others? No matter how you feel about life/death, our time is very short here. It should be our main purpose to make the most out of life. If we do this, we can help each other get through it. It’s all about putting things into perspective. Sometimes we’re so attached to a feeling that we don’t even realise there is no reason for us to be feeling that way.