It’s now the weekend and we have no choice but to wait until Monday to work on M’s passport application which means we can’t go to Chiang Mai yet. Further to that, we need M’s parents to send a scan of his birth certificate from the passport office back home and they won’t do that until there is a case number, which we can’t get until Monday!
We are definitely moving into Southeast Asia’s hot and dry season. I can’t remember the last time it’s rained although I was woken up by thunder this morning. It’s becoming quite difficult the past couple of days to just do our daily wandering around where we stay outside for the whole day. Either that, or we’ve become slightly de-acclimitized from our time in Vietnam having air-con all the time. Now we have fan only and no hot water in the most basic of rooms for 290B. At night, there is a slight breeze so we must keep our curtain open till daylight or you can’t get any of it. Since one must sleep completely ‘au naturel’, I only hope that while I’m asleep, someone doesn’t check in across the way, but I’m usually too hot to care: “Meh, they’ll be European-they’ve seen boobies before!”
Anyway, ahem…a little over one week ago I responded to a Tweet by Kimberly Wilson of fabulous Tranquility du Jour fame, calling out for book club suggestions. While travelling, I haven’t always been able to get my hands on her book club selections so I’m not always “present” but I love the idea of an online book club-great for people who travel and I love that it brings people from all over the world together for a common purpose! Admittedly, I also like it because, believe it or not, I’m a bit of an introvert and public speaking (even if a book club circle) is nerve-wracking for me! (I’m aiming to conquer this within the next five years-Toastmasters or something…) So I was thrilled when Kimberly Wilson chose my suggestion for Sharon Salzberg’s book “Real Happiness“, her 28-day meditation “training manual”. A follower of Sharon Salzberg for a while, keeping tabs on her Twitter and website and whatnot, I have been travelling with this book on my Kindle for a while now and I have yet, despite several attempts, been able to get past the one week mark. I thought that having this book as a club selection, I would be presented with a bit more accountability. I began March 2nd and I am officially past the one week mark. Yay me!
I don’t want to make it sound like meditation is a chore but I do believe it is definitely something you must practice to the point of habit in order to make it stick or see any results. This book is not my first foray into meditation. I’ve been interested in Buddhism since high school or so. My early interest in alternative philosophies and religions at the age of 14 or 15 or so lead me to Wicca and occult type books (my mom had a Wiccan friend that lent me some books and my mom had a pretty wide library herself!) It was from my Mom and Dad’s book collection that I then read Carlos Castenada and from there, because of my love of Beat literature, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, the Beatles, TM which finally lead me to seek out Buddhism.
By university, I was using most of my elective courses for philosophy and eastern religion, delving into Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam philosophy as well as a bit of art and architecture of Asia and the Middle East. By this time I was also attending the odd day-long meditation retreat and lectures by prominent Buddhists (Tenzin Palmo!) and I then discovered Pema Chodron and devoured all her books. So I have read a lot on the subject, but through the course of all of this, I have learned that it all amounts to nothing if your ass is not on that cushion! I have since had breakthrough moments on the cushion, usually in day long retreats where I’ve sat there long enough to finally ease the incessant chatter in my brain. At home, before leaving for travel, I was, on occasion, getting up before work 30 minutes earlier for a pre-work sit. But travelling has presented itself with a new list of challenges that has thus far, prevented me from getting a daily habit down.
However, for me, I also realize that no excuse is good enough and it’s precisely these challenges that make a daily practice worthwhile and now a perfect time to really get into it! These excuses include such things as: not much alone time (M and I sharing one room in a hotel or guesthouse) so I’ve been meditating when he is sleeping in the morning or when he is having breakfast. the heat (oooh! the HEAT! ) Such a lame excuse seeing as this whole thing started in Asia-land of oppressive heat, before the time of electric fans!, our ever-changing locale (all the better to overcome since peace comes from within, right?)
Anyway, so here goes nothing again! I will be doing my best to check in weekly to let you know all of my observations and any progress. In the first week, my mind has been all over the place. I probably got about four “sits” accomplished but my first couple were 15 minutes, not 20 as the book suggests. After the first couple of times, I realized I needed at least 20 minutes to get those moments of stillness, so I upped it. Such topics in my money mind this week have included: my mom, friends, the plane journey I had to take that day, M, crafts, design ideas, my blog, breakfast, etc., etc., etc…
Practicality wise, I usually sit on the bed these days but I do find that a pillow just under my tailbone works best so my knees are lower than my spine. Otherwise my back gets tired and I start to slouch. Counting my breath has been extremely useful when I can’t otherwise focus, as is labelling my thoughts as “thinking” when I need to pop the thought bubbles!
So I accept all of this as being totally normal progress and I look forward to more sitting this week with the hopes of even better results! I’m a work in progress! I would love to hear other ‘learning to meditate’ experiences with this book. Head over to Kimberly Wilson’s website to check out her book club, there is always a great book recommended there each month, usually on the subject of yoga and well-being.
Thanks for reading!