It’s embarrassing how long it’s taking me to write about you. 5 months and countless hours staring at a white page and a blinking cursor. Some happenings are so grand and sacred that attaching language to them seems to be a grave injustice, a perversion of their true beauty.
It’s unusually cool for a June morning, I’m nested in my perch with the usual suspects – half a cup of cold coffee and a flickering rose candle. It’s just me and you love, rubbing our noses against each other, feeling the softness of your skin brush up next to mine – it’s like slipping into a warm bath on a dreary December day. It’s that first sip of hot coffee, when the earthy richness hits your lips and sends warmth down your throat, trickling into your stomach.
time slowly rolls to a stop in that moment and if you’re lucky enough, you will too, just long enough to take a deep inhale and commit it all to memory. That stillness is where the magic happens. Where your eyes are open enough to see the Divine dance life is inviting you to. Don’t be shy. Take his hand and waltz.
Thailand taught me about that feeling, showed me the shortcut to getting it and keeping it. Since you are unlikely to fly 18 hours, hop a ferry to a remote island and take a scurvy open-air bus ride up to a mountaintop monastery in Koh Samui, I will give you the footnotes.
Stillness is the key.
It unlocks the door opening to bliss, clarity, peace, resolve, contentment and happiness. The Buddhist call this Sukha, in Pali it means unhindered flow. It is one of the tenants of Buddhism, to be free from desire, aversion, hate, greed, attachment and delusion.
You can arrive at this blissful state many ways. Sex and drugs may get you there, but meditation will keep you there. Stillness and silence are the foundation of Vipassana, one of the oldest Buddhist meditations that means “to see things as they really are”. Vipassana is about moving into a higher state of consciousness, to be in the true vibration of who you are. Being secluded in the forest with no phone, tv, music, conversation, exercise, or obligations – this ancient form of Buddhist psychological torture- is what it took for me to tap into Sukha.
Being alone (really truly alone) with my thoughts, with no distractions, is the most challenging experience I have endured. At first, I was enthralled with the zen atmosphere, taking joy in 14 hours of daily meditation surrounded by a lush green forest. How lovely I thought.
It’s all fun and namaste until you are four days into this behavioral science experiment and a flash flood of feelings come over, completely overwhelming your being and taking you down like the plague. Your skin starts to crawl and you break into a mild sweat. Your heart beats faster than it should and all that crosses your mind is “I’ve gotta get out of here”. But you can’t. Because you are trapped on a mountain in Thailand with a bunch of Tibetan monks shuffling around like penguins.
So you stay.
You stay in the discomfort. In the agony of being with yourself.
So I did what any rational person would do, ran out of the meditation hall, down to the dormitory and cried alone in the shower. Why am I crying? I do not know. What would remove my discomfort? Better amenities? No mosquitos eating me alive? Music? Books? Podcasts? My car? I quickly realize all the ways modern conveniences and comforts provide an illusion of safety. I crave community, even though just days prior I was in one and couldn’t wait for a moment alone. Now I have it and it’s driving me mad. Day 1 here, I cautiously avoided slippery places and diligently checked my shoes for deadly spiders, it’s Day 4 and I am praying for a coconut to impale my head. Anything for an excuse to escape myself.
The storm eventually passes. It always does. In the aftermath you take stock of what the fuck just happened and revelations make themselves known to you. The greatest being how desire runs our lives and leads to suffering, what the Buddhist call Dukha (the opposite of Sukha). Meditation stops the cycle of constant stimulation. Stimulation begets desire. You feel good, you desire more feeling good. In Vipassana, we sit through all feelings and simply observe them. Watch them come and go like a cloud floating by in the expansive blue sky. Do not attach yourself to it. Do you not hold on, or try to hurry it to pass. Observation without reaction. Do this with life. With jobs, relationships, possessions.
Understand the impermanence of all things, Buddhist call this Annica. When you truly understand this, you move into a more expansive state of equanimity and wisdom. You realize that there is no experience/thing/person that is going to make you permanently sad or happy. Equanimity is the goal, the only yardstick to measure progress. This is meditation. To escape being caught in the flow of reaction, of craving for the pleasant and aversion to the unpleasant.
In Vipassana, we learn to observe everything with an accepting mind. Don’t try to reconcile every loss, every emotion, try instead to adjust to it. Experience every moment fully, and then let it go.
In the words of Yogi Bhajan,
“Your job is to control yourself
Your job is to discipline yourself.
Your job is to deal with everything in life
with affection, love, and kindness.”