Pa-Auk Monastery

January 28, 2018

I arrived late to the Buddhist Monastery Pa-Auk, so late that I didn’t see anybody. So I decided to find a nice spot on the pavement and install my sleeping bag. Dawn’s first lights were not present yet when I a soft hand woke me up inviting me to move to a different spot on the pavement. A kind monk with a big smile and few teeth wanted to sweep the pavement and helped me out. So I followed him 🙂

The first day the rules of the monastery are explained, you get a copy of the daily schedule, you have to repeat some sentences in Burmese and you meditate with the monk in charge of welcoming the foreign and make the inscriptions.


Daily schedule in Pa-Auk Monastery. (Click on the image to enlarge)

That’s the starting point of a mysterious journey where there is no final destination… the destination is the journey itself.

Meditate is not easy at all. One tries to focus on the breath and put the rest away but it’s hard. Your mind becomes a time machine. It goes to the past with memories and it goes to the future with plans and projects. Nevertheless, with practice and patience, you can achieve it and you see that your mind stops.

My experience lasts 10 days and my body got familiar with the fact of only having 2 meals per day (breakfast at 6.30 am and lunch at 10.30 am). I think it was thanks to the fact of lack of activity apart from meditating about 8 hours per day.


Inside of the temple where monks and novices, like me, meditate. View from my spot. (Click on the image to enlarge)

The hardest part is when you lost the patience because you cannot control your mind that flies to the past and the future. Also the pain in my knees because of having my legs crossed for one hour and a half still.

Anyway, it was worth it and I would do it again. It was a great experience!!


Monk going upstairs to the temple of meditation. (Click on the image to enlarge)

If you are not super interested in meditation you may find the following part boring.
For those who are curious let’s take a look at this interesting technique.

Meditation

In the monastery, there is a monk who everybody calls “the teacher” and, in principle, is the right person to teach you and answer any question you may have. When I met him and asked him about the technique, he replied: “focus on the air passing through the part of your body between the nasal passages and the upper lip”. That was all!! I asked him more questions but the answer was always the same.
Fortunately, the monastery has a splendid library with many books in different languages and I found one that was extremely useful: “The mind illuminated” by John Yates, Ph. D.

Let’s talk about meditation and the technique now.

The benefits of meditating are mainly 3:
– Enhance concentration
– Lower blood pressure
– Improve sleep

Fully developed meditation skills also give rise to unique and wonderful mental states characterized by physical comfort and pleasure, joy and happiness, deep satisfaction, and profound inner peace.

“In the stillness of meditation, the magic of mindfulness integrates this difficult content buried in the unconscious in a healthy and healing way”

For many, everyday life is a combination of distraction and hectic multitasking. Having focused, sustained, and selective attention is a much more peaceful and engaging way of experiencing the world.

Below I’m going to explain the steps I learned to meditate in the right way.

1. Always remember to relax our body, calm your mind, evoke feelings of contentment. Your back and neck should be straight, your legs crossed (ideally in the lotus position) and your hands one over the other on your foot.
2. Focus on the present. Try to identify the sounds around.
3. Focus on bodily sensations. Let everything else skip into the background of peripheral awareness.
4. Focus on bodily sensations related to the breath. Allow your mind to move freely among the abdomen, chest, nose and anywhere else where you feel breath-related sensations.
5. Focus on the sensations of the breath at the nose (between your nasal passages and your upper lip. Don’t try to follow the air as it moves into the body or out of your nose. Just observe the sensations from the air passing over the spot where you are focusing your attention.

Counting is a very good method to stabilize attention. Consider the beginning of the out-breath as the start of the cycle. Never more than 10, never less than 5. If your mind starts wandering, you start counting again.

At the beginning, it was extremely difficult to keep the focus and I lost my patience many times. But it’s totally normal! The most important is to establish a regular meditation practice. The tendency is to judge yourself and feel disappointed for having lost your focus, but doing so is counterproductive. The right approach is to reward remembering and identifying when the mind is wandering.
Consistent, immediate positive reinforcement is far more effective than self-punishment.

We live in illusion
and the appearance of things.
There is a reality.
We are that reality.
When you understand this
you see that you are nothing.
And being nothing,
you are everything.
That is all

Kai Rinpoche, Tibetan master.

 

Good luck! and feel free to share your experiences and progress in the comments!