On day 3 – I observed the sensations forming on the smaller triangle around my nostrils and upper lip. Not unlike the first two days, I also observed the gross pains in my legs, and the pins and needles tingles vibrating through my feet as the numbness expanded beyond my ankles.
Another thing I observed was this sort of underlying game everyone seemed to be playing – “Let’s be as similar to the lady monks as possible.” Like the ultimate game of conservatism. Every one appeared to be copying every move the lady monks made. From the way they walked, held their hands, ate their food, what they wore. They even put long scarves on their laps over their already floor length skirts. Did they not realize it was 100 degrees Farenheit? Holy fuck.
As they played that game, I played my own called “Let’s not succumb to heat exhaustion.” I have been to Bonnaroo people, I know how that game ends. So instead of adding layers on top of my sweltering body – I rolled up my pant legs and soaked my tie-dyed bandana in icy water and tied it around my head. I let the cool water drop onto my cheeks, shoulders and back. I came to terms with the fact that I would never win in the culturally acceptable sense – but I’d be damned if I died as the little American who got heat stroke from sitting on a cushion for an hour. Bring on the bitch faces.
So beyond the unwavering temperature the only other distraction left was my own mind. And shit, it was a busy fucking mind. Yet what was strange was that I did not have thoughts about the past or even what I was going to do when I broke free from the prison that I willingly entered. No, it was that I was being flooded with stories. My imagination was running wild – playing full scenes as they developed but as if I had seen them before. Names, places, characters, storylines were happening almost directly in front of me. There were John and Sarah who went to the beach and as soon as they grabbed a camera to photograph the sand castle they had spent the day building, a small wave knocked down its beauty. An old couple celebrated a sunny September day holding hands in the park and feeding the ducks they had watched grow all year.
Each time, I tried, very gently to bring my mind back to the sensations and away from the movies in my head and heat on my hands. Back to my awareness. my focus. my sensations.
After “dinner” I took a walk and with such amazing clarity an old story my dad and I had once talked about popped into my now clear head. I brainstormed the plots, the dialogue, the characters. If only I could contact my dad or write them down. I was energized. I felt like everything was clicking into place. My purpose of writing was coming into light. It was what I had known all along. Kept hidden deep inside and now rising to the surface with each breath. I smiled the entire walk. Life was beautiful.
That feeling quickly changed as I went back into the heat and meditated for 1.5 hours as I sweated out the every single drop of water I consumed that morning. How was I going to make it another 25 hours without eating, I thought? It was so miserable. At the end of the meditation, one of the lady monks in front of me turned and stretched out her legs, crying. She looked up at me, with pain in her face and tears softly falling. I wanted to hug her – to reach out and take all the pain away. I wanted to tell her that I had faith in her. But I couldn’t do any of those things. So I sent her love and light and then we started meditating again.
It was time for Vipassana. Called the hour of “strong determination,” we had to sit for 60 minutes without adjusting, stretching, scratching, covering your mouth to sneeze or wiping away the sweat from your back or eyes. We were to expand the area of observation and focus on each individual body part from head to toe. toe to head. Something like shoulders – upper arms – elbow – forearms – wrist – palm – fingers. Left side to right side. Top to bottom. Over and over.
We were just to observe pain, tingling, tickles, prickly feelings. All feelings and not to crave or have an aversion to one or the other. Just accept it and understand that it was impermanent. Anicha. Anicha. Anicha. That everything is impermanent. Some sensations may last a little while but others may continue for the entire hour. Just like in life. The thrill of the roller-coaster, or the taste of a strawberry ice cream cone in the summer, the sadness of losing a loved one, or the excitement of a birth. At some point, that feeling would end, and understanding that impermanence only helps you to stay balanced and able to be the best version of yourself. Before I knew it – the hour was over and I was back to playing the gecko game before I retired for bed.
But that game ended quickly.
Because among the baby geckos, I found Godzilla. Actually I found two Godzillas on the wall and became paralyzed. The inner dialogue went something like this –
Could they see me? I think they’re staring right at me. Probably have never seen a blonde before. Maybe they want some of my water? Are they going to jump off and eat my face? What do they eat – bugs? What if I walk away really slowly? I will totally break noble silence if I get attacked – I don’t give a fuck. Where is google when you need it? Shit. I’m never falling asleep tonight.
I laid in bed thinking of the stories I developed, trying to memorize everything. I thought of my friends and family. I tried to not to imagine Godzilla sneaking into my room. And I smiled at what tomorrow would bring.