I’ve practiced some meditation during more disciplined periods of my life but have never been very consistent. Sitting for more than five minutes had always been a challenge, yet here I was immediately expected to do fifteen minute sessions each of walking and sitting meditation. I’m sure the teacher was amused by the face I made at him when I received my assignment.
I decided to start out in my room where no one could see me struggle. The walking meditation felt slow but not unbearably difficult, since you have the movement to focus on. The room was only just big enough to take ten tiny steps so I had to be really careful to limit my stride but it didn’t throw my focus too much. The sitting meditation was torturous. I sat there wanting desperately to talk or scream or wiggle. Knowing that I would soon have to increase my sitting time definitely made me nervous.
Nevertheless, I powered through it and got in an hour before I had to show up for evening chanting. This was my first opportunity to get a peek at my fellow meditators and there were a few people who caught my interest immediately. There was tall, young man with wild hair with intense focus, a serious looking woman with a kind smile, and another woman with a mischievous playfulness about her. They were all the type to sit near the front and I could tell they had been there for awhile since they were some of the loudest chanters.
Chanting is not so different than singing, so it quickly became my favorite activity of the day. The words are all in Thai and I wasn’t able to figure out the phonetics but I’m pretty good at mimicking intonation. Every evening the chorus of voices would start out timidly, and rise and fall with the familiarity of the verses. Some of them were quite easy to pick up on, and that’s when it got really fun as we were able to reach our stride and I could lose myself in the sound.
By the time chanting ended, I was dying. Mathias was not kidding when he told me that the first few days are quite painful. I started with a typical lotus position, switched to my knees, sat on my side, and then back again, and my legs were still dying. Luckily, there were other people to model myself after. Everyone seemed to have developed their own pillow stack. The serious young man folded 3-5 pillows in half, laid them down the center of another pillow, and sat with them between his legs. Others stuck with lotus but used two folded pillows to support their hips.
Chanting and the mini Dhamma talk lasted exactly an hour, and afterward we had two hours to meditate and prepare for our 9pm bedtime. I knocked out another hour in my room and then decided to call it a night. I daydreamed in my room until bedtime, and as soon as I turned the lights off I was out.