It was nine months later when I finally returned to Koh Pha Ngan. Six months in India and three months in London still hadn’t distracted me from my curiosity. I booked ahead this time and jumped into a ten day silent Vipassana retreat with the two western teachers that lived there and about forty other participants. We did walking and sitting and standing meditation with a little yoga routine in the morning.
To be honest it was so tough. Like climbing up the walls tough. For a start I couldn’t sit well so that was a major issue. Fidgeting around on the cushion for hours on end doesn’t lend itself to a still mind.
The bunk bed had no mattress and only a grass mat so it didn’t lend well to sleeping. Then there were ants (biting ones), mosquitos, snakes(dropping from the ceiling in the meditation hall) and scorpions to contend with. My body ached from head to toe and I ran out of tiger balm at around the half way mark. To make matters worse some nutter was passing around a note saying that the teachers were CIA and were brainwashing us. Thankfully he got kicked out but it didn’t aid in my stillness. My mind was so far from stillness but the teachers were great and very experienced and guided us expertly.
I still contemplated leaving everyday and planned my escape down to the last detail.
Despite all that somehow I survived and came away slightly altered in my perception of self and the world around me.
I hung out on the island and did another which really wasn’t much easier, then came home and went to the Goenka style 10 day retreat which in some ways was even more intense. Just sitting 12hrs a day. No standing or walking meditation and no yoga.
I went back to Thailand and stayed for a couple of years. I worked on the retreat centre helping out and participating on numerous retreats and even did a 20 day retreat which by that time was heaven.
I was still living in two worlds though :) The party scene was just down the road so when I had time off I would head down and catch up with my “other” way more fun friends(fledgling meditators on a whole can be very dry and serious). Somehow I navigated both and probably thought at the time they complimented each other.
It would be a few more years before I would commit to the camp for which you find me now.