Updated: Nov 16, 2019
Back in day when I was trying to figure out a new coat to wear, as the old one that I was given was mouldy and reeked of hypocrisy, I found myself at the beautiful Bodhinyanarama in Stokes Valley, Wellington. Bodhinyanarama is a branch Monastery associated with the famous Buddhist teacher in Thailand Ajahn Chah. At this time I was attempting to seriously study meditation and the traditional path was to become an ordained monk. As a westerner this was the tradition to go through that process.
I was, at what I perceived at the time, at a cross roads. I couldn’t go back to “normal life” but there was no obvious path forward. I rocked up with a back pack full of issues and scared shitless to be honest of dropping all the known, even though it was filled with angst and dysfunction.
The abbot there was super nice and took me in without question. I got given a little hut in the bush and a few blankets and pillows. He gave me a schedule which I was to follow, as monastic life is very orderly to say the least.
Fair to say I struggled with almost everything. Sleeping on the floor, cold, mosquitoes, the possums, that was just the normal night time routine. I wasn’t allowed to go on alms with the monks, so I got my one meal per day from the extras that were brought in by the lay people on any given day. Imagine a mixing size bowl filled with a spoonful of 10 different meals all mixed together. Curry and chocolate in the same mouthful. Then nothing till the next bowl 24hrs later!
They were also in the process of building walking tracks through the hills, so I was clearing tracks and wheelbarrowing gravel for kms everyday…..poor little Auckland City boy. I wasn’t crying myself to sleep but I was probably close lol.
The Abbot used to give me personal meditation lessons and try his best to help me. He gave me a really nice counting method to focus my mind which helped enormously at the time. He also shared with me some poignant advice which gets me to the point of this story. He said to me that if I continued to dig new holes every time I ran into rocks I would have a field full of holes but still no water. The rocks will teach me “who” is digging.
Who is digging? WTF is he on about was all I could think about for days. I really didn’t get it at all as my understanding of the concept of suññatā was still a few years away. A little while later there was a full moon and everyone was expected to stay up all night and meditate in the main temple. I tried and tried again but got a kick from someone to stop snoring at some ungodly hour and slunk off to bed. And in the morning I decided there had to be an easier way and was out of there.
Here in lies one of the great paradoxes of life. Learning to differentiate what is resistance that blocks you from expanding to your fullest potential and when you are just going the wrong way and need to walk away. To dig or not to dig? If I was trying to do 100 push ups I would experience a ton of pain, both physically and mentally but it would be in the context of “I want to get stronger”. So I would persevere through the hurt. If I woke up in the middle of the night and was experiencing that exact same pain I would be phoning an ambulance thinking I was dying. So context and perception is everything.
I have no idea what I am saying but actually that is the point. We make this stuff up. Have fun but don’t shirk the tough stuff. It’s your story…..How is it panning out?