Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Something to meditate on...

I was reading this really interesting article titled "The Four Foundations of Mindfulness" (yes this is the stuff that they give up mountain children to read) and I came across this really interesting argument that I haven't been able to get out of my mind all day. It stated, "So we tend to create waves of emotion which go up and down; In the beginning we create them deliberately, as a game of trying to prove to ourselves that we exist." The article continues to argue that in the end we get stuck in this bittersweet web of emotion (that is more of a hassle then a pleasure) where we are constantly trying to challenge ourselves more then we originally intended. As weird as this sounds, I haven't been able to get that out of my head all day. Is it true? Do I do that? I've approached it from every angle that I can come up with...trying desperately to prove it wrong, because if it's wrong then it's ok that I get passionate about little things, or sad about insignificant events.
Each time that I've attempted to dismantle it though I've come to the same conclusion. That is so true. Damnit! How do I know that I exist? How do I seperate myself from others? It is because I alone feel my pain; I alone feel my sadness. I know that I am a separate identity from the person sitting to my right because she cannot experience the exact same emotion that I am experiencing... and even if she could we would never be able to verify that. I need to feel emotion to know that I am alive. But why is that? Is there another way to exist? I know that Buddhism tries to teach one to separate themselves from ego... and reach this level of nonexistence as oppose to ultimate existence. All that I can think about is what happens to the body if that actually occurs. What does that feel like? Can I nonexist? I'm even stating the question in that way makes it impossible, but this stuff that I am trying to understand is so beyond ME that I can't even comprehend it. Do I even want to stop existing? If there is no me, and therefore no suffering, will there also cease to be extreme pleasure as well? All these questions...too few answers...

Monday, January 30, 2006


Sooooo...I thought being sick at school sucked...let me tell you, being sick in India is even worse. I'm teetering on the edge of completely fine and utterly miserably just waiting for a wind to come along and blow me in either direction. I'm sitting here just hoping it's toward getting better and not getting worse. All I want to do right now is sit in a hot bathtub and enjoy a little bit of music, and warm water. God I wish that there was enough hot water here to actually get warm. I know I shouldn't be complaining because I could be a lot worse off...at least I have some hot water right? But I still can't get over the fact that I'm in India and yet I'm constantly so cold that my hands burn and I fall asleep each night curled in a ball around my nalgene that is filled with boiling water.
Today was seriously just blah day. I woke up with a head cold and a runny nose. All day long I've been tired and miserable, but not sick enough to really make a big deal out of it. Classes were long, the walk back up the mountain from the city seemed a lot more tedious then it normally does, and all I want to do is go for a run tomorrow but I can't even catch my breath walking, let alone running.
WOW! That was a ramble if I've ever heard one. I really need to stop doing that...this place isn't bad at all. It's actually quite amazing. I think I'm just struggling because I want to get out and enjoy all the things that are around me right now but at the same time I just want to curl up in a blanket and read a book. I know that I'm going to be living here for a couple of months, so I dont have to do everything right away, but I'm just afraid that I'm going to wake up one day and it's all going to be over and then I'm going to look back and wish I took advantage of the days that I had off.
On a completely different note...I saw this awesome sign today on the side of the road. It said, "We didn't inherit this world from the past, we borrowed it from the future." Isn't that great! What a nice way to say "Take care of this place damnit...there are people who are coming after us!" Ok, I'm not making any sense right now, so I think it may be time for me to call it a night. Too bad I probably wont be able to sleep cause I can't even lay down without getting even more congested...AHHH

Sunday, January 29, 2006

On top of the World

Although I've already been here for a week, I haven't really been inclined to write much. I think maybe I've just been so overwhelmed by all these new experiences that I don't even want to venture into the realm of words. After my experience yesterday however, I'm determined to write down my experiences here. It is so hard for me to come to terms with all that I am learning, and all that I am experiencing. On the one hand, I want to live the life that I'm being taught. I want to live in the moment and be aware of my every breath. I want to realize that every small action is just as important as every large event, yet there are things here that I also want to hold onto in my mind forever. So here I am, learning about buddhism, living a buddhist life, and still frantically grasping hold of everything around me-- tightly gripping each moment as it happens, and after it has past me by.
I'm not even going to go into the past week, because there is too much for me to even think about. Yesterday however, now that I'm prepared to delve into... after a quick breakfast we grabbed our packs and headed down the mountain for Rumtek Gompa. Let me just say that that itself was an adventure. The drivers don't seem to have any specific rules to follow..other then honk before you pass, and before you turn a corner, and really whenever you feel like it. After an eventful drive down into the valley we crossed a stream and began the climb back up. Looking back out of the jeep you could see a perfect view of Gangtok, and Kangchenzonga (the coolest mountain ever!).
We reached the monestary, climbed up the hill in our traditional Tibetan dresses--that I still can't quite get used to--and entered the courtyard to a group of monks walking with a gigantic gold statue of buddha. I am still in awe of hte hours that followed. Although I'm not quite sure what most of it meant, the monks spent hours doing traditional dances in the most amazing costumes. The last dance was called the black hat dance...all of the monks held large swords and knives...to scare away the bad dieties. At sunset, the torma, which was the center of attention throughout the day was carried outside and lit on fire. It was absolutely breathtaking.
In between all of this I somehow found the time to get blessed by one of the four regents left in charge during the interim periods between the death of the last karmapa, and the finding of the present one. I got blessed by a guy who is tight with the dahli lama...a guy who hangs out with the 17th karmapa...that is awesome!! Although I still feel unprepared for many of the things that we are doing, I'm glad that we are getting hte chance to experience all of this so early on.
We also had the opportunity to visit the old Rumtek gompa which was a little bit further up the mountain. I've never claimed to be buddhist, but something about this place was magical. As soon as I stepped through the gates that surrounded the area I felt this inner peace...I know it sounds lame, but I'm being serious. Imagine standing on the only flat ground for miles, surrounded by prayer flags and a gorgeous shrine room, and looking out on the Himalya's at the same time. I'm not a very religious person, but I was really really moved. It was as if my soul had found complete peace in a place that I didn't think could exist in real life. Because everyone was at the dances, it was pretty much deserted except for a few random dogs, and the prayer flags that flapped in the wind. It was me, (my group), the temple, and the mountain...really really amazing.
After most of the ceremonies were over, we also had the chance to go receive a blessing by a lama that just happened to be visiting. He felt my pulse and perscribed some Tibetan medicine for me...and told me to stay away from too much sugar when I get older...
By five oclock the sun had set, the festivities were over and I could barely keep my eyes open. Everything that I had experienced that day was running through my mind and my body. Just being there was medicine enough. I fell asleep as soon as we got home-- probably because I was more at peace with myself then I have ever been in my life. In just one day here I've felt more comfortable in my own skin then I have ever felt at home. I wish that all the people that I love could have been here to experience it with me. I want to take them to the top of the world and have them look out oneeverything below. I want to watch a bunch of monks burn the torma with them and realize together that every second is as important as the last, and as interesting as the next.