13 November 2012

Mental Boot Camp: Checking Into Kopan Monastery

My friend Brandon remarked, "That's the longest set of anal beads I have ever seen." I'll admit I lol'ed.
 By the time this is published, I will be checked into Kopan Monastery.

I just went through my old emails, and it seems that I sent my first inquiry about the Kopan Monastery November retreat way back on April 3rd. It seems like a trick of time and space that the first day of the course is tomorrow. How did this even happen? I am so not prepared.

Back in January, February and March I was a fantastically devoted Dharma student and daily meditator  - I felt that the only way I could advance my practice was to go all the way. In typical Violet Dear fashion I decided that that meant I had to go to Nepal, to study at the storied Kopan, a bastion of tranquility nestled in the hills above the Kathmandu Valley. I like to do everything BIG. This seemed BIG, and I patted myself on the shoulder and proudly congratulated myself. "Violet," I thought to myself, "you have the potential to be the best meditator on. the. planet. One day YOU will be teaching a course. Just pretend to be humble, you brilliant little minx!" Oh, ego.

Of course, everything has changed since I booked the retreat. I was hired to be a Ethical Tourism Advisor for NGN, I applied to British grad schools for 2013 and I graduated from University (finally. I know).

Aaaaaand, my practice has gotten... sloppy, to say the least. Without the daily rigours of a set schedule (I took 24 credits in my last semester) my life got more messy (and fun. It also got more fun).  I have stretched the limits of "no intoxication" until its grey areas turned black, and celibacy? Bwah! Celibacy went out the window.

I shuffled guiltily past my living room shrine without placing my bum on its cushion, and my prayer beads gathered dust around Buddha's neck as I avoided his peaceful gaze. I focused on work, friends and boys instead of Dharma and compassion. I attended a sangha twice a month, maximum, and while I would like to say I meditated on my own more often than this, that would be total bullshit.

This five month vacation from my practice has led me to feel incredibly ill-equipped for the silence, meditation and strict monastic life I am about to enter. Here is a copy of the daily schedule:

5.30 am - Prostration
6.00 am - Morning tea in the dining room
6.30 am - Morning Meditation
7.30 am - Breakfast
9.00 am - Teachings
11.30 am - Lunch
2.00 PM - Discussion groups
3.00 PM - Break for 1/2 hour
3.30 PM - Teaching
5.00 PM - Tea
6.00 PM - Guided Meditation
7.00 PM - Dinner
8.00 PM - Guided meditation, Q/A

The third and fourth weeks are slightly different, as you only get one meal a day (lunch) and it is held in silence. The fuck, Violet Dear. The fuck.

For one month I will have no creature comforts and will live in a dorm. There will be no heat, even when the temperature drops below zero at night. I will wear no make-up and only baggy, loose sweats and t-shirts. I will eat only dahl bhat and drink only water and tea. I will not be allowed to commune with members of the opposite sex, and I am not meant to think about sex at all (slow clap). No gossip or idle chit chat is permitted. No reading of any non-Dharma book. And I am paying money for this!

I am doing this of my own free will, and complaining about it seems trite and insensitive in light of the dire poverty in this country. I know that. It's still scary.

I'll admit, I am looking forward to just being there. It has been so many months in the making, and now I am kind of eager to just settle in and be, y'know? I know that it will be a true test of my mettle, and I know it will transform me.... into what, I have no idea, but it will sure be something. I'll be more calm. I'll be more mindful, more present. Maybe I will be stronger, more compassionate, more vulnerable. Like a spider web - transparent and delicate but able to blow in the wind and get soaked in the rain, strong as fuck and able to do anything to survive. God, I am making it sound like I am going to a melodramatic boot camp.

Which I guess I kind of am.

See you in December -
Violet Dear

I have 3 other pre-scheduled blog posts that will appear over the next month, roughly once per week. Ciao!


Unknown said...

Melodramatic boot camp, indeed :D
Many blessings to you in your silence.

ladybb said...

Oh how this writing made me laugh Dear Violet! You truly have the gift of being a humourist and at the same time moving deep into my soul. I love your writing, I love your openness and honesty and I love you.

Pat said...

This is exciting and scary at the same time. I do feel a book in your future, though. I will be thinking of you this next month. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Well, you won't be able to see this because you're off being all buddhist-y, but I wanted to say that I think this will be the most amazing and rewarding experience. I would really like to try it some day myslef - and am SO looking forward to hearing your thoughts when you emerge in a few weeks!

l. e. yar said...

That sounds....terrifying. Exhausting. And amazing. If I could, I'd be right there with you (could certainly use a bit of enforced spiritual quietness), but as it is: godspeed!