Montag, 13. Februar 2017

Find yourself in silence - Experiences from a meditation course in Kopan Monastery (Nepal)

It took me some time to finally write my experiences from my time in a monastery in Nepal down. I think after reconnecting and time of reflection around New Years and the fact that my prayerflags are still with me and help me through every phase of my life, including the stressful famrwork stuff right now, it's about time to bring all I've learned in Nepal to the world and you guys. 

light offering on the last day of silence
Farmwork - Not without my prayerflags
and my personal space of peace.

What seems akward to many of my friends was completely normal in Nepal: spending some time in a monastery. Doing Vipassana (Silent retreat). Meditate. Learning about Buddhism. Connect with the inner world.

So what happend in Nepal? After a great food poisoning (can you believe it?! After surviving Africa and India with a healthy stomach Nepal got me 3 times!!) I went to my Buddhism Introduction Course at Kopan Monastery. To sum it up: here is how one spends the 10 days in such course:

5.30am Morning bell 6.00am Morning tea
6.30am Meditation
7.30am Breakfast
9.15am Teaching
11.30am Lunch
2.00pm Discussiongroup
3.00pm Break
3.30pm Teaching
5.00pm Tea in dining room
5.45pm Meditation
6.30pm Dinner
7.30pm Meditation, Questions and Answers

The time after the last Meditation until after lunch (9pm-12pm) is spent in silence (unless you decide to spend the whole day in silence) and phones, music, non-buddhism-related books etc. are not allowed nor is it to leave the monastery ground (or at least it's unwanted).
Of course cigarettes and alcohol are not permitted as well as shorts, shoulderless tops etc. I have to say, I was quite afraid in the beginning but to let go of all entertainment and focus just on me for a couple of days was the best decision I've made throughout whole 2016.
And before people ask: yes, I did turn my phone on for 2 occasions: the last day, including teachings and light offering and monks classes and one afternoon in between when we took a break on the little hill to stretch out together, so call me cheater if you want to :D. Anyway, this schedule goes for 7 days and then you spend 2 days in complete silence, with 5 meditation-sessions per day.

Sounds not like fun?
Anyway, my course was still the light version. A real vipassana means minimum 10 days in total silence, no books, internet or music (listening OR making) allowed and I am more than keen to do that as soon as possible!

Kopan's Garden
Really simple: I always had an interest in meditation and buddhism and I wanted to try something new. I also had a strong connection to Nepal (god knows why) before I even booked the flight. I always wanted to go there so I figured this could be the time to. I also felt after my last relationship that I needed and wanted to change something in my life and since I don't really felt that a therapy could be the right thing for me and my mom and friends can only help me to figure things out to a certain point, my intution told me that this could be the way to go. And I was right.

Light offering
Spending time in such a beautiful country, where everyone is frequently searching for truth and wellbeing not only for theirselves but also for their surrounding has turned me into a better person. I became more aware of my ego and that it is not the most important thing in the world. I however also learned that my ego or myself needs to be healthy and happy to serve others around me and that it is okay to have needs as long as they don't determine me or my actions. I learned that the mind can be controlled and that a problem is only a problem if we difine it as such, which is a powerful way of seeing the world. Going into mindsetting and it's powers right now would take too long but I'll write about that in another article to give everyone the chance to benefit from my experiences if one wants to. I learned, that love is all we need in life and that it is to find in ourselves and everything around us, if we learn to accept love in it's real, unconditional form without expectations and demands (yes, this is a first world thing, of course we do need food, water and security but in the end we do need love too and I'm speaking about a ordinary western-world person here which usually doesn't face starvation or other horrible things). I learned that it is one thing to understand these things and another to bring them into our lives and live the priciples we teach. I understood that the body is the temple of our soul and that we need to protect and treat it well to fully live the life we want. I learned that meeting people is different to connect with people and that these connections can be nutrition for our souls. If I talk about unicorns, people usually laugh at me but it's the magical aspect of unicorns which I see in those people lately. A unicorn would be a person who gives nothing but light and love away. Someone you feel good around, someone who turns a bad day somehow magically into a good one not by doing something but just by being present. I met a lot of those lately and I am pretty sure I have before without noticing it. Since my monastery time I can gratefully say I see and can appreciate those unicorns now and whenever I had some bad times (which we all had and always will have) it was this ability and these people who kept me positive even through times were everything seemed negative.

monk's game
So much to my experiences from meditation and silence. I definetly experienced more. Supernatural kind of things, feeling and seeing energies and reinkarnations, truth, a lot of things people will believe in or not. I for myself know what I know and what I believe in and I can only say: give it a try. It might be not for you but if it is it will change your life to the better and help you to live a life of fullfilling and truth. And it definetly is an experience. Not only in terms of finding yourself but also to see a new culture in it's whole nature. Monks, young as 5 years old studying in the shade, older monks playing their debating game (one sits on the ground and the others ask him questions. Then they clap and the asked one has to answer without thinking, right after the clap. This trains logic, speed and mind and the clap ends with a pulling gesture which represents pulling the answering-monk out of Samsara).

monk's debating game

Eventhough I got so much out of the whole thing, I'm not too sure if it was Kopan or Nepal. Or maybe just me in the right moment. The course was definetly a good start. But since I was raised in a very buddhist or sharmanic family, with a lot of knowledge about energies and mind, I mostly found the teachings very basic. The discussion groups though were amazing. So many people shared their inner world and created a safe place for me to open up. The meditations were half half. 
Kopan Community
They were fully guided and sometimes I wished they would have been silent because the teacher's voice distracted my meditation. On other days I loved the guidance and it led me to the right spot in my mind (or away from it...). What definetly helped were the guidelines. The thing I was most afraid of in the beginning was the non-talking/non-distraction part. 
In the end this was the most important part for me. I can't even remember, when I turned off my phone for more than a few hours the last time. Or just sat in silence and just stopped hurrying. At least that's what I thought before Kopan. Since Kopan I do that quite a lot. Sitting. Meditating. Reflecting. Refocus. Reconnect. Turn the world silent and listen to my inner world.
Meditation in my backyard
Yes. The world outside is important. This is where I don't agree with the teachings. I love life. Samsara is part of me. I don't want to be enlightend. I want to live instead. But fully. Aware. Good. The world outside is important. But I can't make it a good or better place if I am not clear with my inner world. I need to work on that first to bring only the positive out to others. And yes, that's an exxageration. No one is purely good. And definetly not me. But I can work on me to be the best human being I can be. Towards me and others. I really needed Kopan to become aware that I actually can switch off my phone without missing out. Also did I learn through Kopan that fixed scheduled times can be very relaxing for body, mind and soul.

sending love to a friend
So yes. Turning off is important. As important as switching on again to connect with the outer world in full awareness. Connection. Another thing I brought home from Kopan. The Sangha. The spiritual community. Being silent and confronted with all these thoughts and feelings and deal with it without distraction and communication, all alone is not always fun. It is important but not fun. Once this time was over (and even before we started the complete silence in the discussion groups) these people, who were around me the whole time but everyone in his or her inner world, so close but still so far, became the most important people on earth for me. They were the ones, who understood, they were the ones who listened after all this time alone, they were the ones who went through same and different and could give advise, questions, new point of views and the feeling of being caught in the free fall. I don't ever want to make my friendships from home small. They are not. They are the greatest thing I have. They know me in my best and in my worst form and accept both with love and understanding throughout years. To have this is the biggest power in my life, I feel safe and loved when I only think about their faces.

overfilled hostelroom
But still, when it comes to this experience, I can not tell my mother or my friends back home what exactly I have experienced. Or better: I can but I'm not sure if they can relate. Or understand. The people who were with me in Kopan and the people I met on the way during this whole experience (which still holds on) are special. They haven't seen me and all my faces. Some of them have only seen a very little part of me. Sometimes for not more than a week. But what they have seen was real and much more aware. Much more open and connected. More intense maybe. And especially the people in Kopan, who helped me to feel safe enough to open up all dark spaces in me. Who were there when I wrote the lifechanging letters, I had to write, who let me be part of their dark spaces, who went to the Himalayas with me or even all the way to Australia. This is something which stays and I still feel unbelievably connected to those people, if in contact or not. It became pretty obvious that everyone felt that way, as we stayed together in a room for the
balkony became
bed and group
meditation place
following week with 2 beds, 2 mattresses and 6-8 people including their backpacks. Not only did we have the most amazing party after Kopan, nope, we all couldn't let
go of each other and our attachment to one and another (which we were supposed to learn to let go of in Kopan...) became the running joke. Still I see some of the Kopan people from time to time and everytime I meet one of them nothing really has changed, which is incredible for this short amount of time.

Helping each other to relax...
So even if some teachers and monks in Kopan definetly were too brainwashed in terms of just repeating words instead of answering honest questions or use their own brain and too much in their spiritual world instead of in the real world (this is a personal opinion and for those who know: "Our holiness, the Dalai Lama says...") - Kopan was a lifechanging experience for me and I feel better, every single time, I go back into practice meditation.

... and to cure the body after all the sitting
I really want to do Vipassana one day. But as surely I knew I was ready for Nepal and the monastery when I went there as surely do I know know that my focus right now is on something more connected to nature and body. I lately discovered Tantra and Shamanic. 
Acroyoga, Karate, Dance and movement in general are still my personal form of meditation which allows me to get away from everything for a while and to totally switch off. So for now I think a Yoga Teacher Training is closer than a Vipassana but in a life full of changes and hours, why not both..? ;)

What do you think about meditation and silent retreats? Do you think this is something you want to discover and why/why not? Or have you experienced such strong bonds with fellow travellers/practisioners? Leave me a comment below and tell me about it :)

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