I know, I know, I went AWOL for a while. Not to worry, I’m back!
Before I proceed, let me take this moment to apologise for not accounting much for time and dates in my Amani Series. I went through a couple of days without comprehending or having concept of time. I later manged to acquire a watch and small alarm clock and things got better, time-wise.
Okay… Let’s do this!
After settling in, we were given a couple of hours to recuperate and have a group activity in the afternoon as we arrived in the morning. Wasting the rest of the day wasn’t going to happen. We had to march on.
I was still jaded and all that was on my mind was sleep. Despite our exhausted mental and physical form, this afternoon activity was actually much appreciated and it brought back some needed energy. Oh! the power of the Icebreaker and the magic of some subtle jostling activities. This activity kick started the strengthening of our knowledge and awareness of each other. It reminded me that as much as I came here for myself, I would be living with others for two weeks and thus I was there for them also. We were a family.
We all knew we would be having two meals a day, that is breakfast, lunch and pana, a light refreshment of juice, yogurt or the equivalent in the evenings. Why? Simply because it aided in getting the best from the activities we would be doing, especially meditation.
Before we begun the daily activities, I needed a proper 8-hour sleep for my body and mind to get back …in formation – Beyoncé Knowles.
The Peace Revolution Crew informed us that the following days 05:00 AM meditation session would not take place and that we would go straight for breakfast and then report for orientation. This was very needed. I knew it would still take a couple of days to adjust and get all my cylinders firing, but we would at least start off at a more rested and refreshed note.
Orientation was led by Ms. Ping Ping Worakate, the director of the Peace Revolution Project. It was precise, immaculate and to the point. We knew the dos and don’ts and what was expected of us and what we expected of ourselves. But would we heed?
Mindfulness is a quality that’s always there. It’s an illusion that there’s a meditation and post-meditation period, which I always find amusing, because you’re either mindful or you’re not. ~ Richard Gere
One important teaching throughout the fellowship was on mindfulness. It was imperative to always be mindful in all aspects of our lives. For this retreat, being mindful was vital to grasping what was being instilled in us and to later incorporate it in our various lives outside the fellowship.
When we went through the fundamentals of being mindful, and when we were oriented on doing minor things that we overlook/overlooked in our daily lives that we would be expected to adhere to during the fellowship. Things such as making our beds, folding our clothing articles, washing the dishes, sweeping in a particular way, cleaning in a particular way and doing many other things in an orderly and particular way, I thought, okay this is seriously some very obsessive compulsive stuff. My sceptical mind questioned the need and reason to do all these things in such a way when they could be done quickly and in a random way and still yield the same results.
As the fellowship drew nearer to the end, I came to appreciate greatly why we were doing all this. From my own understanding, I learned that before meditation can take place, order, cleanliness and clarity should be in existence, hence you would have a better chance of having a more content or satisfying meditation session if this was the state of affairs. Imagine if your environment is dirty and untidy, your body is not clean and your mind has so many unresolved issues and you attempt to meditate? Well, for me, the result is utter chaos, it never works, it can’t work.
So is mindfulness obsessive compulsive? Not at all. Being aware and conscious of most if not all aspects of everything around you and how they directly impact others does not only give you a peace of mind, but it will aid your meditation experience and aid in the improvements you are trying to make. Simple right? Well, try doing it, today 🙂
Before Amani, I usually meditated for 30 to 45 minutes and it was enough time and I usually had good sessions. I did have the common challenges of discomfort, a wondering mind and a not so conducive environment, but it worked out okay.
At Amani, we were required to meditate for an average of 4 hours a day; in the early morning at 05:00, mid-mornings, just before lunch, in the afternoons and in the evenings. I know I was going to try to do everything as it was designed so I would get the full gist of why we were doing it this way… It was haaaard. It was a challenge and it took me to the ends of my mental comprehension.
You go through many challenges meditating. You encounter discomfort, a sleepy mind, a wondering mind and expectation frustrations. Doing it 4 times a day for an hour, sometimes, it felt forced. I would sometimes meditate for only half an hour, other times, I could not have it and kept my eyes open, many times I slept through the sessions, but it got better, it does get better.
There was a method to all this “madness” though. Lest I not forget it was a training retreat, I was not on vacation and it was not going to be easy. I came to Amani to learn about inner peace practice and meditation and hopefully find a basis to gain back control of my life or establish a balance and find inner peace.
I later came to learn that the reason we had so many meditation sessions was simply to help us find that time of the day when it was preferable and worked for each of us individually, so we could integrate it in our lives. For me, the afternoon sessions were better because I was fully awake and had a more stable mind and body. Coming back home, it has been a challenge adapting because of the nature of my lifestyle, but I’m working on it though.
Every day, everything felt like a loop. I remember the routine vividly. It went like this; wake up, meditation, yoga, breakfast, peace in action activity, free time, meditation, lunch, free time, meditation, free time, pana, meditation, wind up, sleep, repeat. That was the loop. We did have special activities after the afternoon meditation but this is how it was from how I remember it. Did I miss out something?
Being an individual not used to living a routine lifestyle and not having any access to any entertainment or escape of any kind apart from the exchanges with the other fellows, or not being allowed to leave the compound, my mind had two options, to either pack up and withdraw (mentally) or adapt and create my own entertainment and escape.
I was totally responsible for orchestrating the “King” thing, although it was meant to be a private thing for a select few, it caught on, with everyone. I mean everyone and I did not mind it because if it made other people’s experiences easier and more fun, then it was cool.
I was always looking forward to retreating to the Townhouse (Palace) as Jos and I shared a lot on the happenings in each other lives and frustrations or appreciations about the fellowship. We encouraged ourselves to fight through and finish this amazing adventure. It was not like we are going to get up and leave, I mean, where would we start from? I’m sure you read on how arduous it was for us to get there, and we were already half way done, so we had to suck it up and finish what we started.
Also, our other house mates Basssubi! (Fiston Basubi) and Paulooo! (Paul Bulambo) made the existence of this fictious Kingdom a more solidary and enjoyable environment to live in. I would like to think the unique circumstances of living together made the whole two weeks easier because we would have a family moment every night before we retired to bed. Well, before everyone retired and left me wondering what to do with myself. Nocturnal issues.
By the way, Basubi was first Knight to the King, even though he lobbied to become prince so many times, it was not going to happen, Jos was already prince and Paul was wag of the Kingdom. This was all in good banter. We did what we had to to cope.
It was not a given to know everyone. You would know everyone by face and maybe name, LP John encouraged us to learn everyone’s name and country at least. During a session, he surprised everyone and called everyone by name and country. “How can someone who has hardly interacted with anyone of us personally, get to know everyone? Did he use the mind place technique? Or a technique I don’t know about yet?” I wondered.
Anyway, on one of my midday free time segments, I went back to the townhouse and became part of a conversation with Malcom and Jos. I think this was when we were officially acquainted. Malcolm can be an enigma, you wouldn’t predict what is going through his mind or what he is going to say, but he is a great guy and I will appreciate our experiences and moments in Bangkok, especially on the midnight Tuk Tuk rides. This moment with these guys made our little Kingdom grow and Malcom was officially appointed the messenger… by the King of course.