Chapter Two “My spiritual journey” continued…
“So what kind of monk am I then, a student, novice, elder, frat brother, or what?” I joked.
“Novice. You need a teacher to be a student. And you need to be a student to be a teacher.”
I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that. She was going Zen on me again.
“Will I see you later?” I said.
“Of course dear. We live together now.”
I didn’t know exactly what she meant by that either, but I figured it wasn’t the same thing it meant in the “outside world”.
“When will I see you again? And please don’t say ‘maybe tomorrow, maybe a year…’.”
She touched my shoulder lovingly, and said, “I’ll be by as soon as the class is over, OK?”
There were about a half dozen other English speaking novices there in the room, new and relatively new students of various stages. And I got my first taste of what would be many courses.
Even though these courses were not given by the teachers who were “enlightened masters”, I was totally impressed by the wisdom, kindness, and compassion of the elder monks who conducted them. I learned all kinds of things in various courses, including ancient teachings, the religions of the world, meditation and energy techniques, yoga, etc.. But sometimes the elders just spoke spontaneously, about things other than what the course was about. And when they did that, I was “floored” by what I thought were their psychic abilities. It was as if they were reading my mind, picking up on my every thought, answering my un-asked questions, and finding my hidden secrets – then discussing them all out in the open to free me of my inner burdens. It was kind of like getting indirect therapy. It seemed like every word was just for me. But I couldn’t understand how this could be happening just for me, when there were other novices in the room at the same time. I wondered if they were having the same experiences. I later found out that it was not a “psychic” thing that was happening, at least as we know it. It’s not simple to explain (it’s covered in later chapters though), but the elders who were giving these courses, were doing a meditation technique to sort of “get out of their own way” so to speak, in order to really be in touch with us, and to be ‘conduits’ for what we needed to hear. They didn’t really even consciously know themselves what we were thinking, or why they were saying what they were saying, but the effect was the same.
By the time the session was over, I was so exhausted I was about to drop. Anastasia met me as I came out the door, but I was too tired, even for her. So I bid her goodnight. But instead of reciprocating, she was silent. When she finally left though, instead of saying “goodnight”, she said “get a good rest”. (Later I found out that the reason she didn’t say “goodnight” wasn’t because “get a good rest” was the local customary phrase, but because “goodnight” was just a “subconscious habit phrase” of mine, that had thus become only a meaningless “parroted phrase”, rather than a meaningful statement, or statement of caring. In other words, saying “goodnight” probably originally came about from wishing someone to have a good night, and actually consciously “meaning” what you were saying. Now, however, it had just degenerated into the pre-conditioned, subconsciously programmed “appropriate phrase” to say when someone went to bed. The same went for other common phrases like “good morning”, “good bye”, “God bless you” and many more. So in order to learn all about my own consciousness and subconsciousness, I needed to stop and think about these things, and take opportunities like not saying a simple “goodnight”, to help break the patterns and increase my awareness. I had a lot to learn about the mind still).
I looked for a mat, and couldn’t find one. I was way too tired to panic, or even ask anyone about it, so I found the nearest corner that was out of the way, and just “hit the floor”. I was immediately out like a light.
The next morning, I was awakened by Anastasia with a cheery smile and a cup of tea. I was still wiped out, and groggily sat up. It seemed like I had just closed my eyes and lied down.
“Drink this,” she said.
“What is it?”
“It’s tea, silly. It will make you feel better.”
I sipped some. It was terrible.
“What kind of tea is this!?”
“It’s called Mate. It’s from Brazil, and difficult to get, so don’t turn your nose up at it so quickly.”
“It tastes like old socks.”
“It grows on you.”
“So can the things on old socks, but that doesn’t mean I want to drink them.” She laughed.
“You’ll appreciate it soon. It’s the only drink we have right now that has caffeine in it, and it also seems to help adjust to the altitude.”
“You allow caffeine here?” One of her eyebrows raised in surprise.
“This isn’t a rigid order, in fact, moderation in all things is a cornerstone of the order.”
“Ahhhh, caffeine. It tastes a little better, now that I know that. I’m just exhausted. And I didn’t sleep very well. I couldn’t find a mat.”
“Oh, you poor thing,” she said truly sympathetically.
I didn’t want to appear whiney or a wimp, so I responded with proper machismo.
“It’s not the lack of the mat that was a problem.”
“I understand,” she said patting me on the knee. “I still remember a trip I took with my parents from here to India, when I was a little girl. You’re going to need a few days to recover at least. That’s why I let you sleep so long and brought you some tea.”
“Sleep so long? It looks like the Sun just came up.”
“Yes. That’s what I mean. We usually rise before the Sun.”
“Is that one of the rules here?”
“Most of us do that, but not all.”
“Are there any basic rules here?”
“Yes. Be kind. Don’t hurt anyone.”
“That’s it? Surely there must be more?”
“Well, yes. Of course. You have a lot to learn.”
“So what are the other rules?”
“Well you are supposed to get me tea every morning,” she joked.
“No. Only if you want to.”
“I don’t mind. I’d be happy to.”
“I was just teasing. I already get tea for myself and someone else every morning. But thanks for the offer. You’ll eventually get into the swing of things, and get a schedule. Unless you have something to do otherwise, we get up with the rising energies of the Earth, before the Sun, do a few private morning meditation techniques and yoga, then have a morning meeting and group meditation. One of the Adept monks speaks afterwards. All monks have some kind of work to do around the monastery. And you’ll have various meditations to learn and master, that you’ll be practicing at different times during the day. You’ll probably spend some time everyday reading the ancient teachings in the library. But your routine might be different, I don’t know. It mainly depends on what your personal teacher thinks you need. Everyone is different, so they all need different things in order to learn and change. So your routine may be very different from mine.”
“I hope not.” She smiled again.
“So what is my routine right now?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, I thought you were going to get me in the groove of things here?”
“Only to an extent. The rest, like I said, will be up to your personal teacher.”
“OK, so who’s my teacher?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” She nodded affirmatively.