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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Meditation in The Mystical Monastery

The gong echoed four times through the silent darkness. It’s mystical sound seeped throughout the hall and delivered its relieving rush of harmony through both of my ears. This potent sense of renewed focus traveled inwards, and with a deep breath, its unknown energy filled my lungs. As I breathed out, the air rushed from my body like a rapidious river, carrying my thoughts and emotions away in its strong current. I sat in complete peace.

My spirit took flight, launching out of my body to soar above the trees, above the mountains, above the clouds. I glided through the nothingness, blind to my destination but aware of the soft wind passing alongside me. I was weightlessly floating in an empty, serene place. The monastery disappeared, first fading out and then vanishing completely. The sediment-filled water of my life had been left to settle, and the clutter of feelings, opinions, and busyness slowly sank to the bottom, creating a beautifully transparent pond. The turbulent chaos of emotions that had once constantly flummoxed my brain became separate and observable like sweetly swimming fish in a pristine pond. An aura of mindful detachment enveloped me, clearing the road ahead for the arrival of a simple chariot contained a new, exhilarating freedom.

This extraordinary flight came crashing to the ground after just twenty treasured seconds. My carefree spirit tumbled from its mystical heights and viciously smashed against the ground. A pool of pain flooded over me, drowning me in misery as I desperately gasped for air. Distractions plummeted aggressively down upon the now opaque water of the ravaged pond. Their torrential rain pounded the surface creating obstructive ripples which clashed with one another in their swift, violent expansion. Despite my insistent self-pleas for focus and calm the storm of emotions raged on with antagonizing ignorance. The once nonchalant fish of my thoughts now flailed unpredictably in their terrifying bewilderment. Instead of remaining distant, they leapt out of the water and their scaly tails smacked my face. Each slap left behind the bitter scourge of vengeance against my brief detachment .

Amidst this flood of mental strife, there raged an inextinguishable fire of physical pain. My back, hips, ankles, knees, and feet all flared with the diabolical soreness of sitting still for one hour. The painful promise of another hour of excruciating stillness compounded this as the pain of the present merged with the suffering in the immediate present and future, forming a vindictive concoction. My hands felt like they bore an uncarriable weight as I dug deep to summon the immense resolve to keep them clasped in my lap and avoid itching a fresh mosquito bite. Adding to this intolerable soreness were the advancing armies of hunger and fatigue. My stomach growled covetously in discontent disapproval of not having eaten anything in eighteen hours. Its conspicuous desire for food was only matched by my unending urge for sleep. After only having slept for four and a half hours, my focus slipped easily and with my eyes already shut, sleep’s tempting whisper resonated through my mind louder and louder. As time went on, the bombardments of these two forces grew stronger in their unyielding mission to break my spirit.

The gong echoed five times through the silent darkness. I opened my eyes and saw the silhouettes of monks in front of me, facing ahead with an a statue-like stillness. Then one of them stood up and softly shuffled to the light switch, which he flipped with a merciful click. A blinding light shot forward, and struck my eyes; but I felt no discomfort. The ring of the magical gong had instantaneously ceased the storm, the flood, the fire, and the assault of the two armies. My spirit had returned to its mystical flight. It majestically soared above a tranquil lagoon and marvelously peered down from the sky to observe the relaxed, wonderfully shimmering fish. My former suffering took the form of a docile shark, swimming peacefully alongside glimmering minnows amongst the graceful harmony of life.