Posts Tagged ‘ international friends ’


After Vipassana I bought a brand new book and over the course of two sittings filled it with fifteen pages of reflection, keepsake memories, and notes about the course and experience. To start off with, I loved the course. It wasn’t difficult in ways I thought it would be, and much more difficult in other ways. In general, I’m very happy I took the course and am considering doing other shorter two – three day courses in the future; there’s a center here in Pune. I’m not really sure where to begin in describing the course. I also don’t want to give too much away. I feel my words won’t do the course justice in certain words; when you read something it is very easy to say that you can do something like this, it’s simple, just do what the writer says. It was intense. Each hour was a struggle within itself. I’m very happy that it was a very intense. Here goes a basic run down of events, leaving out my reflections and observations from the pre-Vipassana part of the trip. At this point it doesn’t seem worth it to include that.
We had to report to the center at 2 but the course didn’t start until 6. We filled out the forms, met some of the other participants and handed over our possessions. We relinquished anything that didn’t include clothes or bathroom materials. Everything else including books, music, phones, and reading, writing, or communication device essentially. The rooms were either single or double rooms consisting of a small table made out of tree branches and a wooden (very hard) bed with two blankets. Bathrooms were shared. It was rustic. At 6:00 we all met in the main hall for the rules, introduction to the program, and to get started. Talking or contact of any sort, including eye contact, smiling, touching, signaling, etc was also prohibited. We could speak to the teacher or the helpers who were people who had participated in the course and have come back to volunteer their services. We were told we were following Shila for the next 10 days, and this was a baseline for practicing Vipassana. Shila means no killing (including spiders and mosquitoes), lying, stealing, sexual misconduct, or intoxicants. From 6:00pm on we took our oath of silence and of diligence.
The schedule each day: 4am wake up, 4:30 – 6:30 meditation, 6:30 – 8:00 breakfast and rest, 8:00 – 11:00 meditation, 11:00 – 2:00 lunch and rest, 2:00 – 5:00 meditation, 5:00 – 6:00 snack and rest, 6:00 – 7:00 meditation, 7:00 – 8:30 discourse (we watched Goenkaji on a television screen give the discourse), 8:30 – 9:00 meditation, 9:30 sleep. It was a lot of silence. The first day consisted of just concentrating on your breath in different ways; the entire course involved observation, no reaction, just recognizing. We narrowed the field of observation so that we would recognize feelings and sensations that we wouldn’t have if we weren’t so focused and concentrated on ourselves. On the fourth day we were introduced to the technique of Vipassana. This involves feeling or recognizing each and every part of your body, piece by piece. The aim of the game is to not feel any cravings or aversions from any feeling or sensation. At one point the parts of the body start tingling (more or less). These feelings more or less represent aversions or cravings that you have in your life, sankaras. These sankaras are the things that make us miserable. If we have some enjoyable experience, we start craving this again, which makes us miserable. Our aversion to something unpleasant also makes us miserable. But if we just observe them, with out these after-feelings, then our miseries can subside. If we concentrate on eradicating new sankaras then our old ones will come up and we can rid ourselves of those. All of the feelings, both bad and good, are impermanent. The law of nature says that everything is impermanent, anicha. Therefore our feelings of craving and aversion are also impermanent. Like I said before, my words cannot do this technique justice.
A lot of it was much easier than I thought it would be, a lot, much harder than I could have imagined. Have you ever tried to sit and do absolutely nothing for an hour? Sitting and concentrating on breathing or thinking about your body can be harder than that. I managed, several times, the whole hour without moving. The pain or uncomfortable feeling of sitting for an hour is a part of the impermanence. The more you can recognize that it’s impermanent and not feel adverse, the better you’re doing. You also have to watch out not to get excited when you feel pleasant sensations as well, because that would also mean craving. Each session ended with a mini chant basically saying may all find real peace, real harmony, real happiness. This is in Pali, the language at the time of Buddha, and you respond by saying sadhu three times, as to say well said and that you wish this for everyone as well. By being happy you spread your happiness to others. There is so much that I’m missing, I know there is. I would highly recommend reading around his website Roam around, read some of his lecture. It’s worth at least learning about. If you like it, cool, if you don’t, at least you’ve learned something new.
A part of Vipassana that I really like is the part of giving, dhamma. This is where you give something without the expectation of something in return. There were many metaphors and stories he used to relate the story and practice of Vipassana. I’m not sure that there’s anyone I would say couldn’t benefit from this at all.
On the afternoon of the 9th day we were allowed to talk. It was a rush of smiles and waterfall of laughter, greetings, and emotions. It felt really good. The images you painted of people in your mind sometimes were right but many times completely misguided. We all thought this was funny and interesting. We all had vivid dreams during the entire time. Myself and one of the other participants had heavy heads and ringing in our ears the entire time. We compared sensations, feelings, struggles, histories, and got to know each other very intimately very fast. It’s hard not to feel a connection with someone you just spent 10 days with, physically and experientially very close, but without saying a word. We hung out for the next two days. I spent most of my time with Moli and others including Angela, Natalia, Silvia, Borris, Jessica, Iris, and Mark. It was an amazing time to be with foreigners as well. It was the first time since being home that I was around so many non-Indians.
Dharmakot, Mcloud Gaunge are mostly full of Israelis, it was very strange. The first day I walked to the Tibetan Children’s Village which was a home for orphaned or given to the home for better opportunities outside of Tibet. It was amazing. The mission was amazing and I would also highly recommend people reading up about the situation there as well. Their website is
Yesterday I spent at work. Some of the teachers noticed that I’ve changed. I don’t see it. I feel quieter. I’ve managed to meditate several times already. You’re supposed to do an hour in the morning, an hour in the evening. I’m not as concentrated or successful as I was at the meditation center, however, so it shall be. No aversions, no cravings.
There is more to say, about the people I met, my trip in general, but I think that’s enough for now. More will come out eventually. For the better, I think the course, and the experience was a positive spark of change in my life.

Post 1/2 marathon

I am no longer pink; only my hair has a nice red hue to it on the ends. My body is no longer in pain from the marathon. I’m going strong again. Everything has more or less gone back to normal. I’m not running at 6am; I’m staying up late again; work has been insane; I got a promotion as the Education Manager; it’s been a good few weeks.
It’s getting warm again, but the evenings are nice. We’re preparing for our Baroda trip next week. On the bus back from Mumbai I had a great conversation with one of my friends. He seems to think that he’s grown so much in the past few months; I want to take some credit for it. Even if I weren’t as loud as I am, I think some international influence on any person would be enough to change them in a slight way. Spending time with my friends in general makes me think that if one has the means, every person on this earth should spend at least a year in a different country – different means significantly different; going to most places in Europe for an American would not count. I did a year abroad in Florence when I was in college, but I don’t think it’s had the effects that living here has had on me. It’s amazing. The times of being uncomfortable have strengthened me so much. Ritesh said that he’d like to travel, to see other places, to learn and grow. That makes me happy.
The marathon was long. Running isn’t my favorite thing to do. I’m not exactly sure why I decided to run in the first place other than to see if I could do it. It was early to get up and Gayatri and Manoj were amazing and joined me for the start; this was at 6:30am on a Sunday! There was a disappointing amount of women running the 21km. More women joined later for the 10km, 5km, and spirit runs (I’m not sure how long that was). I was surprised that it was relatively cool and a pleasant run. The hard core runners took off and I immediately placed myself somewhere in the middle. The route was not so great, we had to do 3 laps of the course. There were many women who would run fast and then get out of breath and then walk for a few minutes. They would always catch up but then never sustain. This stopped at the second lap. I discovered goo or something like that; it’s a gel electrolyte package; it’s amazing. One packet kept me going the entire race – every lap taking another gooey gulp of the sample pack. A few km into the second lap I met my one lap running buddy. We kept each others pace. She was a slower runner than me but I needed a partner and it was amazing. When the water posts came, we would share a sip of the 1 liter bottles they gave out (why did they think a marathon runner would down a liter of water? – they needed better planning), we would yell at the walkers to stop taking up the entire road, “Side jana,” and be unspoken moral supports for each other. About 2 km after the third lap started I left my running buddy, as she wasn’t keeping pace anymore. It was a little sad to leaver her. I wanted to slow down, but toward the end it was getting difficult and I wanted it to be over. There were marathon workers in blue shirts. They would often clap without paying attention to you, fulfilling their job to “motivate” runners. A few of them were nice, they smiled, I would smile back. The best were the groups of men runners who came out to support us. I needed something nearing the end of the last lap. Everyone was encouraged to run the last few hundred meters. I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t a little upset running in with other women who walked a 5k and receiving the same amount of cheers. It was worth it though to have Gayatri, Manoj and Ritesh waiting there, cameras in hand with water. I couldn’t stop and my rock like legs that felt like 100 pounds each propelled me forward for another few minutes. I felt so good and like I could die a dense ball of dehydrated mass all at once. After a stretch, Gatorade, and two oranges I went to see about a certificate. It might come in the mail, or they might email it; who knows? It was a fun race. I ran for 2 hours and 21 minutes. That’s pretty awesome.

Bits of a return to India

Social networking is pretty amazing sometimes, especially when you’re looking at different ideas while in a different country. It’s even more interesting when you have other international friends. There was a great video that my friend Niddhi (an Indian in India) posted on facebook. See here: I found this video worthwhile sharing. Facebook did what it does best and made the video viral (I’m sure way before me, but I am now a part of this video). What I found interesting is that this video came from the US, New York in particular, I got it from a friend here, and now it’s spread to several of my other friends, including someone I know from Switzerland (who reposted it and a friend of his reposted it who lives in Eritrea), a friend in Brazil, and another friend who posted it on a facebook group he’s a part of for social change. The world is so tiny when it’s connected through a computer. It’s amazing.
On Monday I’m going to hear Robert Swan as a part of one of the sponsors for where I work. I’m so excited!

This weekend was really nice. We have a new capoeira space, it’s indoors, the people are nice, we can play music. It’ll be great I think.

We had sports day again this weekend. It was much nicer than last year for a few reasons, one of which is that I know the kids so much more and they know me. There was a requirement of attention, which made me feel warm and fuzzy. Sometimes I miss just playing with kids. I get to be the person who comes and observes teachers, who is the “threat” if the kids don’t behave.

It’s cold. I mean it’s not New York freezing cold, but it’s cold – scarves and sweaters cold. This is fine except for certain activities like riding a bike in the morning, sleeping in a room with no heat that doesn’t have the best insulation, and doing things like showering. I’ve touched on the shower issue several times before, but when it’s cold, it’s a whole different ball game. You have to wait longer for the water to heat before you fill the bucket. Sometimes, you think you’ve waited long enough, fill the bucket, and realize, it’s not so warm. Then you have to find a place to dump the water that’s useful and wait even longer to fill it up. There are two more uncomfortable things about showering, or rather should I say bathing, in the winter. It’s cold in the bathroom. We have a window, or rather should I say an opening that doesn’t close and so all the cold air is in there with you. The second is coming out of the shower into a cold house at night. It’s just not fun.

Yesterday I went to my chai/pohe guy. He makes the best chai and pohe anywhere. Every once in a while, sometimes once a week, I’ll stop by for breakfast. I get pohe (a puffed rice with things like peanuts, coriander, potatoes, and turmeric), and he usually gives me a free chai. He always gives it in a plastic as opposed to a glass glass. I think he thinks I’ll think the glass glasses are a bit dirty. They are dirty in fact because washing them consists of rinsing them in water. Anyway, I brought back coffee from the US, my Guatemalan stuff I got delivered to my house there. (propaganda here – it’s my blog, I can do it – go to for the best coffee ever) and gave him some. I don’t take sugar, only milk in my coffee. I don’t think he liked it very much, but I’m sure appreciated the gesture. It was really funny. He gave it to his friend who works at the booth next to him. I should definitely take a picture and include it in here. It’s one of the things that makes me feel like this is a small neighborhood or something.
To end on something fun, I’m going to Goa with my friends. It’s a first mass group trip. We’re going next week during Republic Day. It would be nice to go somewhere cultural or new, but sometimes it’s just fun to go to the beach. That’s next week and it’s Monday of this week. Work is also going really well. I’m busy. I like to be busy.