I’ve reached the first pinnacle of my trip: seeing Ankgor Wat. The temples of Ankgor are a blend of Hinduism and Buddhism, two cultures I connect with on different levels. I’ll write more about the Ankgor temples in another post.
The second pinnacle of my trip will be starting starting September 26, where I have signed up to do a Vipassana retreat in Thailand. For 10 days, I will be completely silent. No reading, writing, listening to music, or any other similar kind of stimulation. Only two meals a day, breakfast and lunch. I will spend 10 hours a day in meditation. Here’s the schedule if you are curious:
4:00 a.m. ————– Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 a.m. ——- Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 a.m. ——- Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 a.m. ——- Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 a.m. —– Meditate in the hall or in your room
11:00-12:00 noon — Lunch break
12noon-1:00 p.m. — Rest, and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 p.m. ——— Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 p.m. ——— Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 p.m. ——— Meditate in the hall or in your room
5:00-6:00 p.m. ——– Tea break
6:00-7:00 p.m. ——– Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 p.m. ——— Teacher’s Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 p.m. ——— Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 p.m. ——– Question time in the hall
9:30 p.m. ————– Retire to your room; lights out
I’m really excited to have the opportunity to experience this. We talk everyday for all our lives; so taking ten days off in life to practice silence doesn’t seem to be a big sacrifice.
I’ve also been wanting to get stronger in my meditation practice. Back home I would only practice for about 20 minutes, a few times a week. I hope this course will help deepen my practice. I’m trying not to set expectations though.
Approaching the beginning of the retreat, I’ve felt nervous now and then, wondering if I could make it through ten days of silence; I have heard stories of people quitting after 3 or 4 days. However, I’ve gotten support from loved ones. I also have friends who have done the same retreat as well, and knowing they’ve done it, and hearing their stories, gave me confidence. I also have a good\bad habit of finishing what I start. In this case it’s a good habit. Given the above, I’m going into this feeling confident to persist through the 10 days.
In preparation for the retreat, I decided to go shave my head. WHAT?!? WHY? As part of Hindu culture (at least from Punjab), every baby has their head shaved sometime in the first few years of life. Since babies are born with hair, it is believed that hair is from the previous life; shaving the hair is removing the karma from the past life. In the same spirit, I shaved away my hair that I had before this trip; I feel that it symbolizes making space for new thoughts and behaviors, and letting go of behaviors that don’t serve me positively. Will I become a new Ankur?
I was a bit scared of shaving my head, because, I’ve never done it before. How would I look bald? Would I look funny? Dorky?
Here’s a video and some photos of the process. I walked into a barber shop in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and I think the employees were as amused as I was during the process.
As I walk around later that day, I keep a hat on, feeling a little weird being bald. Whenever I see myself in the mirror, I’m like, “who is this guy?” It’s interesting to me how much I identify myself with having hair on my head. However, I enjoy the unusual feeling when seeing myself bald; I’m challenging my external image of myself.
And during my 10-day retreat, I will be challenging myself in my inner world.