Ten Days at Tushita – Part 2 of 4

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By the Gompa was an area with stone walls and gardens. It was a good place to sit and read and good for the monkeys to play in. I couldn’t believe how many there were. Twenty, maybe thirty. I had seen them at zoos but never that close. I forgot how much like people they are and for a long while I watched them eat and leap from trees to power lines to flag poles and roof tops. I was jealous of them too. A monk came by and seeing me watch them she said “they do attack you” as she kept on by. ‘Do attack’ was kind of matter of fact, I thought. It seemed so causeless and definite. I thanked her with a smile and figured her English must be off.

One day I was standing a few feet from a monkey, who sat on a wall at my head height eating some berries, and he looked directly at me. I returned his gaze and smiled, but I don’t think he got the smile. Dropping his berries, he straightened his back, got ready to lunge and opened his mouth showing four huge fangs. (Who knew monkey’s have fangs?) I backed away quickly, not wanting to have to battle a monkey in front of all the monks and meditators. Around the middle of the retreat, most of us were sitting inside the Gompa in silence awaiting a meditation session and from outside the giant windows that faced the garden, came a shakingly loud man’s yell, the shrieks of girls and the screams of a pack of wild monkeys. A guy and two girls had walked between a mother monkey and its ugly hairless child and two monkeys freaked out and attacked the people. One girl escaped contact, but a monkey caught the other girl’s pants and the guy had a monkey on his back, which is why he yelled such a massively manimal scream. The monkey lost its grip, but not before tearing a gash into the flesh of his back that required a trip to the hospital and some shots. I had a couple more face to face instances with the monkeys while I was there. I liked watching them, but didn’t like them getting close. I think the fact that they were so human-like played a role in me getting mad at them; like they had some level of rationale that was equal to mine so I could justify holding their agression against them. They would sit on a rock near my room and I couldn’t get by without coming really close. They wouldn’t move; they’d just sit there and show their teeth if I tried to pass. I wanted to kick one so bad, but I bought a book by the Dalai Lama called “Healing Anger” instead.

The meals during the course were plain, but they filled me up. Once there was cake and another time noodles, but most we ate porridge and bananas for breakfast, rice and some mush for lunch and soup for dinner. There were always plenty of butter and rolls and hot tea too. Eating in silence allowed me to see some stuff I hadn’t noticed much before. The first was that I eat way too much. My metabolism has always been lightening fast, but my dad and grandpa don’t exactly burn calories sitting around like I do, so I knew if I didn’t change my habits then it wouldn’t be long until I was the floaty guy all the little kids like to hang on to in the pool. I made a commitment to eat smaller portions while I was at Tushita. It took me a few days to actually remember and fight my desire for an overflowing plate. I was hungry for the first three days, but as my stomach shrank the pains faded and it got easier. The other thing was I eat too fast. Eating in silence, I noticed I don’t chew my food all the way. As soon as it would fit down my throat it went and the fork was right there ready for my mouth to open again. It’s not that I was wolfing the food down, flinging rice all over the dining hall or anything. I just wasn’t taking the time to taste the food and really break it down. When I noticed this, I tried to slow myself and enjoy the food more. This proved a bit more difficult though, because like I said earlier, I’m always in a hurry.

In the Gompa is where we had our meditation sessions. Our teacher was older with smooth grey hair and her accent was thick. I liked the sound of it and it made me want to go to Greenland or Iceland, which is where I think she was from. She spoke slowly and softly like one might expect for a meditation instructor. The mornings would be mindfulness meditation, where we would attempt to follow our breath and clear our minds of chatter, with a goal of inducing a state of focused, but subtle awareness. In the afternoons and evenings we would practice analytical meditation, which is in many ways the same, but instead of clearing out the mind of thoughts, we would very directly and intensely analyze a certain object of meditation, which would usually be Buddhist philosophies or aspects of our lives. The idea of thinking during meditation was a surprise to me and I questioned the likeliness that it would have as much impact as emptying my mind, but I was intrigued.

One Thought on “Ten Days at Tushita – Part 2 of 4”

  1. Sam Says:

    Hey man, nice to read your stuff.
    I’m making this comment because it’s a useful one. NEVER show your teeth to a monkey/primate type animal. They see this as a threat, i.e they think you are silently growling at them… or even asking for it.

    Just some friendly advice 😉


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