Dienstag, 17. Mai 2011

My last days in Nepal

Slowly it’s time to say ‚Good-bye’ and leave Asia after 6 wonderful months. My last days I am spending in Kathmandu – visiting markets and temples, spending time with friends and myself.

Kathmandu has a very touristy part, called ‘Tamel’ – where I am staying at the moment, since its so central. But there are also many local places – with veggie and fruit markets and small tea shops, local eateries etc. – so it’s a really interesting place to visit, it has so much to offer and at the same time it’s not too overwhelming.

After settling down on my 1st day in Kathmandu, I have been visiting the central square, called ‘Durban Square’ – you can find palaces, temples and a small market there.

Busy crowd at Durban Square.

Lentils, nuts and many other different grains for sale.

Vegie market at Durban Square.

Cooperware shop in the old city.

The next day I went to the Swayambhu Temple - it is one of the most famous sites in Kathmandu. The temple is crowded with Tibetan priests, monks, vajrayana Buddhist and the Newar nuns in Kathmandu, who are ardent worshipers of Swayambhu. Swayambhu feature Buddhist artwork, butter lamps and large wheels for prayers. There are 365 stairs leading up to the temple. The stupa has four sides and on each of the sides, a pair of eyes has been carved. These eyes symbolize the eyes of god. In place of the nose, number 1 in Nepali language has been marked. Another popular name of the Swayambhu Stupa is Monkey Temple. This is because monkeys are seen loitering all around the temple when the worshipers and devotees have left the place.

Beautiful Swayambhu Stupa.

365 stairs...

Kathmandu from above the Swayambhu Temple.
The next day I continue my temple tour and visit the Boudhanath temple complex – one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Kathmandu. The stupa's massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. Boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can spend hours walking around in astonishment – it’s just so beautiful and impressive.

The Boudhanath stupa.

Old woman praying.

Monk with a begging bowl in front of the Boudhanath stupa.

Monk praying under a tree - just like Buddha about 2500 years ago.
Now I have 2 days left and my Asia adventure ends and my Europe travels start – I am excited to discover new places, meet new people and taste new food.

With these words I am stepping out of Asia and into a new adventure. 

I hope you continue to travel with me – London, here I come!
Smiles and hugs to all of you, Eylin

Montag, 16. Mai 2011

Vipassana # 2 – ‘the real thing’ Goenka style and spidermania

Once upon a time there was a nice, small Vipassana centre (http://www.pokhara.dhamma.org) above the beautiful Begnas Lake, 12 Kilometer east of Pokhara and with a beautiful view to the Annapurna Himalayan Range. 

Our view from the Meditation centre.
15 woman and 12 men came together on May 1st for 10 days to learn or practise meditation ‘Goenka’ style.
None of the 27 meditators left – which is quite unusual but I guess we were all determent to learn and go through this experience together.

I arrived on April 30 at the Vipassana centre and after registering and giving away all my valuables, electronic devices and books. I also gave away my identity as Eylin and was from then on ‘B-2’.  As ‘B-2’ I got my seat in the dining hall, in the meditation hall and in the sleeping hall.

Since there was no other entertainment program - I kept watching the bees doing their work.
I shared the biggest dorm with 6 beds in it – and had 5 lovely room-mates. 

So we were 6 ladies from 6 different countries (Canada, UK, USA, Netherlands, Russia and Germany) and different ages (19-37 years old) and shared 10 days of silence with each other and once in a while some giggles when we either:

a)      had uninvited costumers like spiders or bugs in our room and one of us would give out a little scream and the rest would collectively help to get the visitor out of the room or
b)      THE bell rang and interrupted one of our 3 usual naps per day. Every meditation break was used to rest either in the room or outside in the ‘ladies rest area’ – the guys had their own area to stay in.

The bell was our worst enemy or best friend, depending on when it would ring or what it would announce, e.g. at 4 am it would be our worst enemy, waking us up after only a few hours (and never enough) sleep but at 6.30 am it would be our best friend, since it announced that it was breakfast time – after we hadn’t eaten for about 13 hours – so it really depended and I think no one is really missing THAT bell now after the Vipassana.

One more little story before going over to the meditation experience. An explanation to why I used ‘spidermania’ in my headline. Well, well, as nature probably knows, I am not fond of spiders – who is? But unfortunately this beautiful Vipassana centre in the midst of nature had more spiders than I could count. It started on the first night, when I moved into the dorm and saw a spider crawling behind the bed (at that time we were still allowed to talk and 2 girls where already with me in the room). I moved my bed away from the wall, only to discover another 5 spiders – it started to become my worst nightmare BUT my dear friend Anastasia from Russia tried to explain to me in broken English that spiders are part of the nature and that they are more afraid of us than we are of them –I wouldn’t really confirm that but anyhow. To make a long story short – she convinced me that I just should accept them and sleep with my head on the other side of the bed and that was that.

Good thing is I had no nightmares about spiders that night or any other night and I am grateful for that, since almost every day from then on I saw more and more spiders EVERYWHERE – in our room, toilet, shower, meditation hall – I guess it was natures lesson to me to be more at ease with these animals and just accept them and live with it. I think this mission has been achieved.

One of the my new friends.
The most important thing of course was the experience of meditating and the silence.

As I have done a similar meditation course in Thailand in February – I had no problems with not talking for 10 days, in fact, it’s a great experience. The meditation part, thought, got harder. In February I was allowed to practise yoga and we had lectures in Buddhism and an hour of chanting – the Goenka style meditation is 10 hours meditating a day, see timetable below. My back and legs were hurting sooo much the first 4 days that I felt like I’ve been doing extreme sport instead of sitting cross-legged for 10 hours/day. But the pain goes away – it really does, at least for me. Other students had more pain, others less but I was glad when my body finally got used to it all.


4:00 am
Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 am

Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am

Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 am

Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am

Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher's instructions
11:00-12:00 noon

Lunch break
12noon-1:00 pm

Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm

Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm

Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm

Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher's instructions
5:00-6:00 pm

Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm

Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm

Teacher's Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm

Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm

Question time in the hall
9:30 pm

Retire to your own room--Lights out

For the people who don’t know about Vipassana, here a brief explanation:

Vipassana is one of India's most ancient meditation techniques. Long lost to humanity, it was rediscovered by Gotama the Buddha more than 2500 years ago. The word Vipassana means seeing things as they really are. It is the process of self- purification by self-observation. One begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate the mind. With a sharpened awareness one proceeds to observe the changing nature of body and mind and experiences the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and egolessness. This truth-realization by direct experience is the process of purification. The entire path (Dhamma) is a universal remedy for universal problems and has nothing to do with any organized religion or sectarianism. For this reason, it can be freely practiced by everyone, at any time, in any place, without conflict due to race, community or religion, and will prove equally beneficial to one and all.

10 days can be very long but one learns a lot about oneself and I am so glad I’ve done this course, I won’t go into details what I have learned about myself, this is a more private matter but I do highly recommend everyone to try for themselves – you never know what you find out…

In the morning of Day 11 – everyone is allowed to speak again and go out and face the ‘real’ world. This is quite an experience because after so much silence, there is so much noise that one just wants to run away from it but it’s also a chance to use what one learned during Vipassana. In Vipassana you look inside and after Vipassana you'll have to look outside; it's difficult but at the same time: same, same but different.

My ‘Day 11’ brought me straight to Kathmandu – from silence right into the biggest city of Nepal…why not? More about my last days in Nepal in my next blog entry. 

Namaste, Eylin

Happy faces, after the Vipassana - our first meal after silence with lots of catching up.