#98 - my time at tushita meditation center

McLeod Ganj Travel Blog

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i just wrote an e-mail to my family & friends summarizing my time at tushita...so instead of re-writing it...i'm going to paste the e-mail here.  it really was the most unbelievable experience!!!  i'm warning you that the e-mail was definitely a bit long...so proceed with caution.  :) 
wow....i did it.  i just finished my 10 day silent meditation/intro to buddhism retreat!
what an AMAZING experience....i am SO SO SO SO glad that this was a part of my trip.  instead of adding more sights & places & countries to my lists of things that i visited....i can now say that i really took some time to visit *me*.  when you sit for 10 days in meditations & teachings & sit quietly at meals & take time to just walk or sit or read or do nothing or whatever.
...it's amazing how you really have time to just think, or actually - NOT to think really, and let your mind settle.  i don't know if i'll ever have an opportunity like this again, so i am so grateful that i had the chance to do this now!
our retreat officially finished today at noon, so when we had lunch today - we were actually allowed to talk.  i have to say, it felt so strange to start talking again after really not talking for 10 days!!  (we did have discussion groups & we were allowed to ask questions in class, but we didn't really talk TO each other & do all the "where are you from", "where have you been travelling" kinds of things)  and it was so interesting, even though i didn't have a lot of the typical types of interaction you would have when there are 35 people together in a class.
...i still felt like i got to know people - only more through their energy, how they carried themselves, the questions they asked & how they handled the silence. it was VERY interesting.  it was almost like less was more.  and when we were allowed to talk again, all the "where are you from", "where are you going" questions were interesting...but just didn't seem as important or something.  and it was amazing how connected i felt to some people who i didn't really have that much communication with.
so, just to give you an idea of where i am right now....as i said, the retreat ended earlier today, i hung out at tushita for a little while and then i ventured down the hill into mcleod ganj.  the little town that seemed so relaxed compared to everywhere else in india before the retreat, seems very intense to me right now.
  everything is much louder & there is just so much going on.  the last 10 days were spent in such a quiet, serene meditation center - so the honking horns, all the people & all the...everything (and i mean everything - i think that was just a cow walking down the street)...everywhere is kind of making me dizzy!  i know i will be okay...it's just interesting to notice.. :)
okay, so more on the retreat.  basically, this was our schedule every day....
6am:  wake up to gong
6:45am - 7:30am: mindfulness mediation - this is where we would sit and just focus on our breath
7:30am:  breakfast - usually consisting of this oatmealy type thing, which i would put peanut butter & honey in & a roll.
  breakfast time also meant watching all of the monkeys in & around the trees & on the gompa & just about everywhere.  they were HILARIOUS and provided a lot of entertainment for us.  after breakfast, i would always sit with a cup of tea on the terrace looking out at the mountains.  :) 
9am - 11am:  1st teaching in the morning - i'm not sure if i told everyone, but this was an intro to buddhism course so we learned all about karma, happiness, suffering, mindfulness, enlightenment, emptiness, delusions, reincarnation, etc. etc....it was actually all so interesting - i really connected to a lot of the teachings & really like a lot of the philosophy & practices...i do still have a lot of questions about it though.  it's definitely opened my mind & i'm excited to continue to explore some of the things i learned.
..i'm also particularly interesting in seeing how some of this relatest to judaism...suffice it to say, i have a long reading list out of this!  :)
11:15 - 12pm: yoga!  (this was awesome - we had it on the roof of one of the gompas each day!  i LOVED it!)
12pm - 2pm - lunch  (they actually had really yummy food)  i would make ginger tea after lunch & then sit out on the terrace again.   i loved that little spot.  and then every day at around 1pm...the monkeys seemed to love to gather in the trees outside my room.  there was a tarp on the ground that they discovered & would play hide & seek every day. one would run under the tarp, another would jump on top, another would come leaping from a tree....and on & on.  it was SO funny.
  and it literally happened every day like clockwork.  i got such a good laugh from them!!!
2pm - 3pm:  discussion group - we were given questions we would discuss.  the hardest part was to actually stop talking at 3pm!
3pm - 3:30pm - chai time. :)
3:30pm - 5pm:  2nd teaching of the day - more of the above topics i wrote about
5:30pm - 6:15pm - guided meditation.  one thing that we do at the end of each meditation that i loved was that we "dedicate the energy of the meditation"....and it can be to anything or anyone...but it's usually about wishing happiness & the end of suffering to all sentient beings...not bad thoughts to be having! 
6:15pm - dinner!  always just soup & a roll for dinner.
  and tea after.  i drank a lot of tea here.  and more time to watch the monkeys. :)  also, i have to say, at first it was kind of weird to have meals in silence....sitting down at a table, across from people, & not saying anything. but honestly, after awhile it was so great.  it was very peaceful - i found i ate slower, was more mindful and it was so nice to just sit with people & not feel like you had to make small-talk!!
7:30pm - evening meditation - these were amazing.  mark, our meditation teacher, had such a wonderful way about him.  they were really powerful meditations!
8:15pm - this is when we were supposed to end, but we always ended up staying pretty late asking mark questions (so see, there defintely was some talking - it was just more focused type of talking, i guess)
then, the last 2 days were meditation marathon days.
..we had SEVEN meditations each day.  it was intense.  the meditations were intense in & of themselves but man, just SITTING for that amount of time was crazy.  my legs fell asleep countless times & i had so much pain in my knees!  oh and the itches - those were the worst.   you are just supposed to notice the itch & then not focus on it & it's supposed to go away.  i defintiely played around with that & was successful in ignoring them some of the time - but other times, i just could not help myself!!!
what else?  are you still with me?  sorry - you are getting the IMMEDIATE download after the experience so i'm really in a debriefing kind of mode.  also, i haven't been talking for 10 days, so i think it's all coming out now!!!  :)
one of my favorite things that i took out of this course were mindfulness meditations.
  these are little poems that you can say when you do ordinary things in your life - just to make sure your mind is present & that you are appreciating the moment (because as you all know, we tend to live in the past & the future & it's so hard to stay in the present!) anyway, there is this vietnamese buddhist monk named tich nat hanh that wrote the most beautiful mindfulness gathas (that's what they are called).  i just bought the book "present moment, wonderful moment" and i really want to keep this as a practice in my life.  (also the artist that drew these beautiful drawings in the book lives north of SF near the zen center - i have to visit her when i get back!!)  so, we were encouraged to write gathas of our own, and we all shared them with each other today.  it was really special.
 i wrote one for drinking water - here goes:
this water is like my mind
clear, pure, calm, still
quenching my thirst
for peace, freedom and joy
(i'm not sure if it sounds strange out of context....but there you have it. you get the point. :) ) 
and as you know, i always sign my e-mails, MWAH!  for a big kiss....well, i've added a little additional meaning...
Wish to you for
so, i'm going to stay in mcleod ganj for the next few days.  and i'm actually staying at tushita for the next 2 nights. i think it will be nice to stay in the quiet, serene, environment & let everything sink in even more.
also, a bunch of people from our class are going out to dinner tonight & i'm really looking forward to hanging out with everyone.  some folks are sticking around here for a few days as well, so i'm excited to stay here & explore the area.  there are beautiful hikes, interesting tibetan museums & i'm pretty sure i told you, but this is where the dalai lama lives, so his temple is here, so i'd like to see that as well.  unfortunately, he isn't in town right now :(  (he's actually in boston & headed to new york - so go see him if you can - i think it would be so amazing to get to see him in person!)
after mcleod ganj, i'm headed down to dehli (oy - back to the heat & more craziness!) to spend some time with mark (my friend from growing up who lives here) and then it's on to croatia (via frankfurt, actually.
..for a day...any suggestions on what i should do anyone?).  i am excited to meet up with megan, cagla & jeanne -- and then lizzie -- and onto bella's wedding.  whoa - i can't believe that i only have one month left on this amazing journey!  it has definitely FLOWN by.
okay, i think i'm almost done here. 
before i leave, i just want to let you all know how happy and grateful i am to have you in my life.  we lit candles last night at a "candle offering" ceremony and i dedicated one of my candles to ALL of you - thanking you, from the bottom of my heart, for being a part of my life and wishing you all tons & tons & tons of happiness, peace and joy. 
a very special thanks to dan aufhauser for telling me about tushita.
what a gift!  :) 
and now, with it's new meaning....MWAH!!!!!!! and namaste.  :)
P.S.  if anyone wants some buddhist prayer flags from here, please let me know.  i'd love to bring them back for you.
P.P.S.  we weren't allowed to have our cameras, so i haven't taken any pictures of the place yet.  i will be doing so in the next couple days & updating my blog.  i'll let you know!
P.P.P.S.  shira, i know you said you were having trouble with my blog.  i *think* there is a link on the right hand side, just above the numbered entries that says "latest entry", or something like that.  i hope that helps!   and i figured i would write it here in case others were having the same issue.
P.P.P.P.S.  in case you were wondering, yes - they only had indian toilets. that was fun.   
musicdan says:
Rad!! So fun to read after all this time. Thanks radrockyD.
Posted on: Apr 18, 2014
KarinaB says:
Hi. Sounds like a wonderful experience- thank you for sharing :) I'm currently looking for a retreat centre somewhere in the world, so I found your entry very relevant ;) And very interesting to read! I'll be still looking around as am not planning going to India,however, it's not off the table completely! I think retreat centre will take priority over a country, so watch this space :) Take care and happy travels :D
Posted on: Nov 10, 2013
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McLeod Ganj
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