Back in the Dhamma meditation hall for round five.
Twelve more hours of eyes-closed concentrated meditation in total darkness and silence, although now we’d moved onto actual vipassana the torture was becoming slightly more enjoyable.
VIPASSANA DAY FIVE
After a full day of devoted practice, I decided to give myself an intentional break.
I began thinking the strangest things and having the strangest conversations with myself. My eyes were sneaking open, surveying the room for more distractions and more entertainment for the mind.
I decided that if I was going to spend another five days with these people, even if we would never utter a single syllable during that time, we really should get better acquainted. Plus I still needed something to temporarily distract me from the Burmese burps and Gandhi karaokes.
So I let my eyes scan the room and gave everybody nicknames and characters in Mandalay’s latest make-believe sitcom in my head.
THE DHAMMA DIARIES
The first to be casted was Little Granny Gross Gob.
She was just over four foot tall and wore the cutest little outfits – usually a crochet baker boy hat, a zig zag rainbow knitted cardigan and a perfectly ironed ankle-length skirt.
On our first morning, I’d walked behind her into the meditation hall thinking “oh look how adorable she is” when all of a sudden she stopped and started hawking and spitting like a cowboy, hacking and burping, before turning around to smile at me all innocently then continuing her little waddle on into the hall.
Then there was Hobbly McHobbleson who cracked me up with her inability to tiptoe. She appeared to think that in order to walk quietly, it had to be a dramatic hobble with the top half of her body at a perfect right angle to the floor. That brought an inappropriate chuckle to my lips most mornings.
Then a row in front of me was a lady wearing those socks that should never have been invented – the ones that have individual sockets for the toes and really freak me out. Her little webbed duck feet crept past me at the start of each session making me wince. I called her Jemima – Puddleduck thereof.
And at feeding times I’d see The Ninja Scoffer sat on the other side of the dining hall.
She would hunch herself over and lean in dramatically forwards so as to shorten the bowl-to-spoon-to-mouth lapse time. Her plate would be piled high with mounds of anything and everything and she’d shovel it into her mouth, inhaling at double speed. I was surprised I didn’t need to run over and do the Heimlich on her most days.
There were a few people who got more normal names and characters – Beth from Bristol who was a travelling artist and Jennifer from the Midlands who had moved down to London for a career in the music industry. Then there was Yoga 1 and Yoga 2 who would fold their bodies like envelopes just as a stretching warm up before each meditation.
ALRIGHT BEEF LAD
But my absolute favourite character was BEEF.
She was a short, large local lady in maybe her mid to late fifties with a huge round belly and one of those bottom lips that creeps up to eat the top one. She had deep laughing lines on either side of her face and although her expression was always silently serious, she had an air of hidden mischief about her.
Whenever I walked past Beef in the morning she would be stood on her steps, adjusting her longhis and accidentally flashing her huge off-white knickers at me while gazing around the garden breathing in the fresh air and letting out the most horrendously loud belches.
I’d give her my best Liverpool greeting possible – the one where we raise our heads ever so slightly, and raise our eyebrows just a little more. Then in my mind, in the deepest, Scousest accent I could muster up, I’d say “Alright Beef lad” as I smiled and levitated on by.
It was just another Dhamma Day in Mandalay.