The bells, the bells. Those bloody bells.
I had decided that today before the morning meditation I would sneak in a few secret sit ups and a few secret squats before getting down to Buddha business.
I know my body, I know my mind, and I know endorphins are the best breakfast I can possibly feast on – I got this.
Chatty Cathy headed out to the meditation hall just after four so I lay there on the cold white tiles of our bathroom floor and got to work.
On secret sit up number 23, I was rudely interrupted by a loud knock on the door and my dreams to recuperate at least part of my much-loved morning routine were shattered as I was ushered straight out of my room and gently shoved into the hall by one of the volunteers.
I was looking and feeling like Quasimodo, and cursing those bells even more than he would.
VIPASSANA DAY TWO
Agitated by the interruption. Frustrated by my lack of endorphins. Groggy and sulking. I sat there with my frown on and bottom lip hanging out dramatically, sulk-facing at life.
I just didn’t understand how you can possibly go from a six hour sleep, straight into a two hour meditation.
You’re in total darkness and your eyes are closed which is sending both environmental and physical signals to your body that it’s still in the conditions for sleep, yet you’re supposed to be the most mentally focused you can possibly be.
All I could do was send subliminal profanities to The Rude Awakener and berate myself for actually choosing to be here, in this cave of self-inflicted torture, for eight more days.
Why was I not having a boxing day lie in like most normal people?
Why had I been starving hungry since 11.30am the day before instead of having a belly stuffed with deliciousness and saturated in port?
Why was I sat shuddering like a block of ice under two blankets in a meditation hall full of burping strangers five thousand miles away from home?
Why, why, why, why, why.
I grumpily entertained myself for the first two hours refusing to do anything more tasking with my mind until I’d had my morning chai.
At six thirty I elbowed my way through the meditators as though I was running for the tube at Kings Cross Station and got myself first in line for a silver cup of joy.
I sipped it slowly, savouring every sensation of happiness as it trickled down the sides of my frozen throat and then sneaked to the front of the queue for a top up.
Breakfast was a small plate of diced fresh peach, which was much more satisfying than the oniony noodley godknowswhat gloop from the day before and I did quite love the miniature, two-pronged forks we had to eat it with.
I took a third cup of chai and then a fourth, trying to pacify my tantrumming self with this tea-flavoured warmth and pretending it had something to do with coffee. And it was working.
I looked around attentively at the turquoise dining hall and tried to avoid eye contact with anybody then decided to go get myself some morning dopamine – a sure fire way to rectify my unwanted start to the day.
It wasn’t before long that I found a loophole in the ban on exercise by discovering a hidden talent for levitation.
I took broad, controlled strides while keeping the top half of my body perfectly still and took off floating around my new tropical garden at pace.
I headed out down the main track that leads to the centre and towards the edge of the nearby village where I saw a family of five huddled together in their little wooden home which was no larger than the average garden shed.
It was set aback from the road against the backdrop of sleeping hillsides that were waking up one sun-sparkling stupa at a time. They were all squatting together around a fire in this tiny room, quietly waiting for their breakfast to cook while their dogs, cockerels and baby chicks all ran circles around a giant but anorexic cow that was tied to their front door.
It was nothing like plonking yourself on the sofa flicking through depressing news channels with a bowl of cocopops on your lap. The air was so crisp, the birds were softly singing and everybody was quietly watching the world wake up.
After noseying in on the neighbours a little longer I realised I probably wasn’t supposed to have ventured so far, so I headed back towards the centre. And upon my return, I was cut off at the pass by that same volunteer who’d interrupted me earlier and duly reprimanded for my semi-accidental escape.
I looked at her with those guilty sorry-not-sorry kind of eyes and bowed my head in pretend shame before levitating on towards the hall for round two.
And that’s pretty much how the rest of that day panned out; an hour or two sat cross-legged in the darkness, tantrumming on the inside, followed by a few glorious cat whispering laps of levitation during the break.
But that night, as I my head hit the tiny pillow and my body lay on the cold slab of wood covered in lino, I had a word with myself and promised that tomorrow I’d bring my A game.