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  • Writer's pictureJohnny

Meditation in the Mountains

Monk Wu Nian meditating in the mountains.

Lined Up

Friday morning, just before lunch. The class was exhausted from a week of training. Our limbs still soft from the power stretching we just completed. New bruises etched our bodies from yesterday's conditioning and today's acrobatics. We lined up, getting ready to end class when Master Zhang began to speak. Attentively, we all listened as Cindy translated. We would be getting the opportunity to mediate in the meditation hall this afternoon!

I was excited. Master Zhang had arranged with the monks a slot of time for us to use the hall. No monks would be there. Just us students. It would be an opportunity to experience the meditation hall without the stress of following the monk's strict rules. (And the threat of a stick) For those not wanting to, they could train on their own like normal. Reviewing forms, working on basics, etc.

Wearing the Robes

Out of excitement and respect for the Temple, I went down to our local temple "shop". A small place that sells incense, teas, necklaces, Buddhas, and... robes! After discussing with the nice shop lady about my reasoning for buying robes. She kindly handed me a blue robe to wear. The difference between the training robes of a warrior monk and the robes of "real" monks are huge. The material, design, length of sleeves, and more. It felt long and awkward wearing it, but after some tips from the shop lady I was able to wear it comfortably.

After a little rest, we all gathered for the meditation. We were guided by Cindy through the rain towards the meditation hall. At first we were brought in to a guest hall which smelled of incense and tea. Sitting down on the comfortable benches, Micheal, a senior student, explained the basic rules of the meditation hall to everyone.

Entering the Hall

Minutes passed as the rain slowly sprinkled from the cloudy sky. A bald monk wearing saffron and maroon robes knocked on the window of the guest hall. A signal for us to enter. Filing out in a line, we silently walked towards the hall. Monks of all size and stature slowly slipped out of the doorway. Their time in the hall finished. Once the last monk exited, we entered the hall. Micheal guided us all towards our seats. A simple cushion on a wooden bench. Legs crossed, robe spread out, and hands resting gently in my lap. I was ready to begin.

"1... 2..."

Closing my eyes, time passed quickly. Counting my breath as the cool air from the outside entered the room. Thoughts drifted here and there; the only anchor was the number of my breath.


Soon, people finished their meditation. Slinking away quietly out of the dark meditation hall. No longer was I focused on the numbness of my body or the coolness of the air. Sounds outside the meditation hall began to catch my attention. My breath, my only focus.


Memories of Thailand, Home, and Maling came and went. Memories good and bad tried to grab my attention. The breath, my only guide through this experience.


Suddenly, my eyes opened. I'm not sure if it was a thought or a feeling but I knew, my meditation was over. Before me stood the Golden Er Zu statue, the light from the outside shining on it's metallic surface. To my left, three students sat like stone. Focused on meditation. I gingerly stood up, one leg numb landing on the ground with a thump!. Shuffling out, I paid my respect to the hall then left.

There was still sun among the cloudy sky, and the rain had now turned to a light mist. My mind and body felt relaxed. The sounds of chanting came from the temple nearby. Some foreign ceremony that I will never understand. Passing the statue of Guan Yin and climbing up the stairs to our dormitory. I took one last look at the temple and hall. Satisfied.

I was happy with where I was, and what I was doing. A feeling I haven't had in a long time.

The busy restaurant. Lonely janitor nights. Exhausting factory work. Those days were behind me, if only temporary. Right now, I was given the blessing of enjoying this temple and those in it.

So, thank you life for giving me this opportunity.


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