My ‘little’ brother Jacques arrives from Italy tonight. So time to get up to date with these posts. I’ll try to be as concise as possible re the rest of the retreat. Here goes.
Day 2 – first full day of silence. This is a Vipassana retreat. “Vi” = nature, and “passana” = as things are. This means a vipassana retreat is the practice of seeing things as they are – without acting upon it, doing anything about it, fixing it, obsessing over it, whatever. Just see things as they are without attachment. All in all, a peaceful day as I try to sit without fidgeting.
Day 3 – I break silence for the first time – it came at about 5:10am, in the washrooms when a critter of some sort bit my leg. Wasn’t an all-out scream, more of a wimpy squeak. I knew it was going to be a bug that caused me to break silence…I just knew it. This was also the day of my first ‘interview’. You meet with either Michelle or Steven for 15 minutes. It’s your time to ask them questions and their time to check in with you to ensure you’re doing okay. I interviewed with Michelle. She is a phenomenal lady. Funny, light, smart, laughs a lot. Love her. We chatted and the one thing that I took away with me was Michelle saying “side by side with the thinking mind, concentration happens”. So when concentrating on whichever meditation we’re doing, it’s okay for thoughts to come and go, it’s when we get lost in the thinking that we need to anchor back into our bodies. I explained to Michelle that a while back in either a yoga or meditation class, I started picturing thoughts as ‘cartoon bubbles that float over my head’. She said she loved that, so I figured I’m doing okay.
Day 4 – The Jungle Puts On A Show – and boy was it ever amazing. During our lunch break my neighbour noticed there were monkeys in the trees behind our huts (she whispered….I tried not to, but ended up whispering ‘thank you’ as she leant me her binoculars so I could have a closer look. There was a mum with her baby – she was black with some white on her face, and her baby was orange. It was wonderful seeing them jump around and eat in their natural environment. If you look closely, you’ll see one in the picture below.

Take a close look. He's in the middle...little black spot. Wish I had a camera with more zoom.

Next came the prehistoric looking Hornbill. He was AWESOME! Unfortunately he swooped down as I was eating lunch and I didn’t have my camera with me. You heard him coming before you saw him – his wing span is that large, and his arms/legs are fairly close to his body so part of the noise is the rubbing on the body of the arms/legs. I honestly felt like I was in Jurassic Park and that a T-Rex was going to come next. If I wasn’t already in silence, I would have been speechless.
This was also New Year’s Eve. And we were lucky enough to participate in a Thai tradition. You build ‘floats’ and then once the sun goes down put them in the water and they float away with whatever wishes or ‘letting go’ you send with them. I’m not sure what the base was made from, but we folded large leaves and stuck them to the base with toothpicks. Then we put a candle in the middle, 3 stick of incense and decorated them with flowers. We also had to add a piece of thread from our clothes, a fingernail clipping, and a strand of hair. A strand of hair? I looked at Beth our hostess (she runs Jungle Yoga) and said “a strand of hair”. She was quick to reply “you’ll just have to get it from somewhere else, you have to have a piece of your hair in it”. Enough said. Enough said.
New Year's Eve - float making

I was trying hard not to laugh out loud here. Wish I could remember the Thai name for the 'floats', but apparently when you're busy trying to empty your mind it's difficult to retain anything.

Finished float

I'm all done. Can't possibly add any more flowers.

Floats are set free

And there they go. Happy New Year everyone! Lots of love, laughter, joy, good health and prosperity for 2012.

It was a great day. It was also the first day I had any challenges with the silence. No challenge in keeping silent, or wanting the silence. But when we started working on our floats, people starting talking and laughing and I found myself thinking “no! don’t intrude on my silence!”. Interesting.