travel

travel journals

Rock Sitting

Seasons Greetings, from Sri Lanka

I am writing now from my friend John’s house, overlooking a river flowing through the lush jungle hills of Kandy.

The last 3 months have been a mind-altering experience, and the next two are sure to continue.

So… what to say?

Well, first I’ll show you a cross section of my mind on the nature of experience.

Experience is held in the context and contrast of previous experience. In a chain of cause and effect, the past conditions the present. Conditioning of the present experience arises partially as expectation, which is formed by memories of previous experience.

For example, if I slept on a thick comfy mattress all my life, and then suddenly was forced to sleep on a thin mat on a concrete floor, the experience might be uncomfortable for me. I would toss and turn in the night, and may not find much rest. It may feel wrong- wrong in accordance to what I was expecting.

Though, had I slept right on the concrete floor all of my life, and then was offered a thin mat, I would be thankful, and enjoy it’s comfort.

As the experience of sleeping on a thin mat is conditioned by previous experience, and resulting expectation of the individual, so is conditioned the experience of another culture, or eating spicy food, or having a hot shower. I can tell you, hot showers feel so much better here because I don’t expect them, as they’re hard to come by.

You don’t really know what you’re experiencing, until you’ve tried something else, and then all you know of either experience is in their difference, or contrast, from eachother. Like the space and time from which it emerges, all experience is relative.

Words are only a shadow reflection of thoughts; a hollow stencil through which the awareness of the reader must shine for its concept and imagery to be perceived. So give it a try:

A taunting voice echoes, as it looses detail, “Mmmm, very taste… very taste! Mmmmmm…” As my dream fades into reality, I wake up in the corner of a small porcelain roofed shack, laying on a few thin mats upon the concrete floor. Just out of view, outside a half open wooden door beneath a small entrance attached to the hut, Sadhu the monk sips tea. Calmly munching vanilla wafer biscuits offered by the villagers, he calls me to wake up and eat, chanting, “Mmmmm…” Crunch, chew, slurp. “Very taste.” Crunch, chew, slurp. “Mmmmm, very taste.”

Immediately I stretch my spine backwards, forwards, and then stand up, straightening my vertebrae. I promptly fold the blankets, roll up the mats and stash them in the corner. Walking out the door, still in a dreamy daze, I see Sadhu relaxed in a hard wooden chair, tea and biscuits in hand.

“Eat,” he declares, “and drink”, his finger pointing out from hanging robes, at a small bag of wafers laying on a low table, above the packed dirt floor. “Soon breakfast ready.”

I help myself to a hot cup of freshly picked tea, saturated with milk and sugar- a fine comfort after the cold night’s sleep. Munching some wafers, I observe how the sensation of each sip of tea rises and falls. How each bite of the biscuit peaks with taste, then quickly fades leaving me hungry for more. These flavors, like all things, rise and fall through time. Unsatisfied by the sensation of taste, I step out from below the low roof to admire the hillside.

A blue flat faced, wooden boxed, supply truck jiggles it’s way down a rough dirt road, crudely forged against the steep rolling jungle mountain, laced with finely pruned tea plantations. Overhead, ridged forest meadows and rocky cliffs cut through lush organic patterns of bubbly pine trees, scattered with exploding red fractals of foliage. Trillions of trillions of cells play upon themselves in a waving dance of spinning leaves, shuddering in spiraling currents of air.

Little Monk, drenched in glowing orange robes blowing with the wind, stands atop a massive rock beside his thatched roof cottage, it’s mud walls cracked in an electric pattern. Head shaven, and eyes glowing, his silhouette reflects a sharp mind against bright streaks of clouds, above the rising sun.

Down a small bank, trampled grass assumes the circular patterns of a wild pig’s violent dance we heard the night before, at which the temple dogs exploded with fearful barks. Breaking through tall grassy fields, scattered trees vainly reach for the sky, all tilted from strong winds, amongst farmer’s broken down supply shacks.

Cabbage patches grow down along a mountain creek, which flows around bulging rocks, though a valley of it’s own carving. Little Monk’s parents toil away behind hoes and shovels, in a vegetable field where the village children graze for their midday snack, above which rise the steep curving hills of Deltoda.

Looking out, the view reveals level upon level of rolling hills, turning lighter blue as they fall into the glowing distance, where they merge at the horizon with puffy clouds in a dotted pattern, opening up to the baby blue sky. Suspended in this ocean of air, fog rises off the jungle, settling into the bowls of valleys below.

Down a small dirt path, bells echo from the temple, as villagers run from their fields and calmly walk up the temple stairs for the early morning worship of their lord Buddha. Just above the path lies the monk’s red porcelain tile roofed brick shack, in front of which metal and plastic roofing form the walls of an entrance, barely hanging off a brittle makeshift structure of scrap boards. The entrance partially collapsed the first time I tried to walk in with my bulging frame pack.

Approaching, then squinting in my direction, Little Monk probes my mind with broken English, asking, “When you home go Canada?” and “When you come back?”, as the wind continues to blow his robes about.

I attempt to explain to him, with short words, that it doesn’t really matter when I leave or return because I’m here now, and the future is an illusion. He smiles and nods in understanding, as we continue to gaze about, attempting to comprehend nature’s surrounding display.

Overwhelmed by the imagery, I abandon the hopeless thought of being able to capture this on a roll of film. So here, we sit, sharpening minds on a big rock.