Yes, the long, grueling semester during which I worked an average of 5 hours a day, 4 days a week, has finished after a monumental four months (closer to three if you count the time I had off). How to pass the time until the end of August? (Yes, two months paid vacation. I'm sure I've mentioned this before.)
Well, the original plan was to head off on a bicycle trip this morning to Haeinsa temple, which ought to be about four or five hours away. Though it's frequently referred to as one of the most beautiful and important temples in Korea, and though it's only an hour bus ride away from Daegu, I've yet to check it out. There is allegedly a huge collection of Buddhist Sutras and Scriptures (I'll admit I don't know the difference), which were some of the first instances of movable type, or something.
Actually, though, the stop-over at Haeinsa was just meant to be a little break on a longer trip. My plan was to head another 3 or 4 hours (by bike) West to visit the Geochang Farm School (거창귀농학교, "Geochang Returning-to-agriculture School)," not to learn about farming (though maybe I can do that in the future), but to attend a 10-day Vipassana silent meditation retreat.
I learned about Vipassana while I was in Sadhana. Lots of the other volunteers had already been on one or several retreats, others were planning to go, and some went off, did a retreat, and returned. Everyone recommended it as an intense and amazing experience, but one that's fairly difficult to talk about, particularly to an audience that hasn't spent much time meditating or cultivating the ability to look "inward." (This includes me).
The essence of the program is that you pretty much meditate all day (some guided, mostly independent, in a big group hall) and avoid communicating at all with the outside world, the other participants, your deities, or even your future self. This means no phones, no books, no talking, no gestures, no eye contact, no religious objects, no rituals, no diaries, no pens. Just sitting or walking, thinking or not thinking or observing your thinking or observing your not thinking or whatever exactly it is you need to or are supposed to do (or not do).
The room and food (simple vegan; rice, vegetables, fruit, no spicy stuff) are free. At the end of the course, you're expected to donate whatever you want to or whatever you can afford in order to provide for the next group of participants.
Interesting. Exciting. Terrifying. I find it hard to sit still for 10 minutes. I either get jittery or fall asleep. I have no idea what to expect. Actually, I'm trying not to expect anything, not to put any burdens on the process. I think maybe in this case it's important not to have some sort of goal set out in advance, since I have no idea what the process is even capable of achieving. I'm sure it depends on the individual. I am slightly worried about losing my sanity. But then again, I am also thinking I might find it. I don't know what that means. Hrm.
BUT: due to inclement weather conditions (IE a forecast for "pouring"" rain) I revised my plan and decided to just take the bus. Didn't want to risk catching a cold before what is already reputed to be a fairly difficult ordeal. Unfortunately, there was only a little drizzle this morning, and now it's just nice and misty. Probably perfct for a bike ride. Had I left early this morning, as was my original plan, I could probably be there by now, nice and dry and not even too sweaty. This marks about the 10th time that we've had forecasts for rain and I've gotten all excited for the good of my garden plot (please have a look!), only to be let down by the mysterious forces which oh so frequently mislead the Korean weather forecasters.
Anyway, what I'm saying is, speak to me now or forever hold your peace for two weeks. At which point, I will be back to read what you've written and write more for you to read.