Escape the hustle and bustle, the worries, the stress, the responsibilities, and even, oneself. It is an old aspiration that the majority of the western respond with a good night of partying, a weekend in the mountains or a vacation at a spa. However, there are people who are willing to go a step further and try the real disconnection of this ‘matrix’ that is our day-to-day.
“I had spent years practicing zen buddhism in Europe, but this time I wanted to take it a step further and make a true spiritual retreat,” explains Albert Serrano. This computer barcelona, 44 years old, decided to seclude themselves for three months in a temple in the mountains of Fukui, in a couple of hours of Kyoto, with only the company of 10 monks. Though he himself had come to be ordained a monk under the name Myosey— and it was his tenth visit in Japan, the experience has been a before and an after.
Only your daily routine in the temple would be worthy of a screenplay in Hollywood. “Every day we got up at 3:30 in the morning to meditate for a couple of hours. After we spent a room to sing sutras, which are sentences in old japanese. Some I knew by memory, and others simply read,” he says. After hours of meditation and prayer, it came to food, but even then let go of the concentration.
“We ate but always bearing in mind that any time should be focused on ser and estar. Therefore, one of the most important things was to ensure that the six bowls where the food were placed in their correct position and in harmony with chopsticks in addition to try to eat and clean them in the correct order. The ultimate goal of all was that your mind never could be lost in thoughts,”he summarizes.
The cleanup also had a central place in the routine of the monks. “I looked around me and wondered why I was cleaning because you could eat on the floor. The temples were pristine”, recognizes Albert, in his case, he knew well the importance of the symbolic acts in the life of the monks. But the routine at the temple was nothing in comparison with the sessions of intensive meditation that practiced a week of each month.
“In that week I would wake up in the 2h of the morning, and at 2:20pm as I had to be ready to meditate. In total, there were 12 hours a day of meditation in which only rested two hours to eat and stretch the legs. Physically it was very hard because maintaining the lotus posture is only supported on a cushion and without moving an inch for hours is exhausting,” recalls Albert, who during those weeks I didn’t even have a proper place for your rest.
The thing not just here, once a month, the ritual is complicated yet a little more: “there was a day of special worship in which went to a small temple picked up on the mountain to do fasting and meditation for 14 hours straight”. A torture for the majority of mortals, but for Albert, who just saw three western throughout his retirement, was worth it. “When you finish you’re on a cloud,”he says.
The technique of meditation used by the monks also had their mystery. “It is not that you are with the mind completely blank, but every time that starts to sprout a thought you turn to concentrate on your posture or breathing and disappears. At a certain point, your mind is totally clear and free from the worries of day-to-day, that is what really drains us”, says the Catalan.
“Through deep meditation you learn to know you and to accept your internal contradictions, that is why when salts be meditating for so long the perception will change. You still keep that distance but you also know that, little by little, that perception tainted by the ego will re-absorb”, concludes Albert, who for a few weeks continuing with their normal work computing in one company of Barcelona. And, if you were wondering, the experience just cost him his will: “the monks never ask for an amount of money, only what you want to contribute. I think that say something more than 100 euros, but I tell you that if dieses zero euros, no one was going to berate”.
It may be that the vast majority of us never make a withdrawal of that caliber or not we decide to embrace buddhism, however, we all have the opportunity to begin to meditate and know each other better. In fact, the very Leonard Cohen decided to ordain as a monk in 1996 as a way of enhancing their original religion, judaism. So, apparently, all paths are valid if what you get with your practice is the self-knowledge and inner peace.