4 am – the bells toll.

I leap out of bed, completely forgetting where I am.  Its pitch black outside, and I can’t see the moon…

Shower on…water’s fucking cold…I clamp my teeth down on my tongue and start jumping on the spot, hands flailing about, nails scratching the walls….mustn’t let that word bellow out.  Silently I scream…fffuuuuuuuuuuuucccccccccccckkkKKKKKKKK!!!

4.20 am – the bells toll.

I scramble about my room trying to find appropriate clothing.  Long-sleeve, high-neck top, bottoms that cover the knees.  It’s not even daybreak and already the humidity is stifling…

4.30 am – meditation hall is nearly full.  They look like shadows, silently creeping to their allotted thrones, a mere two seconds to transfix into stone.  I breathe in and close my eyes.  Today it is all about the breath.  Simply breathing.  Relax and breathe.  In and out, through the nose…just breathe…

4.40 am – OMG I’m sleepy…can barely sit up right…come on…stay with it.  Breathe.

6 am? – Have no idea how much time has passed, but have planned the rest of my trip, made 3 to-do lists, and decided that thing I said to that person 3 years, 5 months and 2 days ago, probably was a bit uncalled for…when are these dratted bells going to toll again? (it’s actually 4.50)

4.55 am – OH MY GOOD GOD….right….breathing, breathing, its all about the breath.  Breathe in, breathe out…unbearable itching on my leg.  That’s a bug, it must be a bug…I can feel its little hands climbing up the inside of my thigh….brush it away.

5 am – bug on my face!  bug on my face!  that has to be a bug on my face…brush it away.

5.05 am – pry one eye open, and look about.  Relax my posture and start reading the mottos on the back of people’s’ T-shirts.  4th girl in, 5th row.  A yogi for sure.  Back so straight…sanskrit across white cotton on her shoulder-blade.  First row, fifth girl in…my oh my – she’s beautiful.  Not traditionally Thai looking, black hair has an unruly kink, gold nose-stud, Indian looking.  Meredith, model-esque Dutch girl across from me, shifting her weight from side to side…she’s struggling.

When are these dratted bells going to ring?

5.07, 5.11, 5.18, 5.20….Every bloody minute that passed my mind scrambled up some rocky path, eager, energetic, boundlessly curious, like a puppy being let off his lead… I couldn’t,  just couldn’t, for the life of me, do what I was supposed to do.  Just breath.  Breathe in, breathe out, pay attention to the breath.


5.30 am – Just as I thought I was going to collapse into the floor-boards and disappear for ever through sheer boredom, the stereo began and jolted me up right.  When, oh when, did the teacher come in???  What a sly little thing….

Goenka was in full mantra flow, undulating through his song, but with no apparent tempo or tone…not like the mantras I’d heard before.  His voice would dim into a gravelly silence, and my heart would lift…FINALLY…finally we could leave….I started to shift my crooked legs, massage heat back into my dead toes; and then that voice would start again.  Cracking, seething, rasping, bellowing…silencing….can we go (I cautiously hoped)…..and again he’d resume his song.  It went on and on and on and on, until the light had faded from my eyes, the sparkling observations gone…but at least, in that time my mind had started to focus on exactly what it was meant to….Breathe in, breathe out.  Anything but listen to that terrible song.

6 am – Goenka paused, the silence dragged out….bells tollled – it was breakfast time.