I could feel the monk’s eyes on me as I stumbled into the room with my camera bag and my day backpack. My purple hoop was sticking out of my bag, making it look like I was some wanna-be ninja warrior. I prayed that he wasn’t silently cursing me for being late to his meditation class, and I suddenly wondered what I was even doing there.
“Hi,” I said as I passed the group of 6 students and a monk waiting impatiently for me to sit down. I grabbed a mat and accidentally slammed it on the floor in the back of the room, aware of how obnoxious I was being. Everyone sat in silence while they waited for me to sit down.
The monk resumed his meditation speech once I settled down. I was attending a free meditation class at Wat Maha That, a temple in Thailand. This was the second day of my journey through Southeast Asia, and I was already getting myself into awkward situations.
The monk spoke for the first hour or so about walking and sitting meditation, and demonstrated the proper way to do both. As we were getting up to practice the walking meditation, I moved my bags to a cubby on the side of the wall and knocked over someone’s cell phone. The entire class was silent and watched as I picked it up and put it back into its place.
After we practiced, the monk left us to ourselves to begin the meditation.
I tried, I really did. I walked back and forth in a line for a half an hour, and tried my hardest to “let my mind go.” Instead, I ended up focusing on the fact that I had 28 minutes left, then 22, then 17, then 12…
I looked up at the other students in the room a few times, and wondered if anyone else was distracted like I was. I was scared the monk was going to appear in the room and see me doing something other than meditating, so I inconspicuously peeked at the clock every so often.
We had to repeat this sentence the entire time: walking, walking, walking, standing, standing, standing, turning, turning, turning, standing, standing, standing, walking, walking, walking, over and over again. This meditation thing is not for me.
When the thirty minutes was up, I ran over to the mats to begin the sitting meditation. I knew it was going to be tough, so I stretched my legs before I sat down in preparation for the pain.
The first ten minutes were fine. This isn’t too bad, I thought to myself as I deeply breathed into my stomach and out my nose.
Suddenly, my left leg started tingling. And then it fell asleep. My right leg didn’t want to be left out, so it decided to start tingling too, and eventually fell asleep.
I opened my eyes to make sure the monk wasn’t watching me and moved my right leg a few inches forward to ease the pain. Oh my god, this is horrible, what did I get myself into, I thought to myself as the pain grew with each passing second. After a few moments, I lost complete feeling in both of my legs.
Don’t focus on it, don’t focus on it, oh my god I’m going to need to get my leg amputated, don’t focus, oh my god they’re numb and I feel like I’m floating, I kept thinking to myself. I eventually felt like I was a torso, completely detached from the lower half of my body.
This continued until the alarm went off. I opened my eyes and moved my right foot to shake it out, thankful that the thirty minutes was up.
I couldn’t move my left leg. I grabbed it and stretched it out in front of me, only to then realize that my left foot was completely numb. I poked it with my finger and stared in shock as my foot did not respond to the feeling. Great, now I’m going to have to get my foot amputated.
No one else in the class looked like they were in as much pain as I was in, and I wondered what I did wrong (with my luck, everything). After I spent a few minutes rocking back and forth to ease the pain and convincing myself that I would never regain feeling again, the pain subsided and was taken over by a very cold feeling.
I left the class thankful that I was able to have an experience like that, but I acknowledged the fact that meditation is definitely not for me.
This Buddhist temple offers free meditation classes at Wat Maha That three times per day, at 7 a.m., 1 p.m., and 6 p.m., to those who want to experience a beginner’s meditation class.
Remember to follow me on Snapchat for live videos and pictures of my trip! My username is globetrottica.