And then this bald old man whacked me with a stick

This trip has been nuts. Every day has been packed. We get up early and come back late. As a result, it’s been impossible to blog about all the places we been to– so I’ve been trying to pick out the better stories.

Here’s one:

My group is in Kyoto now. And I have to admit, I might be liking it more than Tokyo. While Tokyo is big and wonderful and busy, it really has that western, New York City feel. Not Kyoto. Kyoto is nestled in the mountains, full of old-style Japanese houses and shrines and temples and just beautiful, beautiful Asian architecture.

So we’ve been running back and forth from shrine to castle to palace to temple. And one of these temples was the Tenryu-ji Zen Temple, World Heritage site and popular tourist destination. We weren’t here just to look, though– our sensei somehow got us in with an American monk to try out a little meditation.

For those who aren’t familiar with Buddhist meditation– it’s all about, as far as I could tell from the guy’s explanation, emptying the mind. To release all thoughts, and simply exist. To go beyond what we think defines us– our life, our background, our memories, opinions– and find our true inner self, the one not defined by external influences. Buddhist monks go to some crazy extents to find enlightenment. They’ll sit for days, weeks, even, letting their mind go free.

Or, oftentimes, not.

It’s easy to lose focus during meditation. So, Zen Buddhism utilizes something called a keisaku, which is basically a big wooden stick, to help the monks along. When the monks meditate, there will be one dude walking around and looking for sleepy or distracted monks. And when this dude finds one, he will hit the mediator on the back.

He will hit you with a stick. 

I was a little nervous about Zen mediation.

But our monk, who often receives groups like us was very understanding. He declared that, during our 30-minute period of meditation, he would only hit us if we wanted him to. We’d signal him by clasping our hands together as he walked by.

And with that explained, we entered the temple and started the meditation.

No, Vy! Physical pain is not the issue! Empty your mind! Empty your mind! 

My mediation was not going so well. And then the monk walked by…

I opted out. I opted out! But getting hit is part of the Zen experience! How could I?! I resolved that, if he walked by again, I would volunteer to get hit. Which didn’t help my concentration at all, due to the fact that I’m a massive pansy when it comes to physical pain.

And finally, he walked by. I bowed, and allowed him to hit me with his stick…

The hits barely stung. And the monk hit exactly on some pressure points on my back, so when I sat back up, I actually felt more relaxed. Other students who got hit agreed with me.

Before I knew it, our Zen meditation ended. I didn’t reach nirvana, to be sure– but it was very relaxing. It definitely didn’t feel like a half hour. We also got a tour of the temple, and a special guest meal– as shown in the photos below!

So in my opinion? I’d gladly get hit by a stick again.

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9 thoughts on “And then this bald old man whacked me with a stick

  1. This is hilarious! I do yoga and have tried VERY hard to meditate, but I can never do it–I’m like you. The harder I try to empty my mind, the more stuff that comes into my mind! Maybe I should employ somebody to hit me with a stick?

    Anyway, the photos of Kyoto look amazing! And the guest meal…ugh. Yum.

    • I knowwww. The meal came out, and it was huge. All the other kids had trouble finishing it… but I downed it in about 15 minutes. That’s my way!~
      The stick actually works! A lot of kids, afterwards, wanted to get hit again. Meditation is hard, though… I definitely could not empty my mind the whole time.

      • I am a very bad person. When I read “The meal came out, and it was huge.” in your above reply, I thought, “VVYYY! This is an innocent blog that children could read! How could you talk about what the meal looked like after-?!… … …. OOOOOOHHHHHHHHH. By the way, I found Ezio from Assassin’s Creed in this post, along with the Kingdom Hearts characters. Yeah, references!

        • I have also just recently picked up meditation! I already liked sitting down on a couch thinking about nothing, so I thought I might meditate. For me, if I try to think dumb (I mean really, really dumb; Patrick Star dumb), then I can be more relaxed and get distracted less.

        • HAHAHAHAHA THAT IS ACTUALLY HYSTERICAL. Even when I try to keep my blog PG-rated I unconsciously slip in innuendos! 😛
          YOU ARE CORRECT! I love Assassin’s Creed and Kingdom Hearts! Such great game series.

  2. A good method to help you meditate is to count to ten. If something pops into your head, start over. I have never made it to ten, and I think anybody who can probably meditates too much :p.

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