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Published: November 17th 2010
It is out of focus. And tilted a bit Dammit. So close. And yet it is still my favorite of this bunch. The colors. Oh, the colors.
From Angkor Wat.
Angkor and BFCE - Revealed
I like songs and tunes that has an Oomph. It is when they let they let the music almost die out only to increase the intensity in one almost violent blast. Winding down and then all of a sudden give it full throttle again. That is an Oomph. Of course this is just the name it has in my head. I'm sure there is a more scientific name for it, but it will always be Oomphs to me.
I'm a sucker for Oomphs. Like in "Fly" and "Gorecki" by Lamb. Or "Regrettable" by Red Snapper. Even "Fly on the Wings of Love" by the Olsen Brothers had a very nice one towards the end and I'm sure that it was because of that Oomph that they won the Eurovision Song Contest. An Oomph is just a sequence of soundwaves pretending to be an orgasm so no wonder they appeal to us.
It is when life deals me an Oomph that I feel that rush of happiness and fulfilment that makes it all worthwhile. Like when after the nightmare of Kuta I found myself onboard the Embaku (See "Heaven on Earth"). Or
just from the realization that I'm travelling Southeast Asia with no particular plan after what seems like an eternity of working at CCI. But you don't have to go far. That first day of spring in Denmark when all the smells change. Or later in May when you first go into a beech forest and see all the crispy green leafs caressing your soul. Those are all Oomphs.
That is exactly what Angkor is. An Oomph. It is so insanely big and beautiful that you just cross your fingers that your soul and your camera can keep up. I spent a day recalibrating after our trip to Preah Vihear. Writing the blog and just wandering around Siem Reap. Winding down.
But when I the following day rented a bicycle and went for the big circuit in Angkor I got the full impact of this fantastic place. Angkor Wat itself is so massive that I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much if I hadn't have had it mysteriously to myself. There was almost nobody else there as I was walking around the inner temple. Little me in all of that.
I rode further north to Bayon and
Baphoun, but it was Preah Khan
that really made me fall in love with this place. Beauty everywhere. The combination of the jungle and the crumbling temple was so magical that it feels wrong to try to describe it. An insult to put it into words.
I have no idea how many temples I saw that day. It ended with a stupid race to a temple on a hill where the sunset was fantastic but for the first time ever my 40D camera was acting up and I didn't even get any photos. And then it started raining and I raced back to Siem Reap.
The following day Soluy was back in town and we met early in the morning to go out on another adventure (See "Crazy Cambodia"). She started like a bat out of hell. Flying on her bicycle through town, and for a while I was afraid that she would be able to keep that pace. She keeps saying "Live for nothing - or die for something" but finally she sort of died a bit. We have seen a few temples already and been up a hill that made me sweat uncontrollably but then
There were hardly anyone else at Angkor Wat. I must have been really lucky.
she got lost. We were supposed to go north and I saw the sun right in front of us and for the first time I really proved to her that I am not just something you drag along. With the help of my navigation skills, the compass on my Iphone and LP's map we realized that we were going in the wrong direction. Big victory 😊
We backtracked and went up to Banteay Srei which is an astonishingly beautiful temple. The stone carvings are even more delicate than in the other temples. So refined.
I had come up with some numbers. Soluy finds Danish people sort of rude because we don't say "Thank You" all the time. So that became #1. Rather than saying it all the time I could just say "Number One". And then we expanded on that:
#1: Thank You
#2: I'm Sorry
#3: I Love You
#4: You're crazy
#5: I will never forget you
#6: You're welcome
#7: My Pleasure
At first she hated the idea, but after a while she realized how efficient our conversation would be. I am always proud to spread a bit of Danish efficiency. I could
throw her a quick #4, #2, #3 and everything was fine again. I can recommend this idea to every married couple!
As we were racing back towards Angkor we were sort of running out of time and it started raining. Badly. Soluy had promised me that we would see Ta Prohm, but even though we had been driving really quickly we didn't reach it before the heavens opened above us and we had to seek shelter. Sweet Soloy tried to keep me dry, giving me her plastic poncho and everything but we were soaked and still a few kilometers from Ta Prohm. So there we sat and I could sort of see one of the highlights fading away. And we called in the cavalry. A tuk-tuk that picked us up as the rain was fading and then I told her that we should go to Ta Prohm regardless of how wet we were and how little light was left. All smiles.
Ta Prohm is otherworldly. Very close to Angkor Wat itself but almost consumed by the jungle. The walls seemed almost embraced by the trees, eaten by the jungle and because it was late and the torrential rain
Angkor Wat is not just big and impressive. It is in fact really delicate and the beauty is in the details.
we had it almost to ourselves. Soluy acted as a tripod, letting me rest my camera on her head to try to get some photos in the fading light. She held the umbrella as well. What a girl.
We went back to town and got a shower and some dry clothes on and met again for dinner and a massage. #1, #3, #5.
So I got to the airport and flew through KL to Jakarta. In order to go through BFCE.
So what is BFCE. Well, it is a 10 day Vipassana meditation course. That probably is a bit a bit underwhelming considering how secretive I've been about it, but let me try to explain why that is such a massive challenge to me.
First of all I am a skeptic to say the least. Rationality and Reason are my favorite words, the very core of all my convictions. And meditation quite frankly seems or at least seemed to be quite contrary to this. But the seed for this experience was planted a while ago and has been watered several times since. And I remember exactly how it started.
It was in
2006 and I was sitting alone in a restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, getting fed and entertaining myself like on so many other evenings on CCI trips with a book. Many of my books have stains that serve almost like an almanac of pasta dishes from all over the world. A small smear of Veal Piccata from 46th street in NYC. A blot of Garlic Shrimp Fettuccine from Scarborough Beach in Perth. A blood stain from a crappy steak from crappy Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. The pages of brilliant thoughts all tarnished by tomato sauce from Applebees, TGI Friday's or Cheesecake Factory.
Anyway. I am digressing. The book I was reading was the amazing "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris and I was about to read one of the last chapters. So far the book had been one long attack against faith in general and Christianity and Islam in particular. Not just on the radical forms of these religions, but also on the role that the moderate forms play in preserving and maintaining the radical forms. You know, the stuff I have spent so many years studying in my spare time. But the chapter I was reading was quite
The Bayon temple features these giant faces on its towers.
different. He started talking about spirituality and how that is the Atheist's interest in the mysteries of existence. Fine, I have adopted that term ever since. It brilliantly describes my search for a meaning. But then he started talking about meditation. How that has been a tool for many peoples spiritual searches and a rewarding one as well.
I was actually quite annoyed. Until then I would more or less gladly have had my name on that book cover, but this just seemed ridiculous. Meditation seemed so far fetched. Was he actually implying that I would need to sit crosslegged for hours on end to get a fuller understanding of myself? That I would need to feel energy streaming through me and some weird connectivity with the universe. Please Mr. Harris. Where did all the talk about the immense powers of reason just go?
So that was that for a while. On the trip to Bhutan I was fortunate to enjoy the company of Lady Helle. A refined woman in every way. She did mention her meditation a few times, but it wasn't until we meet in Bruxelles last spring and she told us that she was going
for a ten day retreat somewhere in Switzerland that I was intruiged. Ten days of meditation and absolute silence. Self-discovery. And that was all that she told. She didn't try to sell it at all. There was no "You should try it yourself" or "It is the most amazing thing". No, she just mentioned that she was going and I could see in her eyes that she was really looking forward to it.
That is the best way to get my attention. The perfect pitch. The ideal commercial would be one that hinted at how fantastic the product was but implied that it would most likely not be something for me. That it was too good for me or even worse - that I wasn't worthy of it. That would send me shopping in an instant. Let me in to your secret club. Well, as long as it is not tampons or something like that.
Still it wasn't until I met Angie on that boat to Nong Khiaw in Laos that I finally realized that I have to try it myself. She also simply told me about her experience and not even once did she suggest that I
should try it as well. She had some flyers that wiped out some of the mystery about it all and the fact that Vipassana meditation is detached from any sort of religion was the last piece of convincing I needed.
So I am going to a small place outside Jakarta to spend ten days learning new things about myself. But again, why is that such a big challenge. Well it will be a massive test both physically, mentally and spiritually.
The physical part is pretty obvious. Sitting cross-legged for about ten hours a day without moving a muscle and only a few short breaks in between doesn't sound like something my legs and knees in particular is going to respond to very well. A few hours in an Indonesian bus is plenty to make them cramp up quite badly. Angie said that it was down-right painful at first, but that the meditation itself involves the realization that that pain is only passing and something to be ignored. But I can take quite a bit of pain, so that part should be OK.
The mental part is trickier.
There are five rules that I
My First Day favorite
Preah Khan is in very bad shape as the jungle has been eating at it, but that makes it even more magical.
will have to follow
1. to abstain from killing any being
2. to abstain from stealing
3. to abstain from all sexual activity
4. to abstain from telling lies
5. to abstain from all intoxicants
On top of that is the Noble Silence. 10 days without speaking or any other form of communication. No facial expressions, no laughing, no gadgets or Internet. Nothing. That is going to be a challenge. Angie told me how weird she and her fellow course participants got towards the end. I have certainly not tried anything like that before and I really have no idea how I will react. You can see all of the rules here: RULES
And then there is the spiritual part. I will probably be confronted with quite a few things during the lectures that I will find in total contrast to my existing worldview or understanding of myself. But that is the purpose of this. To not just try to be a little more open-minded, but to try to kick in the door. At least for ten days 😊
I just spoke with Cathy. Well, I don't know her either, but she is going to pick
me up today and drive me to the center. Everything is of course free of charge. You do this ten-day course without paying for anything at all. It is all funded by donations by people who have already done it, and Cathy is a returning student who love the experience so much, that she wants to pick me up so that I can get a share of it.
I have never been on such thin ice and felt so safe at the same time.
And to the concerned ones. Yes, I am on Java. but the Merapi volcano is 500 km away and not a problem at all. I am just going to be sitting still for ten days 😊
In the very first entry I sort of promised that this blog would be quite self-absorbed at times. Well, I can promise that the next entry will live up to that.
The quiz was a tremendous failure, but Henrik actually got so close that he deserves a prize. Congratulations!
Burn like a good bonfire
Some have asked for my overall plan. Well so far it is pretty simple.
10 days meditation and then I will fly to Manado on Sulawesi. Some diving on Bunaken, Lembeh and/or the Togean Islands and then I will head home, unless something dramatic happens. My Indonesian visa will expire on the 15th of December, so I will probably be home on the 16th or something like that. Probably.
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