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Published: October 29th 2011
A detail from Viaduct Harbour in Auckland.
Start again. Start Again. With a calm and quiet mind. Alert and attentive mind. Balanced and equanimous mind.
This is how S. N. Goenka begins the instruction sessions in the morning and afternoon during a ten-day Vipassana course and it pretty much explains why I chose to start this trip by sitting down and shutting up for ten days.
But let me start by quickly explaining why I am all of a sudden out in the world again.
I had found a really promising job in a company that I thought was doing well and steadily expanding. I got to travel to exotic places like Iran and Papua New Guinea with another trip to Jamaica lined up. Very nice colleagues and a boss that scored 9 out of 10. So everything was peachy.
That is until we were called to a staff meeting about a month ago. We were told that the company was in serious financial problems and that a substantial number of people would be fired and that a lot of the benefits would be cancelled.
I spent the next couple of days trying to figure out if my heart was still with the job and decided to tell my boss that I volunteered to
World Cup Fever
A giant poster of the Tonga team covered an entire building across the street from my hotel.
be fired if he needed to let someone go from the department. It wouldn't be a catastrophe for me with 3 months severance and a world to explore and all of my colleagues had more blood invested in the company.
A few hours later my boss was fired and that pretty much sealed the deal for me. He would have been the one I would have trusted to be able to carry the department forward and it just seemed a bit pointless to stick around. I have been through so many cut-backs at CCI and just couldn't muster the energy to go through another one in a company that I had just joined.
Unfortunately they wouldn't fire me. Said, that I would be very important when moving forward and other nice things, but my mind was made up and I decided to hand in my resignation.
Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam Part II
My first thought was to use this unexpected opportunity to go travelling again and to start with a Vipassana course. A quick survey on dhamma.org and I found a course starting a little over a week later in New Zealand and then the plan was
A couple of very dedicated fans waiting for the "All Blacks" to board their team bus and head to Eden Park for the game.
more or less done.
It was a bit tricky to get plane tickets that would take me to Auckland in time, but it worked out and after 40 hours of travelling I met Neale, my driver, outside the airport. He was a fun introduction to the Kiwis. A farmer turned shuttle bus driver he lived up to the stereotype of a narrow-minded, racist, sheep-shagging bigot, but since I have the right skin-color he took a liking to me. He gave me an update on the Rugby World Cup being played in NZ at the time and I realized that the course would end on the day of the final and that the All Blacks (the NZ team) only had a semifinal between them and potential home-ground triumph.
The course was tougher the second time around. I have described my first experience with Vipassana in detail (See Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam
) and this time didn't have the excitement to it of breaking new ground within myself.
Don't get me wrong. It was the ideal way of leaving the worries and frustrations from Denmark behind and I am still amazed of the revelations and complete focus that Vipassana meditation brings.
Let There be Noise
Everybody seemed to try to welcome me back to normality with a virtual bombardment of the senses.
is however also incredibly tough work and at the same time insanely boring. The few rest periods leave all the meditators with time on their hands and nothing purposeful to do (apart from laundry). Around day 6 I began to entertain myself with observing the others. An extreme interest in botany seems to affect everybody. Every flower, bush and giant fern can be examined with absolute interest. Walking barefoot in grass is a big hit as well. Making small sculptures out of clay also became a hobby.
James took the price. He was the guy sitting next to me in the Dhamma hall and he wore a hoodie at all times for the first 9 days. It wasn't until day 6 during an interview with the assistant teacher that I got a quick peek at his face.
Just before the last meditation sitting before the Noble Silence was lifted, I was walking back to my room and found James hard at work in the bushes. He had decided that this was the time to remove a large thistle (da: tidsel). With an UMBRELLA! He actually managed to dig it out, but that is what 9 days of absolute
Of all the variations of facepainting this Silver Fern was by far the most popular and age didn't matter a thing.
silence will do to you 😊 I fled into my room and laughed into my pillow.
I still have issues with the food. It is vegetarian and I have to admit that I physically felt fantastic after just 5-6 days on a healthy diet. But so far I just can't think of a fully convincing reason to abandon the sweet joys of devouring something that was cute when it was a baby.
Maybe the herbal teas didn't help either. I NEVER drink that crap outside of a Vipassana center, but there really isn't that much choice when there and it sort of adds to the experience. Here is a list of some of the teas we were treated with:
Green Tea - No problem there.
Peppermint - Toothpasty.
Spearmint - Toothpastier.
Fennel (Da: Fenikkel) - Yuck.
Red Bush Tea - The taste left me with one question: Does the drapes match the carpet? (I apologize for the images this will bring to those who get that joke 😊
Liquorice - Would have been fantastic if it had tasted anything like liquorice.
Rosetip (Da: Hyben) - Noteworthy for its complete lack of flavor or frangrance.
Nettle tea (Da:
A surprising number of Frenchmen had made the trip around the world to support their team. I had no idea they cared about rugby at all. These guys took the ridicule up-front.
brændenælde) - Are you kidding me???
As an old student I was not allowed to eat after noon. At the evening "tea" we were treated with hot water with lemon and ginger and some honey that we could add to the mix. I have to admit that I really liked this weird concoction.
Day 10 is wonderful. The silence is broken and replaced by what Mr. Goenka calls "Noble Chattering". All of a sudden I got to know a bit about the people I had been surrounded by and it also helps you transition back to the outside world.
I couldn't get in contact with Neale the Driver, so I got a lift with James back to Auckland and checked into a nice hotel. I just needed a bit of luxury to prepare myself for travelling around the country. I also immediately felt that the city was in a state of tense anticipation. The All Blacks had won their semifinal and the preparations for the final that very same night had begun. 12 hours before the game people had already started queuing at some of the big-screen venues and fantastic costumes and war-paint was
A mixed group of frogs and kiwis screaming their respective national anthems and hugging and high-fiveing each other.
being worn by young and old.
I really, really don't care about rugby. The final that night was the first time I had ever watched an entire game and even though I had been studying the rules on wikipedia during the day, I couldn't really get exited about the game. What did get me exited was however the enthusiasm of the Kiwis.
Rugby is big in NZ. Very BIG. Neale openly admitted that it is the only thing that they are really good at. So winning a world cup on their own turf was a dream come true. And they did win. 8-7 against France and then the celebration started. It was getting close to midnight and I had been awake since 2 in the morning, but I made my way down to Queens Street which was the center of the celebrations. Thousands upon thousands of people and all of them were happy. Quite simply happy.
A happy maori can be a little intimidating. Especially if they spot an unsuspecting foreigner like myself. They did a bit of Haka
until they could see that I was about to crack and then all of a sudden they would
Hare Krishna Happiness
The tiny group of Hare Krishnas must have had their best day ever. Normally their enthusiastic singing is viewed with a significant measure of suspicion, but on this day they were spontaneously joined by equally happy kiwis.
burst out laughing and give me a giant hug. After the third time I was kind of enjoying this. It felt like that wonderful day in '92 when Denmark won the European Cup, except this time I wasn't really part of the ecstacy.
The following day I went to see the victory parade through Auckland. The 18-25 year old must have been horizontal with hangovers but everybody else seemed to be back to celebrate their heroes. This was repeated in Christchurch the following day and the news were flooded with stories on how this brought a bit of joy to a town that has been devastated by earthquakes in the past year. Amazing what sports can do.
I have rented a small blue Ford Focus and will be travelling around the country for a couple of months. I left Auckland by getting deliberately lost and then let my Ipad guide me to Raglan - a small surfer town a couple of hours south where I have met up with Katka that I met on Mount Sinabung the day before it erupted last year (See Volcanoes and photos
. Great to see a familiar face and get some time to lay some
Named after its license plate and ability to weave along the NZ country roads, the EEL is my trusted steed on this journey. Well, that is until I get a chance to swap it. The CD player goes crazy after the first 5-6 songs on every CD and it is driving me nuts.
Burn Like a Good Bonfire
P.S. It took a while to find a proper Internet connection to publish this. I have moved on since Raglan and today I really fell in love with NZ. More will follow.
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