Meditation Adventure in Myanmar

I jolt awake at 4:00 am. Consciousness dawns through the darkness of my sleeping mind. The brash clanging of a gong outside my tiny room’s tiny window has woken me. It is time to rise for the first day of a ten-day silent meditation retreat in the countryside on the outskirts of Mandalay, Myanmar.

I ease my stiff body up from the wooden pallet bed, push aside the mosquito netting, and splash myself to some semblance of awareness in the bucket shower.


I dress, brush my teeth, and run my fingers through my hair. Like a grey somnambulist, I lumber in the darkness, barely upright, to the Dharma Hall for the first two-hour meditation.

I can’t string three words together at this time of morning—which is fine, because this is a silent retreat—let alone focus and concentrate and meditate with an alert mind. But I can sit on pillows without swaying too much and allow my mind to drift back to semi-consciousness. I will come to call the first morning meditation “upright sleeping time.” Two hours goes by amazingly fast like this.

Throughout the retreat we will practice Buddhism’s five moral precepts and refrain from (1) harming living things, (2) taking what is not given (stealing), (3) sexual misconduct, (4) lying and gossip, and (5) taking intoxicating substances. Seems easy enough. Continue reading