Monday, November 28, 2011

My Meditation Journey - Bali Usada Tapa Brata 3

Tapa Brata 3 2011

835 days had passed since I started my meditation journey by attending Bali Usada Tapa Brata 1 in Cisarua, Indonesia. Now the journey continued by going to Bali Usada Tapa Brata 3 that was held in Baturiti,

Before starting the course, I was feeling a bit nervous because I heard from earlier attendants that it was quite hard. They said that every sitting was around three hours and there were sittings from 4AM to 9.30 PM. When we arrived at the center, I saw the schedule….Aah it was not that bad! Although there were seven sittings in a day, each sitting lasted maximum 1.5 hours. I was so relieved and my feeling of confidence returned. Yes, I could do 1.5 hours…no sweat! So, to my meditation friends who hesitates to take TB3 because of the length of each sitting, have no fear!

I am not going to bore you with the details about my day-to-day experience during the retreat, but I will tell you more about interesting things that happened, the lesson I learned and my feelings after the retreat.


On Day 8, I felt really hard to focus. I couldn’t hold onto my meditation object, the flow of the breath going in and out. I was distracted by the sound of a wall clock going tick tock, tick tock. I tried to focus on the breath, but somehow my breath followed the rhythm of the clock, tick –breathing in, tock – breathing out. I was actually panting instead of having my breath slowing down. I tried to focus back on the natural flow of my breath, but the same thing went on and on. Even when I tried to slow down the breath, my breath still followed the rhythm of the clock, tick-tock-tick – breathing in, tock-tick-tock – breathing out.

During 7PM sitting, I could not stand it anymore. I felt so frustrated and I could feel the rush of anger mixed with despair and hopelessness swelling up in my chest. I got up and I went out of the meditation hall. Even after I went out of the room, I could still hear tick tock tick tock all over the place! I could not hold it anymore, I hastened back to my room and I just cried and cried and cried! After about 5 minutes or so, I started to calm down. I stopped crying and I went down stair to seek Mr. Merta Ada for a consult. I felt so much better about the consultation and he suggested taking down the clock in the meditation hall. The next day I took down the clock and my sitting sessions on Day 9 were so much better.

I found that I was easily influenced, distracted and annoyed by monotone sound like the sound of the clock or metronome. I hope I can train my mind to overcome this obstacle better in the future.

Silly Fear and Quirk

We had a 2-hour break at noon, so I usually tried to rest and sleep until 1.45PM. It was usually raining around these times. I used to enjoy sleeping when it was raining outside, but during the retreat, I had an extreme fear of the rain. I could not sleep well and I often woke up suddenly feeling so worried. I felt as if something bad was going to happen. I think this was caused by past trauma when my house’s ceiling crashed down on top of my work station and library earlier this year. You can read the story about it here

Another quirk was the need to go to the bathroom over and over again just before going into a sitting period. I could go to the bathroom twice within 5 minutes. Once again, I think it was related to past trauma. You can read about it here.

Being Happy

During the retreat, we were often reminded to be happy. It was more about enjoying the process rather than desiring result. Sometimes it was not easy to be happy when I felt that I could not hold the object, the feeling of stress and frustration often lingered. Fortunately, I often reminded myself about a story called the two-finger smile in Ajahn Brahm’s book where he went to the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror and just smiled. So I just watched myself in the mirror, putting a silly grin on my face for a few seconds before a sitting session. Hahahaha

Another story about being happy actually happened when a sitting session went really bad. It was an early morning session that started at 4.30AM. I just could not concentrate, my mind drifted so often and I might have fallen asleep a few times. I tried to straightened my posture to overcome it, but I couldn’t hold any object for more than 3-4 minutes. After more than 1 hour in this kind of state, I started to feel a sense of despair and I just wanted to give up, open my eyes and ended the session. Then suddenly in 5 or 10 minutes before the session ended, I could simply let go and I felt one of the happiest moment in my life. I felt so happy realizing in my body that I was the one who had the freedom to choose to be happy, no matter what the result was. It did not matter whether I could or could not hold the object, I could still be happy. This feeling of freedom was quite exhilarating until I could not stop smiling that morning. 

Peace and Harmony

In my personal experience, the most noticeable difference between TB3 and TB12 was the level of peace and calmness. When the breath started to feel so subtle even disappearing, I felt so peaceful and calm, so serene. It was such a beautiful feeling. I even did not know there could be such feeling of peace because I’ve never experienced it before TB3. The feeling of peace was so expansive, it was like on top of the highest mountain and I could see and feel everything and there was no horizon, no boundary, it was simply unlimited.

I thought this feeling of peace could only be felt during a sitting session, but I was wrong. When I arrived at Jogja airport last Saturday night. There were so many people in the arrival hall because there were 2-3 flights landed almost at the same time. There were only two baggage belts, so a lot of people crowded around the baggage belt, even jostled each other to get their luggage. Somehow, although I was in this kind of situation, my mind was so peaceful. It was calm like a lake water, so tranquil and serene, that even if stones were thrown into the water, it would not have disturbed the stillness of the water. I was actually quite surprised to discover that I was able to feel this state of peace and harmony in the midst of chaos. 

All these beautiful feelings were just a tip of the iceberg because I did not even ‘succeed’ in this retreat. I can’t help but wonder if these feelings were wonderful already, what will the bliss feel like? It has to be the most beautiful feeling ever! I hope I have the chance to feel it in my lifetime.


Finally, I want to thank Mr. Merta Ada, Mr. Agus and Mr. Budi for their guidance during the course. I want to thank all my meditation buddies who travelled this TB3 journey together with me…you are all so awesome! I also want to thank everybody who was involved in making this journey possible! Thank you!

To: my meditation friends. If you have the opportunity and the time to do TB3, please do so. It is a wonderful process to go through. The journey may not be smooth, it may be going up or down, but it is definitely a journey worth taking! I hope we can continue this journey together…May all beings be happy!

Learn and Grow!