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During my national service as an infantry between 95-97 and even reservist (another 10 continuous years), I had been to countless number of forests, both local and overseas. For overseas training, had been to Thailand’s forest at Kanchanaburi, Brunei’s Temburong Jungles and Taiwan’s mountainous forest.  It was our playground, playing our games there, creating noise, killing the plants as we moved in companies and battalion levels, both men, equipment and vehicles, firing both blanks & live rounds, disturbing the peace by cursing and swearing. At night we were attacked by the mosquitoes infested forest.

We usually stay for a few days or up to a week … imagine the rubbish we created (eat, shit and sleep). So the training grounds in Singapore which is much smaller (Lim Chu Kang Area or Tekong island) stinks like hell even today.

I never appreciate any forests, as there isn’t any good experiences at all, it reminds me of carrying heavy load, lack of sleep, digging of defences at midnight, lots of sweat and suffering… We always bring our weapons into the forest to fight a “fake” war there.

But recently, I learnt it is actually a very peaceful and beautiful place.

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Day 1 (4 Jul)

The Venerable welcomes us, “How was the trip?”,  “Do you get to sleep?”

“Yes some sleep”, I replied

I waked up at around 3:30am as the roads were bumpy. Robin woke up earlier as he had to ensure the bus stops at the right location before travelling all the way to Ipoh. And we arrrived before 6am on the small town call Temoh. The hill we are located, is half surrounded by a Chinese cemetry. ( no pictures, actually i feel like taking a few shots)

“Go give some help in the forest.”

“Sure!”

Upon arrival, we were told to give some support in the forest, building of “kutis” also known as “huts”.  A monk was with us too, together with 2 other workers. Before the trip, I was mentally prepared for anything, treat it as a training exercise! 🙂

So we started carrying the wooden crosses (carrying the heavy cross, and know what is suffering!) , was advice to find the pivot point so it will balance and reduce the weight, about 15kg,  and other planks at the bottom, walked around 30-50 metres up hill. After about 15-20 trips, hands and legs started to ache. My t-shirt was soaked in sweat, more irriated with the mosquitoes bite. Exhausted… we stop for lunch.

Pictures taken on the 3rd day (click to enlarge)

We are not required to have heavy manual work after lunch, as we are taking a meal a day.  What a day!! I wonder if we have more on Day 2, we don’t really call this fun… However have to agree, that nature was in complete harmony with the spiritual tradition for one to be in the forests to contemplate deeply and perfect one’s spirituality.

So we looked forward to the first group sitting meditation at 4 pm, at least we can rest & relax!

3hrs of sitting and watching our breath.. leg cramp, plus backache, after an hour plus for me it starts to get challenging.
Robin is a good meditator, able to sit for 3 hrs without moving.

Most people find it difficult to sit still for 15 mins, thinking of tasks on hand, together with thoughts of the past & what might happen in the future together with the pain that arises. If you can’t change it, if you can’t do anything about it, try to develop equanimity.  We have a “monkey mind”, never in the present moment, that is why we have to train.

The next post is on the most important lesson learnt. Lesson on humility and equanimity on Day 3.

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