Ajahn Manapo walked with me from the retreat house to the Hermitage, just a 10 minute walk. Once there he gave me the orientation and schedule.
- 5:20 – Morning bell. Walking meditation.
- 6:00 – Morning puja – meditation and chanting.
- 7:00 – Tea.
- 7:30 – Chores.
- 8:15 – Free time.
- 10:30 – Help with meal prep.
- 11:00 – Meal offering. Then Cleanup.
- 3:00 – Work period.
- 4:30/5 – Personal practice. Time for a walk.
- 7:20 – Walking meditation.
- 8:00 – Evening puja.
- 9:00 – Personal practice, bed.
On the night I got there was a dhamma talk after the puja. Ajahn Manapo ended up giving the same talk as one on the retreat. As I was the only one there who’d heard it.
The Forest Hermitage was stricter than the other monasteries I’ve been to. Zero allowables, only one meal a day, etc. It’s quite small as well, which I liked. Only 2 monks, 1 Samenera (Novice) and 1 Anagarika (very beginning of training)
I had more trouble with only one meal during my stay at the Hermitage than I did during the retreat – I tended to take way too much at the meal. Some days feeling very stuffed afterwards. And only managed to even start figuring out the right amount a couple days before I left. Probably because I was excerising and generally more active, running every other day and doing bodyweight excerises on the other days. Thankfully all the food was vegetarian. So I never had to worry about not being able to eat anything.
I had some interesting meditation experiences as well. At one point I sat in the cold in just my T-shirt and pants under a tree. After working throught the sensations of cold (and pain) I focused on the breath, it got subtler and subtler until I felt like I wasn’t breathing at all. Worried, I opened my eyes and took in a big breath. Later on I asked Ajahn Manapo about it and he said not to worry, the body is still breathing, and that it’s actually a good sign.
I also had a lot of trouble at the monastery. For about 4-5 days I was extremely homesick. Missing my family, and my girlfriend, missing my puppy, and my cats. My friends, my house, you name it. Without a phone to talk to any of them (the humans) At one point during my stay, about halfway through, I was feeling really bad and got really fed up with all the rituals and observances that I almost left. But I stayed. And I’m glad I did.
I barely ever talked to the Abbot, Ajahn Khemmadhammo, and have the impression that he didn’t like me much. He seemed kind of cold to me. I did talk to Ajahn Manapo a lot though. As well as the Anagarika, Ross.
My stay at the Forest Hermitage was certainly beneficial. I’m glad I went, I’m glad I stayed. But I’m also glad I left. I’ve started growing a little tired of the amount of bowing and chanting and general devotional practices in this tradition. And am thinking of starting to look for others.