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Photo by Kendall Marianacci, Nepal Semester.

Why Meditation is so Painful, Mountain Hospitality, and Banana Swimsuits

Welcome to my Yak!  I imagine my surprising title dragged you in and you’re probably wondering: What could Nepal have to do with painful meditation, mountain hospitality, and banana trunks?  Well, the heart of this post is as exciting as you’re expecting.  It’s about, drumroll please… poetry!

On one of the first nights in Chokati, we congregated on a rooftop for a poetry session led by our sweet Rishidai. Over and hour-long period with the sun setting over the Chokati valley, we sat and wrote.  In Rishi’s words, our pencils were like “machetes,” continuously cutting our pages with whatever words and thoughts came to our mind.  We let it all flow.

For me, the inspiration of that session has fueled a poetry escapade that has taken over my journal all week.  However, I don’t think I’ve finished a complete poem since 4th grade.  Therefore, the poems below I’ve written this week are somewhere between the quality of a ten-year-old and nineteen-year-old.  I’ll let you decide and hope you enjoy them.

WHY IS MEDITATION SO PAINFUL?

Feet uncomfortable, knees aching, and in my back a burning sensation.

What am I doing?  You guessed it, meditation.

Sitting cross-legged, I should be calm and peaceful

and yet I can’t help but wonder, why is this so painful?

All I’m doing is sitting.  No jumping, lifting, or sprinting.

So why does it feel like my entire body is failing?

Clenching my core, I desperately try not to fall back.

It’s clear to me now how much flexibility I lack.

It’s usually something I’m able to ignore or disregard

but as I sit for the longest 15 minutes of my life, doing so is hard.

The last time I touched my toes, the shoes I grasped were size four.

Nowadays, I pray my arms will stretch one, two, five inches more.

When I do the butterfly stretch with my heels together,

I’m completely unable, like a caterpillar without wings to flutter.

Some people are naturally strong or fast.  Me?  Inflexible.

And to be completely honest, in some ways I’m grateful.

First off, I never have to lead stretching circles.  Bullet dodged.

Secondly, standing is always welcome and in Twister I get to judge.

And lastly, I’ve learned from immense inability comes great humility.

So I suppose meditation did reveal something to me.

MOUNTAIN HOSPITALITY

Upon first meeting each other, our introductions are minimal.

No words or handshakes shared, only a smile.  Very simple.

While I’ve known your name for quite some time,

I’m afraid you’ll never come to know mine.

Despite this time together, I’m a mere stranger to you.

A single face among thousands who’ve passed through.

Yet you are a perfect host.

You guide me across streams that echo forever

and I follow you through one field of flowers after another.

You show me beautiful meadows with countless aspen trees

where all I see in every direction are whites, blues, and greens.

When my lungs ache, you are there for me,

offering a rock to sit on and the purest air to breathe.

When I slow or stop walking, you do too.

Never pressuring, ever patient with me admiring the views.

By late morning, dark clouds come in, telling me to turn around.

So you guide me down, your trees blocking the rain from me on the ground.

I’d hoped to see you at your best, your peak in the air,

and grasp the entirety of your power, grace, and endless layers.

But today is not that day, and our journey comes to an end.

I’ll be back again my friend, and we’ll do it all again.

BANANA SWIMSUIT

I put on my banana swimsuit and damn do I feel free

because on the lake we don’t have to wear Dress B.

Aligning my nametag and shining my shoes doesn’t cross my mind

because on the lake we leave all those worries behind.

Why? Because I’m on permit.

Permit has no such thing as “daily uniform regulations,”

so Cal, Jake, and I rock our matching trunks, repping banana nation.

On permit, we don’t wear Dress A or B we wear Dress C

where C stands for “care I do not let me be me.”

Permit is a haven where I’m not a military cadet but a regular teen

who wears banana trunks with his best friends on Lake Maxinkuckee.

Yet I know by 8 o’clock we have to return to campus,

putting back on those uniforms, ending our hiatus.

And yes, it’s true that I have graduated,

and from Dress B and these rules been liberated.

But nowadays my banana trunks don’t feel the same,

they’re no longer freeing, regal, or boosting my mad game.

They no longer express my own individuality

but instead represent a poor sense of fashionability.

They’re not worn next to my best friends but instead in isolation,

merely portraying an exaggerated Mariokart fascination.

I miss my liberty trunks, the ones of brotherhood and solidarity.

I guess for the best things in life, you have to deal with crap like Dress B.

The only thing left for me to do now is, per Rishi’s command, to “memorize it.”