We walked into the Sokpaluang Temple and right away I noticed a group of schoolchildren, about six or seven years old, who were there to learn the meditation practice as well. I engaged in a ten-minute non-verbal conversation with them, involving quite a bit of smiling, pointing and eventually photo-taking. The children scampered off for their own learning, and we from the conference met three teachers.
I marveled at one of the teacher’s perfect English, a Lao from Australia. He instructed that as we listened to the noises around us — people cooking, talking, moving around as well as the loud sounds of people hammering and sawing in the nearby construction — we should “know” these noises and not “ignore” them but also not internalize the sounds and instead simply focus on our breathing. As a psychiatrist, I found these instructions fascinating from the standpoint of knowing and recognizing these sounds and not ignoring them as we focus on the task at hand. In America, there is not a lot of knowing and there is a lot of ignoring of the cluster munitions problem as we focus on our own issues at hand; as the monk instructed, we ought to become aware of the issues that surround us to the point that we can know about these problems, not ignore them and focus on solving them.
Our group was taught three forms of meditation: sitting, standing and walking. In our group were an Italian woman — a Buddhist well-versed in meditation —, three people who physically could not walk — the monk was calm and smiled, saying this did not matter for executing the walking medication, it is all simply in the mind —, and many novices to meditation.
We were also instructed to be mindful and focus on the now, for the entire day. While one ought to have goals for the future, these goals ought to be carried out in a way such that your actions are executed in the present. This is a lesson I hope will be carried out throughout the Convention.