scared thrilled scared thrill scared thrilled

I find most things in life both scary and thrilling. I suppose I should hope it's always this way, but sometimes it feels like an awful lot of work.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Bad Buddhist

I'm not a Buddhist, but there have been a few moments in my life so far where i tried to be one. I don't know much about buddhism, but from what i've heard one of the things to do as a buddhist is to dissasociate yourself from the needs and wants of your physical body. To be able to detach in a way, and to watch yourself experiencing rather than experiencing yourself. Ok, I just displayed my ignorance of Buddhism. There.
1. 14 years old. Deep in a labyrinthine system of caves in a damp Belizean jungle. I was lying on my back shuffling through a tiny passage into a large room below. The bats from below, annoyed at my attempt to enter their guano-filled resting grounds, decided to vacate the premises en masse, using the only way out, my way, as their route of escape. The passage was so tight there was not room for them to fly past my prone body, rather, they formed neat rows and, starting from my toes, scurried with their little clawed feet all the way up my legs, over my torso, over my face and onto my head from where they were free to flap flap flap away. I think there were a million of them or something like that.
2. Twenty something years old. lying prone on the floor with my cousin Jonah covering my nearly nude body with papièr maché, piece by sticky wet piece. He covered my from head to toe. Over eyes and mouth and nose. I head two straws jammed up my nostrils for breathing.
In both cases I had successful dissassociation experiences. Both times I felt myself bginning to stress, the pressure and anxiety building and threatening to burst. And in both instances I chose instead to watch the experience rather than feel it. And it totally worked! I hear the US Marines (hooo ahhh or something like that) also do this kind of pain is your friend stuff... is that right?
Last night I tried again with... pretty poor results. I went last night to a Hammam, just a block down the street from the home of my gracious hosts, here in the old Medina of Marrakech, Morocco. This was not your package tour spa-type Hammam. Rather it serves the community as their regular bath. Few local homes in the Medina have baths or showers, so people go regularly to the Hammam. Essentially a Hammam is a series of typically three tiled rooms filled with steam and buckets of water, each room hotter than the next. Men and women go to Hammam at different hours of course, so when I went it was filled with men and boys of all ages. I went with a friend of my hosts, Abdu Raheem, who spent an hour scraping, and beating, massaging and pulling me in all directions. He had help from a bunch of little boys too and there were times where I had no less than four people yanking and slapping and kicking and standing on me, making kissy noises when the moves were most intense. I felt like I was melting away onto the tile floor, floating in rivulets through the griddled grout and into the gutters. And that was all great. But then came the Berber acid. As I laid on my stomache AR spread some kind of foul smelling powder all over my back and arms. The pain was instant. Like a scorching fire, or a bush of nettles or seriously some kind of acid, like the kind that gave the joker his smile. I actually wondered if he had grabbed the wrong bottle from under the kitchen sink and considered asking him if he could see my bones through my skin yet, when the real pain began. I have always believed that I have a high pain tolerance. Granted I've only really heard this from my mum and I have a sneaking suspicion this may be a mother's trick to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of toughness in their winiest kids... but my belief in my own tolerance plus my wonderful success as a Buddhist Jedininja in the two occasions above had me convinced I could dissasociate from any reasonable amount of pain. Either the pain of scalding water poured on that crazy Acid de Berber was unreasonable or I am a big wimp because in that moment pain and I were as associated as... French people and baguettes... or choose your own other close association. No matte how intently I tried to concentrate on removing myself from the situation, on watching the pain rather than feeling it, I was forced back with each splash into the present. Soon the only thing I could think was that I'd gone to hell and Lucifer himself was poking me in the back with that three pronged stick pitchfork he's always carying... It was inTENSE.
Of course I totally love the experience. Thanks to Abdu Raheem for not taking it easy on me... or at least making me think that he wasn't (scary thought). I kept wishing my brother the chiropractor to be had been there to see the beating. He would've freaked.

Time to go. I need to hit the souk to pick up food for supper. Take care out there.


At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought that I had had an authentic Hammam experience, but apparently I was wrong. I was mostly just confused that they scrubbed me raw and then coated me in the foulest smelling "mask" imaginable. It cost extra, and I'm still conviced I was had. Glad to hear that all of your pores have been scoured with acid. I am sure you are a very clean boy. Deb.

At 7:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i believe the phrase is "boooo-yaaah" ;-p sounds like you are looking forward to reading your other (mis)adventures.

tally ho,

At 3:04 AM, Blogger Lirun said...

i think i went to that hamam - took one look and left - is it kind of dark and dingey and do you have to walk to the back of the building?

visiting a great hamam in casablanca and another one in a really wealthy area of marakesh - was a 20 minute taxi ride from the dark and dirty one..

i contemplated going in to the first one.. but i never made it in..


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