Slowing Down in Sri Lanka

“Learning Not to Get Hung Up on Hangers”




The primary reason for heading to Sri Lanka was a 10-day Vipassana meditation course offered at Dhamma Kuta, a former tea plantation in the lush foothills outside of Kandy. Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation.¬†Our introduction was an intense crash course involving 17-hour days of mental exercise, working to improve the mind-body connection in order to facilitate a more mindful, peaceful, and joyful existence. At least this is what we were told. We were going in with few preconceived notions on the subject or the method other than genuine curiosity, especially about the prospect of not speaking to each other (or anyone) for 10 days.

We gave ourselves a little more than a week prior to the course to ease into a more meditative state while exploring a few Sri Lankan hot spots. Despite the SW monsoon, we still opted for the southern coast and hill country over the more remote NE. We had plenty of time to think about what’s next amidst a backdrop of lumbering train rides, Dutch colonial architecture, expansive tea plantations, gentle elephants, and vibrant curries infused with smells of coconut, cardamom, and cinnamon. We were less focused on what’s next on the list to see, more on what’s next after these travels. And we carried this question with us into the course.

imageIt was a long 10 days. At first it dragged, as we were unsure of exactly what we were doing. As we finally began to understand the process and see results, time just passed, calmly, slowly. In the end, we took away a lot. Trying to summarize it here would risk sounding too abstract, too removed from daily life.

But I do have a practical yardstick to measure my change. Before leaving on this trip, I handed over (‘loaned’) most of my clothing to Jas. I made a list of every item so that I wouldn’t lose a single piece, and on that list I wrote down the exact number of hangers that accompanied my clothing. Simple $2.99 TJ Maxx hangers, nothing special, but those were my hangers and I needed to retain every last one of them. In the words of a wise monk, I was an unpaid security guard.

I no longer have an attachment to those hangers. Jas can keep them. In fact, she can keep any item of clothing she wants. Being aware of and giving up craving is a key step to happiness. Letting go of hangers is just a small step, but small steps can eventually lead to big returns.