The two long LED lights of the dorm start glowing a few minutes before 4am. My head feels frozen in the short route to the meditation hall. I touch it gently and it is so strange to touch this part of my skin, usually hidden by hair, so sensitive and unknown, I can hardly connect it to the rest of my body.
It is my first day in the monastery during Thingyan, the main Buddhist holiday in Myanmar. This is when many monasteries open the doors allowing people to ordain temporarily as monks and nuns.
Ordination starts with hair shaving followed by a public ceremony including the assignment of a new name, a lecture explaining disrobing offenses and changing clothes to the new robe. My new name, Ma Armara, the Immortal One, makes me immediately perceive myself as a new person. Lost in my new multi-layered pink clothes, once I get over my initial shyness and start moving my eyes away from the ground I suddenly realize that I’m observed- constantly and shyly- by everyone.
There is absolute silence in the mediation hall. A dog barks far away and is quickly joined by others in a chorus of howls that suddenly stop as if ordered by an orchestra director. We all sit motionless, eyes closed, in the lotus position.
As I try to share my experience with others in the monastery, I realize that we are all the same, we all feel exactly the same despite coming from two different worlds. As I struggle with myself, trying to calm my brain, trying not to feel the back and leg pain, trying not to feel the hunger - I ask myself what has brought me here. The desire to be part of a story that I want to tell, an enquiry in the spiritual world of my new home, a search for the essence, simplicity, minimalism. A personal test.