There is a restaurant in the old town part of Bari owned by an old lady who opens her restaurant only in the evening, it is like the central meeting place at night for locals, the place is very beautiful at night like a dream. During the day she uses the place to knead and mould pastas. I have not forgotten about this part of pasta process, but I’ve left it for this part as I would like to bring it closer to home, closer to the body. For centuries and up until this day, homemade pastas are made from flour that has to be mixed together and go through the process similar to massage, by hand, before they are cut into the shapes of pastas that they like. Tell me that is suffering or happiness? Eating is like a 24/7 job that you cannot quit for
the rest of your life. Because we are trapped in a body that hungers all the time. We are not physically able to retire from eating at 25, and it is not like we can just eat one meal and it stays in the stomach forever. We consistently have to acquire more and more because our body is like a bucket with a hole. Eat and repeat, eat and repeat. So we are trapped in this same long, tiring routine to knead pasta from 5 in the morning until midday in order to survive, until we die. Tell me, if you were in this situation in Italy, who would you be doing this for? Primarily you would be doing this to just alleviate your own body’s suffering, which requires great energy of suffering for the exchange. However, if you don’t sacrifice that energy then you would have a greater loss of energy. Not only will you have this, but you will also have the suffering from the mind, spirit and soul from hunger, if you do not do it. If you refuse to do it at all, then you die. When you are young, that exchange is ok. But imagine when you are old, your muscles and bones are all achy, your energy is weak, and you are getting increasingly tired but the show must go on. Even if you are old, you cannot stop eating yet, it may take longer but you have to do this. But once you get older, you may turn into a grandmother of 7 children, and you have to do this, not only for yourself but for more bodies. More bodies = the bigger the dough. Tell me, is this more suffering or happiness? Instead of enjoying the time with the children or having extra sleep in bed, you have to sacrifice that time for survival instead. When the children get old they may leave and never return back. Are they a source of your reliance? No. The lady who owns this house has to do this all the time because she has to feed herself, make an income, which means she has to sacrifice more energy to make pasta for the money towards the roof over her head, and like the farmers, pay for the equipment, electricity, water, gas, medicine etc, clothes. This is because of what, she has a body, all of this to tend to the body that has hot and cold, needs protection, food and water etc. If she never has a body, she never has to do this. Here is a picture of the pasta made by a waiter who gets up at 5 o’clock in the morning! So much work to make the famous fresh Italian pasta in Santa Maria di Leuca!
Now I am going to tell you something that will sound even more depressing, about the men who used to work in Presicce.
Presicce is a little town near Lecce which has the highest amount of olive oil factories. If you don’t know what the factories are like, they are located in the underground. It’s not like these men work in a fully lit room, they had to work in the total dark!
I was really starting to feel sorry for these people back in the days as I stepped inside this cold damp work place, that reminded me of something similar to the UK coal mining conditions in the 19thcentury, where men who were white as sheets, alongside horses who worked in the dark, never seeing the daylight. I imagined that the place was hot but the olive oil factory was cold. The tour guide showed us the spots where they would rest, sleep and go to the bathroom. She said that there would be a woman carrying a tray from the outside to serve them food daily. They would be working in this dark place for months on end. Would you even consider paying the price of your body to this extent in exchange of survival? Of course you would back in the day, because you would be encouraged by your family through the letters sent to you, congratulating you on your new job, persuading you to stay in it for as
long as possible. Because why? The outcome from this torture is money, not just a little money like the coal miners in the UK, but a lot of money. So not only is their body in physical torture through this labour, hunger and thirst, but they are also trapped in a world of dark, a prison like existence. Working in somewhere like this is obviously physically risky, but also mentally very challenging. Can you imagine spending most of the waking hours in your lifetime, working in darkness? Not only would you be cut off from daylight and normal social life that most people enjoy; in this high valued job, you will most likely suffer from mental illness as well. This reminds me of what the Buddha said about success. He said ‘There is no success without poverty in this world.’ Poverty does not always mean no money. But we have to labour ourselves, and go through a lot of hardship to get to where we want to be. It is true that many people with ‘glamorous’ jobs were inspired by their parents, who encouraged their children to have that we see in London; having to exploit themselves, sacrificing their social, and sleeping hours for work. Resting and thinking about work. Sleeping and thinking about work. Before beginning work, they had to go through school, work harder than others to prepare for a ‘better life.’ Is it really better? Some even have to turn to cocaine to keep up. If they have period pain, can they take a break? No, they cannot. So the big glamourous houses you see that people have, the fancy cars, did it come from happiness or suffering? Suffering. Even if the fortune was handed down to them, somewhere along the line, a member of their family had worked hard for it. Then there is also the responsibilities that we have, to keep up, bigger house = bigger gas bill, bigger house = more cleaning and so on and so forth. As I stepped out of the factory, I walked towards the houses where people used to live. I went to a ‘poor’ area where many people were living together in a house. They would have many children.
During the day they all had to come outside and hang out because it was too crowded. I presumed that this is where the money was drained, to feed the bodies that have holes, like throwing money down the well to just alleviate the physical suffering. More bodies to look after, equals more responsibility. Think about it, these men who had the job of working down in the olive oil factory, would barely get to see their loved ones. They would have to be parted from them, most of the time. Not only apart, but nobody knows when anyone is going to die or get sick. We dream that we come home from work to spend time with our loved ones, sometimes some of us would never make it back, some aim to work a lot so they could spend the rest of their time in a long break or retirement with their loved ones. However, many of us also never get the chance to fulfil that wish that we desire, as we are in a body that we cannot control, that works against our wishes. Not forgetting, also where is our desire attached to? Our body. A body that can catch a cold when we want to go on holiday, a body that can break bones before we want to go running, that can end our life with cancer, when we want to spend our time with our loved ones the most. It is because we are trapped in the body that is not ours. If our body is ours then on the day that we were born we would be able to say to it don’t break a bone, never get ill, never get cancer, and it will do what we say. It is normal for our body to do this. So we must never feel like we can conquer the body, the body is us. We must look at it as normality and our personal emotions from our jit shall not be any way associated with the body, as it is normal for it to break down in time. It wants to break, then invite it to break, it wants to ache, then let it ache. It wants to get ill, then medicate it, but if it doesn’t work it is ok to stay with it. Never fight it.
However, sickness, disease and pain is already stored in our body, with or without our knowledge, as the Buddha said that ‘Our body is a nest of suffering.’
On the second day of Bari, I did a six hours walking tour with a tour guide who is also a basketballer.
As it was a six hours tour, it made sense that they have paired me up with someone who is healthy! However, as he was walking he was sneezing all the way through. He apologized and said that he had a really bad hayfever. So you see, even the healthiest people around you that you would think are fit and invincible, also suffer from disease and allergies. Is that
suffering or happiness that comes with having a body? Imagine if he walks in a place full of pollution too, he would be as weak as a baby. We walked past a man who also sneezed, I said ‘Hey! He probably has the same as you!’ He said ‘Yes, we are friends.’ Friends, friends of suffering who have a body like ours, and have pain and sickness like us. The Buddha said: ‘There is an elderly hidden in young people, There is pain and sickness hidden in somebody who do not have a disease, There is death hidden in life, All animals should not be reckless in life.’ Nobody gets away from it. No matter how much we take care of our body, there is something. I feel this as a woman, I have my period every month, that is normal. However, I have a condition since I was 18 that I would get diarrhea or poo consistently up to around 8 times a day, when I get my period. Apparantly, my intestine is built close to my sexual organs, which is why I have this problem. This was what I heard from the nurse anyway. Is having your period a happiness or suffering? Every month you expect to have it but don’t know exactly when. It can come when you are least expecting it and you have not got the facilities to put the tampon on. It could begin during a bus journey of a few hours, it can happen when you least expect it. If it comes unexpectedly, for example, it comes very early and you have nowhere to go, you just let it soak into your knickers. You have to risk embarrassment in public. Is that suffering or happiness to put up with that? You have bad period pain. Is that happiness or suffering? Everyone in every gender suffer from the consequences of eating, which is what toilets are for. You have to poo and urinate. Hunger and thirstiness go hand in hand with poo and pee. Many of you don’t notice this because you can walk to the toilet, at home or at work. But if you have a job like a taxi driver, especially in Bangkok, where there is always heavy traffic, you would not even dare to take a sip of water, because you know that alleviating the suffering of hunger and thirstiness has its suffering, consequently needing the toilet. So taxi drivers there normally go thirsty or drink much less than the required amount, as delaying urination is a suffering. Or they just hold their pee for many hours. Is that happiness or suffering? You are ashamed to go to pee because you have customers, or you cannot go to the toilet because you are in the middle of motorway. You risk kidney infection in the future, is that suffering or happiness? Anyway, my period came when I was in Otranto, on the day that I was supposed to go on a five hours boat trip. Luckily it came on in the morning, so I was able to put a tampon in. I also took some paracetamol. On the boat I was fine.
I had another tour afterwards, which was a trekking tour to the Hydro Valley. However just as I came to the meeting point, there was no one there. I waited for a while, until I realized that my guide had abandoned me. After complaining to viator, I went to the old town to have lunch. After lunch, while I was searching for my way home, I experienced what I would call the punishment of eating. I seriously needed a number 2! This symptom was combined with extra force and urgency, due to my period symptoms! So I was seriously explosive! On my google map it said it was 15 minutes to my accommodation! That walk to there seemed like an hour! And so torturous! As I was walking up a narrow path with people around me, I began sweating and thought to myself if I slipped at that moment, ‘Splat! that’s it!’. My world would end there! I hurried myself as fast as I could to the hotel. Just as I got
near my hotel room, an old lady asked me if I could speak German. I couldn’t help myself but brush past her and said ‘No,’ because by that time I could already feel the content on my knickers. I reached the toilet. Phew…. But it was messy. Just as I was looking at it, it reminded me of how ugly our body really is. The first step to train yourself gaiyakatanusti gammatarn (see the dirtiness of the body) is to see the contents that come out of it. Really not nice, and smelly. Those pastas that we obsess over before it entered our stomach has already come out as something that we don’t want to be near, touch or see. Left me a mess also, to clear up too. Thankfully I had bought a good washing powder detergent with me. Can you imagine having bowel incontinence when you are older? Why? Because the body is collapsing all the time. You will gradually notice the things that you were able to use easily in your body becoming harder and harder to use. The chores that you were able to do without thinking, you will take hours doing it as an elderly person. Some of you may even find sleeping difficult once you get older. Because the body is full of things that we cannot control. Even before you see your major organs start to dyfunction, there is the body imbalance that we all have. If you are familiar with pilates exercises, then you would probably know that one of the things that pilates is very famous for is balancing the body. Movements of the body in everyday life is essential, however it also works against us. For example, if you are used to go hiking with one stick in the hand, your body will eventually become lobsided on one side which can cause scoliosis. Imbalance can also be caused by injuries that we have faced from the past, which nobody gets away with. As we did not care to rehabilitate it, the injured muscle is already too weak for the chores, and therefore will use the surrounding muscle to compensate. Over time, as the muscles gets weaker when we get older, the weak muscles can collapse to the point where it suppresses the nerve, and you cannot do anything but use massage, rehabilitation and pilates as your form of relief. Tell me if any of this is happiness or suffering? Pilates lessons can cost 80 GBP an hour. Imagine if it was your profession to overuse your muscles, like a dancer or do something that you have to do laboriously do, in repetitive movements? Even just sitting and typing in the office gives you office syndrome. You eventually have to pay for some form of physical treatment when the symptoms becomes unbearable. Tell me if this is happiness or suffering? Your life is consumed around work because of your body, you don’t have time to take care of your body because of work, you ruin your body because of work. Now you have to pay for pilates classes, with the money that you have earnt from suffering, to relieve the damage that you have done from working. How long does it take for you to do these classes? With the travelling time, you will probably lose three hours of your life maximum. Do you have to do it again? Like eating, yes, and for a few times a week even, and probably for the rest of your life. Why? Because if you stop doing it, your body will collapse and you will have the same problem again. Just like losing weight, does one gym session make you stay like Kate Moss for the rest of your life? No. Your body is like a puppet doll. Hunched back posture needs to be pulled upright from exercise, to keep the body straight. Tight muscles need to be released. The hamstring and glutes need to work in order to keep up with the balance of the quad muscles, to keep away knee injuries. Is correcting these muscles a fun process? No. Is it like sleeping in heaven? No. Even if you enjoy it, can you enjoy it without some discomfort involved? No. I walked into my semi private class at Belsize Studio, when I came back from Italy. It was full of people doing what? They were talking about their imbalances problem, going through pain doing stretching and exercises, and paying for their next classes. They
have to use the money which comes from suffering in a lifestyle that caused them pain to cure that pain, and use pain to correct that pain. We exercise, or what we call ‘look after’ our body for the same reason of losing weight. We are exercising because we know that the body is collapsing all the time. It does not cure, but only slows it down. So much work for just a body that is only just going to turn into ashes in the end right? So can you decide that having a body is a good thing or a bad thing? We do everything in life to serve the body, that is suffering. We work to death because of the body. We have pain because of the body. We are hot and cold because of the body. We sacrifice our happiness to pamper and nourish it. It wants sweet, it wants sour, we feed it. Does it pay us back in gratitude? No. When we want our posture to be upright, does it do what we tell it to do? Even when we teach it pilates and six months later, does it remember how to be upright? No. When we don’t want diarrhea in public, does it listen? No. We don’t want period pain, does the pain stop? No. We don’t want it to get ill, it gets ill, we want it to be alive a bit longer. No, it cannot cope. Our body is like a stubborn child. If someone asked me to adopt it, I would say no thank you. Yet we were born to serve the body that behaves like this because we did not see the suffering in our past life. Now that we see the suffering in this life, we can start working on cleansing our gilead, tanha, oupatan and agusonlagam, so we will eventually never return to be imprisoned in this body again. Because why? Because the body is the centre of all suffering. If we don’t have a body like this, we will not have any suffering like this. We are hungry because of the body. We are sick because of the body. We have to part from things that we love and like because of the body. We die because of the body. The body is a bad thing. So we don’t want it again. When I die I want to go to Nirvana.