“Focus on your breath!”
The voice of the teacher cut through the silence in the room.
I shifted my attention from the aching ankle to my itching nose.
“Focus on the breath as it comes in.
Notice there is a brief pause.
Now focus on the breath as it flows back out!”
The instructions were clear.
My mind was not.
I had left my wife, son, a busy work schedule, hundreds of emails and bills for this ten-day meditation retreat.
I peeped at the others through half-closed eyes.
The hall was full of men in various shapes and sizes.
Most of them seemed to be in agony.
The instructor was looking at me, and I shut my eyes immediately.
It was day one.
There were nine more days of breathing to go.
In all this peace and meditation, I was missing the chaos of my world!
“Cut every one of the trees!” I said.
The men looked at me to check if I was serious.
I was planning to build a house, and the land needed clearing up.
In a couple of hours, they had cut down what had stood there for decades.
After paying the woodcutters off, I went to check if everything was in order.
I was satisfied. With all the tree stumps finally, construction could start.
Then I noticed something strange. All along the boundary walls, I could see birds. Crows, magpies, pigeons and even a kingfisher . All looking in my direction.
“You cut down our home to build yours!”
They seemed to be saying.
I felt uncomfortable under their scrutiny.
“Once my house gets built, I will plant more trees. I promise.”
I said it out loud.
Not convinced, they kept watching me.
The front door was stuck, and I had to push with both hands.
A cloud of dust descended upon me.
I had grown up in this house.
Rooms full of sheet-covered furniture, with tonnes of dust on them.
The last one was my old haunt.
It was empty except for a wooden box in a corner.
I remembered the box. I used to call it my ‘treasure chest’.
My heart missed a beat as I opened it.
All the trinkets I had gathered as a child were still there.
A broken wristwatch, a torn kite, spokes from the wheel of my cycle, iron nails and screws of all sizes and shapes, a hammerhead without a handle, they were all still there.
Each of them had a story to tell.
A story from the past.