After getting off the ferry, I headed straight to the center of Girne to get a SIM card. “To the left, to the left, always driving on the left side” I was repeating in my head. From there, I continued my journey to the most natural area of “North Cyprus” that I could identify on Google Maps.
I found a wonderful, spacious sandy beach and ended up staying there for a week, or perhaps even a bit longer. What I enjoyed the most was the solitude, which gave me the chance to experience my first Zazenkai – a full day of meditation, mindfulness, and no communication. On the magnificent beach in Turkey, I had done my own three-day-long fasting and meditation retreat, but back then, I meditated only when and for as long as I felt like it. The Zazenkai with the Bright Way Zen Sangha, I had become a member of in the meantime, was different. There was an exact schedule that I decided to follow. Due to the time difference between the US West Coast and Cyprus, I started the day in solitude with meditation, and later I joined the others in an online meeting.
Before that day, I had not meditated for about eight hours a day, and I was curious about how it would turn out. I felt confident, and honestly, I think I was pretty arrogant at that point. After six hours of meditation, I felt an unbearable sensation of pain and somehow managed to let it go. However, in the next session, the pain was even stronger, and I did shift my sitting position, but it didn’t help much. In the following session, I tried sitting in a chair instead of the quarter-lotus posture, but the pain was only different but still there, and it was hardly bearable for me. Nevertheless, I kept going. During these painful episodes, all kinds of thoughts and feelings were arising inside of me, and it was more an act of willpower-based endurance than letting go and accepting.
Now, as I write this about three months later, I feel that my ego was pretty hurt and suppressed and rejected a lot of what was coming up inside me. I realize that a part of me did not want to accept what was happening within me – the pain, the struggle, the impermanence. Looking back, it seems like I went into that Zazenkai with a strong ego that wanted to prove it was capable of enduring that day, but I came out of it feeling insecure and disappointed.
A couple of weeks later, I participated in a five-day Sesshin (essentially, five days of Zazenkai), and in my post about that experience, I’ll describe a very different encounter with pain, letting go and other sensations.
During my stay at the beautiful beach, I also went on some long walks along the beach and through the sand dunes. While hiking along the beach, I found an incredible spot for tent living right next to the beach with a sun chair in between beautiful bushes and trees. I also found very accurately “cut” stone formations that looked very out of place. On one occasion, I came across a group of soldiers who were clearly searching for something. After they checked my ID, I asked them what they were doing, but all they said was “nothing.” It’s always the same when I ask these guys – they’re always “doing nothing.” It’s a crazy job they have.
From that beach, it wasn’t a long hike to reach the most northern point of the entire Island. I began my hike, and shortly after that, a friendly guy with a pickup truck offered me a ride for a few kilometers. Just when I started hiking again, another car stopped, and it’s super friendly passengers took me all the way to the most northern spot. That’s how I met Tarzan, a funny and warm-hearted guy from Turkey who had been to some rainbow gatherings. At the northernmost point, it felt like the end of the world, and that end was guarded by a herd of cute and funny roaming mules. I found myself thinking about traveling with a mule again and had a beautiful hike back to my home.
After a few more days, Isa and Arne (who I had met earlier in Turkey) wrote to me that they were tired of the cold weather in Cappadocia and had the idea to take the ferry to Cyprus. Just a few days later, they arrived at the beach, and we had another super nice time together. Sihong and Thomas also joined our little camp, and we had a wonderful evening playing an absolutely crazy version of “Mensch, ärgere dich nicht” (aka Ludo).
The night after the others had left, I woke up in the middle of the night to find Rosinante shaking in a way she had never shaken before. It felt like being in a storm, but there was no storm and the shaking was like a strong nodding. I didn’t think too much about it and fell back to sleep again. The next day, I realized that it was the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, about a hundred kilometers away, that had caused Rosinante to shake in the night and made the sea flood the beach.