I met Alila this morning. My ears are still ringing pleasantly from talking to her.
She is a Thai woman, and I would be hard pressed to guess her age. She could be anywhere from thirty to fifty. Today she is wearing a long black skirt with a colorful band around the middle, a purple tee-shirt, and bangles on her ankles and wrists. She has curly black hair and high cheekbones.
When I walked out to find breakfast this morning, she was there, and she asked me what I was doing today. I didn’t want to be sold on a trekking trip or a day trip to Pai, so I told her the truth. “I’m going into the temple tomorrow, so today I am getting ready.” Her whole face lit up. “You go to temple?!” she said. “Which one?” When I told her, she beamed even brighter. “Ajahn Suphan is my friend!” she said, referring to the head monk there. Then she looked me over critically for a moment, and reached out and grabbed my shoulder. “Before you go, you must have massage…” she said very seriously, nodding her head up and down. “I have good friend who study in China for fifteen years. She will give you massage. But you must clear two hours, you understand? This massage takes two hours…” I agreed quickly, and was told to meet her back at the guesthouse at three o’clock.
Just now, returning from breakfast, I ran into Alila again. She was talking to a guy in the hallway when I walked into my room. A few minutes later, there was a knock on my door, and she was there. I invited her in. A few minutes after that, her sixteen year old black and white cat began pawing at the door, so we let him in, too. She sat on my bed and talked to me for thirty minutes about meditation, her friends from America, and the places she had lived in India. She showed me a handbook about another temple 80 kilometers from here, and urged me to go there after I finish my month at this temple. She told me about the many friends that she had sent to the monastery, and about how happy it made her in her heart to do so.
Then she put a warm hand on my leg and leaned forward. “Meditation is good for the heart,” she said, echoing the words of my tuk-tuk driver yesterday. “It is good for the heart, and it is good for the body.” She showed me a picture of Ajahn Suphan’s master, the head monk at the temple 80 kilos from here. He was smiling in the picture, hand in hand with the Dalai Lama. She turned the page and showed me another picture of him standing beside the Pope many years ago. “You should go to see him,” she urged again.
About halfway through our conversation, I noticed my ears tingling. I imagined the tiny hairs inside of them standing up, receiving her voice like a massage, bending slowly back and forth as she spoke. Once every great while this happens. I don’t know if it’s the person’s voice, or a head-space that I’m in, but occasionally I can receive an inner ear massage just by listening to someone speak. That was happening as I listened to Alila. In fact, she left twenty minutes ago, and my ears are still tingling.