Now that my health has finally started to improve after many months of illness, I am more able to apply myself to Dharma activities again.
Now the first part of the Ngöndro, namely the Four Thoughts (meditating on this precious human life, death and impermanence, cause and effect, and the defects of samsara) isn’t at all physically demanding, so I’ve been able to do that plenty of times during my illness. However, the next part (refuge and bodhicitta) is definitely physically demanding! As part of the practice, one is required to perform 111,111 prostrations while reciting the refuge formula. Yes, that’s right – one hundred and eleven thousand, one hundred and eleven of them!
Don’t worry – I don’t have to do them all in one go! It will probably take me at least a year to complete this stage before I move on to the next stage. I did a hundred prostrations today, and I’m starting to half-suspect that this practice was developed to help overweight monks get into shape! It is certainly physically demanding after a while, but I’m confident that it’s doing me good, mentally as well as physically.
I’ve heard it said that in order to become an expert at something, it is necessary to do it ten thousand times. If that’s true, by the end of the 111,111 prostrations and refuge formulas, I should be pretty proficient at it! I suspect that is the whole point.