10 Days of Silence, Meditation and Monastic life
Trip Start Feb 25, 2010
17Trip End Jan 01, 2011
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Where I stayed
Wat Suan Mok
I urge everyone who reads this to seek a class or two in the practice of meditation. It doesn't matter if you are faithful to a certain religion, meditation is non-denominational, if anything it will help you grow closer to your beliefs. Meditation and mindfullness is such an important skill to have. With just a basic understanding of the practice, I am able to be proactive when a negative emotion enters my mind, and allow it to pass before it takes hold and I become a victim of it
Meditation is simply training the mind. That's basically the root of the teachings of Buddha, to train the mind and reduce suffering. Of course there are philosophies attached, related to varying forms of Dualism, and then religious material often added by different sects of Buddhism, but none of that is really important. For the everyday person, learning how to meditate and train the mind is an invaluable skill. Afterall, we go to the gym to condition our body, we eat nutritious food to condition our health, we get an education to condition our intellect, it only makes sense that we meditate to condition our most valuable commodity, our mind.
The last 10 days have not been easy to say the least. While Buddhist monks have honed their meditation practice and trained their mind so well, for a beginner like myself, monastic life is not easy. The main principle of the 10 days is to train and quiet the mind. Like monks, they required us to have no mental stimulus, as dependency on such things can lead to suffering, (they really do, I suffered quite a bit without any stimulation such as music, sports, books because I am so used to it). It was like bootcamp for the mind. It was interesting how when I tried to meditate, my mind would seem to rush a million miles an hour coming up with the most random cravings, stringent memories or intense feelings of boredom
I enjoyed the lectures quite a bit. The first thing they told us was to not blindly believe anything they say, to try and experience it for ourselves and build our own belief system. I was immediately attracted to a religion that supports their belief system with empiricism rather than faith. Half of the lectures were done by the Thai Buddhist nuns who of course had all of the religious dogma of a Thai Theravada Buddhist such as ghosts, karma, reincarnation and an afterlife. The other half and my favorite half was done by a British, Athiest, Buddhist monk, an interesting combination to say the least. He had a way of teaching with such comical cynicism that it made the whole chamber laugh. His teachings of Buddhism were very down to earth, philisophical and really got to the nuts and bolts of what the Buddha actually taught, without the religious dogma that generally comes with this particular spiritual practice.
The day started at 4am. I had no book, guitar or any method to pass the time in between meditation sessions. What I can tell you is that there are 496 holes in my room, 984 rows of wood on the ceiling of the meditation hall, we spent 60 hours sleeping on a wood mattress with a wooden pillow, 40 hours listening to lectures from the monks, 20 hours practicing yoga, 30 hours eating and enjoying personal time, and we spent 90 hours in either sitting or walking meditation
Anyway, it has been a long 10 days (11 actually). Today I am beginning the trek to Chiang Mai, supposedly the Thai culture and art captial and home to various rural hill tribes. It is over 800 miles away and I have no idea how to get there, because of the Thai New Year all of the busses and trains are completely booked, but where there is a will there is a way and there is certainly adventure to be had! It is in Chiang Mai that I will study the art of Thai Massage and cooking, assuming of course that I can scrape together the funds. After a few weeks of city life, its back to the jungle for the duration of my visa in a town north of Chiang Mai called Pai, a jungle rasta town similiar to Tonsai but on a mountainous riverside rather than a beach. After Pai, the country of Laos awaits!