By far one of the most rewarding and unique experiences I have ever participated in is attending a two-day, silent meditation retreat in Northern Thailand. The best part? It was so cheap; you only had to pay for the white clothing and donate towards their monastery!
What do I mean when I say silent meditation retreat? I mean that the only time you will be speaking is when you chant before meals or at the end of the retreat when you get to chat with the monk and all of the participants.
My mother and I chose to do the retreat as a way to connect with the Buddhist culture and religion in Thailand and to learn more about meditation. We found this opportunity through Monkchat before there were any online reviews available, but we decided to take the chance after our hotel suggested it to us.
Upon arriving at the meeting location in Chiang Mai; we purchased the completely white clothing to wear during our time at the retreat and an introduction to Buddhism and meditation. Then they drove us to the remote monastery where, from the moment we arrived, we would be dedicated to meditation and silence.
The time at the retreat was divided up by different positions of meditation and small breaks. We practiced sitting, lying, standing, and walking meditation. They taught us how to connect with our breath, silence our mind, and numb ourselves to distracting body sensations.
I enjoyed the comparison of meditation to a shower; that you must cleanse your mind through meditation as you cleanse your body. We learned the three main teachings of Buddhism are;
2- Don’t do bad.
3- Clear your mind.
There is an overwhelming feeling of peace found in meditation and the Buddhist lifestyle. They provided the perfect atmosphere to teach anyone who is interested in learning, on any budget.
-The Monk Lifestyle-
We learned about the pure and simple lives of the monks; eating only what we needed for sustenance and in a non-gluttonous manner. We also chanted for reflection and intention before all of our meals. Then, we ate a simple vegetarian meal.
Most of the food that the monks eat is offered to them daily by the community. We practiced the proper way to offer monks food.
Embarrassing Story: one morning during breakfast. We were having a simple noodle soup; there was hot sauce available to add flavor to the soup. I added a generous scoop to my soup then took a seat. We chanted about eating not for taste or enjoyment, but for sustaining our bodies. I then took a bite of the spiciest food I have ever put in my mouth. Now I love spicy food, but this was another level. I began to panic, being in an obligatory position to eat the sickeningly spicy food. I tried to [nonverbally] get my mother’s attention and signal for help. She graciously helped me by splitting our soups together after she realized why I was suffering. Nobody around us knew what was going on as they silently ate their soup. Meanwhile, we were trying to contain our laughter and desperation.
These two days were enlightening and provided a more authentic look into the lives of the monks. Spending time in absolute silence gives you a new perspective on life and all of the ‘meaningless’ chatter. I left the retreat with a desire to have more authentic connections with people and to the places I go.
The retreat was one of the most serene places my eyes have seen.
Let me know in the comments below if you think you could handle two days of silence.
*If you are planning to visit Northern Thailand you must read about the Elephant Nature Park*