Meditation at Wat Suan Dok
Sawasdee ka everybody!!!
Hope are all well and loving life!
Some of you might know that meditation has been part of my life for the last year and a half. A few days ago I spent the day at Wat Suan Dok, at a meditation retreat and it was invaluable!!! Let me tell you a little bit more about it.
The day was led by Phra KK, one of the resident monks at Wat Suan Dok, and even though there are a set of rules on how to behave around monks and how they live, Phra KK was the most hilarious, energetic and down to earth person ever!
What I love about Buddhism is that, rather then a religion, it sees itself as a philosophy, as a way of living. And even though I have just learned this, this is how I felt towards it all along.
I am not going to attempt to go in depth into the origins of Buddhism, its concepts and everything else because I believe that is part of the discovery, of YOUR path if you wish to take it, but within meditation there are 2 types: Samatha (Tranquil, which develops concentration (Samadhi) on one object to help calm the mind) and Vipassana (Insight, which develops self-understanding through Mindfulness Training). I have only practiced the Concentration one and have used a few other self-hypnosis techniques.
What I have learned, and physically experienced, is that you can have a bigger power over your brain. We all have feelings, emotions, doubts and little voices in our heads. The way we deal with them, produces a huge difference in how we live our lives, day-by-day.
Ask yourself: Did you have a good day today? Did you have a good day yesterday? Do you want to have a good day tomorrow? What about the day after tomorrow? This time next week? This time next year???? (If you replied no to any of these questions... you have some deep sh*t to solve there ahha). But think about it! There is nothing you can control about this time next week, or this time next year apart from you, your mind and how you perceive and react to things!
Our brain is constantly sending us inputs, as Phra KK called it, it's our monkey mind. When you receive those inputs, you have a choice on how you react to them. The problem is, the majority of us accepts those inputs. Accepts them as the truth and lets them sink and grow stronger within the mind. But the reality is, those inputs, those feelings and emotions are only passengers, they are not permanent (nothing in life is permanent, not even our life!), they should not define us!
And I can tell you from experience, with some practice, as long as you have the right answer for each input, you can shut it down straight away! You deny it, refuse to take it in! (I will write more on this actually...)
Wat Suan Dok has developed a Monk Chat years ago. Apparently it was the first in Chiang Mai, allowing foreigners to speak with monks and understand more about Buddhism and their choice of becoming a Monk. If you are curious about Buddhism, have little or no experience with meditation, this is a great way to start!
We started at 9.30am by registering at Monk Chat office. Once the group was all gathered up, Phra KK took us into a room where he did a small presentation about Buddha and the main principals of Buddhism.
Then he showed us 2 main techniques on how to meditate and led us into a 15/20min seated meditation. Super relaxed, we then went for 1h30 lunch break and Phra KK recommended us the vegetarian restaurant next door - Pun Pun Vegetarian Slow Food. It was sooooo delicious I actually need (NEED!!) to go back! I love it when vegetarian food makes you forget all about meat and fish!
We got back to the room and Phra KK showed us how to meditate sitting on the floor. Same principles apply, but here we were shown 3 different ways of sitting down and resting our legs.
After that, we tried walking meditation. This one was quite surprising to me. Never did it before and I was quite surprised with the technique. I knew it was going to be slow paced, but it is slow to the point you can't think of anything else rather then guiding your feet and them stepping on the ground properly.
Short after we tried laying down meditation for about 20min. Here I know some people fell asleep and I must say, I definitely dozed out a few times too.
Little break to use the happy room (toilet), coffee and biscuits and back in, this time with beads. He showed us a few techniques for concentration meditation, on how to count the beads and focus our mind on it. My monkey mind failed me a couple of times when counting these but as Phra KK said, nothing that practice can't fix. He did a great analogy between meditation and learning a new language. In the beginning you can't talk fluently and you instinctively translate your thinking into your language. As you practice, it becomes more natural and you are able to use the new language without having to constantly translate your own words. Meditation is the same: the more you practice the more natural it becomes and you will find that you can do it anywhere! As long as you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate.
We ended the day roughly at 5pm with about 40min of Monk Chat, where we could ask any question about Buddhism, meditation and the Monk's life. He then blessed us all and we took a picture.
It was a beautiful day and the greatest thing was feeling his caring presence. You could feel in his eyes he really cared for you and had big love for us and all beings around us. Hard to explain but it was a very warm energy!
If you are looking to do something like this, here is my recommendation from the research I did:
Wat Suon Dok - Provides a 1 or 2 day retreat. It also has available times for Monk Chat, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from to 5.30pm to 7.30pm. The 1 day retreat is done by donation, and the 2 day retreat is 500฿ to cover your meals and overnight stay.
Wat Umong - Available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5.30pm to 7.30pm. Also provides a retreat option - minimum 3 days, 15 maximum (I will be doing the 3 day one, so I will tell you more about it later). For the retreat, you'll be looking at 90฿ for a bedding set, and 220฿ a day for your meals and overnight stay.
Wat Doi Suthep - Since this is one of the main temples in Chiang Mai, the waiting list can be a bit long. I've heard their retreats were fully booked for the next 3 weeks. If you have time to arrange it in advance, do have a look into it. If you are planning to just visit the temple, try to arrange for when the Monk Chat is available, from 1pm to 3pm, every day.
Wat Ram Poeng (Tapotaram) - Offers a 26-day basic course in Vipassana Meditation. If time is an issue, you can do a minimum of 10 days, which serves as an initiation to the 26 day course. They have different dates available and for prices is better to email them.
I would also recommend looking at the Open Mind Centre in Pai. They offer not only meditation retreats but also healing retreats and individual sessions. They have a minimum of 3 days for their retreats and they also offer Meditation Interviews & Meditation Reports – Facetime & Skype Sessions.
I hope this post leaves you, at least, a little bit curious. As Buddha used to say: don't trust me! Go, investigate and find out for yourself. Meditation can work for you in various different ways. In my case it helps me clear the mind, I feel more balanced and 10 out of 10 times, much happier. It shines the light on what is really important in life and allows you to see how everything in life is relative and most times irrelevant considering the impermanent condition of our life.
I will write more on this topic. I truly believe meditation and the philosophy behind it is a great tool to help us through this journey on earth. I am a firm believer that we should be teaching our children, all over the world, these principals and how to meditate. If we do so, the world can be a much much different place in only a few years time.
May all beings and living creatures be free from pain, suffering and misfortune. May all beings and living creatures have good health and find the path to balance. May we all be kind enough to share our love, compassion and caring heart.
Khorb Khun Ka