I learned that I do not need total silence in a minimalist room in a hidden temple in the remote countryside to clear my mind.
I just need the joy and excitement of new experiences. The meditation retreat was not the right place for me but thankfully I can laugh at my misadventures and look forward to the next time I step outside of my comfort zone.
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I nearly gave myself a panic attack hiking in Hawaii; I had to quit the hike, turn back and, worse, forced my friends to end their hike early, too. I can still love to travel and be willing to try new things.
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Hey Meg, thank you so much for your kind words! It can be tough to publicly share failures online, so your comment meant a lot to me! It is so hard to find out those limits, especially in a group setting like that! Thank you for sharing your story — as you can tell, it really resonated with me. I might be able to do it for a few days but 3 weeks almost sounds torturous!
It was definitely intense! I would recommend people start a bit slower than jumping full-in like I did! You know, actually meditate at least once in their life before committing to three weeks of it! This is a great post! I know meditation is supposed to have all of these healing effects, but reading your account I saw myself in your loneliness.
Spending days and days without speaking to people, without being able to process my thoughts through journaling or escaping through reading — that is sooo not good for me and I felt like in some hypothetical parallel universe I too would flunk out of meditation retreat! And also, travel is so much about experiencing the diversity of humanness, through the simple conversations and interactions that we have with folks on the road. Good for you for recognizing your needs and for speaking candidly about them! Thanks so much for your comment! It was definitely a learning experience!
Specifically, I never considered how lonely it can be! A retreat for a day kind of sounds nice. Like a little break from everything else going on! But imagine that day for three weeks? Not for me — not yet anyway! Your email address will not be published. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam.
I would have never done this otherwise. Back to Burning Man, No! Quiet, you stubborn mind. Is that a mosquito? I will annihilate it!
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Oh wait, I took a vow not to take away breath. Lunch was our second and final meal of the day. It was a mild vegetable curry over brown rice, some sort of tofu salad, and a banana coconut milk dessert. Over the days, it would vary, but would always keep the same theme: a vegetable curry, a coconut milk dessert, and some other surprise of noodles, tofu, or papaya salad. My very favorite speaker, the English monk, took this time slot today and each day moving forward.
He spoke of how to rid our lives of dukkha suffering by letting go. He used examples of dukkha from his own life prior to becoming a monk. The reflection on his own past mirrored many of our present situations of daily confusion and lack of mindfulness. Walking, standing, sitting meditation.
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My slippery mind remained slippery, so I finally went with it and focused on a few things that had been bothering me. I worked them out in my head and felt better. Over the following days, this would continue until my mind, with no books, pencils, cell phone, speaking with other humans, or computer to occupy it, got tired of thinking, and finally submitted to paying attention to my in-and-out breathing.
We breathed loving kindness to those who we loved, and those who had wronged us, made peace with our pasts, and enveloped the world in our puppies and rainbows feelings. Given we were not supposed to kill mosquitoes, this was the hardest part of the day for me, as the sun usually set during loving kindness time.
I watched as one of my fellow meditators clapped her hands and killed a mosquito in the row in front of me, boldly breaking the rule. I resolved to direct my loving kindness towards her. Which was not tea, as caffeine was not allowed, but rather a welcome cup or in my case, three of steaming hot chocolate. I followed this up with splashing cold water from the shared well onto my sarong-covered body. This is how we bathed. The evening culminated with more meditation. We walked as a group around the two ponds — the men in one row and the women in another. Dim candles lit our way as we paraded, ever so mindfully and silently, under the stars in the forest monastery, in the small town of Chaiya, Southern Thailand.
I ventured back to my dorm, and checked the area for scorpions and centipedes. Satisfied that there were none, and somewhat thankful for the spiders in my room after all, they were not required to practice loving kindness towards mosquitoes , I laid back on my concrete bed, covered myself with my mosquito net, and drifted off to sleep rather easily. For practical information on how to do the meditation yourself, read this post. I think I could take the silent meditation but the scorpions and centipedes no way!
Wow, this is so inspiring! I would really love to do this, the sand-raking chore sounds so peaceful. Where was the monastery, or is that a secret? Was this a retreat where you pay or was it where donations were accepted instead?
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I thought that was amazing for 10 full days with meals included. Their intentions are pure and I really think highly of the wat and the experience I had there. I look forward to the details! This sounds like how I wish I were ringing in the new year — Koh Tao, by the by, is one of my favorite places on earth, and I found it brought me to a really spiritual place as well — not surprised meditation was inspired while you were there! I hate to say it was actually the party atmosphere that turned me off on Koh Tao!
I have heard it has changed drastically in the past few years, though. When were you there?
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Wow, sounds like it was a pretty amazing experience. I had an anthro professor in college that made us meditate for the first 20 minutes of every class class was only 50 minutes too! Just appreciating the now is the way to be…. What a way to start off the new year!
Have you been practicing meditation since then? The hardest things for me would be the bugs and the sitting. I would want to change my positions and lie down. Meditating in a chair is way easier than sitting down. How did you feel afterwards? I am starting to feel up to it, though! Surprisingly enough, had no issues with sitting long term and i thought I would!
You made the right choice to skip out on the Full Moon Party.
I was there in September and distinctly remember thinking, this is it? An overcrowded beach party is so famous for…? My question for you is, what do you feel you gained out of it? Do you plan to start meditating again or have you had enough for a while? I feel like I gained a lot of perspective that I lost once I was back in the real world again.
I think it was worth doing it.
My experience at a silent meditation retreat in Thailand
Am back to work after Easter tomorrow and intend on reading the rest of your blog there….. Only 7 months until I leave the UK! There is a reason for this of course. So I accept it and just curse very quietly inwardly when I wake up at night from turning over.