Silence, pain, hunger and less sleep. Seven days of full focus on mediation and some heavy soul searching. We went on a meditation course at the buddhist temple Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Conclusion? 'We feel so happy'!
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Meditation Centre
Overlooking the city from its mountain throne, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of northern Thailand's most sacred temples. This tempel and surroundings is the home of the International Buddhism Centre in Chiang Mai. The place where you can sign up for a 7, 10 or 21 day meditation course. This Vipassana meditation course have certain guidelines that you must adhere to. Which are:
- Meditators have to dress in white clothing
- Meditators are not allowed to mix practice with other meditation techniques or yoga, tai chi, aerobics, etc
- Meditators are not allowed to smoke and drink alcohol during their stay
- Meditators are not allowed to eat food after 12.01 P.M
- Meditators are not allowed to speak with each other except when necessary
- No reading, writing, listening to music, dancing, singing, using internet or telephone
- Be respectful to all in the temple, living there and visiting
- You cannot kill any living being – This includes mosquitos and cockroaches
I'll tell you straight, Elmer was the most enthusiastic about this course beforehand. I, Henriette was not feeling this at all and was mostly afraid of this strict bootcamp. But when you are traveling together you have to make some compromises. So we went in there together and we both gave it a change. Meditating with the monks in the mountains of Thailand, is off course a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The centre is located in a beautiful jungelish surrounding. There are 4 buildings in which the meditators all have their own room. Men and women sleep in separated buildings. The rooms are very basic and simplistic. Don't expect much comfort, just only the necessary needs. The beds are very hard, there's a woolen blanket and a pillow. We need to bring our own towels and toiletries.
In the main building there's a mediation room, which has several altars, runners and sit cushions. You can practice your meditation here, or if you prefer you can also use your own room for that.
"Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind."
We learned 3 forms of meditation; walk mediation, sit meditation and lay down meditation. On the first day we had to start with 10 minutes walk meditation, continued with 10 minutes sit meditation. Each day 'the teacher' told you to extend this time with an extra 5 minutes. On the last day we had to do 30 minutes of walk meditation, continued with 30 minutes sit meditation. This was quite hard for the body, after days of meditation our body hurts a lot. Off course because we are not used of this at all. 'The teacher' told us to be strong and just try to continue as much as possible. The lay down meditation technique we had to use just before we went to sleep.
The Day Schedule
05.00 Day Begins
05.30 Dhamma Talk
08.00 Morning Meditation
12.30 Afternoon Meditation
13.00 Report to Teacher
14.00 After Meditation
18.00 Evening Chanting
19.00 Evening Meditation
21.00 Day Ends
The surroundings of the centre are beautiful. We loved to have a afternoon walk and spot some of the weirdest animals. We saw many butterflies, caterpillars, ants, squirrels, birds, stick insects and even a centipede. There was a continue sounds of all the crickets. After a afternoon rain, the jungle was steaming and this gave an great mystique view.
On the 6th day of our stay we had the chance to experience Buddha Day. On this day the monks come together at the main temple and chant all together. We had to walk several rounds around the temple while holding lotus flowers and incense.
'We Feel Happy'
I have to admit, I'm glad we both give it a try. This was for sure an incredible experience. In the first few days it was the most challenging as it was hard to get into this rhythm. But around the 4th day it started to get better. We were able to let go all this thoughts about our business and personal life for a while. And were able to 'just be'. It is very nice to calm down the mind and to focus on your breathing. We felt calm and balanced. 'The teacher' explained this course as a 'holiday for the mind'. Which is great comparison. We as western people are aware of taking care of our body, but what about taking care of the mind? We definitely are going to implement more of this techniques in our daily life, so we can continue this more calm state of mind.