A journey inward, before the journey outward
The bell rings loudly. That means the monks will arrive any time soon to receive our alms, here at the paradise-like Wat Pa Tam Wua forest monastery. It is 6:30 in the morning and those of us who have sufficient diligence have been up meditating by themselves since 5 am this morning (early, yes, but it's 'thankfully' not that hard to get up from the hardest bed I ever slept on. It's pretty much just a wooden frame and a mat or two of about 5mm thickness...)
The monks arrive and we put one spoon of rice each in their monk bowl. After that, we have breakfast ourselves and morning meditation starts at 8 with a dhamma talk and walking meditation. Right goes 'bud' left goes 'dho'. It is followed by a sitting meditation, again repeating 'bud' on the in-breath, and 'dho' on the out-, while fixing your attention to your nose. This is the preliminary meditation called 'samatha meditation', to learn to focus intently. Later one can start practicing the vipassana meditation to become what they call 'the knower', observing all that happens in the present, and thereby gaining knowledge, and eventually nirvana (hopefully... maar dat is een werk van lange adem! If you don't speak Flemish, that was funny ).
Anyway, after meditation we have lunch around 11. 'Early', I hear you say? Yes, because all food must be ingested before 12. After that, one can only drink. Fruit juices are ok, but since we have none of that here, you'll just have to survive till the next morning on coffee, tea and water. Not as hard as it seems, actually. In fact, it's quite interesting to feel what an empty stomach feels like, to feel yourself digesting, and be hungry at breakfast time. After stuffing ourselves every single mealtime, and still being full from the last while consuming the next at Happy Healing Home, it was a welcome change (and a good illustration on how all pleasures give rise to suffering, both ways!)
Afternoon meditation is identical to the morning one, and after that we help cleaning the monastery a little, have some free time and at 6pm it is time for chanting. All mantras are sung in Pali first, then Thai, and finally in English too.
To conclude the day, one is requested to meditate individually in one's room. In my case, my mind has been ever so inventive in finding other stuff to do during this time, such as washing clothes, writing this blog post, reading ('I think I've meditated enough for today!), or even cleaning the entire bathroom ('the previous person left it so dirty!').
In any case, the days are all the same, as are the meditations, the chanting sessions, even the jokes before lunch and at night about the full moon-not honeymoon, and no Thai massage, but individual meditation... It brings some kind of stability though, a stability you find even more deeply in the meditation. Each breath you take, you do the same thing, but it's surprising just how hard it is to focus, even just for 5 seconds. When you do manage to though, it feels like coming home, aaah..., and boom!, it's gone again... I noticed how it pretty soon brought an inner happiness, just by being there with yourself, nothing else to do, or want, or think about. I'm sure the next step, the vipassana meditation, observing whatever comes, will be ever more interesting. No focussing on just one thing there, but one is required to open up to the wide array of thoughts, feelings, sensations, sounds, whatever is going on in the present, and only come back to the breath during the short intervals of mental silence. But that will be for later in New Zealand... Oh yes, we're going to kiwiland! Jealous yet? Well, if not, I'm sure you soon will be, if I should believe many people's stories of how beautiful it is there...
Well, Thailand is most beautiful as well, as are the people (most times), and as is Lu, my friend I met in Malta and was at the Naked retreat with (if you still don't know what that is, do go to the website at www.nakedtheretreat.com. I promiss you won't regret it!) who will arrive in Bangkok the day after tomorrow, the same day we leave. Perfect for a little meeting for hugs, stories and tips... So, hasta luego, my friends, next time reporting -hopefully- from the other side of the world (if they don't reject us due to our attempt to smuggle medicinal leaves, ash, and wood into the country...)
Please keep your fingers crossed
With loads of love from both of us,
Sa dhu... Sa dhu... Sa dhu... (=good/excellent in Pali)
Tanya & Scott