Reflection: 3 Silent Days of Meditation in Thailand

Since writing board exams I have taken off to SE Asia! I am very lucky to have the opportunity to travel for the following nine weeks while awaiting our results. I began my trip about an hour north of Bangkok, Thailand with a three day silent meditation.

Meditating is something very new to me. Besides yoga I do not practice meditation daily however it is something I am trying to incorporate. With this in mind, I’m not going to lie three days of silence plus meditation seemed very intimidating. I had numerous people including my family ask "WHY?!" And before experiencing it my reason was: "why not try something new?"

So what does a silent meditation entail?
I arrived the night before and checked in my electronics however books were allowed.  I decided not to read and just keep my mind focused on meditating (or being still).

There were 8 precepts (rules) that we had to follow during the meditation retreat just like Buddhist laypeople must follow.
They entail:
1. No killing or harming of any kind (even Mosquitos)
2. No stealing
3. No sexual misconduct
4. No lying
5. No alcohol or drug use
6. No eating after noon
7. I will abstain from listening or playing music, wearing flowers/jewelry and other ornaments.
8. I will not sit on high and luxurious places (higher than those of noble ones such as kings, bhikkhu, etc.)

If you think these 8 rules would be hard keep in mind monks must keep 227 precepts!

The sleeping arrangements are separate for men and women. I slept on a wood bed with an inch thick mattress - the monks described this as not suffering or luxury but as comfort.

Daily schedule:
We wake at 5:30am and do sun salutations as the sunrises from 6-7am. After this we serve the monks breakfast followed by breakfast and cleaning our dishes.

From 9:30-11:30am there is a teaching and meditation lead by a monk who resides at a nearby Wat (temple).

Then lunch (our second and final meal of the day), which we serve again first to the monks and then we eat after.

2-4pm is the second session and meditation

6:30-8:30 is the final session and meditation.

We are allowed to talk during meals and in between teachings. However I spent most of my time in the gardens,  walking or practicing more meditation.

What did the teachings involve?
Meditation does not have a religious affiliation as it is the act of keeping the mind still. If the mind is still then there are no thoughts about religion or about anything for that matter.

There were themes that each monk discussed and the ones that really stood out for me included giving and forgiving. He asked: "what is the benefit of not forgiving?" I think this is a question many of us can ask ourselves and by doing so it can help us stop ruminating about the past and focus on the present. Monks also believe that the more you give the more you get - I also believe this!

Another theme was stillness. One of the monks talked about being still in the mind. And when you are still in the mind happiness can occur which causes happiness and stillness throughout the body. Happiness is the ultimate goal of meditation. When meditating we can focus on an object (crystal ball, bubble, sun, moon, etc.), a mantra (clear and bright) or on the center/solar plexus) of the body.

The final concept that stood out to me was about defilements.  There are  3 defilements: 

  • greed
  • anger/hatred
  • delusion/ignorance. 
One of the monks gave the analogy of a glass of water. If you shake, mix, twirl the water then debris and defilements come about. This is the same as the mind. When you leave a glass of water still it is calm and clear and there are no defilements. 

Therefore we must practice keeping our mind still like a glass of water so our mind can be clear, still and happy. When the mind is clear and happy you can reach internal peace - the ultimate goal of meditation is happiness.

Session summaries:
1. The more you give the more you get.
2. To forgive is to forget.
3. Do not take what you have learned here and leave it here. Take it with you and share it with others.

I know that a lot of these concepts are easier said than done but like anything else, meditation takes practice. I recommend starting with a daily practice - if you have a smart phone download the app Headspace it reminds you for 10 days to meditate for 10 minutes (or any desired amount of time).

Happy meditating!

Best in health,

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