Meditating in a Thailand Temple
Rather than being a tourist in a very affordable tourist destination I opted to do a 10 day meditation retreat known as Vipassana, Doi Suthep Temple. At this particular meditation centre they are flexible with their dates and you can arrive and leave at a time suitable for you – but you need to tell them in advance and not leave during that time.
It was many years ago, when I was pregnant with my daughter, that I went to a vipassana course in Pomona Australia. At the time I did not understand, and thought it absolutely ridiculous, not to feed people three times a day as per the mundane norm. I actually convinced them that because I was pregnant I should be eating dinner – and so I did.
Point aside, the two vipassana experiences vary greatly….. Australia and Thailand.
What are the rules are at Vipassana?
Well, it depends on the centre.
The one in Australia said, “All students must observe Noble Silence from the beginning of the course until the morning of the last full day. Noble Silence means silence of body, speech, and mind. Any form of communication with fellow student, whether by gestures, sign language, written notes, etc., is prohibited.”
Doi Suthep says, “meditators are not allowed to speak with each other except when necessary”.
At Doi Suthep people greet each other with eye contact, a smile, or a gesture. And apparently saying, “oh, we’ve got corn in breakfast this morning” to spouse is necessary communication.
No Mobile Phone
At vipassana in Pomona, Australia they took your mobile phone at the start of the 10 day course.
At Doi Suthep there’s a no mobile phone rule, but we had our own rooms and much flexibility. Two women found it necessary to chit chat on the phone in their room. I’ve had to remind them about noble silence… I was in deep meditation! When mentioning this to the teacher he said he told them no phones when they arrive.
Disrespectful, or careless. Careless was mentioned in the dhamma talk one morning. Something I must mention later in another blog. But in retrospect Doi Suthep seemed more like a tourist destination.
“Every day just 10 minutes of meditation is very helpful for improving your life.”
Healing the Planet from Within
At vipassana in Australia there were set meditation times you had to attend or you would be asked to leave. There was only sitting meditation taught.
At Doi Suthep you have ten hours a day free to meditate, but it’s up to you to do it. There are four types of meditation taught.
At Doi Suthep everyone wears white. In Australia modest clothes are worn.
At both centres it was vegetarian. In Australia it was Indian cuisine. In Thailand, Thai style. I can’t remember if Australia was sattvik, but in Thailand it’s not always so, and sometimes with chilli.
Teaching and Counseling
In Australia we watched a video of the teachings. In Doi Suthep we were taught by a Buddhist Thai Monk, albeit not fluent in English.
In Australia we could make a time to talk to the teacher and ask questions about what we were going through. We could discuss anything from techniques to emotional issues. At Doi Suthep there was no time available for conversation – except maybe one question.
This particular mediation centre in Thailand the routine is:
- 5am Wake up
- 5.30am Dhamma Talk
- 7am Breakfast
- 8am to 11am meditation
- 11am Lunch
- 12pm report to the meditation teacher
- 1pm to 6pm meditation
- 6pm evening chanting
- 7pm evening meditation
- 9pm day ends
There’s no dinner.
At Doi Suthep meditation is 10 hours in a day. There are four types of Mindfulness Meditation here: sitting meditation, standing meditation, walking meditation and laying meditation. The teacher gives you a new step to do every day. For example, “rising, falling” as you observe your breath and then add “rising, falling, touching” – to focus on a particular point on the body.
Meditators are not allowed to speak with each other, read, write, listen to music, use internet smoke, drink alcohol or eat solid food after 12pm. One can use their phone to keep the time only. It’s soooo relaxed here that it’s up to you to abide by these rules.
To be honest, my first few days I went through withdrawals of my phone and social media and so allowed myself up to 5 minutes a day. Then, as my meditation deepened I found the phone to be a hinder.
The noble silence rule and no mobile phone rule is there for a reason, and I highly recommend being mindful of this when you attend. The whole idea of coming to a place like vipassana is to get to know yourself, to heal from sabotaging patterns, to understand and grow. When you do not speak or engage with others hidden emotions come to the surface. It’s best to have guidance such as counseling during these times. Something that was lacking at Doi Suthep, yet provided at the Pomona Australia vipassana.
Lessons and Experiences While Meditating in temple in Thailand.
#1 is Mindfulness.
On the first day I felt annoyed because it was difficult to understand the teacher who did his best to deliver a lesson in broken English. My annoyance was based on the fact that I had to listen more intently to catch the overall message.
Then I became annoyed because my knees ached sitting in one position for a long time, and became aware that I kept clenching my jaw.
Thankfully the teacher kept repeating over and over again to come back to the focus of your meditation…..”lising and falling” he said repeatedly over the entire course in a Thai accent. I loved that accent. To maintain focus on the rising and falling of your breath.
When you feel a physical ache, have a feeling or a thought… You stop your focus point… Bring your awareness to the physical symptom, feeling or thought…. And then return back to the focus of “lising and falling”.
The focus point for your meditation can differ in each meditation, but not to change it once you start. For instance, I would choose to focus on my breath as it comes into my nose OR as it rises and falls in the stomach.
#2. Feeling Inside
When you’re more aware through the above practice you can then become aware of the feeling you have inside. For me this relates to the theme of my books: Get Jiggity with Positivity and Healing the Planet from Within.
If everyone around the planet looked within themselves and remained diligent to their overall positivity ratio the world would be a different place.
The idea of course is to first become aware through a process such as meditation and then you can work on transformation.
#3. Monkey mind can cause many illnesses. When your mind is doing Vipassana meditation each day the body has a chance to heal.
Overall, the course helped to deepen and confirm much of the knowledge and practices I’m already working with.
Spiritual people from many walks of life would surely agree that,