meditation, monks, loving kindness, chian house again, swarms of beggars and my dismal account....
02.03.2009 -17 °C
My meditation retreat at Wat Dio Suthep was a real learning experince! The Wat is one of the 2nd most visited wats in Thailand. It is on a mountian and can its golden chedi be seen from Chiang Mai. There are about 250 stairs with large nagas (serpent dragon buddist thing) on either side as the hand rails that lead up to it. The temple grounds are set up so that the chedi (a big pointed gold thing) and the sorounding statues and worshiping spots are raised by about 20 stairs, sourounded with walls but no roof- this is the 'wat'. There is a large stone tiled walking area around the wat with over 100 bells for the tourists to ring, a stunning view of Chiang Mai (only in the early morning or late night), small landscaped gardens and a million statues. Behind this whole area you take some stairs down to get to the area that holds the sleeping area for meditators, the eating area and kitchen, the meditation hall, a garden and the monks huts which are down a little bit further. My room was with a cluster of other rooms, had a tilled floor and a thin cot to sleep on.
The baisic set up of the day went like this:
Wake up time is 5 AM, and you are supost to do mediation until breakfast at 7 AM. The breakfast bell sounds and all of the meditation participents gather to eat a noodle soup and pet the pregnant grey cat who joined us at each meal. After breakfast at 8 o'clock the teacher monk holds a Dhama talk for an hour, may favorite part of the day. He would discuss topics such as forgiveness, loving-kindness, and how to deal with the major afflictive emotions of anger, worry, sadness, jelousy and hate. He would cover them in a way that was applicable to our group of modern semi plagued westerners. These talks provided me with much food for thought and I would usually think and write about them until lunch at 11. At the beginning of lunch everyone would chant in Thai from sheets, lead by the assistant monk. I had mixed thoughts about this ceremony. Sometimes I would feel like an idiot participating in a cult like practice of solem chanting and sometimes I was elated by the wholesome spirituality of it. Either way, the food was always delicious and plentiful. I would stuff my face (even thought in the requisit chanting I vowed to not over eat for pleasure) knowing that the next time solid food would pass my lips wouldn't be for another 20 hours! After lunch you meditate until 3, when you report to the teacher. I would usually write and read more at this point. At three I would report to the teacher about my meditation progress and ask him about anything that I needed clearing on. After this, it is open time to meditate until the end of the day at 9:30.
At the beginning of my 19 days I was full of enthusiasm for doing an intense daily of 5-6 hours of meditation. I did about that much for the first 5 days but then I started to climb up the wall! I realized that it was too intense to up keep for such a long time. So I started to read a ton of Buddhist books about life, think about what i had read, generate a ton of profound thoughts and write about it all. I also talked to people a lot more- I think that the no talking rule really didn't consider a females absolute need to talk to others! I reduced my meditation to about 2 sometimes 3 hours a day. At first I felt guilty about not meditating so much like I was meant to be doing. But then I realized that my time was certainly not being waisted as I was learning alot about myself and the world, much more than if I had just been meditating.
I learned many profound things, most of which I had at least already heard of but not put serious condsideration into. The next step and test will be to see how well I am able to implement them in my daily life, to see if I can walk the walk.
I believe the most important subject that I educated myself on and pondered on is the concept of loving-kindness. Loving-kindness starts with being loving and kind towards yourself, which entails being kind, loving, forgiving and lighthearted about every aspect of yourself, especially the parts that you are not highly fond of and in tough times. Next and simultaniously you extend loving-kindness towards your dearest loved ones, your normal friends, people you just know, people you dislike, and the whole world of people and then the planet as a whole. I have found, like many people I think, that I have not necessarily held this attitude towards myself at all times. The thing is is that when you do not feel this way for yourself, it shows in the way that you behave towards other people. You may not be directly unkind to them but there may be a lack of kindness in some form towards them, and people pick up on this vibe very easily, conciously or unconciously. So i decided that this is a very important quality to have and started to do a loving-kindness mediation/visualization every morning and most nights, encompassing myself and every person that I could think of no matter how small or big the connection, so if you are caring enough to read this, I most definatly included you in it! I found that this had tremendous effects on my mentality for the whole day. I felt lighter, happier, at ease, with less mental aggitation. It was especially helpful when I received a few emails with unpleasant content from people who are dear to me. I just focused on loving-kindness for myself and them and the situation and it made the whole thing tremendously easier to deal with. I am continuing to do this after each of my morning and night meditations and feel that it is an indispensable tool in life. I hope that anyone who has experienced unkindness from another person can have compassion for them, knowing that it their own inner issue and it is not your fault or problem! I also hope that everyone who has experienced being unkind towards themselves and others, or have experienced unkind treatment, is able to forgive and practice loving-kindness. It makes everything much rosier and easier in life. Life really is too short to spend it hating on anything- love love love!
I was supost to stay for 21 days but I left after 19. For the last 3 nights you are meant to participate in the 'determination'. What this entails in no talking to anyone, you can't leave your room in the day other than for the toilet and to get water (they deliver the food to your room), you can't shower and you can't....SLEEP! The idea is to put you in a really hard situation so you can cultivate determination. I happen to be a very strong believer in the idea that tough situations make you stronger but this seems just....well..... stupid to me! I figured though that I might as well give it a go, thinking that maybe I could reach some sort of higher state of being or something. haha. I had not slept for longer than 5 hours for the 2 nights leading up to this so I was already very tired. I usually sleep about 8 hours! So I stayed up until about 1 AM, burst into tears of exhaustion and went to sleep! Since I broke the no sleeping thing I was required to do a closing ceremony the next morning, which suited me, I was ready to break out into the world again and get into a tank top, having been conservativley dressed and secluded for almost three weeks!
My talking buddy Ryan did his closing ceremony at the same time, as did another guy named Eric who I hadn't talked yet. We all left, triumphantly accending the stairs with our packs, up to the temple grounds, the three released meditators, ready to breath on the chaos that is the Thailand cities. after taking some farewell photos of the temple, we hoped into a songtheaw (a truck with seats in back) and headed into Chiang Mai. Eric was off to Laos that night, so Ryan and I split a double room, we dropped our bags and headed out to eat some afternoon grub, something I had not done since my three week therories of life learning extravaganza. At lunch the guys talked about american political stuff and I threw in my comments and questions here and there, but I am no politcal buff or all to intrigued by it at this point. Perhaps one day I will be inclined to kick back with a cup of black coffee and read the politics section of the newspaper...but that is not a near day. when I am able to vote I will google 'what is the NDP's (or whoever) politcal stance?' but that will be the extent of it. hahaha
That night Ryan and I played pool at a bar that was empty other than us and the bar girls and a man with a sex for sale lady. Young children regularly come into the ope air bars holding flowers and beg for you to buy them. They ask you to buy them and if you refuse they give you the saddest looks ever, I swear they practice in the mirro at home before going out. Ryan bought ten off of one girl and we wore them and gave the other ones to the bar girls, including the hooker, who was very nice, I talked to her by the bathroom. I learned some very good pool techniques as Ryan taught them to me while we played. I actually won the last game of three after I got some experience in! I am exited to kick the guys butts at it when I get home, or atleast do decently well at it! We left to get some street vendor food and saw the little girl that we bought the flowers off of. We bought her some food, a bunch a shishkabobs and rice. She played with my hair, one side in a bun and the other side with five small braids. It looked tre-chic. When she was done she looks at me and says "20 baht"! I was like 'what?! I thought we were sharing a special moment of female hair doing?!" she laughed and didn't press it, had to ask though, a bonified hustler this 8 year old girl, out on the streets doing hair dos, selling flowers and getting food at one AM!
The next day I left for Chiang Rai in the evening because it was time for me to go to the Burma Thai boarder to renew my visa and Chiang Rai is close the the boarder town. I am staying at the Chian House again. For the first night I was in the same little cheap room but now they moved me to another room which is more expensive because it was available. Many of the same people are there and it is nice to have a group of people there to hang out with. At the boarder town, you pretty much just walk to the passport section, do some paper work things, walk through the gate and then your in Burma. I walked around the day market that was placed right at the boarder for the visa run people. As I was walking around a boy holding a large basket of cigarettes approached me, begging me to buy some -" buy for friend! very cheap! cheaper than thailand! 20 baht only for a carton!". He followed me for about 2 or 3 minutes and for his final sales pitch he held up a box and says "viagra! buy viagra!"!!! I burst out laughing and he was quite embarrased and left me alone! Viagra! I couldn't believe he was selling cigarettes and viagra together! How hilarious! when I left the market after being hastled to buy a deck of cards for 10 baht and eating some greasy food I headed to cross through the boarder. As I was walking towards it a dirty unhealthy looking 7 or so year old boy approached me, begging for money. I reached into my purse to take some change out for his, not looking ahead of me. He lead me into a group of about ten little children and they all swarmed me so that I could hardly walk, sticking their hands out at me and grabbing for the change that I had in my hands to give to the first little boy. I gave them some change but they wouldn't leave me alone and continued to swarm me, grabbing at me as I attempted to walk towards the boarder. They were grabbing my hands and arms but none of them were stupid enough to grab for my purse, I would not have had a problem knocking down the begging child if he did that! As I continued to walk with them swarming me a few of the slightly older boys pinched by butt and I turned around quickly, glared and pointed at them and said 'DONT do that', my look was fierce and I hoped they learned a lesson! One by one they left me alone and a Thai woman came up behind me and hit their hands away from me which I was greatful for! Even as I was sitting filling out the thai visa arival card a few boys were begging for change, right up in my face saying please over and over. I finally got to the other side of the boarder and caught a songtheaw to the bus station to head back to chiang rai.
Now I am in chiang Rai. I am deciding if I will get a tatoo from one of my local friends friend who is a tatoo artist. I have to head out in a few days to go to the next retreat. I learned that my cousin Ryan and uncle Mark will be in Bangkok because Ryan is giving a speech at a school and a conference on the 17th of March, they day that I was planning on being in Bangkok! So I will see them no doubt and also meet up with Anna and Jevan who will be flying into Bangkok the same day. I am also trying to figure out my return date and according to my dismal bank account balance it may be earlier than I have booked to return! However by travel agent said that there are no flights for the same price leaving at the beginning of april which is when I figured my money would go until. So looks like I will have to be camping and eating very little food to survive! woo hoo! hahahaha. we'll see how that goes. I may be to poor to use the computer to update everyone as I go! ....till next time...remember to have loving-kindness !