How I cleared my mind in Thailand with 16 day meditation
- October 25, 2016
- Milica Radović
Meditation… The word I often hear in my surroundings and which has become so ordinary, almost meaningless because it is often mentioned without a proper context. It is just like sayinh “I love you” too many times and not showing it – it loses its significance. I did not realize to which extent the word meditation hs become worn, until I really tried and felt what it means to meditate.
Before going into a deeper description, I want to emphasize that I am not a Buddhist, nor do I consider myself a religous person. I believe that there is something bigger than us, I describe or personify it. I see all religions as the personification of beauty and diversity of the human interpretation of something bigger than us.
In December last year, the road led me to the Chom Tong monastery, which is located 50 km from the magical city and former capital of Thailand – Chiang Mai.
In Chom Tong there is a temple which has a Meditation center. The Center was founded by a monk Ajaan Tong who is 93 years old and lives in the temple. Ajaan Tongis the creator of the improved technique of Vipassana meditation, which is used by the Center. Although he is 93 years old, the monk still comes to the temple to perform the service whenever possible, talking to other people and preaching. He is one of the most intelligent people I have had the opportunity to meet and hear.
The temple was built on a 2500-year-old sacred Buddhist land . It consists of two large buildings decorated in a distinct Buddhist style. In front of the temple is a yard where people circulate and behind the temple you can find a huge piece of land where monks and nuns live. On that property is the Meditation center where I spent 16 days.
In this Center you can meditate from 10 up to 30 days. It is ideal to spend 21 days and it is called Meditation retreat. In order to achieve the maximum result of meditation and preserve the culture and the peace prevailing in the temple, we must respect certain rules. I was assigned a teacger to guide me through the process of meditation and he explained to me that:
1. I have to wear white clothes that cover my chest with a special piece of white material because it is considered inappropriate since I will be walking around montks. White clothes is also worn by the nuns, the only difference is that they have to shave their heads.
2. I’m not allowed to talk to people, nor come into any physical contact because in this way I can disturb their meditation process as well as mine. Talking up to 15 minutes is allowed only with the teacher every morning at the agreed time so as to guide you through the entire process.
3. Food is served twice a day: breakfast is served at 6 a.m. and lunch at 11.15 a.m.. After noon we are not allowed to eat until tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. You eat what the nunsprepare and what people bring from the local village. They explained to me that after noon I can only drink water, coffee, and eat some yogurt if I am hungry and do not feel well. The essence of this diet is that the body does not waste energy on digestion but on meditation instead. What is really interesting is that after 5 days of this regime, I did not have the need to eat, at all.
Take a look at the canteen and the food I ate:
Sometimes I would go and drink coffee at a cafe run by nuns. This café is a part of the temple only for its residents and serves the best Ice coffee I have ever tasted in my life.
4. No embellishment. I cannot wear any makeup, use creams, shave, pluck my eyebrows. The last few days aking a bath is also not allowed. They do not advise people to look at mirrors.
5. Daily routine: get up at 4 a.m. and go to bed at 10 p.m. Besides these two meals, we only meditate.
6. No use of the phone, no typing nor writing anything. The goal is not to put in or out new information in your mind. The goal is to arrange the existing state of your mind.
Of course I did not know what it feels like to meditate. It’s not just sitting down and saying: oh, I am meditating. It requires certain effort and technique. Every morning at 8:30 I went to my teacher and received new instructions that are bulding on the previous. These instructions include the way of breathing, changing the way we experience the world through our five senses and all this in order to free the mind. It requires a great effort to free the mind from processing information we receive from the outside world and devote it to process the information collected in the past.
This is actually the goal of meditation, to arrange our mind, to shake all emotions and information that bother us.
The three days I wasn’t able to figure out what’s the deal with meditation. Then started to experience things that showed me I am on the right track. After these few days, the period of crying started. I cried every day for several hours, in deep meditation and beyond. All my life I learned to collect information, to semi processes them because I do not have time for more, feel emotions, running away from emotions I cannot handle. I cried because I regained consciousness of everything I ran away from for years. No matter how strong you are, believe me that you can not deal with all of it, it is not natural.
In addition to all the emotional breakdowns, you have to deal with physical pain. Every bone in your body hurts from sitting on the floor. There are pads, but they are not enough. You sleep on the floor, on a single blanket. Meditation is performed in the Meditation room that shared by all people, but I liked to meditate next to a nearby lake that is part of the temple or just inside the temple in silence.
My favorite place for meditation where I waited for the sunrise very morning. Without a filter it looks like this:
During one of the daily meditation sessions, I was approached by a man who was passing by. He climbed up a tree, picked a coconut from a tree, opened it and gave it to me to drink. It was quite a hot day and he assumed that I could use some freshening up. We did not exchange any words, he gave me a coconut, I gave him a smile in return and he quickly left. This is Thailand, these are its people!
What contributes to the overall impression of meditation is that you have a unique opportunity to live with monks, follow their routine, be a part of their everyday life. I participated in each activity that took place in the temple, such as serving food to monks, a funeral ceremony for monks, etc.
It was so interesting to me to spend time children who are trained from early childhood to be monks.
After I finished the meditation, I received a gift from Ajaan Tong: a Buddhist prayer beads and a statue of Buddha.
But the greatest gift I got from meditation were a clear mind, peace and tranquillity inside my brain. Never in my life have I felt this way, I did not know that such a thing was possible. I felt at peace with my past (although I was not aware that there are things that were disturbing me from the past). I did not feel concern for my future because why should we care about something we do not knowwhether we will have? Who guarantees that we will get to live the next second?
After leaving the temple I was calm, peaceful and happy because I live in a current moment and because I feel, because I am.
If you ever decide to invest 21 days to improve your personality, this is the quickest and best way to do it. I did not want to go into details of meditation experience because there are parts that are very personal and I know you would not believe me some of it. Also, I’m not eloquent enough to describe the strength of this experience, but I can tell you that my view of the world around me can be divided into before and after meditation. I am thankful that I have experienced this and I would not change it for anything in the world.
In order to show you the atmosphere in the temple, I made a short video. Take a look: