On my search for things to see and do in the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand I stumbled upon the ‘Monk Chat’ activities at Wat Suan Dok Temple. Little did I know that this Chiang Mai meditation retreat would be one of the most memorable travel experiences I have ever done. If you are looking for a truly unique experience during your Thailand travels, don’t hesitate a second but make an appointment to take part in the meditation retreat in Chiang Mai.
Here’s why you must visit this Chiang Mai meditation retreat:
A Travel Experience You Will Never Forget
Traveling in Northern Thailand does not only offer the opportunity to get in touch with the rich natural beauty but also the chance to absorb authentic cultural heritage and spiritual progression within the Thai Buddhist framework. I’ve always been fascinating by Southeast Asian monks dressed in bright colors. When I saw them walking around in town and villages during my travels in Asia, I always tried to get a shot of them in secret in fear of angering them. That’s why I didn’t hesitate a second when I heard about the ‘Monk Chat’ experience at Wat Suan Dok Temple in Chiang Mai.
In fact, the temple is part of the MCU Buddhist University Chiang Mai Campus. ‘Monk Chat’ is a program allowing anyone interested to informally chat with the local monks about their life in the temple, thai culture, Buddhism and basically anything that you have a burning interest in. I was especially intrigued when I heard that MCU also offers a meditation retreat workshop for 1 or 2 days. I immediately signed up and couldn’t wait for the adventure to begin.
MCU 1-Day Meditation Retreat Workshop
When I arrived at the Monk Chat office at Wat Suan Dok Temple at 9 in the morning on my last day in Thailand, several young monks and a volunteer worker greeted me. Several other foreigners were already there and waiting for the workshop to start. I didn’t know what to expect but little did I know that this experience was in fact life-changing.
A young monk introduced himself as ‘KK’ and said that he was our spiritual guide for today. He was only a few years older than me but he had an incredible calming aura about him. Before we began meditating, Phra KK (‘Phra’ is Thai for monk) explained to us the different values and goals of Buddhism and the purpose of Vipassana meditation. When we meditate, we heal both emotionally and physically. The entire purpose of mindful meditation is to remove the roots for your suffering, for your restlessness and worries, from within so that the mind becomes purified and we can live a happier, less stressful life.
Yes, it sounds incredibly cheesy but if you think about it and really try it out, you will realize that this is pretty accurate. Phra KK showed us various types of meditation techniques form sitting on the floor or hair, over lying down to walking. Every time he guided us with his voice into a deep state of meditation, I could just feel that it works.
Now close your eyes slowly and mindfully. Observe your breathing and observe the sounds around you. If you have a thought, observe it and let it go. Stay mindful.
Practice Makes Perfect – Even When Meditating
You’d think there’s nothing easier than sitting on the floor with your eyes closed and thinking about nothing. Let me tell you, meditating is probably one of the hardest things to master. You don’t believe me? Try this: set a timer on your phone to 2 minutes. Close your eyes and think about NOTHING. Observe your breathing and the sounds around you – but think about nothing. Zero. Could you do it? Congratulations, you have earned the title ‘The Enlightened One’, aka Buddha. As you can see, meditating is actually pretty hard to do.
During my day at MCU practicing meditating with Phra KK, and around 10 other interested people, I got better and better at letting my thoughts go. I was amazed how relaxed and calm I felt by the end of the day. Imagine how you’d feel if you meditated every single day? That’s one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2017: Meditate daily.
The 1-day meditation retreat workshop took around 7 hours and happens every Monday and Friday. However, the experience is so much more than just learning how to meditate. Phra KK is such a wonderful person and answered all our questions without hesitation. I was amazed how open-minded towards foreigners and how educated on cultural differences he was. He had come to the temple over 15 years ago when he was an orphan as a child. The Buddhist way of life has given him purpose and he wants to pass the skills and knowledge he learned over the years on to interested individuals.
Throughout the day, he repeatedly said that anyone is free to join the Buddhist lifestyle movement. Buddhism is no religion but rather a way of life. He knows people identifying as Christian Buddhists or Muslim Buddhists. It is simply following certain methods and values to make your life less stressful and content. At the end of the retreat, we had the opportunity to sit down and ask him questions.
How should we behave when we see a monk on the street?
Is it ok to take pictures of monks?
What does his daily schedule look like?
Why do monks wear orange?
What is up with the child monks?
If you are curious about the answers to these questions, attend the 1-day meditation retreat experience and ask Phra KK in person! I can only recommend you to do it. It’s amazing.
One day course (Monday & Friday, weekly)
9 AM: Meet at Monk Chat Office, Wat Suan Dok Temple
9:30 AM: Introduction to Buddhism / meditation practice in theory
10:15 AM: Meditation practice
11:30 AM: lunch time
1:00 PM: Meditation practice
3:30 PM: Discussion
4 PM: The End
Cost: make a donation of your choice
Make a reservation: walk in, telephone, e-mail (see Website)
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