BootsnAll Travel Network

who had money on day 2?

hey y’all… so we’re back in chiang mai. =) i say all bets are off though – even though we stayed only 2 days at the monastery, i think both of us definitely could have done all 10. but gee, its great to see who had faith in us! haha.

the night before we left for the monastery was fun – we had met such nice people at our cooking class that we planned to meet up with them for a drink later in the evening (but not too late cause we had to be at the monastery at 10am!) so we all went to a tapas bar called “the house” that is supposed to be a hot spot for local celebrities, although we had the place all to ourselves. cool ambience – floor pillows and cushions everywhere to sit and lounge on, and a cute little menu of tapas food. we met up with lawrence and toto (chefs from the philippines), candice and her boyfriend raj (from australia) and had some wine and cheese over lots of laughter, storytelling, and dancing! jess wasn’t feeling well so she hit the sack early and i had one more drink with the group at a little sidewalk bar (i’m using the term “bar” loosely here as its just a little stand with a couple of chairs set up on the street near our guest house) called the chillout bar. said our farewells and went to join jess in dreamland…

the next morning we got up early to head out to the monastery. the guesthouse’s driver got lost trying to find it for us, and ended up dropping us off at a wat a little up the road. after some difficulty trying to find the right place we arrived and were greeted by pra chaibordin, a thai monk who spoke some english, who checked us in and walked us through all the details.

the grounds of the monastery itself were beautiful… its a forest-like setting up in the hills with lots of trees and a temple and a chedi (pagoda) and areas to do outdoor meditation. our rooms were next to each other so we cleaned up a little bit then headed back to get oriented with the rest of the new group.

vipassana or “insight meditation” is pretty hardcore. especially at a retreat like this, you participate in an opening ceremony where you pledge to uphold 8 precepts during your stay which include not killing animals (keep your room clean so there are no cockroaches or anything!), not discussing your experience with other meditators (because each person’s experience is different), and not sleeping on “luxurious or high beds”, which meant sleeping on a pretty standard, hard bed with a light bed pad to cover. we learned sitting/lying down meditations and walking meditations, which focus on either awareness of your breath or your feet and their placement. whenever your thoughts stray, you acknowledge this with “thinking, thinking, thinking” and then bring your attention back to your breathing, or if you feel a pain in your leg, you acknowledge it with “pain, pain, pain” before bringing your attention back to the rising and falling of your chest while breathing, etc.

the day begins at 4am when you wake to begin your morning meditation practice – first warming up the body with a “mindful prostration” exercise, then 15 minutes of walking meditation, followed by 15 minutes of sitting/lying meditation. breakfast is at 6:30am and there is chanting before each meal where you acknowledge that you are not eating for pleasure, for excess, etc and that you are eating for the nourishment of your body only. then begins meditation again until lunch at 10:30am with chanting again… the food was actually not bad – they had both regular thai or vegetarian food and we were to eat as much as would make us full but not drowsy later (which is probably something i should learn anyway! haha) because in the afternoon we’d do more meditation and then “reporting” to our teacher in the afternoon, which is like a one-on-one session where you will tell the teacher of your experience and you can ask questions if you are having trouble.

our teacher for this time was a monk named pra noah, who was actually a canadian! he was very soft-spoken and almost shy-sounding as he lead us through our opening ceremony where we formally would ask for permission to learn the meditations, and to make our vow to uphold the 8 precepts during our stay. afterwards, he talked a little bit about the foundations of buddhism and let us know that although meditation is meant to be a solitary and personal experience, we were not alone because we’d be meeting with him almost every day and he was willing to help us should we need him.

after the opening ceremony we practiced the meditations again as a group, then headed to our individual rooms until bedtime at 10pm. the meditations were extremely difficult for me! it’s really hard to keep your attention on something as simple as your breath – i was often frustrated when my thoughts would wander and i constantly had to acknowledge “thinking, thinking, thinking” or “hunger, hunger, hunger” (haha!) before going back to where i was in the meditation. i had difficulty getting through the 15 minutes without looking at the timer, but overall i felt that with practice i’d learn to calm my mind down enough to focus on the simple things and to relax a bit.

jess and i briefly broke the “rules” on the first day to discuss a little bit of how we felt about the place overall, and ultimately by the morning of day 2 we realized that we had very different impressions of the experience. i can honestly say that it does seem a little bit cult-like because people walk around a bit in a trance-like state, especially during the walking meditations where you place one foot in front of the other slowly, turn around slowly, etc. and it sort of seems a bit creepy. it’s definitely not for everyone.

that said, jess felt that it wasn’t something that she felt right about or agreed with, and decided to leave, and i left with her. it’s not that we COULDN’T have gone the 10 days, but ultimately we made the choice to leave together and come back to chiang mai. it’s definitely something that i’d like to return to, and i haven’t made up my mind yet if it will be at the same place or a different retreat – there are some that are shorter that might work better for me because i’m planning to take a 3 week thai class starting tomorrow! jess is planning to head back to bangkok to join aung soon and then will be meeting up with lisa and her mom to see vietnam. my class goes until feb 22 so i’ll be staying in chiang mai til then.

yes, you heard right – we’re not going to be in the same city anymore! (gasp!) don’t worry about us, we’re both really good at getting ourselves around both chiang mai and bangkok and we’ve got cell phones to keep in touch with each other, and we check our emails daily… so for a few weeks you’ll be getting just “malia” blogs unless jess emails some of her own to me! =)

i’m looking forward to spending more time in chiang mai, as it truly has a special place in my heart. i love the weather, i love the people, i love that i can walk everywhere, i love the charm about the old city area… i just love it. =) today we walked down to chiang mai’s biggest festival – the flower festival – at buak hat park where there were huge, intricately decorated floral parade floats, tons of food, entertainment, and more… it’s a holiday here tonight and the atmosphere is just alive with excitement. chiang mai is ready to celebrate and so are we!

as a side note, i’m having trouble getting my photos uploaded, so you’ll have to make do with text for now… hopefully i’ll have it fixed soon though, there’s so much more for you to see! =)

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3 responses to “who had money on day 2?”

  1. Mom says:

    Sounds like a beautiful place….take care:)

  2. haane says:

    ohmygosh malia this sounds incredible! you’re a great writer:)

  3. Brianne says:

    shucks, I shoulda put money on two days!

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