Life in a Monastery

Thailand
4 September 2017 / By / , , , , / Post a Comment

Last week, I went to Wat Pa Tam Wua, a monastery in the north of Thailand, to live there for a while. Lodged at the bottom of a beautiful mountain, lost in the wood, it’s a sanctuary for Vipassana meditation (silent), and where we live like Thai monks. This experience changed my vision of life.

You can find all the technical details about the monastery here : Wat Pa Tam Wua

Here is my diary, explaining what I experienced. I talk about the daily life in the monastery, the landscape, and also some of the lessons I learned from the monks. Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comment section if you need too 😉

Day 1

It’s 10:30am. I just arrived in the monastery. I’m in the decor right away because it’s time for the food offering to the monks. I wear a tank top, which was not a good choice as everyone here wear white large linen clothes. Luckily, a girl gave me her scarf to cover my shoulders.

If I’m right, exactly one year ago, I was leaving a festival in Croatia with my friends, and we were heading to Ibiza. And today, I enter a monastery.

Life is amazing.

The scene is splendid over here; so green and so much space. We can feel an amazing energy; I feel like I’m in the Celestine Prophecy ! (awesome book, here) We have so many places to meditate in nature; if we go up in the mountain a little bit, we even have caves with buddha statues, and hidden candles. We can meditate in the caves if we want !

Day 2

It’s 4:58am. If I follow the schedule, I have to wake up at 5 to meditate in my kati (my little house) until 6:30, when I’ll have to offer food to the monks before taking breakfast. I wanted to wake up later, but it’s hard to sleep on my bed, which is basically a wood board haha. I was waking up at every move, so I didn’t slept a lot. And then I felt something big and fine moving on my face; must be a spider; now I was really awake !

I’m hungry. Here we have two meals : at 7 et 11am. It’s half-fasting. I bought some cookies… eating is cheating but, well… it doesn’t keep me from starving haha. Now I know why people are eating so much at lunch here ! But it’s really nice, this hunger… I can feel it in my stomach, it makes me feel light and full of energy. It’s primary instinct; nice.

In addition to basic rules you can see on their website, there’re more. For example, in the monastery, we are not allowed to touch someone of the opposite sex. And after 8pm, we supposedly can’t speak to them either anymore. I can’t practice my yoga either; I have to do it in my room. ‘Cause the monastery focuses around mind work, not the physical one. It’s a shame, because I would have loved do yoga in this beautiful environment, with the mountain on background ! We can’t lie on the grass either or outside of our room, except during meditation, only if the monk is asking for it.

I also noticed that there is no mirror or garbage can. Anywhere. Even the bathroom. Luckily I don’t need it; but what if I had my period ? Maybe I would not be authorized to come.

I’m not here since 24h, but I already learn so much. I now know that I have zero focus. Or barely. I already had 4h of meditation, and I had to pick up my thoughts all the time to come back to my practice ! Do you know that we have around 49 thoughts/minute ? I’m gonna try to correct that here.

Day 3

It’s crazy how everything is getting better day by day. The bed is less hard. The hunger is less strong between meals. Clear my mind is more easy. The only thing which is not really improving, is the pain during the meditation’s positions. I have bruises on my hips ‘cause of the bed, and staying on my knees or in lotus posture many hours a day is not helping. I’m doing yoga and stretching to help a little bit.

To fall asleep was never my strength. Here is no exception, ‘cause I’m stressed to wake up because of a disgusting little insect. This morning, a sticky cockroach was chilling in my hair. At 3am. Try to sleep after that haha. Beside that, I feel more calm. And centered.

During the 6th hour of meditation this evening, I succeeded to really clear my mind; my heart; everything. I was here; but I wasn’t thinking anymore. It lasted few minutes… then sadness and pain took me. And I cried. Silently, in the dark, surrounded by everyone. It’s like all the superficial layers of thoughts went away; and then the real thing was coming up. I thought about my grandma. It has been weeks since I cried her for the last time. Emptying myself made appear the only real emotion I had left. It was liberating; sort of.

Day 4

Today with a german friend we dared asking some questions to the master monk. It was unique opportunity that we had to take. Other people joined us after a while. Everyone had deep questions : Who am I ? How to recognize who I really am ? Why am I suffering ? How to accept death, how to grieve ?

It was so interesting. Globally, his advices were the fundamental essence of Buddhism :

Emotions are not us; feelings are not us; even our body or our soul are not us. Nothing can define us; we just have to look at this items with a distance, to not suffer anymore in any way.

My favorite part of the day is the « walking meditation ». We slowly talk behind the monks, in the forest. It’s magical and I feel like a child. Sometimes my focusing is good, and sometimes I’m just impossible : I need to touch leaves, smell flowers, look trees, play with the grass, watch the so-many insects… I feel so wonderful in this great place. It’s full of powerful energies.

« Silent and happy » badges are at disposition for those who want to continu the vipassana outside of meditation times, and stay in a complete silence for few days. Most of people try it; but I decided to not. It must be interesting for sur… but I learn so much from others. I want to know why they are here, I want to understand their vision, to know their spirit..!

Day 5

It’s so nice and easy to meet people here. Everyone is caring. Everyone is here for deep and personal reasons. We feel safe and appeased. Last night, I had the best meditation session of my entire life. Was during the 6th hour, from 7 to 8pm. I was more light; I felt like I was floating above my own body.

I wasn’t anything anymore; no more feelings or sensation. And I was the whole universe in the same time. It was a really strange and mystical experience.

Buddhist monks believe that there is no « me ». No « I ». That we are like cars : cars don’t exist all by themselves, they are composed of pieces of metals, wheels. And the same way we are just a puzzle of our body, our spirit, our beating heart… but this « I » doesn’t exist.

At first it’s a very annoying thinking. Then, I began to understand it.

Monks have so many rules… beside the prohibition of any king of meat, sex, alcohol, smoking, drugs etc., they also can’t sing, disguise, or even listening to music. Because when you sing, you loose control; you have to connect with emotions. It’s sad but I think it’s beautiful, in a way. It’s true than music really has something on all of us… who never depressed while listening to a song full of memories ?

Day 6

Adding all my clothes behind my 4mm mat was a really bad idea. I sleep so much better now that I removed them and it’s not bumpy anymore. And now I’m used to everything 🙂 I love this place. I almost not have anymore pain in my legs, even if I stay one hour in a raw in the lotus posture.

I don’t want to leave today. But I have to. My Myanmar visa is ready, I have to go towards new adventures !

But I hope to come back here one day. I went give my donation earlier. We can give what we want. I ran into the master monk, and he asked me to wait for him a lil while near the beautiful river. I came back with two meditation bracelets and offered it to me. There is one for my friend Jenny. I’m gonna go back to Pas with her. It’s cute, this monk has such a friendly and peaceful smile. He always makes jokes at lunch, saying than before becoming a monk, he had barbecue everyday. But now, he loves and respects all living creatures.

While we walk around, we have the rules to be careful not to crush ants and other animals. I love this.

Day 7

I really miss meditating that much. With Jenny we keep going a little bit, but not for hours like before. But for now, we still have this calm inside of us. We are centered and peaceful. We feel changed. I hope it will continue; I entend to keep it that way.

Like monks said really often to us, feelings appear, go stronger, arrive at a peak, then disappear, if we don’t maintain them. It’s the same for everything : sadness, love, joy, fear…

« We can not be burn if we don’t put our hand into the fire ».

If we want to stay calm and centered, we should practice meditation; it’s like when you are working out, you have to do it often to stay in shape. Once you attain your body goal, you don’t stop ! You have to keep going to maintain and improve.

If my travel, since the beginning, clearly changed my vision of life, this week in the monastery also did a lot. I miss this healthy and nice routine of prayers and meditation, and I think I will go back there for sure.

The end

Live in this monastery is a wonderful chance, and a one-in-a-lifetime experience. But keep in mind that it’s not for everyone; and that’s okay. Some people are not comfortable and leave after 2 days; others want to stay few weeks… It’s different for everyone 🙂

At first, I found Vipassana meditation « interesting », but I wasn’t really into it, ‘cause I love to chat so much !

Then, it changed in something else. I have hard times putting words on this. Something big, strong, and really revealing. I don’t see life the same way now. Some light switched on inside of me. I left the monastery one week ago, but it’s still there. This feeling to finally begin to understand the meaning of life… the meaning of everything.

I wish you to live this ♥ Please ask your questions in the comments section, I will be happy to answer !

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