Thursday, October 19, 2017

10-Day Silent Meditation Retreat at Suan Mokkh - Part 4

Big trees in the middle of the woman's dormitory area (Suan Mokkh International Dharma Heritage)

Uggghhhh...... I was awoken in the middle of my first night in the meditation retreat's dormitory and found myself covered with the dark-red-blue checked blanket provided. Suddenly I was startled and wondered on how come I was covered by that blanket. I did not remember that I covered myself on it. I'd rather remember that the night was so hot (no fan or whatsoever provided inside the room), and I had to adjust sleeping on the hard base and hard pillow on my first night there, with folded blanket put by my side. And now, who had put the blanket all over me??? Oh my, oh my!!! Suddenly my heart beat ran faster...

My humble room for 10-day meditation retreat at Suan Mokkh IDH

In the middle of my confusion, I felt that I needed to go to toilet to pee. Huhuhu.... Why this hour??? Why I had this habit of waking in the middle of the night to pee??? :'(

"I have to get up!!!" ordered myself to my own body. No idea what time it was. Everything was so dark and quiet. I groped for my spectacle and a little torch light that I put next to my wooden pillow. Faster I lifted the mosquitoes' net up and got my body out from it then covered it back again preventing any insects flying in. I opened the door gently and got out from my room silently.

Our brushing and washing tub and the long corridor towards the toilet (Suan Mokkh IDH)

Oh my... Everything was so dark and quiet. I stunned for a while. My room and toilet was from one end to another, so far the furthest, as my room was located right next to the entrance door. Even the toilet area was so dark!!! I regretted myself of turning the toilet area's light off the night before as my effort to help saving the electricity. Lol!!! That night onward, never again I turned that bloody light off!!! :P

I hurriedly walked down the long stretched corridor with blurred light from a small torch. We were advised to light our way on the floor to prevent ourselves stepping on the small animals that might pass by. The hung clothes, pants, shawls, some long, some short, added the eerie feelings as I passed them by. Om mani padme hum.. Om mani padme hum.. Om mani padme hum.. I chanted them all inside my heart and faster walked to the toilet, finished it off, and returned back to my room.

I know... It was all in our mind. It was myself that scared my own self. But I just could not endure such feeling. The place was so huge, open air, dark, and quiet. You would never know who else were staying with us there...

I bolted the door and got back into my bed positioning myself comfortably. I was still feeling amazed and wondered. "To whoever have covered me with blanket just now, thank you.. The air has really turned cold in the middle of the night," I whispered to the universe before continued sleeping under the same blanket.

The monastery bell at Suan Mokkh IDH

Deng, deng, deng, deng, deng...Deng!!! Deng!!! Deng!!! Deng!!! From softer sound, it slowly turned loud and louder. It was just sounding continuously from 4 am to 4.30 am. The monastery bell was located not far from where we slept and nearest to my room, so by right, no one would escape from hearing it.

Still feeling sleepy and with heavy heart, I sat down, groped and wore my spectacles, folded the blanket and got out from my bed. Turned on the small light provided inside the room, I took out washing face soap, tooth brush, applied toothpaste on it, and headed to the nearest washing tub.

During daylight, the water was so dirty, murky, filled with many dead insects. We used it for washing face, clothes, and brushing teeth. In the dark, we did not see any of the dirt. It was just dark altogether. Hahaha... I used cleaned water from the tap to brush my teeth though. Could not risk my inner mouth with unnecessary bacteria :P

Next, putting on contact lens using the stainless steel mirror provided under the staircase, just outside the warden's room. I then changed clothes, sprayed the mosquito repellent all over my body, and headed to toilet. Since it was the furthest place, it would be the last place I had to go before going out.

Daily schedule during 10 day meditation retreat (Pic source: Suan Mokkh IDH)

It was all dark. We had to bring our torch or the lantern provided walking towards the meditation hall 5. Our volunteer Dharma friend had already got ready on stage. She would read out one Dharma article every morning (except day 9) and continued with guided sitting meditation. Many, including myself, felt very sleepy and often almost fell asleep. To encounter the sleepy feeling, we would do standing meditation or change our breathing patterns. In my opinion, it was the most difficult part to stay awake during the day as we were not used to wake up that early everyday in our life.

At 5.15 am we would move to another meditation hall and practice guided yoga. Men and women were separated and taught by different teachers. Despite the yoga taught was very basic and mostly was stretching exercise, some people had never heard, or tried it before. Therefore, they would face some difficulties in following the instructions. Sometimes they just did their own stretching at the back, while those who mastered on it, would prefer doing their own yoga poses, also at the back.

At 7 am we walked back to the main meditation hall to listen to Dharma talk and do sitting meditation until the bell rang, signifying time for having breakfast, the most awaiting time. Hahaha... :D Meals were provided twice a day (except day 9), and all were vegetarian. Amazingly, most of ingredients were planted organically nearby the area, fertilized using the fallen dried leaves.

Rice soup (something similar like this) (Pic source:

In the morning we were served rice soup (kind of porridge using brown rice mixed with barley, corn, carrot), fresh banana from banana trees planted at the hermitage area, fresh vegetable (cucumber, Chinese cabbage, morning glory, cabbage, cai xin, local vegetable/ herbs, celery, etc.), and so on.

Tbh, in the beginning I felt very weird to eat those vegetables in raw form as I usually cooked them before eating (due to pesticide that might be used when planting it). But after trying it once and after some time, I became used to it. And after few days I felt quite bored eating the same food again and again. Hahaha.... It was good for our health though. :D

Where our banana came from - Suan Mokkh IDH

Dining procedure: we had to line up taking our food and brought our stainless steel bowl with spoon, and cup into our table. We collected the 'Food Reflection' card from the table in front and waited on our seat until everyone had finished collected their food and seated on their chair.

Our Dharma friend (volunteer) would bring up one topic for us to reflect daily, then we would together recite the 'Food Reflection' (as shown below) together. Not too fast, and not too slow. Only when it finished, then we could start our meal, mindfully.

Recite Food Reflection before starting our Breakfast (Suan Mokkh IDH)

Here, we were reminded "To eat is to live," rather than "To live is to eat." That the food that we consumed daily was only to maintain this body, to stay alive and healthy, to support the spiritual (way of) life. It was very meaningful as in this modern world, many chose a lifestyle "To live is to eat" by indulging fancy made or rather expensive and mind-blowing food, just to satisfy the bud, ego, pride, and so on.

The speed of eating was slow too as we learned how to eat mindfully. These days many people ate with their mobile phone or book on hand, or their eyes fixed on TV or iPad. We often took things for granted and faster ate only to fill our stomach, ignoring the biting and chewing process, and all.

Nature path towards the hot spring for women (Suan Mokkh IDH)

When we finished our meal, we washed our own bowl, spoon, and cup at the back of the dining hall. Those who chose doing chore after breakfast time, would do their chore. Mine was during lunch. So I would usually go back to room, changed into sarong with towel covering my shoulder, then headed immediately to the hot spring to dip myself comfortably inside the hot water under the shadow of coconut and many other trees.

My sanctuary, heavenly bliss place in Suan Mokkh IDH :D

After dipping for 10-15 minutes I went back to dormitory and immediately took bath at communal bathing room. I then washed and hung my clothes dried, and used the remaining time available taking a nap. Since we had to sit straight during sitting meditation, I felt my back tired after some time and needed some lying down before starting the next meditation session. Usually I just took 10-15 minutes nap to refresh my body and mind.

At 10 am the bell rang again. We all headed to meditation hall and listened to the recorded Dharma talk from the CD player. After that followed by sitting and walking meditation. It was all guided at the first few days to ensure we were doing the right way. The walking meditation was something new for me. We practiced inside the meditation hall 3 barefooted walking slow and slower, mindfully putting our attention to each steps before touching our foot on the floor. Looked simple but it was not that simple. I was sweating through the process too.

After few days we were encouraged to practice on our own, anywhere we like. But they encouraged us to walk barefoot, even on our daily basis to every area within the hermitage territory. It was not that easy though. The ground heat in the afternoon was too much. The rough small stones, sands, bushes were not easy to walk with. And the various ants and its colony (red, black, big, small), worms, etc. was quite a challenge in walking mediation too!!! It was a very great way contacting our body to the nature though. Loved the process so much!!!

At 12.30 pm the bell rang and signified time for lunch. Same dining procedures with breakfast time. Only the menu was quite different. They would usually serve rice and few vegetarian dishes. Sometimes it even included local Thai desserts and fruits. The menu changed everyday and tasted rather delicious. We could take more serving if required as there would be no dinner provided, only evening tea.

Food Reflection during lunch time (Suan Mokkh IDH)

Food reflection during lunch time reminded us on how the monks and nuns usually treated their food as. Early in the morning the Thai monks would go out and collect the alms using their bowl from nearby area. Local people would usually donate food, water, and some might donate flowers, incense sticks, and some necessities like detergent, or medicines inside, in exchange for blessings. Once it was full, they had to return to temple and not to come back again.

The food gathered would be their meal for the whole day (they only ate once a day). And they trained to put off their desire by eating whatever food they were being given and with a principle that food was only to sustain their body to practice the spiritual life, even by concocting their food inside the bowl so that the food would not taste good.

So, once lunch was done, it was my turn to do the chore. I chose wiping the dining table after lunch, which I found the easiest :P And when it's done, I would go back to room and take a rest until the bell rang again....
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...