Wednesday, September 27, 2017

10-Day Silent Meditation Retreat at Suan Mokkh - Part 3

Wat Suan Mokkh International Dhamma Hermitage

In this post I will share with you what you will expect during the registration day.

1. Transport to the retreat location
As early as 7 am there is a pick up truck that will bring you and your luggage from the Suan Mokkh Monastery to the International Dharma Hermitage.  You just have to pay THB 20 for the service. It's about 1.5 km distance and if you choose to walk there, it will take you about 20 minutes to reach.

The two information board for women and men - International Dhamma Hermitage

2. Registration - Read and think before decide to join
Upon reaching the place, a volunteer will welcome you. She or he will ask you to read the info pasted on the board. Once finished, collect the booklet and a form from her. Read it first all the terms and conditions regarding the retreat. When you finally decide to join, only then you fill the form up.

To note: Most of the instruction is done in writing since we are going through the silence retreat. And they have notice board with different information updated everyday.

3. Interview 
Someone will interview you afterwards and if you have any question, you can ask them.

4. Pay registration fee
When interview done, proceed to pay the registration fee of THB 2,000 (SGD 82) and exchange your passport with a room key from the staff.

Ladies bathing area inside dormitories :)

5. Borrow necessary stuffs
You can borrow sarong (for women) used for taking bath and dipping inside hot spring, and also plastic water bottle to store your drinking water, for free.

6. Deposit your stuffs
Get ready all your stuffs that are required to be deposited such as: any electronics and things that can create disturbance to your peaceful mind (mobile phone, camera, tablet, laptop, mp3 device, books, diary, alarm clock, watch, etc.), money and valuable stuffs (accessories), etc.

To note: It's not necessary to deposit your stuff immediately. If you still want to use your mobile phone, you can store your stuffs afterwards, as long before 3pm. There is mobile charging point available at the area.

Emergency contact (Source: Suan Mokkh IDH)

7. Tell your family the emergency contact
You may want to inform your family back home the monastery's email address, fax number, and website address, and tell them to mention your name and room number in case there is any emergency news that required you to know since there will be no way to contact the outer world throughout the retreat period.

Space provided outside our room to hang dry the mosquitoes net, blanket, sarong, clothes, etc.

8. Go to room (dormitory)
With your key, proceed to your room. Women and men live at separate dormitory, located side by side. Collect the blanket and mosquitoes net from the room mentioned. It's advisable to dry them out under the sun before using. If you want, you can also hang the straw mat before using to kill the germs.

The meditation hall 5 where we gather most :)

9. Collect stuffs used for meditation and 'chope' your seat with it
Go to Meditation Hall 1 and take the cushion, pillow, and wooden chair and choose your seating location at the Meditation Hall 5. Put those stuff above the 2 base layer provided. It will be your fixing seat throughout the 10 days. Again, men and women is divided into two sections (left and right).

10. Select your chore (daily work duty)
Don't forget to go back to registration area (or it's better you do so before getting into your room), to select the chore. There is list of chore available for both men and women, also the details of how to do it, when, where, using which equipments and cleaning materials, etc.

For example: washing toilet at dormitories, at meditation hall, sweep floor outside dormitory, burn the rubbish, clean the foot bath, wipe table after breakfast/ lunch/ tea break, etc. Everyone has to choose at least one. I chose the simplest one though :P

Dining room :)

11. Wash your own utensils after dining 
Breakfast (8 am), lunch (12.30 pm), and tea (6 pm) are available on registration day. Men and women are seated separately. The food was divided into 2 sections, put in between the eating tables and chairs.

You have to wash the bowl, spoon, and cup (all made of stainless steel) yourself at the back of the dining area. There is instruction in writing on how to wash your utensils properly. They apply the water saving way so we won't wash it in running water. Instead, after throwing the rubbish inside the bin provided, we took little water to scrap the dirt from the bowl, move to next sink to apply soap using sponge, and rinse twice at next two sinks beside it. We then put it upside down at the shelf next to it and let it dry naturally.

Metal lantern provided :)

12. Provision shop is available
If you forget or do not have enough stock of toiletries (soap, shampoo, tooth brush, tooth paste, body powder, face soap, etc.), washing powder, mosquitoes repellant spray, mosquitoes balm (applied after being bitten), candles and matchstick (they provide metal lantern in each room to lighten your road at night), notebook to record the lesson, even shirts and pants (the recommended fisherman pants are available), do not worry. There is a small shop available at dining area. Take note on the opening time though as it is not open everyday. Only during registration day, day 1, 2, 3, and 6, and only at certain timing (not whole day).

Schedule on Registration Day (Source: Suan Mokkh IDH)

You can take a nap, stroll around the area, go to Chaiya or nearby place, or have chit chat with other fellow participants (while the silence has not yet begun), before the retreat is started. Follow the timetable above, take note of the time and place of each activity. Map is available at the board or just follow where people go :)

The natural hot spring for women :)

At 4 pm the retreat is officially started. They bring you around (orientation/ boundary tour) afterwards. After tea, you can try the hot spring. I was surprised with it!!! It's so natural!!! Was exciting with it!! ;)

At 7 pm we finally started to get serious. Soon, the silence retreat was officially started. Insects and mosquitoes sound were the only accompany afterwards. Will share with you how I felt in next post!!! ^^ Stay tune!!! ;)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

10-Day Silent Meditation Retreat at Suan Mokkh - Part 2

I managed to sleep for 5.5 hours but couldn't straighten my body well even with the two-seat joined together. The train was reaching late at Chaiya train station. It was supposed to reach at 6.15am but only arrived about two hours later ^^"

Train journey to Chaiya - Southern of Thailand

Chaiya is about 6 km northeast of Wat Suan Mokkh. Once got out from the station, many people offered their service in form of motorcycle and taxi. In the website, it's said I could take songthaew (share pick up truck) to reach the monastery and pay only 20 Baht. However, I didn't know how the songthaew looked like and didn't see it nearby either.

Being clueless, I stopped a Thai young lady who passed by in front of me and asked her where I could get the songthaew. She couldn't understand English much but from the body language, I guessed she was asking me where I was heading. I told her Wat Suan Mokkh. She seemed to understand.

She asked me to wait. She walked to a private pick up truck and talked with a driver, a middle age man. Shortly she told me to get in the vehicle saying that the man would send me there. I asked her how much should I pay and she said, "Just get in. No need to pay."

How miracle happens!!! :)

Wow!!! I was amazed!!! Just nice there was one empty seat available and space to locate my luggage.  On the way the guy even offered me a bottle of cold mineral water. Just what I needed!!!

Three of us went together. Soon I reached the front part of the monastery. I thanked both of them for their kind help and silently wished them be healthy and happy in their life. Thank you SB for sending them down so that I could reach the place safely and sound :)

Main gate of Wat Suan Mokkh

The monastery area was so huge. I went to toilet first then went to a place where there were people having their breakfast and all  was wearing white clothes. They were Buddhist practitioners who stayed there.

I asked a lady who couldn't speak English and she led me to Brenda, a foreigner lady in her 60s, who stayed there for so many years. She was very familiar with the meditation retreat and the monastery area. She gave me all the info I required and even offered a briefing session in the evening together with other ladies.

Wheel of Becoming at Dhamma Hall

I headed to the Information center and registered myself there. I collected a dorm key as I intended to stay there for a night before heading to the mediation retreat place the day after. Fyi, the meditation retreat was held every month from 1st to 10th. Registration would be done one day before and it was completely over one day after. You could reach there early but have to stay at the monastery's dorm.

Woman's dormitory at Wat Suan Mokkh Monastery

There, I met Leah. She too, would sleep a night at the monastery. I was very happy to find accompany :) We walked to the dorm together and found our room. The room was as I expected, similar with the ones at the meditation retreat place. The bed was made of hard cement topped with a straw mat and wooden pillow. We collected our blanket and set the mosquitoes net above our bed. We took a bath before going outside to find something to eat.

Many isolated monk quarter in the forest :)

There we knew a German guy, Rafael. We had our lunch together and had a chit chat. Afterwards we browsed around the monastery area then went back to room to take a nap.

Wat Suan Mokkh Founder - Ajahn Buddhadasa

When I woke up, the sky turned dark. I saw more people coming and some stayed at the dorm. I attended the briefing given by Brenda, and she's very informative. We would have a clearer picture about what we would face during the retreat. She treated us with local snacks and fruits too. At 8pm we were done and went back to our room to sleep :) Another day passed by. It's good to experience a quiet and dark night, and let our body rest, get ready for the registration day!!!

Monday, September 18, 2017

10-Day Silent Meditation Retreat at Suan Mokkh - Part 1

"Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert and "Around India in 80 Trains" by Monisha Rajesh had both inspired me to search the happiness from inside - spiritually - while travelling. Been wanting to experience living in Ashram or undergo the silence meditation retreat, being away from outer world (no phone, email, Facebook, selfie, etc.) over certain period of time, at least once in my lifetime. At the same time I was in midst of confusion state in searching which Buddhism way to follow (Tibetan, Mahayana, Theravada??) and what type of meditation should I practice in my life.

"Do not look outside, seek inside" - Rumi

I learned my first meditation by joining a week meditation retreat in Vipassana Graha temple in Bandung, Indonesia in 1990s. I was still very young and meditation was mainly practised for getting peace and relaxation. As I grew up I was wondering if there was any other kind of benefits I could get.

So one day when I browsed online, I read the 12 best meditation retreats in Thailand article. And after comparing it, I felt that Wat Suan Mokkh silence mediation retreat would be the best option for me - low budget option (cost Thb 2,000 for the whole 10 days), 2 vegetarian meals provided daily, being silence entire time (shouldn't be a problem for a quiet me), basic sleeping condition (hard surface with straw mat, wooden pillow, blanket, and mosquitoes net), daily yoga, hot spring (natural hot spring, mind you! Omg!!!), and surrounded by lush nature (this what drawn me most as nature-lover).

Suan Mokkh - A place definitely for a nature-lover :)

They had own website and I could find all information I needed (clearly and in English). Ooh... btw, I chose Thailand because I had been wanted to go there again after my first and last visit back in year 2007. I planned combining the meditation retreat together with a holiday break to Bangkok, and later on to Chiang Mai.

Just nice I found accompany (a close ex-schoolmate) for the trip at both places. However, she wasn't interested to join the silence meditation retreat. Therefore, despite being alone, it didn't stop me to go ahead with this program :) I assured myself that I would not be the only one who attended the program alone. There must be many people out there from all around the world who would like to find the happiness inside, live a silence life, and head to this place, just like me :)

Since I had been jobless for more than a year, I had to plan this trip as economy as possible. I took a budget air to Bangkok on 29th Aug, landed at Don Mueang Airport, and took a train from there to Hua Lamphong train station. The train ticket only cost me 20 Baht. It took me more than an hour to reach.

Train from Don Mueang Airport to Hua Lamphong

To be frank, I was a bit nervous about this trip as I traveled alone. And on my previous visit (10 years ago), I never took other public transport except for Taxi ^^" But now, since I had only limited budget in hand, I had to find cheap transport wherever I go. And watching SPL II: A Time for Consequences before the trip, increased my worry as well (fear of being kidnapped and sold my organs). Lol!!! 

That's why I arranged meeting up with Bhutanese friend for dinner before continuing my train journey at night. This way I'd have something positive to look forward and I wouldn't be afraid of being alone :) Thank you Tenzin for willingly accepting my request and treating me dinner as well! Your accompany made me feeling much braver and adjusting the situation faster. Thank you, thank you, and thank you! :)

Thank you 3 of you for coming all the way to meet me :)

After dinner over, 3 of them had to go back to their hostel. I spent the rest of the time inside the train station; went to toilet for freshen up and sat at the huge air-con room until the train came. Luckily it was not that crowded. I took train no. 39, second class seat with air-con, departed at 10.50pm. Only few people in 1 carriage. We were given blanket, bread and juice. Soon I fell asleep and the train kept going. Tut tut tuttt..... jess jess jess....

Hua Lamphong Railway Station - Bangkok, Thailand
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