Have you ever fancied trying meditation? Monk chat in Wat Suandok Chiang Mai is a fantastic experience which gives you a deeper understanding of the lives of monks in Thailand while giving you a taste of the power of meditation.
I have always fancied myself to be rather a fair weather meditator. I really want to do it well. The whole process begins with an elaborate ritual: I bathe myself using the most expensive shower creams, set up a meditation space, find the perfect music, arrange myself in the perfect position and then: nothing.
Now, unfortunately, this is not the kind of doing that leads to Nirvana but rather a kind of nothing that leads me to wonder what’s for dinner or whether I left the tap on in the kitchen.
The solution presented itself while on my recent trip to Thailand. Thailand sells itself of pristine beaches and spiritual awakenings and it was no surprise to find that a quick search revealed a multitude of overpriced “getaways” complete with spas and guaranteed enlightenment in no less than two weeks. My budget, and moreover my conscience told me that there must be a better option: that, my friends, is how I came across Monk Chat in Chiang Mai.
Monk Chat is a service provided by the monks who live in some of the temples in Chiang Mai in order to educate foreigners about Buddhism, meditation, and life in the temple. The one I went to was in a temple called Wat Suan Dok, which is just outside the walls of the old city and is worth visiting in and of itself. It is funded by donation and I can say that there was very little pressure and at the end of the day I gladly handed over my donation feeling that the money was well spent.
Sadly, I only had time for a one day program which lasted the whole day with a break for lunch in between in the (amazing) cafe inside the temple. It is organised by a monk called KK who greeted our group of about fifteen people in the morning with a beautiful friendly smile and a calm voice.
The day began with an introduction to Buddhism and the key concepts which undermine the lives of the monks in the temple. After the talk, there is a break for lunch in which KK recommended we go to the cafe next door in the temple. Always wary I was waiting to be conned out of bags of cash for some poorly made food but what awaited us there was perhaps the best meal I had in Thailand. Beware carnivores! This is a vegetarian only restaurant. However, I challenge anyone not to come away satisfied. After lunch we learned and practiced four kinds of meditation: sitting meditation, counting meditation, lying meditation, and walking meditation. Each of the different types of meditation was explained clearly and we had a chance to test them out.
The last part of the day was the “monk chat” in which we had the opportunity to ask KK whatever we wanted about Buddhism or the lives of the monks in the temples in Thailand. It was fascinating, not only because it gave us an insight into the unseen daily lives of the monks but because KK was quite direct and open. He answered everyone’s questions in a thoughtful and sometimes very emotional way.
I felt like during the day I learned a lot and took some tips away that will hopefully mean I will have greater success in my meditation practice at home. Now just to get out those meditation beads and give it a go!