Thailand is among the world’s premier travel destinations with the kingdom’s way of life, traditions and culture creating a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere for visitors. This, coupled with the country’s deep-rooted Buddhist faith, makes Thailand a perfect destination where one can relax, find inner peace and develop a healthy mind, body and spirit through Buddhist meditation.
Meditation brings greater awareness and increases wisdom of thoughts, words and actions. Meditation is not a form of escapism from daily life but rather the opposite. It teaches people to recognize and understand their problems. By doing so they are in a better position to face up to them. There are many books in English about meditation available but whilst the method of meditation can be taught, it is
something that an individual must experience. As a leading centre of Buddhist learning with a growing number of meditation retreats around the country, meditation teaching is widely available for Thais and visitors alike.
In Chiang Mai, you can check out these different places which are famous for meditation retreats:
- Suan Dok Temple : “Monk Chat” programs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5pm to 7pm. They also have a meditation center outside of town with two and four day programes.
@ MCU-Suan Dok Temple. Suthep Rd. | Tel. 084-609 1357
- Umong Temple : one to four day retreats.
@ Tambon Suthep, | Tel. 053-810 965 | www.watumong.org
- International Buddhism Centre : Doi Suthep Temple.
Four, five, seven, ten and fourteen day retreats + thrirty and twenty one day for advanced courses.
@ Top of Suthep mountain, | Tel. 053-295 012
- Ram Poeng Temple : ten day retreat.
@ Tumbon Suthep. | Tel. 053-278 620
- Chiang Mai Vipassana Foundation : one week retreat (not in english language).
@ San Pa Tong. | Tel. 081-483 1330 | www.vipassanacm.com
REAL EXPERIENCES FROM TRAVELERS:
To the uninitiated, deep meditation might seem like a fairly relaxing practice,but speak to those who have attended local retreats and you begin to understand that it is a lot tougher than many realise. It is not uncommon to hear people refer to it as one of the most difficult things they have ever done. Surprisingly, those that find it the most difficult are also the first to extol the virtues of it.
“I never understood how much work deep meditation could be. I felt quite exhausted at the end of each day”, said one student who attended a ten-day retreat in Mae Hong Son to further his understanding of the practice. “While experiencing incredible peace at times, I also discovered that far from doing nothing, meditation involves intense concentration and mindfulness requires great exertion.”
He says he experienced his meditation deepening with every day of the program. “I found it easier to relax into a state of mindfulness and concentrate on my breathing. As we approached the end of the
course, I felt a bit saddened. Despite the tough start, I had really begun to enjoy it.
Another who attended the meditation retreat at Wat Doi Suthep, says she found the process extremely difficult. “I wanted to leave at least three times,” she laughs. “I found the deprivation
of stimulus really frustrating at first. I couldn’t quiet my mind; it was running all over the place.” By the end of the program she said the outside world felt more “amplified”. “My hearing and vision just felt much more acute to the point of sensory overload near crowds or loud things. I also felt lighter and more good humoured than before.” She says the experience even challenged her self-perception. “I had
some very set ideas, but I found getting beyond that, I’ve become more gentle with myself.”