By Calindra Revier
I found Buddhism when I was 22. I wasn’t aware before then that there was anything fundamentally wrong with my thinking. It seemed to give me a peace of mind I had never even known possible until that point.
All that chaos inside my head would be silenced, even for just moments.
I studied and practiced meditation for years not interested in the religious demons that surrounded Theravada buddhism. I instead was searching to understand the framework better. The ideas and practices to guide one’s thoughts fascinated me.
I thought I was prepared and understood what I was getting myself into. I now more clearly understand that nothing can prepare you for 10 days of silence, meditating for hours a day and refraining from eating from noon until eight the next morning.
It’s an experience unlike anything I had gone through before.
Finding myself still on the islands a day before I needed to be at the Wat Suan Mokkh monastery near Chaiya meant that I needed to spend the better part of 24 hours traveling.
I was on a boat, on a bus, then a taxi (who ripped me off), then another taxi (small van filled with people far exceeding the number of seatbelts) and finally a long walk to complete my journey.
The monastery was a mile off the main road. The road was thick with Thai countryside seeping through the barbed wire fences on either side.
The woman just outside of the monastery was tending the shrubbery. In true Buddhist fashion, after speaking for a moment, she offered me an apple from her lunch.
She asked me if I recognized her. I mumbled something under my breath not sure how to respond.
The first night was difficult.
Sleeping on a bamboo mat atop concrete with only a wooden pillow for my head did not provide for a very good night’s sleep.
The morning delivered no relief as I adjusted into the meditation lifestyle.
The bells rang at 4 a.m. that morning and every morning for 10 days. The bells would ring and I would sluggishly and not too gracefully propel my body out of bed, trying to avoid getting tangled in the mosquito net while also watching out for large spiders, which would make their homes in our rooms at night within the large holes in the walls.
I did not know really what to expect or what I hoped to gain from this experience that I had been anticipating for such a long time. But I searched for it every moment. I waited for some epiphany to hit me, for some moment of truth to come smack me on the head.
Instead it was subtle. It was gentle and unalarming. I did not receive some daring moment of understanding. But slowly I became more silent and became more still. I learned to see things in a different light, in a content and unjudging way.
Some days were harder than others. My stomach would ache and my mind would yell. The mosquitos would destroy our bodies during meditation. We were not allowed to squish them.
There were times I would get up from an hour long meditation and my arms and legs would be full of a hundred mosquito bites burning and itching beyond belief.
After pointing to my legs which to me seemed almost surely some sort of medical emergency, the nuns would simply respond “Just keep meditating.” My time there, cut off from the world, was as rewarding an experience as it was challenging.
Overall traveling alone you get to know the world better, you see things you would not have seen otherwise and you experience change in an influencing way. My time in Thailand will last through my life as the first trip in a long series of trips where I faced the unknown head on, full of positivity. To me that is essential to life.