Thursday, August 25, 2011

life in a Buddhist monastery - part 1

“So what exactly I'm supposed to do when I'm in the monastery?” I asked Lance for the third time. Like the previous two times, he smiled and said “Nothing, you're not supposed to do anything. Just go and relax, things will flow naturally”. That answer was far from satisfactory. I needed exact schedules, an extensive list of what's appropriate to do around monks, what to avoid, what to take with me, … but I also knew I wouldn't get anything more from him. I decided to try my best of “going with the flow”, as I didn't have any other options.
This was about a month ago in Bali, after Lance told me that everything was arranged for me to stay in one of the most beautiful monasteries in Thailand.

For the last few months in Bali, I was having some interesting Buddhist experiences. Having had those experiences already for over a decade, Lance suggested that cleaning kitchens in meditation centers was a waste of time for me, as I was already at a higher level. According to him, the best thing was to dive right into it, in the presence of the monks in a real monastery. So he contacted some senior monks and the whole trip was organized within a few weeks. I had very limited information about Buddhism.  For me, monks were isolated and strict people dressed in all shades of orange and brown. I started reading as much as I could gather from the internet, but quickly figured out this is one of those things that theoretical knowledge doesn't bring much preparation to the real thing.

The family of a monk volunteered to drive me to the monastery from Bangkok. They didn't want me to  struggle with buses and get lost. Considering that it was a 6-hour drive one-way, that was a very generous help. On the way, I bombarded them with questions and got some answers. When we arrived, I was a little surprised. I pictured, “beautiful” as colorful flowers, manicured gardens, cute cottages. Yet I saw a wild forest and some worn-down buildings and not much else. For a moment I panicked, seriously what was I supposed to do here for 5 days? Returning to Bangkok crossed my mind but trusting Lance's judgment, I decided to give it a try.

I went into the guesthouse to settle. Judging by the amount of dust and cobwebs gathered, it obviously had been empty for quite a while. We laid down 5 layers of blankets on the floor to be my bed. Then Phra Mo gave m a quick tour of the monastery. Phra Mo is a senior monk, who's actually been living in the US for the last 11 years. He was visiting Thailand for a few months. His presence  was just another synchronicity. What are the odds of going to a monastery in northwest Thailand, in a wild rainforest and meeting a monk who speaks English and is very willing to teach?

On the third day, I started giving CranioSacral sessions to monks! Women are not allowed to touch monks – it's a huge offense. Yet during a CranioSacral session I need to place my hands very gently on the person to get in tune, to listen to their tides. I've seen my teacher give sessions without touching so I know it's possible. I'm nowhere near that advanced, but seeing the monks' enthusiasm for healing sessions I wanted to give it a try. It turned out to be harder than I thought, still most of the sessions worked. At the end of the day, I explained to Phra Mo that I am used to feeling the tide by my hands so trying to “see” without a sense of touch  was quite tiring for me. As if stating the most obvious thing in the world Phra Mo said “If you can sense by touching, you can surely see it too. Just need to clear yourself and empty your mind a little more”. Then he offered to give me private meditation sessions in the evenings to increase my sensitivity and clarity. I was ecstatic and we started that evening. Some days it was long talks filled with information and short meditations, some other days it was a deep meditation... Every day I felt luckier and more thankful to the chain of events that brought me here.

the guesthouse, from outside
inside the guesthouse
The plan was to stay in this monastery for 5 days. Then I would attend a big temple ceremony in west Thailand to take photos followed by about 10 days in a famous meditation center near Chiang Mai. Yet within 5 days my first impressions of the monastery changed dramatically. I got used to walking in the dark, hiking alone in the jungle, eating only one meal a day and simply listening to myself. More importantly, the CranioSacral sessions and the private meditation sessions were going so well. I strongly felt that I needed to stay a little longer here. I asked the abbot permission to return and he warmly agreed.
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  1. süper ötesiydi, Esin'cim, bizden biri de bu manastırlarda canlı yayında oley, bir nefeste okudum!:)
    i didn't know you were such a good writer by the way :) looking fwd to part 2!

  2. Cook tesekkurler Idil :)*blushing*
    2-3 ve diger kisimlar da yolda, simdi ben bu gazla ne yazarim yahu