Monday, September 12, 2011

forest tradition

the view from the 3rd floor of the chanting hall
Within Buddhism, there are some different schools and traditions. The monastery I stayed in Thailand follows the Thai Forest tradition. Monks following this tradition spend a lot of alone time in nature, especially in the rain forests in the northern parts of Thailand. They believe that clear, big spaces (unlike cities) creates a clear mind too. Also observing the nature and living in complete harmony with it is important. Monks who follow this tradition are generally experts of insight meditation and they are believed to have some “supernatural” powers. I met a few who can see beyond what eyes can see, but I doubt if that should be called supernatural. Anyway...

I have no idea how I ended up in this monastery. Despite currently living in Ubud, I'm still very much a city girl. Nature is good to observe from the windows of an A/C car and organic food is healthy, that's pretty much my relationship with the nature. So coming here, people ask me if I like to swim in the water fall or take hikes in the jungle. I would feel trapped on one floor if shopping mall escalators are being serviced, and they are talking about hikes in jungle?

The first days were pretty hard. Constant rain, limited electricity, no hot water, walking to the chanting hall in darkness with a thousand creatures around is not my cup of tea. My teacher kept saying “open space, open mind”. Yet I felt very much trapped and scared. This didn't feel like an open and clear mind to me.

constant fog in the mountains
Then slowly, but very slowly things began to improve. I was no longer scared to death when I walk to the chanting hall at 4am. I was confident to take 45 minute walks in the forest (the distance I can go is less that a kilometer but sometimes slow is good) . During one of these walks, I saw a big snake catch and eat a lizard and I stood at a distance to watch it. I almost enjoyed the space that my teacher was talking about. I can't say that my mind was clear, however within that new space I was able to see my fears. Sometimes I felt too old to face them, other times I felt that if I wasn't meant to overcome them, I wouldn't be there...

I'll be back in the monastery in about two weeks. Maybe it would be time for me to try the forest walk under the rain. Maybe I'll understand the forest tradition monks, maybe I'll find the clarity.

At least I hope to get some of these supernatural powers. Courage shouldn't go unrewarded, should it?


  1. Good luck with your stay in the jungle, I think just having changed your life makes you supernatural. You are really something different.

  2. Thanks Jarmo, you are and have always been so supportive :) I'm lucky to have you in my life