10 days retreat in silence in a monastery in Thailand (part 2/3)
I am back to talk about my silence retreat. If you miss the first part , follow the link here.
There are rules for this life in community. Everything is very clear. At the beginning, I thought it was a bit too much but at one point you really appreciate not having to think about anything. You know what to do or not and when to do it. No need a watch, the bell is there to guide you from an activity to another. When I say bell, I don’t mean the horrible bell from school … no, a bell with a melodious sound that rings for 15 minutes and that takes you with love to your next destination.
Men and women are separated to avoid distractions: one side to meditate for men, another for women, the same for meals and dormitories. At first, I found that extreme. We can manage it, we are not children … But the fact is, when we start to go inside ourselves, any outside distraction is taken by the mind to avoid this descent inside. And the opposite sex is one of the distractions that the mind delights. It also helps to prevent thoughts about seduction, sexuality from disturbing the hours of self-reflection and fleeing to fantasies. After several days, I found that this life just between women, allowed me to connect to another form of inner femininity that does not go through the jewel, or sexy outfit that of course are not allowed 😉
Sleeping the hard way is also one of the experiences we all live, and it can make you sensitive. I found it cool but for others the nights were long or short … each of the rooms were very basic with only a board of wood with a mat to sleep and … luxury or not? a wooden pillow. The mosquito net, on the other hand, was welcome because the mosquitoes seem to know that we do not kill them and are happy to eat you up. Between us, a few days later, I regret the bed and the wooden pillow. Once used, it’s more comfortable than you think;)
Taking a shower is also a real ritual. In each dormitory, there is a large basin and with small basins that allow to salvage water with which I was watering myself. I couldn’t shower naked, I had to have a sarong on me and get wet with it. It was pretty strange but in the end I thought it was great. With this little basin, I didn’t really feel the cold water that of course is not heated. We do this the hard way! But it becomes almost a game. In addition, I often met the same people and even in the silence you make shower friends!
There are also hot springs. Yes I did say “hot springs” that you have the right to use twice a day after breakfast and after tea. Heaven. Especially when the body is tense after so much meditation. All this is done of course in silence, but what a pleasure to offer to yourself this treat, in the middle of all its rules, I can only recommend it.
The activities during breaks are not numerous and are not very varied. As we don’t have the right to lie down on this green and tempting grass, or to do a little chat … activities in this place are starting to be restricted. I spotted several groups during my experience.
“The sprinklers” who are girls who go to hot springs and who take a lot of showers. (Which I was part of) For me, water was a key during retirement. I had the feeling of cleaning myself, freeing my head, my body, my emotions every time I went underwater. So I went at least 5 times under the water a day and I drank 5 liters of water.
“The washers”: wow the laundry boss! Everyday clothes to wash and a different technique for each. I think the sentence washing your dirty laundry in this type of place is full of meaning. I was sometimes fascinated just by watching them do. The one who jumps into the bucket, the one who brushes as if the task had been there for years.
There was the group I called “poetics”. Those who during breaks write. What? I don’t know but it seemed very serious: the look in the emptiness by moment and the pen moving frenetically a few seconds later.
“Rainbows” are those who spent their time in nature smiling at plants, butterflies, birds and when a rainbow appeared in the sky on day 5 … it was party time. I even thought our ladies were going to break the silence due to so much happiness. But they were beautiful to see and their enthusiasm for nature made me even a little jealous I must say.
We had chore during our breaks; the duty to help the community to function, each of us had a role. I chose to clean the toilet. When I arrived, I told myself that I would take the first chore on the list … But finally, it was not that hard and I found it highly symbolic. Cleaning my shit and the one of others … no need to say more. I had great moments of loneliness with the toilet that I call “disaster” and here I confess: I said no. Do not abuse. I want to clean the shit of others, up to a certain limit. So I closed the door and I sealed the toilet off.
To resume, the life of the community of women happened so day after day and it was nice to not really having to worry more than that. Do your laundry, sleep, shower and go back to meditation. The opportunity also to do your activities with conscience, with symbolism for each of us.
Yes. But 2 times a day. On the other hand, the food is excellent and cherry on the cake it was rain water, water from up there that we drank. And that’s fancy, it’s something to appreciate. The first meal is the breakfast which is a rice soup. But a great rice soup so good with fruits and for lunch most of the time rice-based curry with vegetables and desserts to die for. Do I need to specify that it is vegetarian?
Eating in Suan Mokkh is a ritual and all the basic situations of life such as the meal is an opportunity to learn more about oneself. Then there is what is called “reflections”. First of all you have to wait for everyone to sit down and when that is done you have to wait. For the stomach that screams its hunger, I can tell you that it’s a little bit hard sometimes. Then there is the reflection on food. What is eating? What is behind food, the link with nature, with oneself? It is very interesting and above all it allows you to start your meal with more calm and conscience. Everything is done to bring you back to what you are doing here and now. Eat with conscience: without eating too much or not eating enough.
Ah! The famous silence that scares or fascinates some. In a context where we probably didn’t know anyone and where silence is needed, it becomes almost easy to be silent. Of course, there are the rebels who will take the interviews for example as an excuse to be able to speak. Or some who know each other and are whispering in the corner of a door. Others want to explain something technical and can’t make it, so they will say a word. But all these are just excuses, situations that the mind created to speak a little. It’s a shame, because if the need is really feel like getting out the words you can read with everyone the reflection on the food or sing the sacred songs. If you want to stay in silence it’s also quite possible, I didn’t say a word for 10 days. Well, almost not; I admit that I pulled out a “fuck” when a red ant bit me!
On the other hand, I confess that I had a frustration on the silence but it was also a beautiful lesson. There is a difference between being silent and being in silence. If apparently I did not speak, in my head it was “the party in Dallas”. And at times, I just wanted to talk to cover the noise inside me. To cover the sound of my thoughts that didn’t leave me alone. But it helped me understand that when I start to talk a lot, it hides a restless mind that I can’t manage. After 10 days of silence I chose to isolate myself and to pronounce my first words with conscience in my corner. I didn’t want my first words to be stolen by someone for a technical question.
This is the end of the part 2. Coming soon with part 3. Stay tune.
All my love,