I lay here on my bed staring at the ceiling in the still heat and remember staring at water stains on numerous ceilings in cheap hotel rooms in Bangkok, in my temple and on the walls in places where I ate noodles and fresh fish curry on the islands I visited. I also remember geckoes scuttling across those water stains.
I spent 6 weeks traveling around Thailand and in that time, spent 10 days at a Buddhist meditation retreat north of Chiang Mai. It was Wat Ram Poeng although that’s only how you say it…not sure I remember how to spell it. I took an electric tuk tuk there and arrived with gifts of incense, candles and marigolds. I also gave money. I learned sitting and walking meditation. I ate at 6.30am and then at 11.30am and nothing the rest of the day. I took the exact amount of food on my tray so that I would be nourished but none would be wasted. I ate in silence in a room full of silent people. I chanted. I was bitten by many mosquitoes. I wore white. There were monks and nuns working, chanting and laughing all around me. There were gorgeous roosters and hens and the scrawniest, flea bitten, mangy dogs you could possible imagine hanging about.
I had a very large water dragon visit my room one night. I made a bit of a fuss and a smiling monk with a packet of Marlboro Reds wedged between his orange robe and his shoulder came to my rescue. He gently shooed the creature out of my room so that I could crawl back onto the woven mat on the concrete slab under the mosquito net and sweat myself to sleep in peace.
I asked my teacher, Pra Sawat if it was necessary to remove yourself from the temptations of the outside world in order to live a truly spiritual life. He replied “I like Chicken Maryland but I choose this way”. I guess he meant you make choices about what you will give up in search of your personal spiritual enlightenment. He gave up Chicken Maryland. I wasn’t sure what I was prepared to give up.
I met an English woman there who was spending a long time in retreat. We weren’t supposed to talk much but we did. She had lost her baby and was there trying to find a way to keep living with her loss. I meditated on her and prayed her pain would lift and she would feel some peace.
There were many flowers and I recall the sweet scent of them wafting around the temple gardens in the heat. I also recall the feel of the cool marble beneath my feet as I walked very slowly through the outside terrace corridors of the main temple.
September 17, 2015