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Meditation Retreat

Posted by Don on 28 June 2009

After leaving the boat I took a cab to Phuket bus station and went across Thailand to the east coast (which only took about 4 hrs) and took a minivan to reach Chaiya, in Surat Thani province. Chaiya is the location of a relatively famous temple, or Wat, call Suan Mokkh. Founded over 50 years ago they run regular meditation retreats in Thai and English. Once per month there is a retreat for foreigners. I had done it 6 years ago and had always wanted to come back. What better moment than this – almost done with the MBA and not yet having started work. I also thought it would nicely round up the MBA experience and help me reorganize my thoughts.

This retreat helps the participants focus on themselves – becoming mindful and calming the mind. Usually the mind is all over the place, jumping from one thought to another. A lot of worry and suffering comes from the fact that we spend a lot of time being upset about events in the past (which we cannot change anymore) or worrying about the future (which is not here yet). So by calming the mind (through breathing), meditation and focusing on the here and now, participants try to reduce stress and anxiety. This is not a sect or a strictly religious place – all people are welcome. But it is also not an easy undertaking – participants cannot talk for 10 days and only eat twice a day. Accommodation is provided but very Spartan. All of this helps reconnect with nature – where else do you have 10 days to spend meditating and thinking of yourself (actually: trying not to think at all), letting go of all stress and doing things like watching ants for 15 minutes?

The meditation is done in 3 different ways – sitting, standing and walking. Especially walking is very interesting – the movement is split into 5 parts which are done really slowly. Thus to walk 20 meters takes about 30 minutes. A very interesting experience.

The 10 days went past faster than the last time – I understood the retreat and the way things are run a lot better. And the English monk was doing most of the mediation instruction and Dhamma talks. This is a very interesting character – an English guy who ordained as a monk at Suan Mokkh 15 years ago. He delivers extremely sharp and precise lectures – witty and funny at the same time.

Unfortunately I had to leave one day earlier – I had to retake a GLDP course at LBS. So I took an overnight flight back and had the interesting experience of, within 24 hrs, moving from a rural retreat setting to an LBS classroom for a session on speech preparation and delivery. Weird, mindblowing, great.

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