Attending a 10 day silent meditation retreat was one of the first things I’ve done after arriving in South East Asia and it was definitely a challenge worth facing. The retreat was held at a Buddhist monastery Suan Mokkh situated in Chayia, southern Thailand (basically in the middle of nowhere:).
Let me describe you the settings of the retreat so you’ll be able to better understand what we were going through. We slept on concrete beds and wooden pillows. I gave up the wooden pillow on the first day and used the one I took from an airplane, what a life saver!
Wake up bell was at 4am, we did some meditation followed by a yoga class and more meditation until breakfast at 8:00 am, after that more meditation and mindfulness lectures, at 12:30 we had lunch – the last meal of the day… and more meditation until 9:00pm. We were not allowed to speak or communicate in any way. We had to give away our electronics and any other distractions, like books etc. I broke one of the rules and kept a diary;) It turned out to be such a beautiful memory! Without making notes every day the whole experience would have blended into 1 very long meditation session. I managed to keep the little details of each day, all the struggles and reflections.
The schedule was very intense but it was nothing compared to the mental challenge we had to face. Throughout the retreat I had plenty of high and low moments. The first few days were particularly difficult as I was struggling with my meditation practice. Normally I’d meditate in a quiet room and it was a completely different setting when 50 of us were seated outside, surrounded by nature. The flies, the mosquito bites (no amount of mosquito repellent will save you from a bite), the rain, people cutting tries nearby, all of that doesn’t really help in focusing on your breathing. Basically I had to learn how to meditate from the start. But at some point I was able to connect with my body and mind and I’ve made some progress. I’ve encountered more difficulties later on but I will not get into details;)
It has been an incredible experience and I felt blessed to be there in a beautiful monastery, being taught by monks, eating local, organic food, meeting lots of amazing people and most importantly, getting to know myself better:)
When we left the retreat I felt exhausted, but after a good night sleep on a soft mattress, a Thai massage and a coffee I fully recovered.
After breaking the silence on the last day we had an opportunity to exchange the experiences with other meditators, it was surprising to see how everyone took something different from the retreat. One thing we could agree for sure: we shouldn’t stay in the past or future, all we’ve got is the present moment:)