Old Bangkok

This is Wat Mahathat, a quiet peaceful monastery in the oldest part of Bangkok. Near the ruined fortress walls in the ancient part of the city.
I showed up there every morning for meditation for a few months in the early 90s. It was there in Bangkok that the conditions aligned, and I made a commitment to the journey inward. 

The instruction was all in Thai language. We did walking meditation with instruction for 45 minutes and then just simple sitting. 

There was some chanting in Pali, 

the language of the Buddha which I found to be conducive to a steady mind state, and a tangible link to the ancient origins of this traditional practice. 

I would float out with the early orange sun, stepping in a light trance state. Re-entering the flow of the city, I was careful to be aware of the movement of Tuk-Tuks and motorcycles while attempting to keep a simultaneous awareness of my breathing. 

I walked in through the gates again this past December and felt so much gratitude. 

I recently found some of my old journals from this period. It’s so interesting to look back from here. I was going through some challenging stuff at the time and looking for a way out of samskara. (the endlessly turning wheel of desires and attachments that keep us recreating ups and downs). 

Why did I start this meditation project?

Well, I think my wish to meditate started as a child. In the TV series Kung Fu with (David Caradine) meditation was a key part of being a Shaolin warrior, that is to being super-human. cool and peaceful. 

But it was only in my early twenties that I really decided to give meditation a proper crack.
At that time, my last two-month visa in the Sumatran islands had delivered the waves of my life but that high point was balanced by going a few rounds with malaria and seriously rupturing my knee in a wipeout.  

So I was there in Bangkok, recovering and rebuilding slowly when I got chatting to some young monks and was invited for tea at the monastery. I was given permission to join the morning meditations, so I made that my morning ritual.

There was one middle-aged German woman in the morning meditation, the only other non-Thai person. We never spoke, but one day out of the blue, she said let’s go get a coffee. I was surprised when she lit up a cigarette. Weren’t all meditators clean living? She claimed that she was not attached to the smokes, just enjoying them with coffee.

She already had a long relationship with the Theravada Buddhist practices, and it showed.  In these traditions, value of having a friend on the path is well recognised. It is known as a “Kaliana Mitra”. She appeared for me at that time. Those morning coffee (and cigarette) chats, helped me to reflect on many of the finer points of Dharma’s teachings, and she also alluded to a certain “energy” that arises and how that good feeling found in stillness can become an addiction.

The gift there was friendship, guidance and then her suggestion that I go stay at the forest monastery in the South called Wat Suan Mok. That was the biggest gift of all. I stayed a very quiet month in the forest doing four sittings per day, and joined a 10 day silent retreat.

I guess it seemed like an opportunity, so I dived in with a level of enthusiasm. The same youthful gusto that had sent me exploring and surfing the Islands off Sumatra. The result was quite mind-blowing. I discovered some euphoric bliss that I didn’t know existed, and then of course I wanted more. That state then became the next object for the grasping mind. The challenge then was the coming back out and re-engaging with the ordinary mundane world while bring the lessons from the retreat.

For a little while it was tough to make peace with the “real world” of working life and relationships and so on. 
I am still on that project of integration I guess. And it is still useful to retreat on a regular basis into the quiet. 

If you would like to join me and learn some of what I have learned through meditation, yoga, leading retreats in wild natural surrounds and seeing life through the lens of Eastern traditional wisdom, please see the few upcoming retreats below. 

Thanks again for reading. 

Be well.