A Monk’s Life (in the forest monastery) – Pt. 1

Home  /  Blog  /  Asia  /  Current Page

The schedule around Wat Pah Sunan goes like this almost every day:

2:45 AM — Wake up

3:15 AM — Meditate

4:00 AM — Chanting

5:30 AM — Monks go get alms while other folks volunteer in the kitchen or help clean up

7:30 AM — Serve food to the monks

8:00 AM — All eat breakfast

9:00 AM — Read, meditate, etc. (AKA free time)

12:00 PM — Second meal (sometimes)

2:00 PM — Dhamma talk

3:15 PM — Clean up the monastery (sweeping)

6:00 PM — Walking Meditation

7:00 PM — Chanting

8:00 PM — Dhamma talk

Folks usually go to bed around 9 or 10 pm each night.

Tan Thien really wanted me to get the most out of my experience at Wat Pah Sunan, so the next day he took me on a tour around the monastery in the morning. It’s absolutely gorgeous and serene out there! He said I should one day go to a forest monastery to spend some time working on my mindfulness practices. Sounds like a great idea when I quit my job…

Since he can’t be alone with women (Thai Theravada Buddhism is hella strict) we went with his mentor, Ajhan Thi, around the grounds where the monks lived and where the new buildings were being built. Apparently a lot of former monks donate hella scrill to the monastery, that’s why they have such flossy new buildings.

At one end of the grounds there’s a bunch of caves where the monks go to meditate — Tan Thien sometimes spends the night there to meditate and get solitude. He told me that while there is apparently a coupe of king cobras that hang out in the area, I should try and climb the rock mountain above the caves to see the amazing view of the monastery. I did, and thought I was going to die. I pretty much went cross country rockclimbing/hiking through steep, jagged rocks and thorny trees and brush for about 20 min until I found the top.  It was coo.

Tan Thien asked me if I wanted to help sweep up the grounds with the rest of the monks, and I said I was down. He sees sweeping – like most things — as a mindfulness practice. For an hour or so, I used his long, wooden stick of a broom (it looks like a paint brush with almost all the bristles gone) and my whole body to sweep the streets and roads from side to side, carefully making sure to move all leaves and debris to the side of the road. I got the hang of it and it was actually a pretty nice experience; there’s something very calming  about focusing all your energy on the gentle act of sweeping back and forth, like a coordinated dance. Afterwards he told me that he was so moved watching me sweep that he almost started to cry.  I guess that does it for him.

Later in the evening I went to do the walking meditation, but decided to do it on my own on the side — the rest of the group walks wayyyy too fast for me to be mindful about it. So I stepped…really, really slowly…near the main building for about an hour, just feeling myself lift up my knees, and carefully put each step where it made sense. I love moving meditations, it’s a lot easier and works better for me than sitting meditations. Must be the gemini in me that likes to stay active to focus.

Afterwards I tried to listen to the chanting but went out on my own to study some of the books that Tan Thien loaned to me. One focused a lot on happiness, which was pretty applicable to what I’ve been going through this year. It was pretty peaceful as I sat by myself, writing down quotes that I liked into my jounral by the light of a street lamp, while listening to the folks chanting in the background. I HELLA value those times when I get to really, deeply process shit. It grounds me and helps me move forward with more wisdom. The last time I had a chance to do that was during my camping sabbatical at the end of August this past year. I told myself I must make more time for that in 2012 — that shall be one of my main goals.

Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery


Posted: January 8, 2012

Author: Tiffany

Category: Asia, Blog, Thailand

Tags: , , , ,


Leave a Reply