Ten days of silent meditation at Wat Suan Mokkh in southern Thailand; at the mercy of the mosquitoes and alone in your thoughts.
The monks give daily Damma talks on Anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing). They speak of dukkha (suffering), and the cessation of dukkha.
Most of the time you sit silently and meditate. Actually, everything is silent, there is no talking.
You sleep on a concrete slab with a straw mat and a wooden pillow. The monastery bell rings at 4am, you arise and walk to the meditation hall for sitting meditation.
Yoga, and then more meditation before 8am for a breakfast of rice soup.
And then chores, I swept one of the meditation halls. Afterwards the bell rings and back to sitting meditation, followed by walking meditation. Eventually lunch, the last meal of the day.
In the afternoon one of the monks gives a Damma talk. Afterwards walking meditation, and then sitting meditation. And then you either continue sitting or join in on chanting (in Pali)– chanting is a nice way to exercise your vocal chords and break up the silence.
Late afternoon there is tea and free time to sit in the hot springs. As the sun sets the bell rings and you walk to the meditation hall for (you guessed it) sitting meditation. Then group walking meditation, walking barefoot in the dark, mindfully so as not to step on any centipedes, scorpions or snakes. A candle-lit path around a pond, stars above.
In the silence the pace slows, day by day people are walking slower and slower, you move at the pace of life and the nature to which you are apart.
Your mind may race in the silence, all notions of self and ego fight to maintain their place in your mind, the monks tell you these are illusions– and anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing) brings these illusions to your awareness.
“I” and “My”
Everyone seems to get something different from this experience. Confronting your self in the silence, you may or may not like what you find.
Dig deep enough and you find the illusion of self, that “I” and “my” are delusions.
There are many sides to who you think you are, many even conflict with each other, which one is the real you?
Question your possessions, relationships, memories, personality, body, and even the mind itself — all of these things change (dramatically) during the course of a single human life; which one is the real you? Or are you the very process that witnesses the continuous change of life? If you peel off the layers one-by-one there’s little left.
I thought, perhaps there’s a self in each moment, dying and reborn continuously as we experience life. Question even this, and peel this off as yet another delusional layer of ego– eventually there is no more ego (“I” or “my”) to question.
Ego-less existence feels like a dream when you know you are dreaming. Content, beautiful, blissful freedom.
Free from craving
Free from suffering
Free to crave
Free to suffer.