I’m baaaaack…For the last 6 months I have been taking a course to become a Certified Meditation Instructor with the Willpower Institute. As part of our training, we were invited on a field test which included 15 days in beautiful Thailand and a 4 day mountain trek.
I made it! Here’s a brief summary of what it felt like.
I actually read from my journal the following line: “I’ve already had to let so much go. The rude airport people, security expecting you to know exactly what is expected as if you work there every day. The guy ahead of me that knocked my water bottle over when he reclined his chair on the plane and the fact at that i broke my fav pair of sunglasses already”. Really? As I write this I feel like going back and telling myself, get a grip. You are on your way to a life changing adventure and this is what you choose to focus on?
After almost 24 hours of travel, I arrived in Bangkok, Thailand in the evening. We were greeted by many people and welcomed like we were royalty. I realized within 5 minutes that I have a severe attachment to “stuff”. They do things differently there. I found myself wrestling with a gentleman who was trying to take my bag and explaining in Thai that it would be safe in the back of the old beat up pickup that he was loading it into. But I kept telling him I need all that stuff. Then I waved goodbye to the suitcase as it made its way down the road. It seemed to wave back. Never to be seen again. At least until I got to the temple where it was waiting for me. TRUST, Marnie.
I awoke early the next morning to the sound of a gong which signalled breakfast. Hmm. Not quite what I usually have. (Well, being honest, usually is nothing for breakfast). Fish soup, noodles, toast and jam. Coffee too. I was excited about that. This remained our breakfast each day for our time at the temple. After some exploring and meditation to ground myself, I started to fit in. The weather was beautiful. Sunny and 38 degrees. Rarely cooling at night. I shared a room with 3 other girls. And a washroom too. That was interesting. I felt like I truly knew them by the time we left.
After a few days of celebrating and sightseeing (the Royal Palace was incredible) we headed off to the airport once again to board a flight to Cheang Mai for the field portion of our training which was a 4 day trek up the tallest mountain in Thailand called Doi Inthanon. Travelling with our Master Teacher, Luangphor Viriyang Sirintharo was both exciting and difficult at times. Luangphor is very respected in Thailand and manoeuvring throughout the airport takes time. Maybe another lesson he is trying to teach us in patience. The flight was just a few hours and upon landing, we were bussed to what was delightfully called “Base Camp”. This is where I met with the other 9,000+ people who were graduation the Willpower Meditation Instructor course from around the world. We took precepts under the guidance of Luangpour. Among many, that we were not to hurt a living thing while on the mountain and to be kind and patient. Canadians were at the head of the line. Im still not sure why, but can’t deny that it was so fun to have our path lined with waiting people, all high-fiving us and wishing us good luck. We hiked until dinner time where we made camp.
I had one bowl, one spoon. All the utensils I allowed myself. You see, as I admitted already, I’m kind of addicted to having my stuff around me. I planned for weeks what I would take to the mountain. Spreading it out on my bed the night before we left, it became obvious that everything would not fit into my backpack. I had to pare down to a quarter of that pile. Decisions had to be made. Anyways, back to dinner. Much the same. Rice, noodles, eggs. You ate without regard for what you liked. Hunger just said, “do it”. After dinner, we gathered on large rock beds. All 9000 of us. Our monks who were heading the trek would find a rock ledge to lead chanting from. And we would chant and meditate for 3-4 hours. One of those evening just happened to be a full moon. It put me in a type of trance state and I felt bliss. Yes, sitting that many hours on rock with your legs crossed is challenging. Part of our training. Mind over matter. Then off to bed.
Each of us had our own tent. The first night mine was put up on a hill. I kept sliding down into the lower edge and having to crawl my way back up through the night. I used my coat as a pillow which worked very well.
I woke the first morning on the mountain and couldn’t remember where I was for a minute. Homesickness immediately slipped in and I missed everyone extremely. I felt emotions out of control. Just as that was settling, a sound cut through my thoughts. The sound of music playing through the mountains. Our 5am wake up call. And not a moment too soon. From here I can tell you the things that changed. As we had been told by our master teacher, things would be challenging. The heat was unbearable at first. The patience required to climb a mountain with thousands of other people is incredible. You really need to dig deep. The rocks became more uncomfortable as my body became sore. Actually I felt like my body was broken but my heart was full. Very weird feeling.
My shoes broke on day 1. Yikes. Spent the rest of the time fixing them. I fell in a hole up to my hips. Actually it was a toilet. Thankfully it was from last years hike. It took seconds and several (10 or so) Thai women came running over and hoisted me out and brushed me off. I ventured off the path once for the photo of me on the rock. That was all we got to take. One photo before I was gathered by a group of Thai chaperones and gently returned back to the path. We had been warned there may be poisonous snakes, etc but once a photographer, always a photographer and I grabbed the opportunity when I could. Ok Ok I remembered what they said about the snakes, but I couldn’t resist.
I made a video once I reached the top. I won’t post it as it was on the fourth day without showers, etc. Pretty rough. But I knew that I would never feel that way again and I wanted it documented. Actually I heard the voice of my daughter in my head saying, “document this” My belongings that I held so tightly to and brought up the mountain got heavier every day and served as a great reminder of the baggage we all carry physically and mentally.
The next morning, we were transported down the mountain to a beautiful closing ceremony. Then off to a hotel where we would enjoy a beautiful shower. I can’t explain what that felt like. You would just have to experience it to know. Off to the night market with several vendors all selling their “stuff” that I love so much to get attached to. My consumerism is really showing. But I buy the souvenirs I can for all the people I miss so much as it makes me feel closer to them for some weird reason.
The next day was our flight back to Bangkok. Several more days spent sightseeing, shopping and visiting other temples. Lots of place and time for meditation and reflection although without the structure I have had for the last 6 months in class, I feel a little lost. The ocean is beautiful and I actually eat a fish with the head still on. No I didn’t eat the head, but that was a big step for me. My experimentation with food has really increased far beyond what I thought.
I had Pad Thai several time (for the first time in my life). I also experienced a true Thai Massage. Ahhhh…Bliss.
Luangphor planned a very extravagant evening of graduation for ALL of us. It was held at the largest conference centre I have ever seen. I was honoured to be asked to say a few words on behalf of our graduates class. I was able to address our Master Teacher personally and thank him which I was so grateful for. After I was done, the host repeated everything I had said in Thai which was cool to hear.
After a beautiful 7 course dinner and diploma presentation it was time for dancing. And lots of it.
Heading onto the plane for the long ride home. I am ready. I want to get back and unleash all I’ve learned for anyone wanting to learn it too. The flights are long but my intention from the beginning was to take what I was given and make the best of it. If I am traveling, don’t wish I am somewhere else. Just be. So there I was, “being” for 22 hours.
Reunion with my family was exhilarating. I can’t believe how much I missed them and more surprisingly how much they missed me. I vowed to hubby that I wouldn’t travel alone for 6 months. After my welcome home dinner, I realized that my body thrived on Thai food. I may just revert to that diet permanently.
Getting back to all the amenities in life didn’t please me like I thought it would. It didn’t matter any more. I know what I need in life now. I need Me. And my family. And meditation so I can continue to feel the peace and blissfulness that I have found. The Thai people are some of the kindest I have ever encountered. But here is what they really taught me. “LET GO and TRUST”. They live by this. And I think I will now too.