The reptilian Zen master

The path taken to find myself on a 10 day meditation retreat in a forest monastery in Thailand had been somewhat meandering. I spent time trekking with the Karen tribe in the north Thailand hill stations, and had many fascinating experiences in Loa and Cambodia. My thirst for cultural absorption was quenched to some degree. I had seen many beautiful sunsets, temples and breathtaking scenes. I had been humbled by the simplicity and skill of how local people lived. But still my heart was restless.

I arrived at the Suan Mokkh forest monastery near Chaiya in southern Thailand and spent the first few nights sleeping in a small wooden hut (Kooti) raised on a platform to avoid Termites. There was a shelf just below the ceiling with a snake smiling at me whilst I slept.

Then the 10 day silent retreat began. Each day started at 4am with lots of meditation, yoga, and lectures. As a talker, I found the silence a refreshing change but the routine and discipline to be gruelling. In the first few days I noticed about 10% of participants giving up and dropping out. Experiences ranged from physical discomfort from tying my legs in knots for long periods of time and tiredness to immense bliss from merging into the beauty and simplicity of nature. Studying a flower
could occupy me with such pleasure and appreciation like never before. At other times finding myself in emotional crisis for quite minor things that happened when I was a child. Sometimes leaving me with blissful tears of forgiveness and joy.

Half way through I wanted to escape at times, I was not convinced I would be able keep this up for another 5 days. Emotions came and went through me like dust in the wind. Swirling around and then settling. But I was starting to experience that everything was in my mind and everything passes with time, both pleasure and pain.

I found the concentration required for meditation very challenging. My mind is so full of random thoughts jumping in and out. I imagined that I was the only person there having such trouble with it. But on day 9 I was starting to have some deeper meditations and the bull inside my head was starting to be calmer. On day 10 I found myself able to concentrate well enough to be unconcerned with my surroundings. Noises, smells and movements nearby failed to distract me. I realised this when a 10 inch long lizard had apparently walked in front of where I was sitting in meditation. It sat 5 inches in front of my legs gazing up at my face. When the bell was sounded and I opened my eyes I laughed out loud. The only sound that has passed my lips in 10 days. I donít know how long it had been there. It felt like the awakening stick struck by a Zen master to jog me into my true self.

A Vanstone

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