I returned home on Thursday night, after spending five days with Phra Paiboon in Udon Thani (Phra is Thai for ‘monk’). My original goal for this visit was to shoot a video interview with Paiboon, to show his friends back home something of his life as a monk. While I knew I would grow creatively during this trip; learning new things about videography and storytelling, I didn’t expect to gain so much more spiritually as well.
I got to spend a lot of time with Paiboon, talking with him about his life as a monk, Buddhism, and life in general. I learned so much it’s going to be hard to summarize it all, but I’m going to try and write those lessons down over the next few weeks. Quite a lot was captured down in the video interviews, which I will edit into two versions; one will be a shorter trailer for those curious about Paiboon’s present life, another a longer version containing Paiboon’s talks on Buddhism.
Quite a lot was captured down in the video interviews, which I will edit into two versions; one will be a shorter trailer for those curious about Paiboon’s present life, another a longer version containing Paiboon’s talks on Buddhism.
We also recorded three 30 minute interviews for Thai radio in English about practical Buddhism for city life, and I hope we can get the permission to share those online.
Buddhism & the Blues
Many think that Buddhism is a religion, and while it can be, the core of Buddhism is a non-religious, pragmatic practice that anyone can use to live a happier life. Before embarking on this trip, I had been feeling blue for quite a while which I assumed it was burnout from work. No matter what I did, I didn’t seem to be able to shake it off. I was hoping that maybe Paiboon could give me some advice, and he did, but it wasn’t the advice I’d expected.
Paiboon helped me realize that the cause of my blues wasn’t burnout from work, which was only a symptom. It was the result of my lack of clarity.
To put it more clearly; it was the result of my inability to be mindful. I’d been trying to lift this weight called ‘the blues’ and get rid of it, but my muscles just hadn’t been strong enough. Everything I’d tried; taking long breaks from work, doing reflections, was akin to poking and prodding this weight\ but contributed nothing to my ability to lift it.
What I need to do then, is to gain clarity and strength of mind, two qualities which will help me see the cause of my suffering more clearly and deal with it more effectively. To gain what Paiboon calls ‘mindfulness’ and ‘concentration of mind.’ And the way to do that is to meditate.
What is Meditation?
Paiboon helped me understand that meditation isn’t just confined to sitting down with legs crossed, doing nothing. As long as you do something which trains your mind to focus and be mindful, that can be considered meditation. Meditation, in this Buddhist tradition at least, is nothing mystical. It’s simply a tool to help you train your mind, akin to lifting weights at the gym for your muscles. To gain mindfulness,
Meditation, in this Buddhist tradition at least, is nothing mystical. It’s simply a tool to help you train your mind, akin to lifting weights at the gym for your muscles. To gain mindfulness, strength of mind and clarity, there’s no way around it: I have to train my mind through meditating regularly.
I’m sure I didn’t explain this all too well, but I wanted to capture what, for me, was the biggest lesson for me personally. I’ll take the time to write more about what I learned in the next few weeks.