Earlier this year, my friend Paiboon the monk asked me to visit him in Thailand and enroll in a 10 day meditation retreat. The retreat seemed like a real challenge, but what really enticed me was the chance to stay in a Buddhist monastery – how many people get a chance like that? So I booked my flight and made my plans: I was going to spend 18 days in Thailand in meditation and monasteries.
But 2 days before my flight to Thailand on the 1st to see Paiboon in his forest monastery, I started to feel a little sick. A part of me was wondering whether or not I should cancel the whole trip, but another stronger part of me was all for it. On the 1st of December, I finally touched down in Udon Thani, Thailand, and met my dear friend Paiboon for the first time after nearly a year. And I started my journey with a running nose, sore throat and diarrhea.
Wat Pa Don Hiay Soke
I arrived in Wat Pa Don Hiay Soke in the late afternoon, not sure what to expect. Paiboon explained to me later that ‘Wat Pa’ translates to ‘forest monastery’, and ‘Don Hiay Soke’ to ‘eliminating hills of suffering’.
I was very happy to get my own little bungalow/chalet in stay in, but walking into the bedroom I didn’t expect to see this! I didn’t know it at the time, but this was going to be my first and only bed for the next 18 days.
Paiboon showed me his ‘room’, where he was staying for this part of his training. It was nothing more than a little platform with a small desk, back-rest and mosquito net. I asked him where he slept, and he told me he slept sitting up. Amazing.
On the 2nd day, I woke up around 5:30 AM to help the monks in their morning alms round. It was very cold there in the early morning and night, around 12 degrees on average. I was shivering in my jacket and I really had to hand it to the monks, who were dressed only in their robes and had to go around begging for food — bare-footed.
Paiboon later invited me to meet with the master of the temple, Venerable Father Sa-ad, or Archan (meaning teacher or master) Sa-ad. Paiboon only told me after we left the monastery that Archan Sa-ad was actually a well-respected and very accomplished monk. He taught me a little meditation and made a prediction about me, which I won’t reveal.
He also challenged me to stay by myself in this little hut, away from the other buildings and secluded in a little grove, just like the other monks. Paiboon also encouraged me to give it a go, and after I agreed Archan Sa-ad joked that I might be visited by certain ‘things’, but not to worry — nothing evil. Not funny.