As I sat beneath the outdoor gazebo, this was the question a fellow traveller from Brazil asked.
I had come to be in Thailand, basically on a whim, surprising even myself at how fast the trip had come together. This question – the very first conversation I was having with someone besides the airport attendant who told me that my luggage would only be arriving the next day from Hong Kong and the driver of the red pickup truck (a common way to get around in Chiang Mai) who I caught a ride with from the airport – was serendipitous.
I did like meditation. Over the past three years I’d developed somewhat of a practice, along with a more regular yoga practice. But I’d only decided to come to Thailand less than a week before and I hadn’t had much time as a result to plan beyond where I would be going, booking my flights, and figuring out accommodation. Back in Toronto, I had been determined to get a big trip in before I started a new job in a few weeks.
Gabriel started telling me about a day-long meditation retreat he was going to be attending the following day. He shared more about his experience with meditation and invited me to join him and a few others who would be going. This is one of the things that I love about traveling – the openness and willingness of people to connect in ways that we often might not in the everyday.
I didn’t have plans for the next day, I thought to myself. Being my first full day in Chiang Mai, I had left it open. A meditation retreat is something that I had definitely thought of taking part in before, but had never been intentional about following through. So, I promised him that, if I woke up early enough the next day, I would come along.
Thankfully, jet lag did not deter me and I set off early the next day with Gabriel and a couple others from Canada and England to the day-long meditation retreat at The Buddhist University and Buddhist temple known as Wat Suan Dok.
The day included a few different meditation techniques to try out and a talk on Buddhist philosophy, which was led by a monk who spoke excellent English and weaved in Western colloquialisms. He was also joined by two younger monks who shared their experiences with the group of about thirty expats and travelers. I often think about the reference made that day to the concept of mental fitness; in a society where we keenly understand the need to take care of our physical bodies, he highlighted the importance of taking the time to care for our mental health on a regular basis, too.
As we made our way back from the temple at the end of the day, and less than twenty four hours into my time in Thailand, I was so grateful for such an immersive cultural and spiritual experience so early on with a wonderful group of people. One that spurred from a simple question.
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