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To meditate on meditation

July 7, 2010

One of these posts, the harmonica elephant will have it’s moment.  But now’s not the time.

So I was thinking I now have less than a month before I’m back in The True North, Strong and Free.  It would be cool to try to squeeze in another authentic Thai experience before that since I imagine it’ll be a long time, if ever I return here.  I’ve heard lots about these meditation courses that you can enrol in pretty much anywhere in South East Asia that practices Buddhism.  They’re available in the West as well, but over here it would be undoubtably cooler.   There are thousands of Wats (temples) scattered across Thailand alone and many of them offer these meditation experiences.  They sound really interesting though most of them you should be able to speak some Thai and I only know a few words that, with luck, will get me fed.  Some of the more organized Wats have websites and online applications and have teachers and monks who speak good English.  They’re obviously the most popular with tourists but all the same a very authentic experience.  The typical meditation course runs 10 days and you live and learn to meditate like a monk.  At the end of which, a modest donation to the temple is expected.  Sounds pretty cool right?

So I was on this great website browsing different possibilities (http://www.dhammathai.org/e/meditation/page1.php) and came across one in particular, Wat Pah Nanachat which means “International Forest Monastery”.  Sounded amazing – monastic lifestyle in secluded forest mountain, English is the teaching medium with promising meals.  “Where do I sign up?” is running through my mind.  And then I got to the very bottom where I read, in order to demonstrate my renunciation I’m expected to shave the hair on my head.  No big deal my head is mostly buzzed right now anyway and my beard comes and goes every two weeks – and my eyebrows.  When I read that part my eyes went wide and my eyebrows would have been arched across my forehead to express the astonishment that was in my face.  Something you can’t do without eyebrows.
Once I read that I jumped on Google and queried, “eyebrows how long to grow back?”.  Not soon enough, I’m afraid.  The most reasonable estimate I came across was 8-12 weeks before you notice them.  Damn, I don’t know if I have that kind of renunciation in me.  While I was exploring I came across numerous frantic posts from young women who had made grievous errors with their grooming habits.  Turns out there’s a whole community of women who have serious problems with eyebrow plucking.  I had no idea.  I can’t speak for any female but personally, I don’t believe risking a complex over the way your eyebrows look is worth it.  We all enjoy grooming, but when it comes to applying CASTOR OIL on your face you gotta draw a line somewhere.

I have however applied to a more conventional and accommodating meditation experience just outside of Bangkok.  It would be brilliant to participate since I’ve heard so many good things from people who have done it and my time is running out.  Also this rural living is doing everything it can to bring me to my knees and 10 days of silence and reflection after so much time here in Thailand would be extraordinary.  At the same time, I’ve committed myself to this teaching experience and although I’ve paid money to participate and I receive no real recompense, there are people counting on me to hang around until the end.  The end being 29th/30th of July when I return to Bangkok for my last couple days.  We’ll see.

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3 Comments
  1. Cam permalink

    You should get rid of your eyebrows, think about it, sweet forest temple or boring non forest temple. Plus you could just remain Buddhist looking until your eyebrows comeback. I’d love to take them off for you but since that’s not possible i have to make do with convincing you to do it yourself.

  2. Iain permalink

    Ben,

    Hi 🙂 I kept up with your blogosphering regularly until…something happened(?), I think i reformatted, lost the url and it slipped my mind. A few days ago my mom reminded me and I figured it had only been a month or two. I went through the archives and had to start around Christmas – shows what I know haha.

    Reading through it all in the past two days has been wildly entertaining and enjoyably powerful. I’m excited to speak to you about it all(if you still want to by the time i see you, after probably answering a million questions haha), and I have a shit ton of things I want to say to you. Most of them will culminate in me saying that I love that you did this and that I think you’re great.

    It’s fantastic that you’re getting more interested in buddhism! It’s a wonderful philosophy, one that I’ve been (partially) embracing for three or four years. Being an atheist can throw some of it for a loop, but expanding and extending my practice of compassion towards other life more and more, and to yourself, which is equally as important; has been a phenomenal experience. I wouldn’t be doing my activist duty if I didn’t tell you that Buddha said an integral first step in practicing buddhism is being vegetarian – thus reducing much global suffering. Anyway, I won’t go hugely into detail here, but maybe next time I see you – if you’re in the mood.

    As for whether you should do the course or not, it was a little unclear, but I think you were saying that if you did the course you’d have to leave the teacher gig early. I’m confident you’ll make the right decision, and I recommend you talk to whoever runs the school you volunteer at, or maybe the other teachers, and see what they think.

    Have a righteous weekend,
    Iain.

  3. Wendy Vlasic permalink

    Excellent stories Benjamin!! I’m glad to hear that you won’t shave your eyebrows…..I know someone who would tell you that they are the most noticeable part of your face, 🙂 and you’re right that all your expressions show through them.
    Keep up the good work.

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