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Suan Mokkh Retreat - Any Experiences Worth Recounting?

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I’ll be spending a 10 day retreat in Wat Suan Mokkh soon.

It’d be nice to hear any experiences/recommendations/warnings and any “survival” tips. (How to get there from Chaiya train station for instance – Songhtaew/TukTuk prices?)

One thing that does worry me a little:

I’ve found it impossible to shake off all the extra weight I put on when I was long-term immobilized after an accident a couple of years ago. I got rid of half, and my current weight is stable – not moving either way. However I’m still 8kgs too heavy.

My worry is that with the rather strict diet regime at Suan Mokkh that I could start to lose weight rapidly only to yo-yo back afterwards and put on more than I lost. Does anyone have anything to say about that? Any experience?

I’d hate having to struggle with yo-yoing weight because I reached for nirvana! ;o))

Many thanks for all considered replies.

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Two meals per day are scheduled at Wat Suan Mokkh's International Retreat.

This is reduced to one meal on the eighth day.

Meals include rice, and atleast two different vegetarian dishes, as well as green salad, dessert/fruit and herbal tea.

Using a large metal bowel, retreatants self serve their meal using ladels.

I've attended three retreats here, and on every occasion there was more than enough food for two or three helpings should an individual desire.

Also the size of each helping is up to each individual.

During orientation, the coordinator advises retreatants that they can help themselves to additional helpings but are reminded of their purpose for attending the retreat.

My personal experience has been that any attempt to over eat results in considerable drowsiness, a lack of concentration, and bloating.

All these can propel you into a state of sloth and torpor, and play havoc with your practice.

I also found that, apart from an hour of yoga in the morning, most activity involves little physical exertion.

You don't need large meals to sustain you through the day.

If you are used to large meals you may initiall feel uncomfortable (empty stomach/bowel), but this can be an object for your attention.

Prior to filling my bowl, I would always visualize why l was attending the retreat.

This made it easier to only half fill my bowl, and to completely refrain from seconds.

My rewards were real.

On less food, I felt lighter and more alert, and once my elimination rhythm was established, eating became purely an act to sustain life, nothing more, nothing less.

In terms of your fear of entering a fluctuating weight situation, this is entirely up to you.

You can only end up in such a situation by giving in to your thoughts (overeating/eating for pleasure).

By developing a routine of regualr meditation/mindfulness over time, you will have power over control of your diet.

Dieters can only come to grief if they act on random thoughts.

Edited by rockyysdt
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Which method of transport you use depends entirely on your budget and available free time.

I find air travel in Thailand is safe, reliable and inexpensive.

For as little as 2,000 baht return, you can fly from Bangkok to Surat Thani via Air Asia.

I recommend flying on the day prior to enrolment.

You can then either:

head straight for Wat Suan Mokkh after you land, and sleep in their dormitory for free or

check in to an inexpensive Surat Thani hotel (around 450 baht for a double room with breakfast) and bus the next morning.

You'll find other travellors alighting from the same aircraft. Striking up a conversation can get you a partner to share the room.

Travelling by over night train can be an exciting adventure, but there's not much to see (night time) and several hours later you'll probably arrive rather tired.

For me road travel is far too dangerous in comparison to a 55 minute flight in a near new aircraft.

Edited by rockyysdt

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In terms of practice the biggest tip I can give you is not to try to meditate.

Spend your time developing a comfortable sitting posture.

I've seen retreatants still struggling with their seating posture right up to the ninth day.

This negative situation ended up consuming their entire resources/time.

Outwardly meditators can look the apart but only the expereincer knows what is really going on within.

I witnessed retreatants, suffering with totally inappropraite (for them) sitting postions, just sitting there, eyes open, hoping time would pass.

For some, their only gain was that they could say, they got through the ten days.

In reality developing an appropriate sitting postion can take months.

I had a choice. Either look like a premadonna (ego) by adopting a lotus/half lotus position and end up using my valuable retreat time, struggling with this or quickly establishing a stable position and getting on with things.

I chose the sideless short chair with two cushions (small of back and bottom).

My purpose was not to look good, but to develop my breathing/concentration (it worked).

When sitting, focus on a relaxed long breath.

Follow each in breath from the nostrils all the way down to your sternum.

Notice each out breath from the sternum and all the way through tothe nostrils.

Pay particular attention to the point when the in breath changes to the out breath.

Don't try to meditate.

After having developed a stable sitting postion in harmony with gravity (don't fight gravity),

simply spend your time developing your breath.

Don't get annoyed when you realize you've drifted into random thought (this is normal).

Simply come back to the breath.

Don't try to meditate.

Meditation comes to us.

It comes when the conditions are correct.

Edited by rockyysdt
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Monks have no option, but for International retreatants, a retreat can be ruined due to mosquito activity.

Although mosquito repellant creams are available, I've found they are inneffective.

Again, forget what you look like (ego), have a long thick pair of socks to protect your ankles and feet from bites and

Buy one of these.

http://www.google.co...29,r:3,s:0,i:75

When the mosquitoes began buzzing my head, unprotected, my concentration evaporated as I braced for multiple bites.

With the mosquito head net, thoughts were temporary as I easily refocused on my breath knowing that I would be bite free.

I'd place the open part near my mouth to allow a free flow of air.

You can drape a light blanket or sari around your arms for protection there.

Edited by rockyysdt

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This is truly a bounty.

Rockyysdt:

Prior to filling my bowl, I would always visualize why l was attending the retreat.

This made it easier to only half fill my bowl, and to completely refrain from seconds.

Thanks, that is of course extremely useful. I had no doubt there’d be “enough”, but the timings worried me a bit. I'll certainly have to avoid wolfing after what … 18 hours without food? But yes it is up to me in the end. I have seen many admirable people come unstuck with this kind of thing though (not after retreats, but still …). I’m sure I’ll be OK, I was just looking for some good guidance and tips – which you gave.

I’ll be taking the train and overniting in Chumpon for Loy Krathong, then to Chaiya by train the next day.

Yeah, I do best on a kneeling bench with something soft under my supersensitive knees. I’ve never attained the lotus in my entire life! But as you rightly point out, that’s not the point.

I’m not absolutely green. I spent several years practicing zazen under guidance and I’ve done a few weekend retreats in the past, but all many years ago. I’ve got a couple of months in Thailand and as soon as I found the Suan Mokkh website it was clear I’d dedicate some of the time to a retreat early on in my travels. I’m really looking forward to it.

Mmmhh … mundane mozzies. I did wonder. I use Boots 50% DEET when I’m in LOS – always been good, although a couple inevitably get through. I’ll think about the hood – maybe a hiking store here at home has one – good idea. Is it OK to steal their breath? Does anyone actually manage to wish them well with the blood they drink?annoyed.gif The motto is “aim high” I suppose!

Thanks very much for all your extensive spiritual and practical help.wai.gif

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I am not familiar with Suan Mokh, but at a retreat I did elsewhere, a cup of nourishing warm milk from soy beans was served every evening. Quite filling, and very welcome. I also bought water bottles and fruit juice from a small shop in front of the temple (this was during the hot season and temperatures daytime were extremely high). Two meals a day really is enough when not exerting yourself physically - it is quite possible to sustain oneself on liquids for the rest of the time. After all, monks live like this for years and years on end.

To paraphrase Rocky: mindfulness is your best friend, it looks to see what is actually happening, does not spin tall tales like some other parts of your mind, and it gives you the freedom to pause before acting on your impulses. Cultivate mindfulness, and when eating, let each movement you make be slow and noted. Chew longer than you normally do, feel the texture of the food, the taste and everything, notice your impulse to swallow and then note the feeling when actually swallowing. When you break down the meal like this, it becomes a completely different experience, full of clear awareness.

Mosquitoes are your teachers, this sounds weird perhaps, but before sitting down to meditate, remember to wish them freedom from suffering, and thank them for the opportunity to become aware of the nature of your reactions.

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I am not familiar with Suan Mokh, but at a retreat I did elsewhere, a cup of nourishing warm milk from soy beans was served every evening. Quite filling, and very welcome. I also bought water bottles and fruit juice from a small shop in front of the temple (this was during the hot season and temperatures daytime were extremely high). Two meals a day really is enough when not exerting yourself physically - it is quite possible to sustain oneself on liquids for the rest of the time. After all, monks live like this for years and years on end.

To paraphrase Rocky: mindfulness is your best friend, it looks to see what is actually happening, does not spin tall tales like some other parts of your mind, and it gives you the freedom to pause before acting on your impulses. Cultivate mindfulness, and when eating, let each movement you make be slow and noted. Chew longer than you normally do, feel the texture of the food, the taste and everything, notice your impulse to swallow and then note the feeling when actually swallowing. When you break down the meal like this, it becomes a completely different experience, full of clear awareness.

Mosquitoes are your teachers, this sounds weird perhaps, but before sitting down to meditate, remember to wish them freedom from suffering, and thank them for the opportunity to become aware of the nature of your reactions.

Hi W.

A choice of Soy Milk and Herbal tea is also offered during the evening break at Suan Mokkh.

The herbal tea is actually grown on the property.

Interestingly, during main meal times, stalks of bitter grasses are also made available.

Long periods of very slow physical activity can lead to a touch of constipation.

Apparently a stalk or three of these grasses has a laxitive affect to assist with regularity.

Rain water tanks are well placed allowing easy access to plenty of fresh water.

I arrived with two mid sized bottles of spring water, regularly refilling the empties for my water supply.

Supplying ones own food and or juices is forbidden once silence begins.

I became extremely mindful of the fine balance between just enough or too much food.

Even a little too much brought on lethargy and interfered with a balanced elimination cycle.

As tasty as it was, food truly became just a means to sustain the body.

I had no other use for it.

Edited by rockyysdt

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Mmmhh … mundane mozzies. I did wonder. I use Boots 50% DEET when I’m in LOS – always been good, although a couple inevitably get through. I’ll think about the hood – maybe a hiking store here at home has one – good idea. Is it OK to steal their breath? Does anyone actually manage to wish them well with the blood they drink?annoyed.gif The motto is “aim high” I suppose!

Thanks very much for all your extensive spiritual and practical help.wai.gif

Once accepted retreatants are asked to keep the five precepts.

For me the mosquitoes aren't the real issue.

DEET definitely works but using it will cause you to consciously break your vow.

Long sleeve shirts, a sarong, head net and long thick socks are eco friendly and will allow you to maintain the spirit of things.

I know it's impossible to go through life without causing death to many small and microscopic creatures, but these days, I will step around ants if I see them.

It's a cultivation of mindset. smile.png

As Weary says, the Monks will teach you that mosquitoes are your teachers.

For renunciates I agree, but for a 10 day retreat, I found appropriate protection is a good middle path.

Edited by rockyysdt

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... Cultivate mindfulness, and when eating, let each movement you make be slow and noted. Chew longer than you normally do, feel the texture of the food, the taste and everything, notice your impulse to swallow and then note the feeling when actually swallowing. When you break down the meal like this, it becomes a completely different experience, full of clear awareness.

Mosquitoes are your teachers, this sounds weird perhaps, but before sitting down to meditate, remember to wish them freedom from suffering, and thank them for the opportunity to become aware of the nature of your reactions.

Yes that about the eating is something I practised regularly as long as I was attending the Thich Nath Hanh group in Berlin.

Yeah, wish the mozzies well, of course I do, and I always apologise when I flatten them too. I avoid deliberately kiling ants and even flies as well. But sometimes enough's enough and the inner reptile gets his way vampire.gif ... still, I'll just keep aiming high I suppose, and hope I don't go too far off target. I'm looking forward to the experience a lot, and as with everything else in life I'll just take it as it comes and make the best out of it. It's worked out quite well over 56 years. Thanks for all the input wai.gif

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Mmmhh … mundane mozzies. I did wonder. I use Boots 50% DEET when I’m in LOS – always been good, although a couple inevitably get through. I’ll think about the hood – maybe a hiking store here at home has one – good idea. Is it OK to steal their breath? Does anyone actually manage to wish them well with the blood they drink?annoyed.gif The motto is “aim high” I suppose!

Thanks very much for all your extensive spiritual and practical help.wai.gif

Once accepted retreatants are asked to keep the five precepts.

For me the mosquitoes aren't the real issue.

DEET definitely works but using it will cause you to consciously break your vow.

Long sleeve shirts, a sarong, head net and long thick socks are eco friendly and will allow you to maintain the spirit of things.

I know it's impossible to go through life without causing death to many small and microscopic creatures, but these days, I will step around ants if I see them.

It's a cultivation of mindset. smile.png

As Weary says, the Monks will teach you that mosquitoes are your teachers.

For renunciates I agree, but for a 10 day retreat, I found appropriate protection is a good middle path.

Just bought a mozzy helmet - thanks, never occurred to methumbsup.gif

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Just bought a mozzy helmet - thanks, never occurred to methumbsup.gif

It was the best investment I ever made.

During my first year it was an onslaught.

During every sit the mozzies would constantly attack/bite.

Over 10 days one is subjected to many hours of this.

At the end of that particular retreat I spoke to one of the female retreatants who I later saw wearing a low back top.

Her back and neck was covered in large bite marks and she was very uncomfortable.

The following years I only had to contend with the buzzing, an easy task in comparison.

The only other thing I recommend is to attend the retreat "without expectation".

Just focus on awareness.

Edited by rockyysdt

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With mosquitoes being that much of a problem, I am surprised the centre doesn't provide mosquito nets for meditators to sit under, as seen elsewhere in Thailand.

I visited Dhamma Drops Foundation in Mae Raem, Chiang Mai, this past week and most of the monks there sat beneath nets. But they sat outdoors, where they could use tree branches to hang the nets.

Does anyone hang nets in the meditation area at Suanmokh?

BTW when I was at Suanmokh many years ago, I used repellent oil, which as the name suggest, repels rather than kills. But it sounds like the mossie situation may be more intense nowadays.

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With mosquitoes being that much of a problem, I am surprised the centre doesn't provide mosquito nets for meditators to sit under, as seen elsewhere in Thailand.

I visited Dhamma Drops Foundation in Mae Raem, Chiang Mai, this past week and most of the monks there sat beneath nets. But they sat outdoors, where they could use tree branches to hang the nets.

Does anyone hang nets in the meditation area at Suanmokh?

BTW when I was at Suanmokh many years ago, I used repellent oil, which as the name suggest, repels rather than kills. But it sounds like the mossie situation may be more intense nowadays.

Hi S J.

I understand mozzies are only an issue seasonally. They seem to be prevalent during June when I attend. Perhaps they're not a problem during other months?

I try to avoid things controversial.

Personal nets aren't available.

I attended one year with a donation of 70 personal head nets.

These were kindly rejected during the enrolment period by the Mae Chee who indicated this wasn't the way.

I ended up giving them away in Bangkok.

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I attended a retreat at Suan Mokkh.

I didn't have a clue about meditation, I just knew that it was probably the best way to approach my overly busy mind, and all the confusion it was creating

I'm glad I hadn't spent any time reading of practicing meditation before my retreat, I knew nothing of Jhanas or Absorption states.

I struggled with everything at Suan Mokkh in fact my overly busy mind went into overdrive, hours of being with just myself were torture.

On day three I sat again attempting peaceful meditation, just trying to get some mental stillness, I became really annoyed angry and confused with not getting anywhere and felt far worse than I ever had, to the point I actually stopped trying to get anywhere.

This was the key (just being) that opened a big door to a world I never knew existed. It was so unexpected and profound it changed my attitude to how I saw everything from that minute forward.

Pain is inevitable in Life, suffering is optional.

Someone else has already stated

Don't try to meditate.

Meditation comes to us.

It comes when the conditions are correct.

PM me if you would like more advice.

Good luck go easy on yourself!

Edited by spacedcowboy
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