Exploring vipassana and Pai

 

Sitting meditation-dozing off, walking meditation-distracted by whats around me or thoughts, chanting-not connected. Sitting-dozing, walking-losing focus, chanting-bored. Sitting, walking, chanting. All day. All night.

What was going on! I usually love this! Why am I not reaching that stillness I was searching for: the ability to see the thought and not be absorbed and lost by it. Debating running away from the center. Forcing myself to stay, knowing it would all pass with time. Anchoring myself in the knowledge that this can help.

As I sat still without many external distractions (places I could go, people to meet, things to eat, party),  I noticed how foggy I actually was. And how little time I could dedicate to one moment before searching for the next stimulation. This made me irritated. Just focus and appreciate Adrian!!! But that’s just not how it works of course. You notice, then you just have to keep noticing. And noticing. And noticing the way your mind is operating at the moment. And perhaps your mind will shift naturally. There on the cushion hour after hour. Basically drifting into thought or nodding off every few moments. Barely conscious of how my mind was operating. But constantly coming back and trying again.

DSCF1039Second day, midday: I wake up! It hit me like waking up from a heavy nap. Someone polished my eyes, my mind. I was no longer foggy. Yes, I would still get lost in thoughts at times and distracted and have the urge to leave. But everything was different. I was in a clear state of mind. Clear enough for me at the moment 🙂 As clear as my mind was ready for. I was now sitting and walking mindfully and happily. Even through the challenging moments. Chanting… not so much. It was more of a recital than a constant chant, and I was not able to just groove into the rhythm. It led to too much thinking and I was not a fan. Beautiful place in the midst of spectacular mountains. Simple teachings and committed teachers, who live in the community. Full MOON while I was there. Gorgeous in its large orangeness. Walking meditation through their paths carved out in the forest around them.

Although I reached this state of contentment. I still had a major urge to leave. I debated for a while: Am I trying to convince myself to leave because I don’t want to sit with myself, or am I trying to convince myself to leave because traveling can be meditation. Constantly trying to catch the balance and stay present in what you are doing and not what is coming next. Enjoying the environment you are in and appreciating the differences and beauty in what is around you. Meditation.

So day 3 evening, I walk into my room, pack my bag and am on the road again. Was this a frivolous decision brought upon from a mind not yet settled, or moving with the flow of life: Pacha Mama’s calls? Still don’t know and probably will never know. On the road, no buses, just hoping to get over to the next town. Walking with my pack, I quickly became tired. Pushing on, through this mountainous area. Huffing and puffing.. running out of water… knowing I have my tent so I can post up on the side of the road. Some cars passing by here and there so I decide to hitchhike. Thumb up… rejected!! Ouch. Never been good with rejection… next car passes and I don’t put anything up. They stop anyways. Three Thai men say “hey, where you go”, “that way” finger pointed up the mountain. “We go Chiang Mai”. I know that Pai is on the way 2 hours down the road and have heard good things, so I hop in and say “Im going to Pai”. They toss me a water bottle and we move on.

Was I scared this wasn’t safe? A little. But a mixture of exhaustion and knowing that with some awareness I can get out of many situations kept me in the car. We struggle to communicate, but it was fun. I tried to teach them how to say/use “I see you” like in the movie Avatar. But I’m not sure they really got it. One guy, the driver, lead the conversations from the Thai side. He knew the most English. We talked mainly about what am I doing, do I like Thailand, and what they do in their life, and how they know about each other. My Thai is not very good… or non existent, but I pull out a sheet of paper with Thai language notes and try my hardest to communicate. It is actually very mentally stimulating to try to speak a different language and thus exhausting. Bless those who move to different countries not knowing a lick of the language! Its a daunting and tiring task.

They drop me off at Pai, a town that supposedly has a hippiesc vibe. They get out of the carDSCF1043 to say goodbye and we move on. I put my pack on and start walking around the streets of Pai looking for a hostel where I can throw my bag down and start exploring. I found The Cat Hut and decided it would do. Affordable, close to the buzzing streets, availability. Check, check, check. And yes it had a very charming cat. I was annoying the cat to entertain myself and get some interaction with my new feline friend. Blowing playfully in her face/ears. She did not like it it seemed, but instead of running away she would look at me and give a low “leave me alone” meow… every time I blew. Anyways, I toss my bag in the room and head out for some food.

I was starving!! We don’t eat dinner at Wat Tam Wua, so I really wanted to eat dinner tonight! I trekked around to find some grub and ended up getting some crappy fried egg rolls and a shake. It was a hungry decision, I waited a bit too long to look for food. I went back home to reconfigure myself. Lay down, shower, brush my teeth and just sit still for a while.

Pai: a small town with many cool open area bars, live music, pool tables, futbol games on tv and from the street vendors there were clothes, art, and food. This was the main strip and was populated by many backpackers. Then going out side of the town you find yoga, muay thai training, vegetarian restaurants, many cool little huts, motor scooter and some nice sights.

I go out that night and play some pool with some people already there. I did ok. I later meet some pool sharks playing for 500 baht ($16) a game. I don’t play because they were incredibly good and I wasn’t trying to lose money. Convinced I need to get skilled at pool.

I like the little town, but am looking for an environment that will encourage me to do things healthy for my body and mind, like adventure, new things, classes, etc. I moved hostels to a hostel outside of town to get some more peace and perhaps be more drawn to Yoga versus the night life scene. My roommate, a California man named Jeremy. Soft spoken, thoughtful, bold kid who was teaching English in Thailand for 6 months and was now exploring. Topics like monogamy vs polygamy, getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, and our college experiences were our big topics of the night. We went into town on his motorbike and he taught me how to drive his semi-automatic bike, so that I could feel more comfortable renting my own. Travelers were having pretty bad accidents left, right and center! If you saw a backpacker limping… it was a motorbike accident. So I wanted a lesson before I tried it.

Next morning I took a yoga class with a young American girl right at my hostel, which was DSCF1044an excellent start to my day as always. Then, I rented a motor bike and rode around town! Rushing toward the air feeling it press against my skin, spinning my hand backwards going faster and faster, scene changing rapidly. It was wonderful. I rode around for a while just to ride. i ended up seeing some chained elephants in a box size space barely big enough for them to turn around. Split up from their families, beaten, and enslaved. You can see it in their eyes.

ATTENTION: do not ride elephants while you are in Thailand. They are horrible to these very aware creatures. They have families, lives, eyes, ears, hearts. DO NOT SUPPORT THIS ATTRACTION.

I went back to the hostel and met some Bostonians!!! What are the odds. We ended up going to the canyons that night to see the sun set. It was quite exhilarating walking on such a thin piece of land with a 200-foot drop on either side. Senses heightened, blood pumping as I cross the walkway. I get to a comfy spot with a good view and just plop down. Took a few pictures then just sat and focused on one sense at a time. First the hearing: quiet chatter from the people close by, birds, wind. Touch: rough dirt on my ankles and knees, heat on my skin. Smell: Heavy, but fresh. Taste: dryness. Sight: the colors! So many shades of green, bright gold shining in the sky, mountains ahead changing from green to blue as the sun took shelter behind them. Appreciating the moment. Moment slowly ended and I got up and headed for my sweet bike!

I also took a Muay Thai training class, which really changed my mood for the day. It was good exercise and allowed my body to get the work out it needed. And constantly focusing on form… gave my mind something to focus on for about two hours. So, I left there walking on clouds. I loved it. All ready to get into a street fight!

Over all Pai was not such a “hippie” town. Depends on what you mean by the word. I think progressive thinking individuals challenging the societal norms to make positive change. This town did not have a large presence of that. There were some progressive thinking restaurants with the best Kombucha I ever had (EarthTone), and Thai men with dreads, and Mushroom shakes, and reggae bars. So yes, it had a somewhat more hippie vibe than the other spots I had been to.

I also realized that many backpackers do the same treck. Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, and southern islands. The spots well known, therefore people feel safer going there as well as them being pretty sweet locations. Anyways, because of these being the popular places you run into friends you have made along the way, which is such a wonderful feeling.

When I was in Bangkok, I met a German kid. We spoke and got along well. Then got into the topic of meditation. He had never tried it before, but had been meaning to. I mention a few moments I have had that were life changing for me and we move on. Sitting in Pai, at a cafe, he walks by with his pack and very excited to see me. He sits down and says… ” you will never believe where I am going” “where” “to Wat Tam Wua for a vipassana meditation retreat”! Wow! So I wish him a farewell and hope that he finds what he is searching for.

My time in Pai was also now finished. Also, I received some good news during my stay here. There is a best friend of mine who plans to be in the neighborhood and would like to wander around with me 🙂 Cynthia sends me a message that she will be flying out to Bangkok this week!!! So I book a night train to Bangkok for the following day from Chiang Mai, which is south of Pai about 3 hours. I wasn’t in Chiang Mai for long, but I had to stop by the yoga studio again. I really enjoyed the teachers style. So, I booked a hostel, went to Freedom Yoga the following morning, hung around town then got on the train around 5pm.

I was very happy to have her joining me. I felt like she would bring a balance I was looking for. There was the thought of “will searching for yourself be possible travelling with another”? But to catch a balance with her will be equally as challenging and beautiful and there is a time for everything. So here. we. go!

 

 

 

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