Doing some kind of workshop or retreat in Thailand is pretty par for the course in terms of activities to do while traveling South East Asia. In recent years yoga retreats and meditation workshops have become a popular pilgrimage for western travelers interested in eastern spirituality. The courses are generally less expensive in Asia than they are in the States, and there’s something to be said about learning a practice in a place that has been doing it for thousands of years.
I’d had it in the back of my mind that I’d like to try something new while we were in Thailand, a class or a retreat of some kind, I just hadn’t been sure about what. When we got to Pai I heard about a mediation center and found out that they had one day workshops for beginners. Meditation sounded interesting to me because, as I understood it, it was all about inner peace and balance and self improvement. And that sounded perfect to me. I really didn’t know much about it, and a one day workshop seemed like a good way to give it a try.
The Open Mind Center in Pai uses a non-denominational approach to exploration, healing, and growth through meditation. They offer workshops, classes, and retreats for meditation, massage, and healing in a beautiful natural setting. The center is just outside of town and is surrounded by rice fields and forests and has a peaceful and secluded feeling.
The morning of my workshop I was a little nervous, but mostly excited. I had some now seemingly silly expectations that I would have some kind of break through or “ah ha” moment and suddenly know what I should do with my life. That’s not to say these kinds of things can’t happen through meditation, but that just wasn’t in the cards for me that day.
It was just me and one other student, so it was pretty intimate class setting. It started out with a little introduction to meditation and the center and then the instructor started asking us questions, what brought us here, what were we hoping to get out of this, what are you hopes, your fears, things you want to improve. I wasn’t really ready for this and I suddenly found myself thinking “why am I here?”. The other student’s answers seemed thought out and legitimate (somehow). And all I could come up with was, “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life”, which at the time didn’t seem like something I wanted to say out loud. So I did something stupid and made something up. This seems kind of outrageous, to be making up answers for a workshop that is supposed to be all about self discovery. But in retrospect it’s very telling about the state of mind I was in.
After each meditation session we talked about the things we felt during the meditation, which made me so uncomfortable I wanted to curl up and disappear. The feelings I was having were not great, they were not the happy, positive, inspiring feelings I’d been hoping for. They we feelings a fear and anxiety and stress, and for whatever reason I didn’t want to admit it. The instructor told us sometimes meditation brings up feelings that you don’t want, but it more about accepting those feelings and even embracing them than anything else. I didn’t want to accept or embrace fear and anxiety, I wanted them to go away. So I made up more positive things about. It was like I was in a class discussion of a book I hadn’t read and was just making stuff up that I thought sounded right. I’m sure the instructor knew I was full of shit, but he let me go with it. I obviously wasn’t ready to deal with those feelings yet.
By the end of the workshop I was exhausted. I left feeling both relieved and confused. I hadn’t gotten the big “I’ve figured it out” moment that I’d been hoping for, instead I was confronted with feelings that I’d been ignoring for quite some time.
I didn’t get any immediate benefits from meditation, in fact the whole experience kind of put me off to it at first. It wasn’t until later after thinking about the experience that I really started to understand it. Why it is important to acknowledge and accept what ever feelings come up, because it is your body and subconscious trying to tell you something.
Should You Try Meditation?
If you are interested in mediation I would definitely recommend the Open Mind Center, the one day workshop is a good way to try it out and see if it’s something you are into, and if you are interested in a little more you can always do one of the retreats. The thing to remember is that you should go into it looking for a specific outcome, you probably won’t get it. Meditation is more about embracing and accepting the things that come to you. So if you go in with an open mind you will come out with something, and that something is different for every person and every situation.