Written by Ella and Caroline on our South East Asia program.
By the third week of whirlwind travel with a group of 14 that we’d only just met, a meditation retreat sounded like just what we needed. Of course, the excitement of a new country and making new friends hadn't gotten old. By this time the group was ready to reflect and recharge.
On the first day, we realized just how relaxed things would be when they outfitted us in comfortable white “pajamas” and encouraged us to take a nap in order to help ease our minds and bodies of their recent stimulation. Who would say no to that?
Our peace continued through to the next day where we met our first challenge: silence. For some this came easy, and was a welcomed break from the constant interaction with group mates. For others, being stripped of typical comforts such as phones, socialization, and music took them out of their comfort zones. Overall, the goal of this day was to be able to reflect and journal in an environment free of distraction. This allowed us to take a step back from the everyday and consider out personal lives, ideals and goals for the rest of the trip.
The meditation sessions were frequent, and varied in location and guide. From sitting around the fire to giant bamboo swings, we practiced mediation up to four times a day. PingPong, our teaching monk, eased us into each session, helping us to relax both our mind and body. This was good for us as beginners, as it gave us the opportunity to experience for ourselves the culture and practices renowned through Southeast Asia. Our experience delivered a type of immersion that not only lets us learn about Buddhism, but about ourselves too. Stripped of distraction, we were able to critically consider all aspects of ourselves - even the not so pretty parts. Although challenging at times, this retreat sent us back into our travels knowing more about ourselves and the culture around us.