For the past ten days, I stayed at a Buddhist Forest Monastery in the northern outskirts of Thailand. During this time, we adhered to a schedule, and followed the rules of the space. Everyone wore white clothes except for the monks. We only had two meals a day, one at 7AM and another at 11AM. Before each meal, we would practice offering food to the monks. And with their guidance and teachings, we would spend at least 6 hours meditating together. After evening chanting/medidation, we would head off to bed, in order to repeat the routine the next day.
To speak quite frankly, I found medidation to be quite difficult - more difficult than I imagined it to be. I would get lost or overfocus. I would question if there were any real benefits to medidating and if I'm doing it properly. Or even worse, I started to question why I was there.
But the more I observed the monks' simple, peaceful, and disciplined way of life, and the more I received their insightful teachings, the more I felt inspired to learn about Buddhism. I knew that I needed to give myself more context. Luckily for me, they had a tiny library of books, all of which were on the discourse of Buddhism, spirituality, and/or meditation. What striked me the most were learning about the concepts of impermanence, non-self, the thinker vs. the knower, and finally, the difference between samatha and vipassana meditation and their effects on the state of consciousness, which results in the intense presence we feel when we are mindful of our bodies, thoughts, and emotions.
It started to click. I was beginning to fully connect and realize the teachings of the monks. When I put them to practice in my medidations, I started to feel a sense of now that was more intense and alive. And I could feel an abundance of joy, peace, and ease well up inside of me. It's because of this experience that helped me reached a new definition of what it means to be mindful and present. I remember one the monks saying, "Medidation is life." As I reflect on this experience, the more I understood why. And how important it is for me to carry and build upon what I've learned here as long as I can.