I’m going to admit to you guys straight off that I followed the rules imperfectly. I slipped in a few areas, primarily a few furtive conversations and one quite open chat with other meditators. It may have had some effect on my results but it didn’t make the experience much easier.
It wasn’t that I found it difficult to avoid speaking to people. I found it much more challenging to stop talking to myself. I’ve been told by friends that I have no internal voice; I tend to narrate my activities and thoughts out loud. I will ask myself questions, ruminate over them, and respond. It was incredibly hard to curb because it’s unconscious and happens even before I’ve solidified my thoughts.
I broke my silence because I was so intrigued by the people around me, and I couldn’t bear the idea of not knowing who they were. On my second or third night, the two women who had peaked my curiosity invited me to join them up at the temple after chanting. I didn’t exactly understand what was going on from the gestures and whispers, but I followed them to collect some meditation cushions and on to the dark trail that leads up to Wat Phra That.
It was already past normal visiting hours when we arrived, but there were still some straggling tourists. We wandered towards the viewpoint and Katy turned to me and said “Don’t feel any pressure to break your silence, but I just have to talk.” I took a quick moment to evaluate my feelings and decided that it was more important for me to have the chance to connect with these women than to be overly strict.
Katy and Autumn had arrived separately about a week prior, and lasted about four days before giving in to the urge to speak. I’m not sure how their friendship sprung up, but Katy said she’d tried really hard to keep quiet but it just drove her crazy. She is a Brit who had been living in Bangkok for the last year and was getting in some travel before returning to London. Autumn is an American, on a self discovery trip to make up for a old plans to travel with an ex-boyfriend that fell through.
After our little get-to-know-you chat, we slipped off our shoes and entered the temple itself. This was my first visit and the grounds were almost completely empty. The Chedi is a beautiful golden structure standing in open air in the middle of a plaza. At night it shines under spotlights and seeing its brilliance under the starry sky took my breath away. While the other women set up for their meditation, I basked in my feelings of awe and wished vehemently that I hadn’t left my phone behind.
After indulging myself for a few minutes, I set up my cushions and started my walking meditation. The beauty and peacefulness of the temple made it easy to relax, but the temple was not without distractions. I felt self conscious as a foreignor wearing the uniform of a meditator in such a public place. At one point a group of young novice monks came through the temple in their robes. They were in absolute awe of us and started snapping photos of us on their mobiles as we walked. I came very close to losing my poise in a fit of giggles. Later a few older monks joined us in walking meditation, chanting quietly to themselves with each step.
After wrapping up a full session each of walking and sitting, I quietly slipped back to my room in the dormitories to prepare for bed. I fell asleep easily, pleased with the knowledge that I would start the next day with two new friends.