Hidden somewhere in the mountains between Chiang Mai and Pai there is a Buddhist monastery known as Pa Pae Meditation Retreat. Many monks from all over the world live here to guide meditations, chants and educate the curious and devout who come to meditate here. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to participate in this retreat; all are welcomed. Pa Pae was created by the Buddhist Monk Pawithai Vajravijo whose goal is to introduce meditation practices to Western cultures in order to help people find a more peaceful state of mind.
Guests are given white clothes and their own individual rooms. Meals are served only twice per day, as are those of the monks’, and guests can also join the monks as they ask for alms each morning. Water, coffee, tea, snacks, and other food are provided at any time you would like to eat/drink, should it be necessary. With the lack of tourism because of Covid-19, the retreat schedule is now flexible for guests to stay longer/shorter, and to wander the nature’s premises as they wish.
Buddhism in Thailand attracts many tourists, one of those tourists being me since I decided to study abroad in Thailand to further my practice and understanding of Buddhism. The Sangha, or community of practitioners is an important aspect of being a Buddhist and with me being a foreigner from a western world, I had not been able to participate in this much. It keeps one’s journey of being a Buddhist on track by living and learning from Buddhist people when the voices and doubts in your head get too loud. Upon my search for a place where I could stay with like-minded people, I found the Pa Pae meditation retreat.
I stayed at this retreat for three days and being a solo-travelling woman the monks and people who worked/volunteered here made me feel very safe, comfortable, and welcome into the new environment. The other guests who were staying there were very open-hearted and loved to share their meditation experience and stories with each other. Before staying at the monastery, I had a few interactions with monks but thought of them as this enlightened being very different from myself. Though they live with dissimilar life rules, coming here I learned this was quite the opposite. Monks revealed to me their hardships in their lives before becoming a monk, and it made me connect with Buddha’s word of no matter people’s circumstances everyone suffers in life and is more similar than we realise. But also that anyone can reach enlightenment or awaken. Overall, the monastery had a great sense of community to learn and take lessons away from.
Besides my lessons from others, the retreat also gave me the time and space to learn more about myself and my habits. Being a student, intern, and traveller who has been away from home for six months, I often do not give myself enough time to calm my busy mind down. Not only was this harming my mental health but also my work because without a break my work efficiency declines. By giving myself more time to meditate on this retreat, I furthered my understanding of Buddhism and learned to live more in the present moment. With a large number of lessons, I have taken away in a short amount of time I definitely plan on coming back to Pa Pae meditation retreat. And I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to further their understanding and practice of Buddhism, meditation, or even to get away from the daily stresses in our lives.