Thailand: A Mindful Escape

Five years ago, while backpacking through Central America, internet cafes were hot spots.  Constant chatter and conversations echoed through the hostel common rooms and restaurants.  Now, the first question asked by travelers to fellow travelers when arriving in a new location is “What is the wifi password?” to bury their faces in Facebook feeds, when it used to be “Wanna grab a beer?”  I am guilty.  About one month into my travels, I gave into technology.  I am now writing this on my personal netbook I purchased cheaply in an electronics mall in Singapore.

Books in cafe in Yogjakarta, Indonesia

Within that first technologically-free month of travel by myself, I observed and became intrigued with the new theme that is ever so present all around the world.  I pads, I touch, netbooks and kindles, tablets and Androids and Galaxies.  I fall behind modernisation with each new product and get stuck in between the pressures of this fast paced world and wanting to escape from it all to an island in the sun resorting in complete remoteness and solitude   And the debate continues.  That all these “smart” products claim to bring “simplicity” into people’s lives and make life easier.  Remember when getting lost was fun and the days of google maps and directions did not exist?  Hand held iphones provide GPS which distracts your off the beaten track adventures that could have potentially led you into locals homes, weddings and ceremonies and sometimes make memories that you carry with you forever.

And then good ol’ paperback and hardback books.  Leah nor I never pass a book store without slowing down our pace, admiring the dusty displays of best sellers or entering the wonderland of printed pages.  Upon flipping through the books, I usually peek over at Leah inhaling the distinct scent of the aged texts so tenderly and joyfully. There is just something about the smells, the energy, the atmosphere in these comforting, intellectual-breeding niches. Sadly, these palaces of print are becoming extinct due to kindles and computerized e-books.  Will our children be reading on plastic screens and never feel the pages flip between their hands?  I am not writing to debate or criticize, but to remind you of the simplicity of what travel used to be, what life used to be and my refreshing escape from the whirlwind of the day to day “grind” caused by our neglectful routines.

Morning dew

Pi Nan, a retired Thai monk, his Japanese partner, Noriko and their angelic one year old daughter, have created an utopia in the peaceful valley of Sameong, three hours north of Chang Mai in Northern Thailand.  This was a beautiful transition from my month at Agama yoga in Koh Panang.  At the farm, your accommodation includes the bare necessities.  Simple bamboo open huts built on a plot of land, each unique to the dwellers and visitors who previously stayed there, and created gardens, firepits or anything that they could contribute to make it more special.  Leah and I successfully made a celery garden bed, with the help of patient Pi Nan, our guide and mentor, which now should be sprouting and flourishing! Some volunteers stay one day, while others who are extremely passionate and have a bit more time decide to stay for months to complete long term projects and soak up the tranquility.

Pa Nan and his farm in the distance

Mindfulness is the goal.  To be present with everything you are doing.  Seems so simple, but just try.  The mind get distracted in a split second by pain, daydreams, complaints, thoughts, emotions and we forget what we are doing.  Meditation and yoga helped to introduce this concept each morning…being blessed to be able to practice undisturbed in a bamboo hut that was mounted in the middle of terraced rice paddies next to a flowing river.  Perfect.  What you chose to do with your day was up to you.  If you felt inclined to farm, water plants, build, weed, you were more than welcome to.  If you wanted to relax in the sunshine with a book, no problem.  This made for the perfect getaway and healing retreat.

Morning tea

Each meal created by Pa Nan morning, noon and night, came from the produce grown in the soil beneath our feet, organically with no pesticides and planted, grown and harvested by the guests who visited.  Each meal was to be mindfully eaten, which meant silently as well, looking out over and taking in the gushing green rolling hills and gazing out past the sun that sparkled in the sky sending bursting rays out in between each tree branch.  With each bite, focusing on bringing attention to the tastes, texture and giving thanks for each mouthful that came from this earth.(This is where my hippie roots come out…Thank you Mom)

Dinner time

Unfortunately I had to leave early due to a viral infection that got worse with each frigid night (although it was absolutely magical looking up at the stars each night, laying in a mosquito net covered bed).  I could have stayed for a month easily.  No wifi or social media connections.  No plugs and chords to get tangled in.  No plastic screens to gaze into.  Nothing mindless.  No distractions.  All senses alert, which raised awareness within, and adversely, raised awareness of the outside beauty that surrounded us.  What helped awaken my senses and brought me back to my reality recently was my short, but sweet mindful escape on the farm, hosted gracefully by our teacher, Pi Nan, and his beautiful family.  And the joys of traveling and living…simply and mindfully.

Teaching the ‘city gals’ how to farm

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. alongthewaytj
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 04:19:17

    Love this post. Technology is definitely a blessing AND a curse and I tend to find the balance between both those sides of it tricky to manage. There’s lots of times I thought that I relied too heavily on it during my travels, although at the same time, being able to stay connected with the people I love regardless of my location has made much of my moving around this planet possible from an emotional point of view. Discipline with the medium is tricky but I think it helps!

    Reply

  2. thaicurryinkorea
    Feb 06, 2013 @ 16:03:05

    So true! I can’t get over how internet cafes are dying out as now everyone has their own personal device on which to access the world. At what point do we stop “getting away”..?

    Reply

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