Writing this 3 days after leaving Suan Mokh is like trying to remember a pleasant dream; the details are all there but the emotions have faded and in so doing, taken much of the depth and colour with it. Writing this in Ko Tao, a diving resort island seemingly populated entirely by Western tourists and Thai servitors doesn’t make it any easier. In almost every way, Ko Tao with its focus on the pursuit of sense pleasures is the polar opposite of Suan Mokk.
I’ve been to a Vipassana 10 day meditation retreat before, it was a Goenka version and i went just after my last relationship ended. It was life changing as one would expect any such experience to be when one is vulnerable. but even though my practice faded pretty quickly afterwards as did much of my born-again buddhist fervour, much of the teachings and my experience continued to make sense and remained an assimilated part of my core.
Still there were elements of the Goenka teachings that didnt make sense to me and i could never really get the technique. So in the last two years when i did read and think about Buddhism or practice meditation, it was always from my own intuition of what felt right. I stuck with observing the breathe only (anapassana) for meditation and I maintained that i didn’t at all believe in the reincarnation/karma elements or indeed any of the supernatural parts of buddhism that some branches, particularly the Mahayana schools, are so full of.
Suan Mokh was amazing for me because the outlook and technique was a complete fit of what I had intuitively got to except so much deeper and richer. It’s like i’d been making a rough pencil drawing of an image i’d briefly seen in a dream only to find that someone had painted it in full colour. It was like finding a spiritual home I’d never thought i’d had and one that is populated with serious commited people.
That and the peace i found there made it difficult for me to leave but in the end, i have no intention of becoming a monk and i can always return for another retreat when i want to.