There is so much pressure on people today to make money, maintain the right body-shape, impress peers, and act like the perfect parent. The standards we are trying to live up to are often unrealistically high, and this means that we end up generating inner-turmoil.
Instead of appreciating all the good we have in our life, we are more likely to feel guilty, ashamed, and be constantly self-critical. This is not the ideal way to be living, but a meditation retreat in Thailand can be a wonderful way to restore some inner-balance.
“Letting go a little brings a little peace. Letting go a lot brings a lot of peace. Letting go completely brings complete peace.”
Thailand is most well-known abroad for its tropical beaches, fabulous culinary delights, and exotic landscape. The majority of the population are Buddhists, and meditation is embedded in the culture. Many of the most skilled meditation masters on the planet live in Thailand, so there is no better place to go learn this life-changing practice. There is also something special about the atmosphere in this country that encourages visitors to slow down their thinking. Meditation centers in Thailand are usually in Buddhist temples, and these can be incredibly spiritual places.
It is usually not necessary to be an experienced practitioner of meditation in order to join a retreat in Thailand – although there are some centers that are geared towards the more serious spiritual seeker. On most retreats, there is going to be an orientation period where you learn the basics of meditation. You can also expect daily meetings with the teacher in order to gauge your progress and deal with any questions that might have come up for you.
It’s common for these retreats to have an English interpreter to ensure clarity in communication. Each temple has its own rules and regulations, and it is recommended that you check these out before joining a retreat (e.g. some temples have rules about not eating after noon).
"Try to be mindful, and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become still, like a clear forest pool."
Here are just seven of the meditation retreats in Thailand where you can find the inner-peace that you deserve:
7 Wat Rampoeng – Chiang Mai
Tambon Suthep Muang Chiangmai 50200
Contact - 053-810-180 (Extension 0)
The retreat program at Wat Rampoeng is based on Vipasanna (insight) meditation. It involves both sitting and walking meditation. The idea is that you non-judgmentally observe thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and mental factors (such as anger and attachment) in order to gain insights that can radically transform your life.
The full basic course lasts 26-days, but there is also a 10-day course for visitors who don’t have much time. There is accommodation provided at the temple and donations are accepted at the end of the retreat. If you decide to do the 26-day course, you may have the opportunity to a ‘determination’ – this is pretty hardcore, because it involves meditating for 72-hours non-stop (you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to).
6 Wat Kow Tahm - Koh Phangan
Koh Pah-Ngan, Surat Thani 84280
Contact: use the ‘contact us’ form on nunamornpun-kohphangan.com
Koh Phangan is known as one of the most laid-back and exotic of the Thai islands, and it’s also the venue for the notorious full-moon parities. Kow Tahm temple can be found to the south of the island in a secluded forest up on a hill.
There is room available for up to 88 students to stay here at a time and typical retreats last from seven to 10 days. Retreats occur at specific dates throughout the year, so you need to check the website for details – it’s a good idea to reserve your place well in advance.
5 Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep – Chiang Mai
Tambon Suthep, Amphoe Muang, Chiang Mai, 50200
Contact: 0 5329 5012 or email email@example.com
Doi Suthep is one of the main tourist attractions in Chiang Mai, and the temple on the top of this mountain hosts meditation retreats. The foundation course lasts 21 days and there is also a 13 day course for those who have completed the foundation course.
It is also possible to go the temple for a short retreat of four to 14 days. The program here is based on the teachings of the Burmese monk Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw, and it is a type of insight meditation. Individual rooms are available.
4 Wat Umong – Chiang Mai
Tambon Suthep, Amper Muang, Chiang Mai 55000
Contact: 085-1076045 (mobile) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Wat Umong is one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai, and it located in a large tranquil wooded area – it’s well protected from the noise and bustle of the city. The practice here is Vipassana, and retreat participants are expected to fit in with the routine of the temple such as waking up at 4am to meditate and chant.
Participants are also expected to maintain eight precepts during their stay, including no alcohol and no distractions like iPads or music systems. Some of the monks here do speak reasonable English, but it is worth taking along a phrase book just in case.
3 Wat Bhaddanta Asabharam – Chonburi
118/1 Moo 1, Ban Nong Pru, Tambon Nong Phai Kaeo, Amphoe Ban Bueng, Chonburi Province 20220
Ajahn Bhaddanta Asabha trained under Mahasi Sayadaw in Burma, and he now teaches at Wat Bhaddanta Asabharam. There are retreats here suitable for beginner and advanced practitioners, and all students are expected to maintain 8 precepts – participants are also asked not to leave the temple during the retreat.
It is usually up to you to decide on how long you want to stay, but it needs to be a minimum of seven days. You can expect daily interviews with Ajahn Bhaddanta Asabha (or another senior monk) to guide your progress.
2 Suan Mokh – Chaiya
Amphoe Chaiya, Surat Thani 84110
“Those who read books cannot understand the teachings and, what's more, may even go astray. But those who try to observe the things going on in the mind, and always take that which is true in their own minds as their standard, never get muddled.”
Suan Mokh was founded by the revered Thai monk Buddhadasa Bhikkhu back in the 1940s. This is one of the most popular meditation retreat centers in Thailand, so it is best to book well in advance - it tends to be busy here in February and March in particular.
As well as meditation, participants get the chance to do chanting, group walking, and yoga. The basic retreat lasts 10 days, and there is formal instruction during the orientation stage.
1 Wat Pah Nanachat - Ubon Ratchathani
Bahn Bung Wai, Amphoe Warin Chamrab, Ubon Rachathani 34310
Contact: anyone interested is asked to send a letter addressed to the “The Guest Monk” at the temple.
Wat Pah Nanachat was founded by Ajahn Chah in 1975, and the monks here are part of the Thai forest tradition. The temple is located in an area of great natural beauty, and there is a 100 acre jungle surrounding it.
The day at Wat Pah Nanachat begins at 3 am and participants are expected to help out with temple chores such as sweeping the grounds – this activity can also be a form of meditation. If you want to go here to meditate, you need to commit to at least seven days.