If you’re looking for a transformative experience, consider attending a meditation retreat in Thailand. It’s an opportunity to sit in silence and disconnect from the distractions of the outside world, allowing you to fully focus on your inner self. Thailand is known for its rich Buddhist culture, with over 40,000 temples and over 90% of the population practicing Buddhism.
Thai locals are invested in sharing their culture with foreigners and have made silent meditation retreats accessible to all. You don’t need to be a seasoned meditator to attend these retreats; there are affordable options available for beginners. For example, you can attend a two-day meditation course & meditation retreat at Wat Suan Dok temple in Chiang Mai for just $30 USD, which includes lodging and food. For those who are more experienced in meditation, there are longer and more advanced retreats available as well.
Attending a meditation retreat in Thailand can teach you a lot about Buddhism and meditation, even if you’re new to these practices. During my own retreat, I discovered a new perspective on life and gained a deeper understanding of myself. The lessons I learned continue to shape my life and mindset to this day.
Table of Contents
Structure of the buddhism & silent Meditation Course
Wat Suan Dok offers a silent meditation course that is structured in a way that blends Buddhist teachings with intensive meditation practice. The retreats are led by experienced monks who possess a deep understanding of Buddhism and meditation, and involve extended periods of silence.
At the retreat offered at Wat Suan Dok, we sat in meditation for a collective of 15-hours over the course of two days.
Rules of the Silent Meditation Retreat:
During the meditation retreat, we were instructed to abide by a set of rules, which were generally adhered to by the 20 participants in attendance. These rules are typical for most meditation retreats in Thailand.
The rules were:
- Talking is not allowed, even to your roommate in the dorm or other participants during meals.
- You are required to wear white during the retreat, and if you don’t have any white clothes, they will provide them for you.
- Cell phone usage of any kind was strictly prohibited, though I must admit, I was weak and did sneak a peek at my phone from time to time.
Here’s what the schedule looked like:
01:00 PM Introduction to Buddhism & Meditation Lecture
04:45 PM Meditation practice
06:00 PM Dinner
07:00 PM Evening chanting and meditation practice
10:30 PM Bedtime
05:00 AM Morning gong (everyone had to wake up)
05:30 AM Chanting, exercise, and meditation practice
07:00 AM Alms offering and breakfast
08:30 AM Group Discussion (this was the only time that could speak)
10:00 AM Meditation practice
11:30 AM Lunch
01:00 PM Meditation practice
03:00 PM Retreat concluded
Buddhist Monks collect food offerings from locals by walking around every day, and they only consume what is provided to them, believing that food is meant for sustenance and not for pleasure. During our retreat, we emulated the lifestyle of Buddhist monks by walking around a small village surrounding the temple to collect food before meals. Typically, the food we collected consisted of rice and vegetables.
Silence was mandatory during meals, and we were instructed not to look at each other. Avoiding eye contact was more challenging than refraining from speaking, and I found myself staring at my plate most of the time. We were encouraged to eat slowly and intentionally, which was a difficult task for me since I am naturally a fast eater. However, I still reflect on the lesson of eating mindfully and try to slow down my pace whenever I eat.
Just imagine sharing a room with a complete stranger, and not being able to speak to them at all. That was the situation I found myself in during the retreat. My roommate seemed pleasant based solely on her appearance, and we communicated through gestures when we needed anything. As someone who dislikes awkward silence, this was one of the most challenging aspects of the experience for me.
The beds in most Buddhist meditation centers are not designed for comfort, as they are typically wooden planks that require one to sleep on their back. This is intended to encourage “mindful sleeping,” although I am unsure of how to determine whether or not I achieved this. However, I did manage to sleep soundly during my time there.
The Meditation Practice
Throughout the retreat, we practiced meditation in three different forms for a total of 15 hours. These included sitting meditation, walking meditation, and lying down meditation. Our instructor taught us to count our breaths in order to quiet our minds. Although it was challenging to maintain a clear and calm mind throughout the retreat, I was able to experience some moments of true zen. There were also times when I found myself feeling restless and eager for the meditations to end.
Of the three forms of meditation we practiced, lying down was my favorite. I found that I was able to reach a deeper level of relaxation in this position, and was less preoccupied with my thoughts. In contrast, I struggled with walking meditation as it felt unfamiliar and unnatural to me. I was so focused on where I was walking that I found it difficult to clear my mind. Sitting meditation, on the other hand, was the most familiar form of meditation for both me and the majority of the group.
Lessons Learned at the Wat Suan Dok Meditation Retreat
Our instructor provided us with a lot of valuable insights and shared many things that resonated with me. Some of the key teachings that stood out to me include:
- Nothing in life is permanent: Buddhists practice the idea of impermanence. Impermanence means that everything in our physical lives will come to an end.
- Attachment leads to suffering: As humans, we naturally become attached to things in our lives like our belongings, loved ones, and pets. However, since everything in life is temporary, we will eventually lose these things and feel sad. Monks try not to get too attached to anything, even their own family members.
- Our mind is like a computer: When a computer has too many programs open, it can become overwhelmed and stop working properly. Similarly, our minds can become overloaded with too many thoughts, leading to what’s called the “monkey mind.” To prevent this, we need to practice exercising our minds through meditation.
- Monks are people too: This was a big realization for me. Even though monks try to live by certain ideals, they are still human and make mistakes. For instance, they aim not to get attached to anything, but sometimes it’s hard not to. They understand that they are not perfect and even if they work hard to achieve enlightenment, they may still face challenges along the way.
My Overall Thoughts on the Experience
The Wat Suan Dok Meditation Retreat in Thailand was was an amazing experience that taught me a lot about Buddhism and meditation. While it wasn’t always easy to sit in silence for two days, I learned so much that I now use in my daily life. It’s great that Thai temples offer these retreats at a low cost, making them accessible to everyone. I highly recommend this retreat to anyone interested in learning more about Buddhist meditation, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced meditator.
Thai Buddhist meditation retreats that you can attend
Here’s a list of affordable and top-rated Buddhist meditation retreats in Thailand that I would personally recommend. It is advisable to check for updates directly with these retreats prior to planning your trip for the most up to date information.
Wat Suan Dok Meditation Course:
- About: This is the retreat that I discussed in this post. It is organized by MCU Buddhist University and led by a Buddhist Monk. The retreat mainly covers Concentration Meditation and Vipassana Meditation. Attendees will learn how to calm their minds and gain a deeper understanding of the Buddhist lifestyle.
- Location: Chiang Mai
- Length of time: 2-days, 1-night
- Cost: 1000 BAHT or $30 USD (includes food, instruction & lodging)
- Bonus!: They offer a free, one-day, donation-based course if you don’t have the time or budget for the lengthier version.
- This retreat offers silent meditation sessions that begin on the 1st of every month, and takes place in a peaceful setting. In addition to meditation, participants will have opportunities to converse with monks, practice yoga, and engage in various chores. All activities are designed to help participants find deeper meaning in life.
- Location: Surat Thani (640km south of Bangkok)
- Length of time: 10-days
- Cost: 2,000 BAHT or $64 USD (includes food, instruction & lodging)
- English-speaking monks offer Buddhism teachings and Vipassana meditation courses. Participants who wish to continue their studies beyond the retreat can enroll in a longer meditation stay on the temple university grounds.
- Location: Bangkok
- Length of time: There are two sessions per day. Practitioners may attend for a single day session. If participants want to stay overnight then they must meet certain qualifications (listed on their website).
- Cost: Donation-based
- About: This center offers beginner meditation courses to anyone interested in learning more about Buddhism and meditation, regardless of their religion. The courses aim to teach mindfulness and open-mindedness in daily life.
- Location: Bangkok
- Length of time: One week
- Cost: Donation-based
23 thoughts on “Meditation Retreat in Thailand: My life-changing Experience & Recommendations for your journey”
This sounds like such a unique experience! I’m not sure that I could last 2 full days in silence but it would be fun to try!
I wasn’t sure if I’d last either…and at times it was hard…but so worth it! 🙂
A very beautiful and informative post! Enjoyed reading your experience and learnings about it. 😊😊
Thanks so much!
This sounds so unique and interesting. As a bit of an introvert who finds it difficult making small talk this actually sounds really good to not speak for a day or two. Great guide, I’m interested in trying this at some point
haha, I am a bit introverted as well…it was nice to not feel like I had to talk to anyone but for some reason, I still felt quite shy! It was an interesting experience. Thanks for the comment!
This sounds like such an amazing experience! I have always wanted to do something like it but don’t know if I could last the silence. I think I could do a two day one but not the other ones that goes forever!!
I love the theory that our mind is like a computer; it’s so true. When I have too much going on I struggle to stay focused!
Thanks for the comment! You could definitely do it if you tried!
This is amazing! Hope to be able to do it soon.
It was incredible. I hope you’re able to do it too!
Wow this seems like an amazing experience! I love Thailand and been there many times but never tried anything like this.
It was incredible. I definitely recommend that you try it if you go back to Thailand!
WOW! What a crazy and unique experience. Was it really difficult not to speak for two full days?
It was very hard not to speak for two days…but the hardest part about it was being forced to think for 48 hours with minimal distractions.
Wow! I can’t imagine two full days of silence, but it must have been such a reflective experience. So interesting to learn about – it reminds me of the memoir Eat, Pray, Love!
it was tough and yeah haha, a bit eat pray love-ish but not as glamourous!
Wow, I don’t think I’d have the discipline to be silent for two days! I’ve tried practicing meditation but I always find it so hard to switch my brain off and focus without a million ideas popping up! It’s definitely something I’d like to try again though! Although I think I’d be a way off this kind of experience just yet! It would be a wonderful thing to try out though! Thanks for the great guide!
Thank you for sharing valuable information. I really wanna go there one day.
You’re welcome!! You def have to go 😉
Do they still use becoming a monk as a form of community service? When I visited Thailand years ago, I was surprised to talk to monks who were only doing it because they’d committed a crime, and being a monk was an alternative to being incarcerated.
That’s so interesting, I hadn’t heard that! As far as I could tell, our monk/teacher had not been incarcerated and was a monk because he truly wanted to and loved it. However, it’s possible that some do it as community service. I was interested to learn that being a monk was just a temporary thing…prior to my trip, I thought that it was a “once a monk, always a monk” sort of thing. Some go on to have families, etc. when they’re done with their service. I’m going to look into that some more.
Wow! I had no idea these kinds of experiences even existed. It sounds so incredible, such a beautiful way to immerse yourself in a different way of life for a couple of days. I can’t believe the price is so reasonable too! I’ll definitely consider this for my next trip to Thailand.
Whether you’re looking to get started with the practice of meditation or want a more in-depth instruction, Phuket meditation retreats can be a great way to de-stress and recharge while learning techniques you can use in your daily life.
Meditation Retreat in Phuket 13-16 December 2021.
For upcoming events: https://bit.ly/3CK8GBP