Meditation means a lot of different things to different people. For some, it’s a way to banish the stress of daily life, for others it’s a quest for inner peace and understand and for others yet it’s a way to come to terms with and understand ones subconscious. Whatever meditation means to you and your guests, there is no better place to practice it than in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Begin your search for enlightenment in Chiang Mai.
First you should understand the 8 precepts that meditators are often required to follow, at least partially, during their stay at a wat or meditation centre. For shorter visits, you are generally just required to follow the first five, which are:
1: Don’t be harmful to other living beings
2: No stealing
3: No sexual practices when following all 8 precepts or no “inconvenient” (adultery, prostitution, etc.) sexual practices when following only the first 5.
4: No lying
5: No intoxicating substances
Additionally, meditators and guests staying for extended periods of time (e.g. Longer than a few days) are generally expected to follow an additional 3 precepts, which are:
6: No eating after solar noon
7: No entertainment such as popular music, film, TV, etc. and no overly nice clothes or ornaments
8: No overly comfortable or luxurious seating/sleeping arrangements
It’s important to make these rules clear to any guests booking a meditation package to Thailand, as they are universal, and failure to follow them will generally result in guests being asked to leave the wat or centre. Certain meditation centres also operate as silent retreats (though none of the ones listed in this article do so) which means no talking or communication during the stay, except for emergencies.
The best place for meditation is in the middle of nature.
Buddhist meditation itself makes use of various meditation techniques, all working together to achieve an individuals goal, these include: mindfulness, concentration, breathing techniques, recollection and others. Those new to meditation will receive detailed instructions and guidance from teachers in how to practice these techniques.
During the period known as the “Rains Retreat” from mid July to Mid October, centres are more crowded, but it’s nonetheless a good time to plan a meditation trip, as there is a heavier emphasis on practice and teaching during this period.
As there are hundreds, if not thousands of places to arrange your meditation trip around Chiang Mai, we have collected some of the ones that come most highly recommended from foreign travellers and meditators.
The Buddhas of Wat Umong.
First is Wat Umong, located outside of Chiang Mai deep in the forest. The location lends it a serene and peaceful air, perfect for letting go of impure thoughts and clearing your mind. Your guests’ schedule here will be largely up to themselves, which means some self motivation and discipline is required, but guests are welcomed to take part in the morning ceremonies and evening ceremonies with the monks at 4:30am and 5pm. If arranging a trip here, it might be worth bringing a Thai speaking guide, as the monks at Wat Umong only speak a little English.
For a more intense experience, Wat Ram Poeng is a good choice. Here meditators are expected and encouraged to spend 20 hours a day practicing but the precise schedule is left up to each individual, and daily meetings/interviews with a teacher takes place in the afternoon. The abbot here speaks excellent English, making communication a breeze, and the standard course lasts 26 days to 1 month.
If your group prefers western teachers (who are usually less strict than their Thai counterparts) then consider Chom Tong Insight Meditation Centre, one of the most famous meditation centres in all of Thailand. As it’s located at the base on Doi Inthanon, it features breath-taking views and a thoroughly serene atmosphere. First timers here are recommended to take the 21 day course, with repeat guests usually staying for a standard 10 day course. The centre focuses on individual meditation, with little to no group sessions, and once again there is a daily meeting with a teacher to go over meditation techniques.
The golden Buddhas of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep.
Another great place is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. Here they focus on beginners and teaching the basics of meditation, and as such visitors are expected to pay close attention to the teachers and follow their practices. Individual meetings with a teacher can take place during the morning or afternoon, at the student’s discretion, and the day usually starts with a few hours of practice at 4am before breakfast at 6:30am.
If you’re trying to work in some meditation in a broader tour package, then you probably want a slightly less time intensive experience than those mentioned above. For this, Monkchat Meditation Retreat is ideal. Located a few kilometres out of Chiang Mai, the centre focuses on afternoon classes lasting 3-5 hours, and shorter 2-3 day stays, perfect for someone who just wants to dip their toes without committing to a long and demanding stay.
Having practiced the art of meditation for millennia, Chiang Mai is an ideal place for a wellness package focusing on mental health and inner peace. Any traveller searching for enlightenment and well-being is sure to at least partially find it while visiting one of these centres.