Updated: Oct 22, 2020
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In Thailand, practitioners of the Thai Forest Tradition of Theravada Buddhism practice a discipline known as Dhutanga. A Buddhist tradition whereby monks commit to a period of their life lived outdoors without a lot of the niceties that we experience in our day today. Guided by thirteen practices, monks commit to such things as not living in towns or villages, only owning three sets of clothes and choosing to live under a tree without the shelter of a roof. These guys are serious. As described in Wikipedia, Dhutanga is "meant to deepen the practice of meditation and assist in living the Holy Life, their aim is to help the practitioner to develop detachment with material things including the body." In Dhutanga, the student is challenged by uncomfortable situations and hopefully teaches them the wisdom and beauty of acceptance.
By living this lifestyle, the devotee steps out of suffering to reach the state of "deathless"; or in more familiar terms bliss. As described again in Wikipedia this bliss can be attained by " exertion and striving", sometimes described as a battle or struggle to cut or clear the path through the tangle of defilement that binds the mind to the conditioned world, in order to set awareness free". By welcoming the struggle... one finds peace.
Now, what does this have to do with travel you say? Well..... have you ever struggled when traveling? I know I have. Have you ever chosen activity or adventure that involved "exertion or striving"? Yes, I do; sometimes deliberately. I think that this is commonly described as "adventure travel". Now, does that "adventure travel" need to be a battle? Well, I would say probably not but it could be. Sometimes the struggle can be small but significant... not long lasting but important. Which brings me to my story.
Bangkok, what a wondrous city.......but it was time to leave. Intuition was telling me it was time to move on. The bus from to Sukhothai was a lot better than I had thought it would be. Wonderful seats, air conditioning, priced very reasonably at $15 US and the seven to eight- hour trip was very pleasant. A little bag lunch was provided and we were able to stop and stretch our legs at a few bus stops along the way that also provided us the opportunity to buy local goodies to munch on while travelings. Now, the way I like to travel is to do a lot of research before the trip, reading lots of travel books like Lonely Planet and watching my share of youtube videos of other travelers that have done these trips. But as a theme, I prefer not to make firm plans and enjoy the spirit of the moment and make plans as I go. This trip would be no different. Now a little history, Sukhothai was the first capitol city of Thailand and was created in 13nth century and has a long colored history of art and spiritual practice. A twenty-seven square mile city ruin dotted with ancient Buddha statues and chedis that hearken back to another age......another time.
So here we are, a few minutes aware from arriving at the bus station in Sukhothai.........I pull out my trusty Lonely Planet ( click here to learn more about these wonderful travel guides ) book that I have marked up like crazy with notes and preferences for a year before the trip and I come across a hotel that I have marked as being "very cool". Looks like it is a two mile walk from the bus station but we have our awesome Arc'teryx back packs ( they are very comfortable and carry a load well ) and this should be no big deal. A two mile walk in the beautiful ancient city of Thailand, what could be better?
So here is where the "defilement's" and "attachments" mentioned in the Dhutanga discipline start to rear their ugly heads. Now, I'm not normally a picky person when I travel. I've been thru, walked thru, slept in some of the oddest places around but for some reason, I must have concocted some crazy "Shangri La" image of this Sukhothai in my head. Instead of an exotic paradise, the two mile walk was essentially a trek thru the middle of an industrial part of town; ( click here for image ) not too "Shangri La". Yeah, I know what your thinking, I own this.... and you would be right. My attachment to the fantasy was starting to cloud my thinking and perception. The two mile walk was hot and without shade and we were getting to the end of day; and on top of it we were running out of day light. The struggle spoken about in the Dhutanga tradition; both physical and mental was in session; class had begun. Back and forth, back and forth in my mind. Do we stop and turn around? Are we heading to the wrong hotel? Bla Bla Bla..... you get the picture. I was blinded by my thinking; I had conditioned myself to a certain idea and I was creating that mental entanglement that those wise old forest monks were talking about.
The interesting thing about mindfulness and balance..... is that it arises. The mindfulness of the what is....what a glorious gift. Well, the "what is" that I was, was not working...... I had to open the hand of thought and let go into the moment see where it lead me. Keep walking........
Ten minutes latter......"Shangrala" did not unfold before me but instead.... Sabaidee......that is to say the Sabaidee House.
Sabaidee House was a perfect place to spend a few days as we visited the Sukhothai ruins. Wonderful people, wonderful food and the place has been created with a wonderful ambiance that touches your soul. Conveniently located within a adventurous 20 min bus ride to the park, Sabaidee House a wonderful place and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a soulful place to stay.
The spiritual in the mundane; in the moment, in everything around us.....everything teaches. Well my spiritual lesson was obvious..... I needed to detach, welcoming everything as it cames and simply relax into the struggle. I was not welcoming the internal battle; more accurately put, I was not accepting the conflict within myself. I was making things worse by not showing compassion to myself and to the world around me and in doing so I was missing the beauty around me. I am humble and grateful for life's lessons. Gassho.