Don’t worry, be mindful

We arrived to Thailand exhausted from constant traveling and we swore that we would slow down once we’re out of Bangkok. Vietnam was an overwhelming country, very pretty and inspiring, but traveling from North to South in a month was very intense. We couldn’t wait to stop. But we had to go through Bangkok to get visa to Myanmar. We were however highly motivated to get out of there in one day and so we were extremely well organised. Early in the morning we had all the paperwork ready, took a taxi to the embassy, applied for express visa, went to train station to buy tickets for an overnight train to Chiang Mai, strolled around the city, went on a ferry ride, went back to the embassy to pick up our visas, then back to the train station, on the train and off to Chiang Mai. Sitting in cool air-conditioned compartment of a sleeper train we wiped sweat from our foreheads and sighed. Temperature outside was almost reaching 40 degrees. As the train started moving north, we were praying for Chiang Mai to be cooler.

We arrived to Chiang Mai after a night of good sleep. Never 12h journey was more pleasant than on a Thai sleeper train. The service was excellent, staff friendly and helpful and beds comfortable. Yet when we got off the train, it was clear that our prayers for lower temperatures were not fulfilled. It was hot like in a pizza oven. What’s more, we weren’t able to find accommodation. All the rooms we saw in 2 hours were either scruffy holes or luxury suites. Normal decent rooms we all full. That’s how Chiang Mai welcomed us – with heat and endless street trotting in search of a room with heavy load on our backs. Finally when we almost lost hope, we waked into Giant House guesthouse (port of call of tree-huggers and tarot readers) and we found a room that we liked right away.

Our main purpose on the North of Thailand was to wind down, calm our senses and feed our minds with a little bit of Buddhist philosophy. Despite the fact that Chiang Mai had more temples per square kilometer than anywhere else in Thailand, it was far from a peaceful destination. It was busy with tourists and traffic and it lacked architectonic charm. It claimed to be a cultural centre of Thailand, but it was missing a touch of love and care. The centre was a mismatch of guesthouses, restaurants and massage parlous, where traditional wooden Thai architecture has been pushed out by a maze of concrete structures. We were rather looking for peace, greenery and silence. We found none in Chiang Mai. As soon as we arrived we made plans to leave.

In Laos we made a friend who told us about Mindful Farm 75km north of Chiang Mai. From his account it seemed that it was what we needed. We informed the owners of the farm that we were coming and after a 3h road trip into deep countryside, we put our feet down on orange soil of Pang Term village.

When we arrived we took a deep breath of warm clean air. The way to the farm led through rice fields, a shaky bamboo bridge and up the hill. The farm was bathed in golden light of afternoon sun. It was still hot, but the heat wasn’t exhausting, to the contrary, it was rather pleasant. The place was peaceful, almost silent. It was covered by a veil of calm and goodness. We found our oasis.

Mindful Farm was run by a Buddhist monk Pinan who dropped his robes in the name of love for a woman. “After 20 years as a monk, I got confused,” Pinan told us. “Now I am married and have a child”. He run the farm with the help of his wife Noriko, tiny Navara and volunteers from all around the globe. It was a fruit of two years of hard work, passion and persistence. The farm, as well as his daughter Navara, have two years and four months. They were born on the same soil, breathed the same air and drunk the same water.

“Keep silent and smile,” was the way on the farm. Calm mind and hard work were two principles that Pinan tried to teach us. Each morning started with meditation and yoga. Then we ate breakfast in silence, facing the rising sun and waking garden. After breakfast we started work. We worked in the garden, weeding, planting and moving compost, watered plants and trees, made mud bricks, built a coffee house, cleaned and cooked. There was always a lot to do, but whatever we did we did it slowly and consciously. As it’s name suggests Mindful Farm was about living mindfully. It was about living in present moment, being aware of our every action, every breath and every thought. Concentration on the present was the key to meaningful life. We only exist now, not in the past and not in the future, therefore consuming our thoughts on thinking about the past or the future, we actually lose our only chance to live. This was one of many Buddhist philosophies that Pinan taught us. Meditation, work and mindfulness were the tree words that we said repeatedly.

We stayed there for a week and every of the seven days was special. The farm was organic and self-sufficient, meaning that we had healthy vegan food made from whatever we found in the garden and drunk filtered water from a well. We passed our days in the garden working with lovely people from all paths of life, each of them unique and interesting. We enjoyed silence and meditation conscious of the peacefulness that was taking over us. The place had a strong energy. Was it meditation and prayers? Was is love and care that the farm awakened in people? Whatever it was, the energy it accumulated gave us a strong sense of protection.

Day by day I was becoming calm, gentle and happy. Now it’s been two weeks since we left the farm and I still feel that way. I smile all the time. I’m mindful of what I eat, do and say. I’m patient and calm. I like who I am.

“Be a bud sitting quietly in the hedge
Be a smile, one part of wondrous existence
Stand here. There is no need to depart.
This homeland is as beautiful as the homeland of our childhood
Do not harm it, please, and continue to sing.”
Thich Nhat Hanh [Butterfly over the field of golden mustard flowers]

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