"The flashing lights amidst the hustle and bustle of Thailand flash by in a blur as my plane lands. “Sawasdee ka and welcome to Thailand” says the flight attendant over the intercom. I pick up my stuff like a little child, excited for my next big adventure. I just graduated medical school a week ago and now for the first time in 4 years I get to relax. I am ecstatic to say the least.
My first thought on walking into the Peace Revolution hub is ‘Wow. Everyone is so nice and friendly.’ From the monks to the staff everyone greeted me with a big smile and welcoming spirit. I look around their shop and pick out a few shirts for my trip. Off we go.
The bus seat was quite uncomfortable but I don’t care. I have a new friend from Hungary next to me, Nikki, and she is very sweet. We unload the bus and hop on a boat to our next destination. I have never been so happy before. The waves splash up towards my face as I hang over the side of the boat with my hands dipping into the waves. Every once in a while a cool refreshing wave will come up and splash us. We all squeal and scream like children.
We get to the island and take the most scenic bus ride to our retreat center. It is hot but the beaches and lush forests surrounding us make me feel so sabai (relaxed in body and mind). We arrive and are greeted with the most refreshing tasting coconuts. Definitely heaven.
After unpacking into my hut with my new roommate, Adriana from Brazil (who oddly enough really does look like a supermodel), we start off to our first ice breaking activities. We sit down on a large wooden platform amidst many trees looking at a big sign that says ‘Peace in Peace out.’ Ping Ping, the director, greets us. “Welcome everybody. This is not a vacation.” (me: What! I have never felt so happy and relaxed before). “This is a challenge. You are here to train yourself and challenge yourself on this island.”
So off we go. Divided into teams to complete different tasks and learn teamwork building skills, how to communicate without talking, how to be a leader and how to be a follower. During one exercise I learned that without talking it is easier. Sometimes words and opinions can get in the way. And sometimes in the midst of silence the most peaceful and creative work is done. Interesting concept.
Each day is similar. We wake up at 5, meditate 4 times a day, do yoga, and learn dhamma from our entertaining and wise teaching monks. It feels kind of like school, but way cooler. An international school with 27 kids from 21 countries. Each one with a different culture, language, religion and lifestyle. But we all can live together in harmony and peace. Performing peace building activities like learning how to fold our mosquito nets, washing bathrooms and mopping floors. Our structure was sabai but disciplined. Which means relaxed and comfortable but following certain rules developed to help us train our habits and lifestyle. It is tiring at times but my consistent efforts pay off. I feel my mind is more bright and clear. I am able to sit and feel the light from within and it feels so amazing, so tranquil and so peaceful.
The monks teach us about life. Wants vs needs, happiness and contentment, respect, loving kindness and much more. Education for the mind and how to develop a more peaceful world. Good stuff. If there was a PhD in this I'd get it.
The last days are nearing. I have made many new friends and feel so blessed and grateful for this opportunity of a lifetime. Our closing ceremony is a night I will never forget. Tears, laughter and joy as we reminisce about our hard work and shared experiences.
And then it is over. Almost as soon as it began. I find myself back on the boat travelling to the mainland again. It is just as beautiful as before but now it’s different. Because we have changed. Justus sits before me meditating and centering himself, with a little smile on his face. The atmosphere is one of peace and happiness. Now I am surrounded by family and friends I will remember forever. There is a sense of camaraderie having completed our challenge together. What an amazing two weeks.
As I board the plane back to Thailand I remember the words of our teaching monk. “It is not about what happened on this island but how much of this island we can take back to our daily lives.” I commit myself to practicing meditation daily, no matter how busy my life gets. I look down on the lights of Thailand flashing by and gently close my eyes for 14 hours of uninterrupted peace. This must be what life is about."