Life can be full of some pleasant surprises when we stop to listen to our hearts and be open to the suggestions of others. This happened to me a couple of days ago while having lunch at Nest 1, a restaurant and resort near the small town of Chiang Dao in the mountains of Northern Thailand.
I need to go back a bit and explain how my husband and I ended up at this particular restaurant in Chiang Dao in the first place. Back in January when we first arrived in Chiang Mai, we met a lovely young American couple who told us about this little spot up in the mountains about an hour and a half drive from Chiang Mai. They spoke so enthusiastically of it that I made a mental note to not forget about it and to research it as a possible place for us to escape to in March at the height of the hot, dry season. We followed through and ended up spending four glorious days there.
Our escape turned out to meet our expectations except for the one thing that, unfortunately, you just can’t avoid this time of the year in Northern Thailand – the haze from the fire burning ritual that the farmers practice every year. The government is trying to discourage it but with little success. With this one exception, we thoroughly enjoyed the invigorating waters of one of the many hot springs in the area, the ‘oh so cool’ nights accompanied by deep sleeps, a market to beat all other Thai markets that I have seen for size, and finally, the “Words of Wisdom Walk” which prompted me to write this post. How did this happen and why this title? I must give credit to our attentive and very knowledgable waitress who served us lunch at Nest 1. Her enthusiastic description of the 310 step walk up to a landmark monastery nearby had me hooked. To work off the lunch, we took her suggestion and started up.
The Tham Pla Pong temple was built into the mountain that hovers over Chiang Dao some time in the early 1960’s as a memorial to a monk from this area who devoted most of his life to the monk hood for well over 60 years.
Although the temple is beautiful as so many of the Thai temples are and the scenery from the top was spectacular, the best part was, believe it or not, the climb up those steps. On both sides of us and at about every tenth step, we were confronted with an inspirational saying from the Dhamma, the Buddhist term for his teachings, to spur us upward. I couldn’t help feeling a wonderful sense of peace envelop me as butterflies flitted around me, and strange bird songs echoed through the trees. Even though Thailand is in the midst of their dry season, the foliage all around not only looked very green and healthy, but also very familiar. I quickly realized I was seeing many of the common house plants that we have at home, such as the philodendron and the ‘wandering jew’ all looking much more beautiful in their natural habitat. Below are some pictures of those ‘words of wisdom’ that spoke most clearly to me and the ones that I and probably most of us need to be reminded of from time to time.
After a seemingly quick and easy descent, I felt rejuvenated and strangely enough quite at peace with myself and the world. I realized I had just experienced a wonderful form of meditation achieved by mental focus and physical movement in harmony with the surroundings of nature. I really don’t think meditation can get any better than this because it sure beats sitting in the lotus position trying to still my thoughts in a room by myself.