Attending the retreat

Here are the things to expect regarding food, clothing, and physical conditions while at retreat.

Rules and Regulations

They are really “boundaries” — like a small child playing, they keep us safe while we explore our minds, our selves, and the dhamma!

We are safely bounded on four sides by the customs of our Thai hosts, our Code of Conduct, our Dress Code, and the eight Buddhist Precepts which we take at the beginning of retreat.

  • If a person cannot follow the Rules and Regulations of the retreat, they will not be able to attend.

Accommodations

There are separate men’s and women’s dorms, and each is strictly off-limits to the other gender. The rooms are very basic, with bunk beds, and will usually be shared with one other person. Toilets are in buildings outside close by. Bathing is done by scooping water from a bucket.

Food

Keeping the body in good health is a duty.
Otherwise we will not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.
— Gautama Buddha

There are two meals a day during the retreat: breakfast at 7 am, and lunch at 11am. There is no dinner, as we are following all Eight Precepts during the retreat. This means no food after 12 noon. Herbal tea is provided at 5pm in the Dining Hall.

There is also welcoming Thai food for the participants on the first day of activities, and farewell food for the final day.

The food provided is ovo-lacto vegetarian, which means it might contain eggs and milk. Chili and other spices are used in the cooking. It is not possible to cater for a strict vegan diet or other special needs.

Filtered water and hot water are provided for drinking.

If you have special dietary needs due to illness or allergies, the kitchen staff may not be able to accommodate them. Please let us know about them to make sure you will be able to attend the retreat in this situation.

Clothing

  • Retreatants must wear modest, loose-fitting clothing at all times.

Please read and follow Kow Tham’s dress code.

We can be understanding how the calmness and peacefulness of our clothing reflects our care for the experience of our companions. Also keep in mind that we are on the grounds of a Thai monastery — the monks are under strict vows, and we would not like to make them uncomfortable. And here we are a part of traditional Thai culture; we are not in the Thailand of Bangkok or of the tourist beaches!

Bedding and laundry

  • A sleeping pad, blanket, sheet, pillow, and mosquito net are provided by the center. Please note, we do not provide towels.
  • You hand-wash your clothes during the breaks. Please bring washing powder.

Sitting

There are many different sitting options, including meditation stools, chairs, cushions, and mats in many sizes, that will hopefully allow for a satisfactory meditation experience.

Men and women sit separately in the Meditation and Dining Halls. This may seem like a rather arbitrary and unnecessary restriction, but it is all part of honoring the traditional Thai culture of which we are now a part, and from which our practice is drawn. Our teachers are traditional Thai monks and would not expect any other way. You can think of it as just one more exercise in mindfulness — and also use it for contemplation on which of the traditions of your own culture are really any less arbitrary 🙂

Physical

Kow Tham is built on a hill, and steep paths and stairs connect the various parts. There is a steep road between the dining hall and the meditation areas, and stairs to the dorms and on the paths between. All of these are sometimes slippery, especially during rain.

Special needs

We will try our best to make your stay at Kow Tham as convenient as possible. However the purpose of retreat is to practice letting go of our selves, our needs and wants — therefore Kow Tham is not set up to cater to them.

We are here to learn how to let go of what we are clinging to — we learn that all clinging is a source of suffering.

  • Sometimes we have books and cds on meditation and other teachings, either free or at low donation cost. These are usually made available at the end of retreat.

page revised: 11 June 2018

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