Today I visited the venerable local monk, whose name is Boonyarith. When I say local I mean it - he lives about 100 yds. or so from the condo building. He looks pretty old - I've heard 94 but don't actually think he's that old. He has been practicing meditation for 64 years. He leads two sessions every day, the first from 3 PM to 6 PM and the other from 8 PM to 11 PM. It is not required to stay for the entire session. There are always at least a few cars parked outside the place.
I went today at 3 and it was packed with people, all Thais as best I could tell (meaning no farangs, which is the word for a foreigner in Thai - at least no Westerners that I noticed). Some spoke English to me and made me feel right at home, helped me find a place to sit and gave me a cushion to sit on. The monk Boonyarith speaks some English as does his two assistants, one of whom is a Westerner. The place itself, relatively small, so packed in this case means about 30 or 40 people. It seemed to be the living room but was set up to receive the meditators, rather than like a typical living room. There was a small kitchen off to one side and a sun room open to the main room where I found a seat. It was pleasantly air-conditioned.
The session consisted of a taped lecture that was played through a Samsung flat screen TV located on one side of the room. No image other than a menu. Of course since it was in Thai I have no idea what it was about. But I sat in meditation while it went on. I practice a sitting meditation every day for usually 20 minutes that involves watching my breath (or trying to) and trying to still the mind, just be present in the moment. I can't pretend to be successful at it but it does fell good. So I was happy to sit and attempt to do that - until my back started aching about 30 minutes or so into the session. Slowly but inevitably that became my sole focus: this tight band stretching across the area of my thoracic spine just below my shoulder blades. My mind stayed pretty busy with that for he longest time while I tried to relax my muscles and just let my bones support me. Then I began to shift and gently move my arms and back and seat, trying to find a comfortable position. Nothing, just screaming mind. I was thinking "what a wasted opportunity", I was expecting to find calm and ease - usually I'm good for at least 40-45 minutes. Then, without a reason, my back stopped bothering me. But my knees - in a gentle half lotus - and butt started to ache a little so I shifted them around - and after a few minutes would shift again. Still no peace of mind just physical discomfort. Then at one point I just opened my eyes (literally) and was in the room. I moved my legs to get comfortable and my mind became comfortable and quiet, just like that. I sat there in comfort and quiet for a short while and when the lecture tape ended, or seemed to I quietly left the room - I'd been there almost two hours. The cool thing was that the quiet mind went with me as I walked back to the condo. I stayed quiet, although not without thought, for a brief time before the busyness returned as it always does. Watched a nice sunset too.