How working on an organic farm brought me peace of mind.
I hope you are all having an amazing week so far!
So this is a bit of a throwback post but I thought I would let you all know where I got most of my inspiration from when it came to trying to live a more mindful lifestyle. So in trying to change some of my habits (and i'm not claiming to be an expert or have the best habits around, in fact I contradict myself all the time).
I really have wanted to commit to a full-on vegan lifestyle, but in a sense I want to achieve something more than that. I really want to start living a lifestyle that is more in sync with the flow of nature rather than more reliant on the flow of things. I know this sounds incredibly strange because most would say it is completely unrealistic. But to be honest when I was traveling, I found myself inching closer towards that, not that it is an end-point. But you can feel when things are aligned. Somehow coincidences don't seem just that anymore, you actually feel as though you are in the perfect place at the perfect time.
The idea of this lifestyle became more attainable to me when we traveled through Thailand. Yes, the beginning portion of the trip consisted of a lot of partying. As much as we loved the southern areas of Thailand, I certainly fell in love with the Northern Area. Chiang Mai, Pai and the mindfulness farm experience.
It was at the Mindfulness farm where I truly started to see myself flirting with the idea of living off the land, becoming completely vegan and possibly starting up an organic garden somewhere (I dream big ;P)
We had planned our entire trip the months leading up to it, so we decided in advance that we would give volunteering at an organic farm a go. I had heard amazing things, and it seemed like an experience that could be unforgettable.
Not knowing how amazing Pai would be (our destination before going to the organic farm), naturally we had some reluctance to leave our tiny portion of paradise in the North of Thailand, but - the show must go on and this is the bittersweet thing about travelling: You will find a place that feels like home, you meet a person that feels like it and you will live a life that seems impossible to leave. Somehow though, you know these things are heightened by the magic of travelling too - so you know it might not last. So it's good to move to the next destination.
And our next destination was working on an organic farm in a small village for a week.
To give a little bit of background information about the place:
Mindfulness farm is a beautiful organic farm in a small village about an hour and a half outside of Chiang Mai (the Samoeng district). It is run by a former Thai monk named Pi Nan and his wife and young daughter (we never met the wife and daughter as they were on holiday, but if you have a look at their website you'll see how lovely the family looks).
How it works is that you are free to come and go as you please, you pay 200 Baht per night to stay there and it's all on the basis that you're willing to volunteer and help out around the farm in exchange for his knowledge and delicious organic food, which you cook from everything you harvested that day.
It sounds amazing, and it absolutely was - but it did take some getting used to.
After eating delicious food, relaxing and socialising to our absolute max in Pai, i'm not going to lie...it was again, another culture shock.
We arrived after a long song tao ride from Chiang Mai to a silent open-air room of people reading and meditating. They all kind of looked at us (a bunch of four loud girls) as if to say; 'you're definitely lost' and 'are you absolutely sure?'. Nevertheless, we chucked our bags down and decided to just go with it. Whilst behind the scenes we were whispering to each other; 'there is no way we can stay here for a week, max two days for sure!'.
We introduced ourselves to a beautiful bunch of people. All there for different reasons, some facing personal battles, some searching for clarity and some just in need of down-time.
After meeting Pi Nan, our schedule was explained to us and to be honest it was absolutely jam-packed. 6am yoga, 7-8 silent breakfast & meditation, 8:30-11:30 volunteer work (normally in the garden), 12:00 - 1pm lunch, 1pm - 2pm a bit of down-time and then its on to the afternoon session of volunteer work (we started building a new hut) and then on to dinner, meditation and group reflection. All ending at about 8pm in the evening.
The first day, we were absolutely exhausted!
We all woke up thinking; 'there is just no way we are going to last an entire week of this'. It was funny how this happened though, in some way I think Pi Nan had sensed this within all of us and as intimidating as he seemed before, he suddenly let his guard down, showing us a sense of his humour and good-spirit. He explained to us that the schedule was merely a guideline a way to show us where we could be at specific times of the day, but if we weren't feeling up to something or if we felt like exchanging one activity for the other - ultimately we were free to roam and do as we please. Because it's in the freedom and not the confines that we find ourselves.
Following this, things seemed to flow, everything became easier. We were taking part in everything but it was just this shift in mindset that suddenly made us feel free instead of at work or on a job. Jokes, stories and laughs began flying around the group. Getting to know everybody in the garden became the most rewarding part of the day. Picking up these small gems of knowledge Pi Nan would drop here and there became a highlight of your day.
Exploring the farm and discovering a beautiful natural (somewhat hidden) lake that we could reward ourselves with a dip in at the end of a long, hard and hot day of work. We slowly felt the impact of nature and the silence creep into our hearts. These small but oh so sweet moments between four friends and couple new ones became a reason to stay.
Opening ourselves up to the possibilities the mindfulness farm could bring us allowed so much more to come knocking on our doorstep. We were able to open ourselves up to the knowledge that Pi Nan was kind enough to share, we interacted with the locals and shared our helping hands to them in preparing food for a local funeral (in Thailand the whole town is invited to a member of the communities funeral, of all social classes and it is customary for the family of the deceased to feed the guests. Pi Nan explained to us that it is a tradition that unites the community in order to pay respect because each person has played their role in making the community what it is.).
I think to a certain extent (I know this certainly happened for me) but we also opened ourselves up to the possibility of simply letting thing be, following a flow of things and allowing unexpected moments to creep into your heart and without having to fight for it, you suddenly realise how happy you had become.
This is where I first felt that feeling of natural flow within me, I suddenly became so aware of my existence within the world that - as cliché as it might sound - but I finally felt as if I were in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. No longer was I fighting for my space in the my life or someone else's life - I just found it. There was no struggle, no force, no anxiety...just a feeling of natural flow in the right direction.
The last night we were at the mindfulness farm, a bittersweet one, but something I will never forget. We were in the middle of our post-dinner meditation and a huge tropical storm rolled in. We decided to turn off the lights and face the view of the farm. Simply sitting in silence and watching the storm in its fierce yet calming presence was absolute magic, enough to bring you to tears. A moment of complete humility, to see how big you truly are against this world. To realise that it's not of you to take and keep taking but rather to exist in peace amongst it all, taking what you need and giving back what you have taken. A beautiful memory to have left the farm with.
If you ever find yourself in the North of Thailand. be sure to place an experience such as this on the top of your list.