What I learned from Sleeping with the Monks

What I learned from Sleeping with the Monks

I recently spent the night in a Buddhist Temple. I ate vegan food, went to bed at 9 p.m., woke up at 4 a.m., meditated for 1 hour (TWICE), and did 108 neck-pain-inducing bows for Buddha.

It was fantastic.

A difficult 24 hours indeed, but even more difficult is putting it into words, so I’ll get right down to the nitty gritty.

Takeaways from my sleepover with Buddha:

  • Meditation is mentally difficult, physically painful, and entirely beneficial
  • I couldn’t be vegan
  • Monks, no matter how elderly, are badass mountain climbers
  • The hardest part about doing 108 forehead-to-the-floor bows is not farting
  • Everything is going to be okay

Buddhists practice Zen meditation, where the purpose is to clear the mind by solely focusing on your breath and posture. I always wanted to be good at zenning out and zapping thoughts from my head, but I didn’t really know why until getting the down-low from the monks.

Our minds are stuffed to the brim of all the knowledge and nonsense we’ve obtained over the years. While there is nothing wrong with life-long learning and expanding the cranium, how can we expect to keep adding to the pile without a little spring cleaning first?

We clean our bodies nearly everyday (hopefully). It feels good. It’s routine. It’s easy.

We need to clean our minds too.

A writer for Fast Company experimented with Zen meditation by practicing it for 30 days straight. In the beginning of his month-long journey, he was cranky and frustrated as he wasn’t enjoying nor understanding it. In the end, however, he swears he was sleeping better, was maintaining energy without coffee, was feeling more confident and patient, and was in an over-all better mood. Might be worth a try, eh?

Okay, if the meditating phenomenon is not your cup of tea, don’t fret. You can still de-clutter the mind by…….. wait for it…….. catching more Zs! Scientists have rather recently discovered that certain thoughts literally get the boot when we sleep. Evidently, while we are snoozing our remarkable brains are working to eliminate all the useless stuff and make room for more of the good stuff. So the phrase, “sleep on it”, actually rings scientific truth. CAN I GET A HELL YES? If you are anything like me you cherish sleep, but don’t get enough of it. Knowing that it actually takes care of the brain, which results in clearer thinking and healthier productivity, will make sleeping easy, just that 🙂

I just couldn’t resist sharing another Prince Ea video – his approach on “clearing the mind” is worth a listen.

So back to the Templestay.

In addition to hours of manifesting zen-ness while sitting on our asses, we did a “forest meditation”. Meaning we hiked up a mountain in a single file line, in silence — our 70-year-old lady monk leading the way with her bionic knees and ankles. Initially, a hike deprived of chit-chat and picture taking sounded like a huge vibe killer, but it ended up being (with no exaggeration) the most beautiful hike I have ever been on. In reality, it probably wasn’t anything extraordinary, but because nothing else was on my mind besides what was in front of me, the beauty intensified so much I thought I was hallucinating.


At the end of our stay, we slipped into our classy pants for some tea and deep conversation with the monk. She asked us, “Who are we? Who makes us? Why do we look the way we do?”

I had no idea what kind of answer she was looking for. We came from our parents so it must be them. Yep, if we are talking about looks then it has to be, because of genes. Or is it God? Buddha?

Nope. It’s us.

“What people see when they look at us is simply a reflection of our actions and thoughts,” she said.

My mind instantly went to colors, as they are merely the reflection of the light. We are just a bunch’a colors! But I’m guessing our monk’s actions and thoughts are similar to those of a Billy goat, since she’s scaling mountains at 70 something years old.

The tea party was actually my favorite part of this culture-filled experience – to just sit with a wise, happy woman who was ever-so calmly and coolly sharing her thoughts and advice with us was a treat. We are all gifted with this ability to fill our noggins with anything we want. It only seems natural to share what we’ve got with each other, to learn from one another. But this competitive world leads us to forget that. It’s better to trap our precious knowledge in our brains, in hopes that no one steals it and uses it for their own good. God forbid our neighbor has it more figured out than us.

Well it turns out, the world isn’t as stripped of helpful people as my cynical side assumed. Many are willing to lend a hand, a shoulder or an ear. Some of them just need to be asked. Learning and teaching, growing and sharing, taking and giving, that’s what being human is all about.

Gotta love when advice comes in unexpected (and unusual) form! My boss recently went through a phase where she made everything she could into it’s most miniature size. She made a teeny tiny book filled with teeny tiny words she wrote with a teeny tiny pencil and laminated with teeny tiny tape. She stuck it on a key chain, called it “Kai’s Book of Sayings,” and gave it to me as a gift. For no other reason than to create and share. The entire thing is the size of my pinkie toe, but it’s uplifting messages are worth much more.

Overall, this templestay journey got me thinking a lot, and purposefully not-thinking a lot. I may have overdosed on spirituality in a short 24 hours, but I left Buddha palace with one thought that still remains strong today. That no matter what, everything is going to be okay. And in our beautifully challenging lives filled with stress, anxiety, and fear of the unknown… that is all I could ever ask for.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. WHAT!? I’m so jealous! I would love to go on a retreat like this. What a cool trip. I love the questions too, I might have to ask some of my friends the same thing. Keep rocking Maddy!

  2. What a special tiny book with tiny laminated pages 🙂 but given with HUGE love!!!!

  3. Sham Youʻre amazing! This was such an inspiring post! This literally gave me chills while reading! Miss you and love you soooooo much <3

    1. Awh thank you Sharah!!! You are da best. Love you lots ❤️

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