If you are coming all the way to Thailand to do meditation, having the right clothing and gear can help you have a successful retreat.
The official Suan Mokkh site says:
- Loose clothing e.g. T-shirt, fisherman pants. Due to monastic custom the body should be completely covered from the shoulders to below the knees, including the upper arms. No see-through clothing please.
- Slippers, since shoes have to be taken off in all buildings.
- Personal toiletries, mosquito repellent, towel, hand mirror for shaving.
- Umbrella or raincoat (during rainy season).
Some purchases (toiletries, etc.) can be made during the retreat at our small shop.
And that's it! But here are some more little things you can consider bringing.
1. Clothing. There are tubs and water for washing clothing and time for washing during the retreat. However, if you'd rather spend your time meditating, bring more clothes. Some of us like the new light-weight high-tech clothes because they are cool and easy to wash.
A big sun hat is useful if you're the type, like me, who doesn't like the big Asian sun beating on your head. (The meditation halls and many of the paths are shaded, it's just that walking around that can get a bit sunny.)
Many of us carry an umbrella, as is the Asian tradition, for walking long distances in the hot sun.
The hot springs are wonderful. Be sure to bring some clothes to wear while soaking in them.
2. Bedding. A thin blanket is provided for retreatants, but they ask that you wash it before you leave. If you'd rather not wash it, bring your own.
3. Wraps / shawls. At night you might like to put a thin shawl on to keep the bugs off. A very colorful thin cotton sheet, called a “pa ka ma” can be purchased in the store located in the dining hall for this. You can also sleep on top of the cloth, and use it to cover your shoulders as you walk from the dormitory to the hot springs. Or you can bring with you a spare thin sheet or two.
4. Yoga mat. Suan Mokkh provides grass yoga mats to use while doing yoga. If you want more than that, bring your own mat, which many people do. You can also sleep on your yoga mat if the straw mat on top of the cement bed at Suan Mokkh is too hard for you.
5. A mosquito hat. At night, just after sunset, and in the early morning the mosquitoes can be fierce. Either you can cover yourself with mosquito repellant, or you can use a shawl and a mosquito net hat. Whatever works for you.
Most Thais have never seen anything like this, but since you'll only be wearing it at night and because the retreat is in noble silence, don't worry, be comfortable. The one on the left is made by Sea to Summit.
6. Meditation bench or cushion. Suan Mokkh supplies perfectly adequate pillows and meditation benches. But some of us have become like the princess in the fable, The Princess and the Pea when it comes to cushions. My favorite cushion is made by Thermarest. A street tailor in Thailand can sew you a cover in a minute!
You shouldn't remove meditation cushions from the meditation hall. However, if you bring your own, you could also use that for a sleeping pillow. Most of us, however, prefer the famous Suan Mokkh wooden pillow. Honest.
The meditation benches at Suan Mokkh are a little crude. If you want to give yourself a break, consider buying a bench that rocks, and thus conforms to your spine. My knees are pretty good, but after a long day of sitting, I like to give them a break by sitting on a bench.
In Thailand they can be purchased in Bangkok. See
7. A flashlight. The electricity shuts off at 9:30 PM. So if you don't have a flashlight going to the toilet will require lighting the candle that you'll find in your room. A flashlight is also handy for walking to and from the meditation hall at night.
8. A watch with a timer. Lots of us like to sit longer than the posted schedule—late at night and early in the morning for example. If you have a watch with a timer, you'll be able to make sure that you don't over-sit and thus miss a scheduled sitting. But clearly this is an extra. Be sure to turn off the timer during formal group sittings.
Finally, don't worry if you don't have any of this extra stuff. Just go. Everything will be fine.