Tomorrow I leave Cincinnati for a two-month visit to Thailand. You would think that The Metaphysical Traveler would have some kind of “Star Trek” teleporter to get me there in a hurry, wouldn’t you? No such luck. There is nothing metaphysical about almost two days in an airplane traveling “coach” but my hope is that the destination will be well worth the inconvenience.
There will be much to inspire my spirits in Thailand, where Buddhism is the predominant faith and the saffron-robed monks one sees everywhere are so highly revered that almost every Thai male spends some time in the monastery, even if only for a few weeks. The contemplative and meditative monasticism of Thailand is a beacon to people of other faiths as well, who come from far and wide to learn the ways of the monks.
One such inquisitive student was the Catholic monk Thomas Merton who came to see much value in the Buddhist method for his own contemplative life. Ironically, it was in Thailand where Father Merton died—accidentally electrocuted in his hotel room– while attending a conference on international monasticism.
Last summer, I had the wonderful experience of a private spiritual retreat at the Trappist monastery in Gethsemani, Kentucky, the monastery that Merton called home. I had been reading several of his works—most notably The Seven Storey Mountain— before arriving at the monastery. I will write more about that retreat later, but suffice it to say that one could sense Merton’s spirit everywhere.
The last Merton book I read was The Asian Journals, which recounts his travels throughout Asia prior to the monasticism conference. Now, I will be following in his sandal-steps. It will be interesting to compare my observations of Thailand with his, although I will be there much longer than he was and will have the opportunity to learn more from the Thai people; at least, that is my hope.
So, off tomorrow for the “Land of Smiles.” I’ll stay in touch!
The Metaphysical Traveler