I attended the Phuket Meditation Centre in April 2012; I have a fair bit to say so here it goes;
Arriving at the Centre – I was delivered by taxi to the back of a Thai suburb, when I got out I was standing in front of a private home with a banner on the fence with the centre’s name on it. I thought to myself “Oh my God, what have I done”. I looked over the roof thinking maybe the nice resort is behind this building? What I later found was the resort was just down the road about 5 minutes away. The house is where Toby and Parn live and they run the centre from here.
Checking in – I believe the website said to make sure you arrive before 4pm. I arrived around lunch time and they were just about to have a session. I think it was the daily meditation session open to the general public. Parn took me to the office and Toby came in to greet me. He commented on my being early and I was taken aback by his nature. To me it seemed like I had inconvenienced him? I was left with Parn who very briefly went over the schedule. She provided me with a menu to select my meals. Not being too familiar with Thai food nor a vegetarian I knew that I would find the meals difficult but I had made the decision when booking that I would just go without if I didn’t like something. Parn didn’t seem very confident and at first I found her English a little hard to understand, she kept saying that Toby would go over everything with me later so I didn’t press her for too much information as I didn’t want to make her more uncomfortable. Toby never went over anything later but I think perhaps I should have asked him when we had our first meeting.
Resort – The resort was lovely, situated far away from stores and distractions, beautiful little cabins, surrounded by palm trees and a pool. The cabin had a little verandah, was air-conditioned with a TV (that you’re not supposed to watch) and a private bathroom. Unfortunately the shower head was quite near the toilet, this meant the seat was always wet and had to be dried off. On my first two days I asked 5 times for toilet paper. On the second day Parn gave me a small packet of serviettes and told me the resort didn’t have any paper left and the manager was too busy to get some. As there were no shops close by I couldn’t go out and get some for myself (also you need to be careful in the streets as there are quite a few dogs roaming about – Parn warned me). Luckily I had a couple of packets of tissues in my bag which lasted the rest of my stay, but I was very annoyed by this. Also my room was never cleaned and I had to mention this to Parn who told me the cleaners don’t come because they don’t want to interrupt in case you’re meditating (fair enough). Perhaps this is one of the things that should or could have been mentioned when checking in (maybe if I had spoken to Toby I would have found this out?).
Meals – As previously stated when booking I knew I would find the meals difficult but I had decided I would go without if it was something I didn’t like. What I hadn’t counted on was the cook (also the manager of the resort) taking offence to me not eating her meal. During breakfast she came and asked me why I did not eat dinner and I had to explain that there was nothing wrong with the meal it was just me not being used to that type of food. She told me to just tell her what I wanted and she would cook it for me, Parn also agreed that if I didn’t like a meal it could be changed. I thought well ok if you’re happy to do that then I’ll change my order, no point in wasting time cooking a meal that won’t be appreciated. The following day I thought I should ask for a lunch change as I was sure it was the same meal I disliked previously. Parn was reluctant to make the change which I found strange from the previous days conversation but she accommodated my request however she stated I should really talk with Toby. Later in the day Toby asked to speak with me to find out what the problem was and I had to explain all over again. He was quite annoyed and told me that since I was only there for 3 days he would let it go but if I was staying longer than I would just have to go without. I was caught off guard and tried to tell him that was my intention from the start but in the end I gave up, it just seemed pointless.
Meditation Sessions – Perhaps I misunderstood when booking but I thought I would have one solo session, a one on one session with my instructor (Toby) and one group session. However it turned out to be 3 solo sessions with a 1 hour break in between (not much time to really do anything) and then an evening group session. The one on one session with Toby occurred on my first day and lasted only a few short minutes and then again on my last day which resulted in me being in tears. In the group session Toby would raise a subject and the conversation was supposed to flow and change on the basis of retreat members contributing. Again this was not something I knew (nor other members I suspect) and most of the talking was done by Toby and I either couldn’t understand what he was saying, couldn’t relate or just didn’t agree with him, it was a lot of repetitive rambling. There were a few occasions he would say something quite interesting or on the mark that made me think but for the most part it was too much? I recommend he ask retreat members what questions they have about meditation and such instead of picking a subject and going on about it for far too long. We would end the session with a brief meditation before the evening was over. I shared my retreat with a young married couple who started a day before me and I felt on some occasions that I seemed to be missing something, like I was a step behind. Also on their last evening they spent a lot of time talking about their feelings and relationship, the subject matter was quite serious. They also spoke of the retreat and what they thought of it. During this time I felt there was no way to move the conversation onto another subject that I could contribute to and benefit from, it just didn’t seem right to interrupt. On my last day I raised these points with Toby and was quite surprised by his response. He basically told me that on our first meeting (which lasted a few short minutes) he had me pegged as being someone who spends all their time comparing themselves to others and should just worry about myself. As for not being able to contribute during discussions again it was all my fault and I only needed to speak up, he said he lets the retreat members drive the conversation and if I wanted the subject to change I should have said so. At this point I decided to give up, he seemed to have labelled and judged me and I thought it just wasn’t productive to continue. There were some valid points he made but I do feel like he was quite intolerant.
Extra Options – Yoga, not an extra option but I just wanted to say I was not fit and knew I would have trouble with this. However the instructor was a lovely considerate man who provided a lesson that allowed me to fully participate. I really appreciated that. I also had a Tarot Reading and Reflexology (by Parn), both were enjoyable although I did felt a bit awkward with Parn being my masseuse but she is a lovely lady who puts you at ease.
Toby and Parn – On my last session with Toby he came back determined to help me leave with some satisfaction and learning from my retreat. Whilst he and I clashed I do respect what he is trying to do and I think it does come from the heart. However I also think he must remember that a beginner is a beginner and it is hard. Parn was lovely, so nice, she was much more relatable and would talk about her failings and how she uses meditation to help her resolve issues. I really enjoyed our morning excursions to the Big Buddha and the Beach. Getting out of the resort in the early morning was like a breath of fresh air.
Recommend – Firstly I must say be sure this is what you want to do. I thought spending my days meditating and discussing meditation would be great and a real chance to learn but I found it very difficult. Sitting for an hour 3 times daily for solo meditations was hard. Being at the Resort with nothing to do and no-one to talk to was also hard. I started to feel like a caged animal in a zoo with feeding time when Parn would drop off meals. I tried to steer clear of the television but the evenings were so boring I couldn’t help myself. I confessed this to the other retreat members at breakfast and they also admitted to reading books and using their ipad for entertainment! As I said I do believe this is all done from the heart but Toby is hard core (as a fellow retreat member stated) in his approach. I really think he needs to take a step back and remember what it was like to be a beginner again. On leaving the retreat Parn kindly saw me off and I must say I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I do like meditation and actually do it even more now I just think my approach is different to what the retreat offers or believes in. It simply wasn’t for me but I’m glad to have gone and experienced it and now I know what I want to gain from my meditations so it was useful in its way.
- Also Known As:
- Phuket Meditation Center Chalong
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Dharana Meditation and Retreat Center in Phuket. We offer high quality authentic meditation retreats, workshops, seminars and Wellness activities on Phuket Island. We have beautiful and clean rooms and create an atmosphere of loving kindness and warmth for our guests. Our facilities include a beautiful swimming pool, herbal steambath, Sauna and lovely Thai Style retreat houses. We really look forward hearing from you or seeing you soon at the Retreat. With love, Tobi and Parn ... more less