Tucked in a valley of the densely jungled mountains, north-westward of Chiang Mai, there lives a man providing for his wife and daughter in the only way he can: farming. His practices are organic and natural, the only he’s ever known. The gates are open for anyone the world round to come and spend time, contribute to the running of the farm, learn something about growing food and take part in evening meditation. The Mindful Farm is a practice of living together.
Breath in deeply
It’s not difficult in this valley. It seems the fresh air alone could provide enough nourishment to live on. Feel it fill you, as your chest rises. How beautiful the view is, the papaya trees establishing themselves in foreground, the rice padi below, light bathing it all. The breath flows down your arms into your fingertips. The food has been picked just before it finds its place on your plate. You’re conscious of the sunlight that’s gone into growing the plant, the water contained in each cell. Your teeth snap the stem and release the trapped energy to your own body. The physical work can be demanding, your skin tanning under the sun, as you labour in the field. But you’ll have everything you need to raise to the challenge. You take it all in deeply and know that you are deserving of it. Everything is plentiful.
Pi Nan was born in the Pang Term village where today his Mindful Farm lays. “Welcome to my hometown.” He smiles as we arrive. As a child he grew up running around the fields of this valley. Today he is happy to share what he knows about working the land, vegetarian cooking and natural building with visitors. Before the farm, before fatherhood, Pi Nan was a monk for over 20 years. Now ‘retired’ from temple life, in the evenings he gives talks about Buddhism and meditation. “Today I gave you fruits. Mango, banana, jackfruit. At breakfast, I made you cake. At lunch, I made you noodles. I give gift for feed your body in the day. Tonight I feed your heart. I give gift for your mind.”
Pi Nan’s 48th birthday happened during our week at the farm. We only found out because his wife, Noriko, told us as she shared the peanut & banana birthday cake she’d baked him with us. In the evening he explained why he chooses not to celebrate his birthday. “To be born as a human – not so great. We need food. We need a bed; the toilet; the hospital. We have pain. Our body grows old and fails us. Much better to stop the cycle. A Buddha, or an enlightened one, or a God – because if one becomes enlightened person is same same as God – a Buddha has no need for a body. No need to by a ticket, can already travel the whole world.” He motions to a porcelain figure on the altar, a cross-legged figure with a white beard, to emphasize his point. “This is my teacher. He is a monk who lived 800 years ago. I’ve met him many times in my life.”
“We have two visas. You have one for Thailand now, and you know the expiry date on which you must leave the country. But you have another visa. Visa for this planet, this life. Except don’t know when this visa will expire. Could be tomorrow. So must always be ready to say ‘goodbye’. Maybe tomorrow my visa expire. Then I say ‘Bye-bye volunteers, bye-bye Noriko, bye-bye Nobara (his 4 year-old daughter)!'”
Breath out gently.
Here you take only what you need. Your waste is limited. What can be, will be composted. You tread lightly. Best watch your step, not to trample something growing. Turns out so much is edible, so much has use and purpose. You bring calmness to the conversation. You nurture those around you and accept nurture when it comes to you. Living with others isn’t always easy, all we can do is try to bring our understanding to the table. Listen first, speak later. We all know the light of day and the dark of night. The love towards family is unconditional. And here, there are only brothers and sisters. We all have something to learn and something to teach. Breath out and smile.
For a couple of travellers, on the road for 10 months already, Pi Nan had wise words: “Now you travel. Today you travel Thailand. Then you can travel Laos and Cambodia. You can travel Europe. You can travel Africa. You can travel the whole world. But don’t lose The Way. Don’t forget your way home.”
Mindful Farm is a dynamic place that is in constant flux with the coming and going of volunteers. You become family with one group and are sad when they leave, but it doesn’t last long, as soon the next amazing person arrives. I don’t think it’s coincident that every person we met was on ‘The Way’, from all shapes and forms of situations, from all continents of the world. Such diversity, such unity. I could burst! Thanks to each of you for the strength, reassurance and inspiration you gave me in this week. xx