Forest Chanting

Today I visited Wat Palad, a secluded temple in the forests surrounding Chiang Mai. This place is incredibly peaceful and sacred. The sounds, sights and smells are healing - yellow candles burning in the wet air, the incense, the cicadas singing and water splashing.

The temple is 500 years old and legend says that the site was chosen by an elephant, who walked in a circle three times, knelt down and passed away.

This weekend was the beginning of "Rains Retreat" or Vassa. Monks will stay in the same temple for the remainder of the rainy season (July until October). The tradition was originally meant to prevent the monks from potentially harming the rice crops which grow this time of year, but now is a period of reflection and devotion to their spritual practice.


My favorite aspect of being there were the sounds. I haven't heard cicadas singing since last summer in Iowa. This sound has become symbolic of my childhood, my connection to nature, and the cycle of life. It can alter my anxiety levels immediately just by listening. The water flowing against the rocks also sounded incredible. There was also a very high pitched sound that didn't sound like anything distinguishable. My guess is that the high vibration of the location's energy was being sensed by my ears. (There is interesting research about the consciousness/communication of trees to help back this up...)

I took some time to record the sounds of the cicadas and breathe in sync with their song. The cicadas here sound very different from home but still give the same hypnotic effect. It feels as though all the rhythms of your body come into harmony and adopt the oscillating noise. The similarities between Buddhist chanting and the insect sounds of the forest are uncanny. I wondered if perhaps the early monks who retreated to the forest were inspired by the natural melodies around them. I hope to come back soon with ideas for performance and more time to spend there when I go by myself.