How I learned about my ego and the brutality of ants on a place called Mindful Farm

We’re back in the relative comfort of a city and after 10 days on Mindful Farm and everything seems a bit busier, louder. It’s hard to understand how just over a week in a quiet rural intentional community can change my internal compass so much that a small, friendly city like Chiang Mai seems dizzying and a little overwhelming. I have a lot to sort through: emotional triggers that came up for me over the previous week, and a bit of guilt at not having cleared these issues while I was still on the farm. I left with my resentment still in me. By now I feel I should know better (but of course, this is why we go to these places, right?)

A day of silent meditation

A day of silent meditation

My time on Mindful was full of peace, but also judgement, anger, and overall lots of self examination. It started out really well for me; on the first day, I excitedly did a full day of silence, alone. It was difficult and yet wonderful: a full 12 hours of silence and (mostly attempted) meditation, and I now feel more prepared to attend a 10-day Vipassana meditation sometime soon (a goal I hope to realize in the next couple months.)

The real learning process for me, however, started with the constant observation of the ant life on the farm. I watched as the different species worked together with their kind to carry heavy loads, and even as they hunted together (not fun to watch, but part of nature). Little by little I discovered their unique ways of doing things together, and I’m shocked to say that now… I think they are so cute! I observed group think in a big way, and yet these tiny ants also had personality. Observing ants confirmed to me the strange violence of the world, and somehow I made peace with so much in the world at large that I’d never felt settled with before.

I also became somewhat comfortable with having bugs on me nearly all the time (even under the protection of our mosquito nets, nightly). They were everywhere, because really, we were in their house! After a few days of mild but constant stress, something clicked. I relaxed and breathed through it, and then I kicked off my shoes, deliberately spending the whole day barefoot and covered in mud from helping with building a mud house. I felt spent from gardening and outdoor work all day, but I realized that I had changed. The earth was now my friend, and I wasn’t afraid of it.

My next big lesson was in my judgment of myself and others. Judgement came crashing down on me for my last four days at the farm like no other, and I found myself so angry I often had to leave my farming tasks to be alone in the bungalow. Because of the silence that encompassed each moment of our time there, I heard the critical voices in my mind far more than I could handle, and stood face to face with them often. Interactions with certain personalities would send me back to my bungalow fuming, unable to process the anger that was brought out of me. I was trapped: unable to let go of my judgement of another for fear that they would get away with poor behavior, and therefore I was unable to relax and laugh it off. And following the boughs of anger came guilt and shame: guilt for not being able to see the beauty in these people, and shame that I had exposed how judgmental I was to others.

But learning is what I was there for, even though it’s not what I expected. I am deeply grateful, now that I’m away from the farm and able to process with distance, for each of the people I met there. I learned so much from each of them. And when my opportunity arises to interact with new people or challenging personalities again, or if I have a chance to dig my hands into the earth and run around barefoot, I know I will welcome the chance. I will spend more time loving and less time judging. I will see others inner light, and laugh off the small stuff. I am a work in progress. Thank you Mindful Farm!

Check out the Mindful Farm in Samoeng, Thailand. 

Have you ever visited a farming community or a long term meditation center? Tell me your experience in the comments!

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