The best night sleep I’ve ever had

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And that was despite being up for the predawn ceremony at 3:10am.

I made it to Haeinsa a beautiful secluded Buddhist temple surrounded by mountains and on the edge of the Gayasan National Park. The location is simply stunning, the soft white snow currently lying on the ground adding to the beauty of the area.

It is so peaceful here; it is as through the rest of the world doesn’t exist. With no wifi, not even a mobile signal, the sound of near silence is broken occasionally by the crack and slide of melting snow falling off the traditional Korean sloping roves.

Three times a day the quiet gives way to the reverberations of the Buddhist drum that signals the beginning of a ceremony be it predawn, afternoon or evening.

Standing in front of the Bumjonggak (temple bell tower) listening to the sounds and feeling their vibrations pass through you is wonderful. It seems to bring everything into clear focus and reminds you of the joys and benefits of living in the now – something a book I’m reading and my yoga practice has taught me the virtues of – but something we all (especially me) do far too little of today’s fast paced society.

On arrival at Haeinsa I filled in a booking form and had to give my reasons for doing this temple stay. When I hesitated on the section asking for my reasons the Korean guide prompted me to write rest. As I formed each letter of the word I had no idea how true it would be.

My stay is a freestyle temple stay – as in there are no pre organised activities. I have to attend the evening meal (5:10pm), evening ceremony (5:50pm), the predawn ceremony (3:20am) and breakfast (6:10am, which I have to admit to sleeping tough). The rest of the time is free apart from no walking around the temple area after 9pm and lights out at 9:30pm.

This is the perfect place for complete rest.

When I arrived yesterday I was shown to the female temple stay room and told I may be alone I may not. As dinner approached I hadn’t seen another sole so assumed it was just me. Then as I was preparing to leave for dinner a young Korean girl came in. I was a little disappointed that my seclusion was broken, but also incredibly glad to have someone else who was unsure of the etiquette, even if communication between the two of us was sparse – me knowing virtually no Korean and her being slightly shy with what actually proved to be relatively good English.

Dinner passed without incident, then onto the ceremony – after initially having no idea through which door to enter the Daejeokgwangjeon (main hall) a kind monk pointed me in the right direction. The ceremony was relatively easy to follow. I love the sound of chanting monks. I find it incredibly relaxing. So much so I came away with a meditation CD from the temple.

When the evening ceremony was over it was dark, cold, icy and there was nothing to do. By around 8pm the lights were out. I slept soundly until I was woken by the temple bell signalling morning ceremony at around 3:10am. The ceremony was peaceful and relaxing. I toyed with waiting around for sunrise but not having a clue how long that would be and it being bitterly cold outside I decided to return to the comfort and warmth of my bed. I fell almost instantly back to sleep and awoke around 9:30am feeling well and truly rested.

My only disappointment was leaving the room this morning to find it chucking with rain. It has put a stop to my investigations of the area around Haesina as water and sheet ice doesn’t mix too well. During my brief foray out and about this morning I witnessed two Koreans slip on the ice and decided exploring too far in these conditions was both dangerous and stupid.

So I sit here in the comfort of the room drying out and hoping it will stop raining in a couple of hours and I will be able to make the perilous journey downhill over the snow and ice with my bag to the bus stop. Here’s hoping….

Well the rain never stopped and sensibly I got a taxi to the bus stop and was deposited back in Daegu to find it equally wet and miserable. I am now safely installed in a Starbucks killing the two hours I have spare before I meet Miss April.

One Response

  1. Laura Grace
    | Reply

    Hey Jenna.
    Good blogging. Love the stories keep em coming


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