Close your eyes. Imagine you are sitting cross-legged on a cushion in the middle of a Zen garden on the bank of a creek. The water below ambles methodically toward more swift currents. You are surrounded by coriander, morning glory and other leafy greens. The quilted patches of a freshly harvested rice field stretch before you.
The thick moisture that settled in the night begins to release its hold as the sun summits the tree line and swoons the clearing with light. You eat your breakfast without talking, but it is far from silent. The noises of the morning are plentiful and seem to greet you personally: “Hello! Welcome to today!”
Where are you? It sounds like you might be at the Mindful Farm in Thailand. The Mindful Farm was started by Pi Nan. Pi Nan spent 20 years as a monk before becoming a farmer. Now he cultivates an abundance of wisdom and food. His farm is proof of how much can be gained from living mindfully and in harmony with the Earth.
People from all over the world are attracted to this place where skills, knowledge, and compassion are shared openly. Yoga, meditation, music, art, gardening, and cooking are some of the most popular, but if you have a “compassionate heart,” you are always welcome at Pi Nan's farm.
Welcome to the Mindful Farm
Someone told me about volunteer opportunities at the Mindful Farm during the first two weeks of my trip. Three months later, I Googled it and within 24 hours, I had set up my next volunteer abroad opportunity.
People from all over the world are attracted to this place where skills, knowledge, and compassion are shared openly.
What started as one farm has grown into two. When I joined Pi Nan in late November, the second farm (“Mindful Farm 2.0”) was one week old. It is located on Pi Nan's brother's land. The land had become entirely overrun with thick weeds and did not have electricity or running water. In just 18 days and with the help of volunteers, Pi Nan had begun to revive it.
Banana trees were pruned, snarled grass was cut and raked, vegetable seedlings were planted, an outdoor kitchen was built, and power and water were reconnected. On the day I left, 100 coconuts were about to be planted and there was talk of fruit trees coming soon. The work was sweaty, dirty, and marked by bug bites and scratches, but the transformation was remarkable.
The practice of mindfulness
The way Pi Nan designated volunteer tasks demonstrated the power of mindfulness. While we were working together to expand the Zen garden, Pi Nan gave each volunteer one task (or “mission”) at a time. When we finished one mission, he gave us another mission.
An important aspect of mindfulness is the ability to let things go and understand that we can only truly exist in the present moment. By receiving one mission at a time, we focused on the task at hand, rather than fixating on a future task. I felt more invested in whatever I was doing.
We were practicing mindfulness without even realizing it. The practice of mindfulness is an invitation to experience things more fully. It is an invitation to embrace yourself and your current situation. The Mindful Farm invites everyone to foster wisdom that will last a lifetime.
How to get involved
While Pi Nan says the original farm is best for those who are looking to relax and focus on meditation and yoga, the second farm may be better suited for those looking to work hard and who do not mind a less developed setting.
Both farms are accessible Chiang Mai by "yellow bus," or converted pickup truck (a popular method of transportation in Thailand, where the driver sits up in the cab and the passengers sit in the truck's bed on benches).
The original Mindful Farm is a three-hour ride from Chiang Mai and costs 100 baht ($3 USD). The second farm is a one-hour ride from Chiang Mai and costs 30 baht ($1 USD). The website explains how to catch the bus, and Pi Nan is available by phone to talk to the driver if they need additional information.Add this article to your reading list