From Chaos to Serenity

by Sarah Toupin | School and Group Program Manager

As the School and Group Program Manager for the Seacoast Science Center, April through July are very busy months for me. The center is filled with thousands of students daily, all wanting the chance to see the fish and touch the animals in the touch tank. As the busy season started to wind down, I had an amazing opportunity to leave the chaos behind and enter a world of calmness, serenity and mindfulness.

My classmate, Carolyn, and I in front of a waterfall in Khao Yai National Park.

In August, I spent ten days traveling throughout Northern Thailand with classmates, and now great friends from a number of US states, for my master’s program with Miami University. The program inspires full-time educators and zoological staff to dive deeper into conservation and educational efforts around the world and incorporate these lessons into their home institutions. In Thailand, the focus of the trip was conservation and Buddhism but I came home with so much more!

Our trip began with a visit and stay in Khao Yai National Park.  We explored the hiking trails and saw a number of amazing wildlife species including macaque, gibbons, deer and Great hornbills. However, the wildlife was not the only amazing experience I had while in Khao Yai National Park. During our time there, we explored the different types of meditation and my eyes were opened to the possibilities meditation can have on my health and personal experiences and goals. It taught me to live in the moment and to truly be present to enjoy all life has to offer.

Phra Paisal Visalo’s hut is located in the center of the monastery in the middle of a pond full of fish and living organisms.

After our stay in Khao Yai National Park, we traveled to a forest monastery, Wat Paa Sukhato, where all the meditation techniques were put into place and we were mentored by Phra Paisal Visalo. The most testing experience for me during this trip was our solo retreat in the forest. We were placed in an area by Phra Paisal Visalo and had to remain there for three hours. I was nervous to be left with my own thoughts but it was a very telling and growing experience. I learned more about myself in those three hours than I have in my entire life. I noticed all the small things and enjoyed seeing the insects, birds and listening to the sounds of the forest.

Enjoying my solo retreat.

I experienced things that I once thought I could only dream of, and learned a few new tricks along the way. I look forward to sharing what I learned with the Center staff and helping to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into our everyday practices to fully live in the moment and be present. Meditation and mindfulness are tools that can be used at the Seacoast Science Center in our programs and staff outings to encourage time in nature, conservation, and unity.

“To have peace in our mind is to be free of emotions” – Phra Paisal Visalo

Where do you find peace?


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