HAPPY MONK

'Sit cross-legged. Put right hand over left - thumbs just touching. Close your eyes. Now breathe in... and out. In... and out. Let go. Observe your thoughts and clear your mind.'

We met our very own Happy Monk during a trip to Mandalay's Mahagandayon Monastery. It's home to more than 1200 Buddhist monks and is open daily to the public. 

Whilst wondering around - eagerly taking in the site of monks, as young as 10, studying, chanting and doing chores - we met 25-year-old Ven Tiloka. He'd been wearing the robe for seven years and couldn't keep the smile off his face. We got chatting and he invited us to return at 8.30 that night for a one-on-one meditation with his master monk. 

We found ourselves back at the monastery later that night feeling rather daunted.

The master monk arrived, pulled out his iPhone, and asked if it was ok if he recorded his meditation. 

'You should feel the breath on your nostrils... and then on the top of your lip. If your back hurts or your legs cramp, just quietly observe these feelings and keep breathing. Let go of your attachments and fears. Forget your ego. The secret to happiness is mindfulness. We must be aware of our words, our deeds and our thoughts. Mindfulness is greater than any God in the Universe. Breathe in... and out.'

An hour and a half later our backs are aching and our legs dead with pins and needles, but our minds have started to clear. Our master monk tells us to go home and meditate ten minutes every morning and to try and be mindful for as much of the day as possible. Our savvy master also suggests we log onto buddha.net for extra information.

We thank our new friends and ask where we should place our donation. 

'You owe me nothing. I hope you are happy, healthy and peaceful. Just share this knowledge I have given you. That makes my job easier.'

Stephanie Hunt