Ten Do’s and Don’ts of Going to a Temple Stay
Wear comfortable shoes.
You will be walking more than you are probably used to and by the end of the day, your feet are going to hurt. So, it is best to wear the shoes that give you the most comfort and support.
Stretch before going.
Not only will you be walking, but you will have the opportunity to participate in several physical activities. My friends and I were able to practice archery and a type of martial arts called, Sunmudo.
Join an excursion if it is available.
You will get to experience and see more with an excursion. You might be able to learn and see places that you wouldn’t have even known about beforehand. Excursions are one of the best ways to learn more about a culture.
Keep an open mind.
No, you may not be of the same religion or completely believe with the practices of the temple, but they are welcoming you into their home and inviting you to participate in something that is extremely important to them and their way of life. You will also be participating in a culture that has over a thousand years of history. It’s a wonderful thing!
Bring allergy medication.
This will be your best friend if you suffer from allergies. Even if you don’t usually have an issue with allergies, bring some just in case. Allergies vary from place to place. You will be surrounded by a lot of nature and you don’t want your experience to ruined by something so annoying.
Revealing clothing is not allowed.
Revealing clothing includes tank tops, shorts, skirts, and low cut tops. Short-sleeves are okay. Leggings are not. Modesty is key. You will be wearing temple clothes during your stay. So, depending on the weather, short-sleeved and long-sleeved shirts are perfect to wear. Also, bring a light jacket with you during the spring and summer days, because you will have to wake up before the sun comes out and it is a bit chilly at night.
Don’t bring outside food.
Well, you can, it is just not recommended. If you do have it, don’t eat it until you leave. Immersing yourself into the temple lifestyle includes eating the temple food. You may be put off by it being strictly vegan or vegetarian or you may be like me and are excited by the idea. But, the food is delicious! A day or two without meat won’t kill you. Trust me. You might even get the chance to eat like a Buddhist monk, which is a fun and confusing process, but very worth it to try.
Don’t be physical with your significant other.
Especially if you are a male-female couple. Men and women are not allowed to touch each other nor are they allowed to sleep in the same room. Even if you are married. Men and women are also usually separated when eating. So, don’t expect this to be a complete romantic getaway. It is still nice to experience with each other, but just remember to be respectful.
Don’t refuse to bow or participate.
You may not be a religious person or you may believe in something different, but in the temple, everyone is welcome no matter their beliefs. Joining in brings you closer to understanding another person’s life. Also, believe it or not, the bowing, singing, chants, and meditation are very relaxing and very humbling. The bowing also may seem easy, but after a while, you get to really test your body. Also, don’t worry about not being able to sing along. You can just listen and take it all in. But be careful about not missing out on the morning bows and meditation. We were warned that if we were late, we would have to bow 3,000 times!
Don’t complain, have fun!
You will ache, you will be sore, but throughout it all, you will have a relaxed state of mind, gained more discipline of your body, gained new skills and will have learned more about a culture and way of life. You will get to see amazing traditional architecture, artwork, and statues. Temple stays are an incredible experience and if you happen to be in a country that offers them, don’t pass up the opportunity!
Photo taken by Lyslie at Girimsa Temple (기림사) located at the Hamwolsan Mountain in Yangbuk-myeon, Gyeongju.