Ask any visitor to Thailand what has impressed them during their stay, and most answers will include the temples that sparkle in the tropical sun. There are over forty thousand of them throughout the country, and just about everyone is drawn in to a temple compound at some time or other - be it by the glittering mosaic decorations, the soulful chanting of monks and nuns, the statues of curious mythological figures, or the tranquil atmosphere within the temple's walls.
These visitors may not realize at the time, but one reason that the experience of visiting a temple stands out is that they are practising mindfulness, the basis of Buddhist meditation. Mindfulness means to be acutely aware of the present moment, a capacity which comes easily when encountering something for the first time. Curiosity is aroused when we go sightseeing, and part of the pleasure of discovering something new is that it stops for a while the mind's analyses of the past and fantasies of the future. For short periods at least, in a strange and fascinating environment, it is easy to heed the Buddhist exhortation to 'be here now'.