Jungle Bungalow or Mega Resort

The Jungle Spa Samui- my bungalowI turn down the volume this week staying in a bungalow at a mountain jungle wellness center. The two small bags I brought are hardly emptied. My needs dwindle by the day. I reuse everything over and over. In fact I fall into a rhythm that gets easier and more effective each time I do an action. Much space emerges, both physical and mental.

This bit of writing comes from a ten day solo writing retreat I did recently on the Thai island of Samui.  I had coaching help from Jane Burnett of Flamingseed via Skype.  After the jungle retreat, I went on a yoga-mindfulness retreat with Tammy Hayano  for another five days.  This time at a mega luxury resort on the same island.  The contrast was spectacular and the insights I gained still resonate in my soul. I am using the writes from my stays to share my process and insights.

Mara and her rocksIn the close-up jungle atmosphere, I become more and more relaxed and content. I don’t miss things and I don’t miss people. I know some would find that strange and disturbing, like there is something wrong with me. I know I would have found the thought rather scary as if I don’t need people anymore. But it isn’t like that. It is just that who and what is here is enough. In fact I long for nothing.


Pool at jungle retreatThis all surprises me especially as when I first arrived,  I thought I couldn’t cope with the simplicity and old fashion facilities.  And now instead I am faced with a disturbing question in the back of my head. How can I live in that other world of noise and things without the alive green of the jungle and the smell of the clean air from a five-minute rain downpour! It is a scary and grief filled question that I pose to myself at twilight, as the mists enfold the mountain tops and the leaves drip loudly. A sweet love fills my heart as the superficial drops away and I drop into myself.

Jungle beautiesThese days in the jungle, have taught me the immense bliss of a simple life. A quiet order takes over. What’s important rises easily to the surface, all else falls away. My sensuality floats to the top pulled by the sun and sea. I can’t help but notice more and more around me. Each day a new sight becomes clear. There is so much to take in, the brain works slowly and I investigate each new awareness. My soul feels stronger and more present. I touch into my wild side and like it.

Silence and slow living is a gift that is unreachable for most people. How can we expand our consciousness when we have too much, rush too much, work too much, want too much, expect too much, don’t trust, don’t help each other and don’t love ourselves?

The journey continues at the mega spa as does the writing. 

A switch of scenery,  I move from a fun, simple, calming nature sanctuary to a showy gaudy complex where 95 % of the foliage is planted while the rest cleared to the fringes.  The rooms are luxurious, the pool is gigantic, open fully to the sun, no shady foliage near by, instead over-sized umbrellas.

Everything is mega spa resortbeautiful but repetitive.  I feel no Soul or Spirit enlivening the place.  No narrow hill paths with intricate cement cutouts to let the rain through, instead wide tiers of many stairs with sleek railings and multicolored tiles, in Moroccan designs. No simple open air restaurant and other meeting rooms with pyramid shaped roofs , instead big buildings with wide glass windows and marble floors, cold with air-conditioning.

The place seems silent but for the whir of a fan in the background. No near birds calling, no Thais laughing and chatting, no broom sweeping with repetitive scrapes.  I hear the jungle crying for its unborn children. I hear the soil suffocating under the cement. My heart hurts.

This place encourages me to feel self-centered and pampered, demanding and expecting, hoping to be seen, to stand out. People seem bored and alone. They lie on beach beds, reading here and there. Not much smiling or chatting going on.  No sitting around in random groups exchanging ideas.

It occRestaurant at mansion resorturs to me how different I would have felt if I had come here first.  I don’t believe I would have experienced the place as I do now. I imagine that I would have easily slipped into its luxury and never discovered the bliss of simplicity and the feeling of being held by the lush foliage, the butterflies and the stones so close to me at all times.

And yet there is always something to learn from every situation.  One of my last writes shows more insights and the perfection of the two retreat paths.

I sit on the porch of my spacious room looking out at a wall and a very thin palm tree reaching high for the sky. It seems lonely to me, the new plantings around it still very low. I guess the tall palm was allowed to stay behind together with a few gnarly trees along the manicured path. The breeze keeps banging the doors as it dries the sweat running down my legs. I am on my last hours here, all packed and ready to be transported to the tiny sweet airport only minutes away.

Tiny group on yoga retreatI have come to appreciate the time here at the yoga retreat and have found it has brought balance for my return to ordinary life.  I celebrate my feeling of belonging with our tiny yoga group. I celebrate the openness and vulnerability, love and caring each member revealed. I celebrate my body and its loyal strength all through these weeks, growing and showing me how much I can do when I dedicate myself to the task. I celebrate this place for all its luxury and snobbishness. I celebrate Life.

Looking back on these two different experiences I realize that the first retreat called forth an open heart and a state closer to Essence where as the second one seem to bring my state closer to ego where I could more easily see my limiting beliefs.

In the first retreat I was basically alone and in silence. I ate alone and was alone in my room and spoke rarely with the other people or joined their conversations and chats. I was always surrounded by semi-wild nature and never felt lonely or bored. I spent most of my time expressing through writing.  My coach mostly reflected what I wrote with no corrections, only supportive stories to keep me writing and trusting the generative abundance of the soul. I struggled with self-criticism about the writing but didn’t care about fitting in with any group at the spa. My coach told me to tell the voices to go out for a Mai-Tai which worked quite well!

In the second retreat, I was mostly together with the group. Wrote when I could, but didn’t share my writing.  The retreat was geared toward learning and improving as well as  sharing our thoughts on our challenges and progress.  I was very talkative and outgoing with lots of opinions and stories.  At the same time I had a lot of self-judgment and concern about fitting into the small group. I had no time in nature and no connection with the wild.  If I was alone there without the group, I think I would have felt quite lonely and bored.

I think these are fascinating discoveries, especially being able to note my own reactions to environments and my ways of relating to others.  But it is important to say that I feel each situation gave me great gifts and it is precisely the contrast that helped me to glean more about my inner workings.  The only thing that disturbs me is the destruction of nature to make resorts instead of incorporating wild nature into beautiful venues.

4 thoughts on “Jungle Bungalow or Mega Resort”

  1. How beautifully written; reminds me of our adventure in Spoleto. Heart opening spaces. I especially love the reminder that there is something to learn from every situation; an important message for me that’s for sure.


  2. Hi Mara,
    What wonderful insights. Both experiences are different but full of new realizations.
    My question is, how to we see every experience as spiritual and free from both attraction and aversion.
    Gayle Dawn

  3. Hi Gayle Dawn,

    Thank you for your comment and very interesting and ancient question!

    Ah the cycle of hope, desire and rejection! This is the biggest challenge to human existence. And we can’t just stop it because it will go underground and fool us again and again.

    It seems that the first part of this process on the way to “awakening” and “enlightenment” where both attraction and aversion are no longer present, is to totally embrace hope, desire and rejection. I have found that to accept you must notice you are rejecting – and also embrace the other feelings that come with this. Being curious about the attraction and feelings by inquiring into them “wonder what this could teach me” or “what beliefs do I have around this” also helps to embrace and accept the situation.

    Doing this, usually causes something to shift. More awareness arises. Or openings occur like I experienced in both places. The funny thing about my story is that I felt a lot of “rejection” at the beginning in both places, for different reasons. But I recognized it quick enough to work it through. Each place had different entry points and took plenty of hard work to melt the grasping or rejecting.

    Natural environment gives more support to this process whereas it gets more difficult when relating to others, as my story also shows.

    I am not enlightened at this point :-) – so I do my work of accepting “what is” and “being present” both to the situation and my feelings around it as best I can. I don’t try to stop attraction or aversion, as that only increases the pulls and pushes. The other approach contributes to melting ego structures and limitations.

    One more thing – “seeing every experience as spiritual” is a good point – I would however say more like “seeing every experience as a possibility for releasing what is in the way of enlightenment”.

    I just read a great line in Natalie Goldberg’s book “The True Secret of Writing” that is relevant for this discussion: “No place is heaven – and every place is heaven.”

    All of this is of course my take, based on the path that I follow, Ridhwan/Diamond Approach. Hope it helps us all in our journey!

    Much love,
    With love from a fellow traveler

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