I 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.
In 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.
This 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.
These 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 beautiful 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 occurs 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.
I 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.