Recovering my zen in Sri Lanka

sri lanka

Where to begin…

I am almost two weeks into my Sri Lankan yoga journey and truly don’t know where to begin in this well of love and connection and healing that I am sharing with my fellow yogis and myself. As I write, I am sitting at my dream writing desk surrounded by windows and nothing but lush green as far as the eye can see in a gorgeous room with open windows listening to the healing and magical sound of the rain.

They say start at the beginning with a story, but that tends to imply that time is linear and I don’t think I subscribe to that philosophy anymore, so maybe that won’t work. What would the beginning be anyway? Birth? Death of an old life and rebirth into a new one? The day I discovered yoga? The day I discovered myself? The day I discovered what love really is? The days and nights I keep discovering it? Or that we are all so beautifully perfect and connected that sometimes (often) I just need to weep to take it all in and let it all out? I know, I’ve already lost some of you who are reading with this woo woo talk, but that’s ok.

So, perhaps for this passage of sharing, I will start with the experience of the journey to Sri Lanka itself, and what it has been for me so far.

The last couple of times I have traveled, I have done so with a really heavy heart and not being really ready to go for some reason, even when returning to places that I have already left pieces of my soul that are home to people that I have fallen in love with (as you may know, I tend to fall in love with people everywhere…not the romantic love, but the big “you, you, you!” love that Martha Beck and Liz Gilbert like to talk about.) Maybe then it was work stress and the imminent return of that same stress that I knew would still be there when I returned and that actually followed me away on holiday or maybe I was having one of those dark soul times that I just needed to get through. I think it was a combination. But, to my great delight, this time when I was packing to travel to this absolutely stunning tea plantation in the mountains of central Sri Lanka, all I could feel was pure love and the sensation that I was answering a call of my soul. (Those are the best calls, you know...)

The travel here itself was a bit less than stellar with a late night flight and early morning arrival followed by a 4 hour twisty, windy ride through the mountains —- but my arrival at the Ashburnham Plantation was warm and welcoming and full of bright shiny faces fresh from their morning’s mysore ashtanga practice. I arrived just in time for breakfast. Seriously, I could dedicate an entire blog to the otherworldly deliciousness of the beautiful and mostly vegan (occasional dairy or egg) meals that have been prepared for us here. It’s colorful, full of many veggies I’ve never seen, spicy and prepared with such love by the wonderful Reegie, Sylvie and Vish who are the staff who have become family in this piece of heaven.

After that first breakfast, I pretty much shut down for about a day and a half due to sleep deprivation, a condition I am sad for now because I missed precious time with many of the beautiful souls on this retreat, 7 of whom left last Wednesday morning. Many of them in tears and many of us as well. Ah, the sweet release of emotion and love. We will meet again, I know this— Christina, my soul daughter; Esther, sister of my soul; Marta, Michaela, Laura, Melena, and George – beautiful, kindred spirits who showed me immediately exactly why I had chosen this place in Sri Lanka without even knowing… We will meet again.

Even before this mass exodus, the beautiful and inspiring Eva from Prague left us to return to her life of teaching there. I wish we’d had more time Eva, but thank you for your grace and warmth and for sharing that first sunset with me after meditation. I will see you again, also.

At this stage in my life, I can now say with solid gratitude that I now have 3 yoga teachers that I would gladly travel the world to practice with.

Peter Askew who introduced me to Ashtanga in Portugal in 2012 and gave my ego the utter lack of attention it needed so that I could actually learn to listen to my body and my soul.

Olivier David, who gave me the opportunity to break down my ego once again when I learned exactly what a Mysore practice meant in Thailand in 2013 (then again in South Africa 2014).

And now, Jacob Handwerker who is my new teacher I’ve come to really appreciate here in Sri Lanka. Jacob has achieved expert level safe space holding status with gentle guidance and peaceful energy that is both soothing and encouraging allowing you (me) to push myself to (your) my edge without judgment, without injury and with deep respect. There aren’t enough thank you’s, Jacob. But thank you from the bottom of my heart just the same.

I actually have a 4th teacher in the beautiful and radiant earth mother, Sue Billington in Portugal. Sue has guided me to deepen my Ashtanga practice and my connection to myself in general on many an evening with her very nourishing Yin practice. Love you, Sue.

Best of all, I can truly call each of these wonderful teachers my friend as well.

As I continue to write, I realize it will be impossible to adequately encapsulate this experience, and I am sure I will be processing much of it for some time to come.

The days here are so simple and so full at the same time. I wake…I meditate or do pranayama or both, have a little walk, eat an incredible breakfast, then either read or hike to the private waterfall and have a swim and a healing lie on the hot rocks there, or even have a swim in the pool before a shower, evening meditation and then another vibrant and nourishing dinner. In between, connection and conversations with the remainder of the group here. There are fewer of us with a different energy than when our mostly Spanish and Czech contingent was here, but they are some of the loveliest souls I’ve encountered. There’s our beautiful, healing love goddess Anna from Dublin who sort of floats through the world bringing joy and light wherever she goes. And then, there’s our gorgeous Aussie friend, Phil who brings an energy and an edge that help to keep it all real and who makes me laugh. Jonas, from Czech, deeply sensitive, kind, loving and happens to be an incredibly talented circus performer who moves from the heart wanting to connect to the audience and all who he encounters. Joanna left us on Sunday and we miss her (we will meet again, too Joanna). Joanna is a generous and caring soul from Holland who looks like she belongs on an old Hollywood movie set. She oozes glamour, confidence and calm and looks like Katherine Hepburn.

And who can forget Fabian from Germany…a curious young fellow with a passion for acro yoga, long solo visits to the waterfall, eating 4 or 5 meals in a single sitting and making videos of things that I’m sure there’s a market for somewhere…(smile) I’ll never forget the evening when Reegie and Vish came around the corner en route to the waterfall saying “we are going to find the boy!” as Fabian had been gone since breakfast. He was found safe…perhaps overexposed to the leeches, but safe nonetheless.

Then there’s David, who owns the Ashburnham Estate we are all so fortunate to be living together in, and his beautiful wife Indie and their 3 gorgeous children. David is an accomplished astute business man who likes to solve problems and listen to new ideas and who manages to make us feel as welcome and at home as if we were old friends from University. He also likes to hike and accompanied us at the beginning of an 8 hour hike through the tea plantations and jungle last Saturday. (He’d have completed the full hike, but he had guests in for lunch, and managed to spend 4 hours hiking anyway.) Then there’s David’s terribly handsome young nephew, Max, who is the temporary manager for the place while we await the arrival of the newly hired full time manager. While Max hasn’t yet joined us in morning yoga, I believe he has really enjoyed the peace and calm energy the group has brought to the estate. His sense of humor and complete dedication to making sure we have whatever we need whenever we need it have rounded out the experience.

It’s funny, whenever I leave for vacation and tell people I am going on a yoga retreat, they usually give me puzzled looks and ask what on earth is “vacation-like” about going on a yoga retreat? Before this trip, I actually had someone say “how could THAT possibly be relaxing?”

WHAT??? I am not sure I understand the question. I have so little interest in lying on a beach with an umbrella drink in my hand and waking up dehydrated and hungover every day…or traveling to some place with an agenda to see as many tourist sites as possible that ends with a return home and the lingering feeling that you “need a vacation after your vacation.” No thanks. I’ll take yoga, no agenda, peace, quiet and the beautiful souls I meet when I journey – every time.

I could go on and on, and am sure I will revisit, but for now – this little piece of inspired sharing feels complete. I have only two days left before I return to the land of sand in Abu Dhabi and the beautiful and shiny souls that I love so dearly there. You know who you are.

I can wrap it all up with a gratitude bow and with a return to the peaceful and grounded happiness that I recognize as my true essential self and that I met for the first time in 2012. My big takeaways are remembering that we are all connected, and we are all love, and we all need and want and often feel the same things.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is permanent, and that is ok. It is good to embrace until it is time to let go. And in the letting go, space is created for the beautiful embrace of whatever is next on the journey. There’s an incredible gift in that. Priceless.

Sure, there are always going to be stresses and day to day quandaries to solve, but it is and ever will be true that all is well, all will be well.

A mantra of mine has often been “if you get a chance, take it…if it changes your life, let it.”. You have chances every day. Take some.

Yeah…that feels really good.

Namaste, ya’ll.

August light 2013…what a difference a year makes…

Today is not at all the day that I was so magically given exactly one year ago. Nor will tonight be anything like that night. But that day, and that night, changed my life…Ignited my soul…Reminded me exactly who I am, what I want, who I’m not, what I don’t want… and that I am beautiful, even and especially when I don’t think so. It also flooded my brain with dopamine and all those other connection chemicals that happen all too rarely in my life. So grateful.
And I’ll tell you, I’ve almost dreaded the coming of this un-anniversary of sorts. I’ve imagined I’d be heartsick, bottomlessly sad, wake up crying, start drinking at dawn (just kidding), that I’d re-read old emails that I’ve intentionally not re-read before…that I’d pine and mope and turn myself inside out in anguish. But I’ve already done all those things (except the drinking at dawn…not about to start).  And I’ve done them countless times. Sometimes they’ve caught me by surprise, while other times the feelings just greeted me softly like an old and familiar friend. They comforted me.  Odd. The utter soul drenching sorrow that I’ve felt over the past 10 months has become such a regular part of my life that I think I’m almost afraid of living without it. You know, as in, if I let it go, then I am also letting that love go and then it simply ceases to exist. And without love, then I cease to exist. Because of that mirror analogy. We mirror each other. Mirrored.
The truth is, Love doesn’t cease to exist.  It cannot.  If it does, it isn’t love. So, there’s never anything to fear. That’s just the lizard talking. (“there, there little lizard, everything is ok”)
But, I’ve held on to that for so long.  Why? Human nature? Sure. Addiction to the feeling of said mirroring?   Sure again. Wishing? Hoping? Wanting? Craving? Missing?  Yes, all of that. Especially missing. Missing my mirror. My love. My “you”. My co-defined “One”.
More accurately, the truth is it’s a bit more pitiful and self serving than that.
Because I know better. On the cellular level, I do. However halfway evolved I like to think I am, my monkey mind, my citta vritti still takes over sometimes. More than I’d like to admit. And then I selfishly feel sorry for myself. Then, of course, the inevitable self loathing for stepping off my own path to evol-lightenment. (That’s my hybrid of evolution and enlightenment. I don’t kid myself thinking I will attain enlightenment, but hope to simply stay on the path that enlightens me a wee tad more each day. Micro-Turtle steps.)
What a mess!! Do you see a downward spiral pattern here that makes you want to roll your eyes, or just chuckle at me softly because you are all human too, and understand, and know that I will right myself once again? Yes.  I will. And am. It’s so funny, really.
And this life o’ mine, really is extraordinary. That I’ve been privileged with this gift, this adventure, these eyes that get to see so much beauty…and these ears that hear so much music…these fingers that get to touch so much texture and life…this heart that gets to feel and experience so much magic… I have to chuckle at myself in spite of the monkey.
Looking back over the past year, I can scarce believe all that has happened and that I’ve experienced. The full moon night meeting with a kindred soul whose company I never grew weary of (no small feat)…a desert sunset, discovery…loads of discovery…hiking in Oman, night swimming in iridescent new moon waters…my father’s death – forever sealing the deal that he and I will never get to know one another…trips home to be with my loves in Virginia, time spent getting to know my brother (at least over email), camping in the Mangroves and watching Abu Dhabi’s lights from my open tent…an unforgettable karma yoga trip to India with 8 magnificently heart-beautiful women and meeting the most enchanting and loving children there…getting to sit in the temple of the Amritapuri ashram before dawn meditating…sleeping on the hard floor of the ashram dorm room and loving it…the inevitable breaking open of my heart when the time came to say goodbye to the subject mirror of this post…a journey to Thailand to meet new magical people and deepen my ashtanga practice Mysore style…the journey to France to reconnect with myself through endless daylong hikes through the mountains, vineyards, villages and the nights with beautiful friends there who have become family…the indescribably fortuitous experience of enrolling in the Martha Beck Life Coach course and the countless way-finders and beings of light and love I encounter there every single day and know that I will continue to in my evol-lightenment…watching the place I work fall apart and my job there start to die a slow death. (Yes, that’s happening, but it’s ok…when its over, new exciting things will await me!! I have no doubt about that)...all bringing me to today.
Reflecting on the magic and wonder of this past year. Astounding!! Profound. Beautiful. Otherwordly, even!
And yes, though through the writing of this post, I have found myself in a few heaps of heaving sobs, I end with the feeling with which I began:
Gratitude.
Sheer, unadulterated, endless, universe sized buckets of gratitude. Mixed with a bit of wonder over it all.  And complete unconditional love for all that has passed and all that is to come. Acceptance. Love. Unconditional. Peace. Enough.
…and that’s my message for any of you (however discombobulated it may be) who may not know what is next, or who may feel a little blue, out of sorts,  going through a heartbreak, unsure of how to start…
Start where you are.  Practice, practice – all is coming.  (You gotta love the yoga metaphors, as they are filled with truth.)  And know that you are loved and that you are love, as are we all.   It’s a big world and there’s a lot going on every day, too much really.  We are all in this together.  I’m honored to share the ride with all of you.
Yep! That’s a whole lotta feeling for a little cricket, but maybe, just maybe, that’s my superpower :-). 
Namaste.
august

Musings from Koh Phangan

I found this list of notes I made while in Thailand in February on a two week yoga retreat. I had forgotten I’d written them. Sharing in their pure, unadulterated form, just as I was thinking at that time…it is beautiful to remember. Brings back the light. Thank you from the deepest well of gratitude to all the amazing and beautiful people I had the great honor of encountering there. What an incredible and beautiful gift to be able to share space, energy and time with you.
Namaste…

Yoga retreat Thailand Feb/2013
Mysore style ashtanga …
Kinda like ashtanga bootcamp, but in a good way…
Very hard…but Olivier’s way of teaching is very good. Slowly, but pushing…and at your pace, while still pushing…also stopping me when my ego wants to go further because I’ve “done ashtanga for almost a year now” which is nothing in the big scheme of things. Geesh. That was humbling.
Owners: Kes and Teresa. Australian couple. 12 yr old son. Interesting ppl. Interesting conversationalists. Good reiki session with Teresa
Learned all sorts of things from kes and Olivier about Thai ppl and customs and superstitions
People I have met…
Olivier-fr French descent. Grew up on island. Started ashtanga in 2004.—-Studied with guruji. Lives the yoga life, authentically. Travels. South Africa next. Great skin. Deeply sensually attractive.
Shelly– from Detroit. Lovely energy. Great calm soothing voice. Good advice. Very knowledgable. Likable. Interesting. Loves to dance. Beautiful teacher.
Laura-from Vancouver. Lovely manner and personality. Radiates Good energy. Great with children. Very nurturing. Caring. Loving. Beautiful.
Silke-another soul daughter. 25. From Belgium. Hard upbringing with absent dad and neglectful mom. Sister. Is a traveler and gets a lot of criticism from family and friends for her lifestyle. Met her cowboy in Australia. Love. Free love. Conflicted.
Katje – lovely German lady, mom of three, journalist…lives in Bangkok, hubby is civil engineer. Vegetarian. Tall. Kind. Calm.
Audrey-Quebec. Biologist. Working on masters thesis. Thyroid trouble. Working hard on ashtanga. Doing well. Also acro. Lovely easy going spirit.
Chris– her partner. Australia. West. Works as carpenter at a winery. Tall. Slim. Also working hard on his ashtanga. And acro. And doing well. They like raw food and do it at home too.
Celine-half French, half Thai. Always introduces herself this way. 21. Sweet. Naive. Cute. Scared of many things. Very trusting. Very curious. Very kind.
Ray-funny. Thai. Natural comedian. Always trying to make jokes and make ppl laugh. Am sure there’s some depth there. Always helpful. Generous. Offering rides, use of phone, etc….likes his meat and insists on smoking. Tried detox for 5 days.
Tanya-came here from Nepal on volunteer job. Couldn’t stay. Very cold and got sick. Now traveling through the month. Nice young woman. Talks a lot. A bit of drama. Needing guidance. But well meaning.
Ngin-tattooed beautiful, French speaking guy from turkey. Seems very kind, always smiling…goes out regularly. Getting to know the area well it seems.
Nixon-tattooed, very advanced yogi who lives in New York. Partner is prentiss.
Krista-smart little cookie from Vancouver who lives in china, but is now convinced she must move to Thailand. Told me they really do eat cats and dogs and sometimes pets go missing. Hard little gymnast body. Great conversationalist. I dig her.
Nina-lovely, always smiling, kind eyes, goes on yoga vacations like me…is an anesthesiologist. Husband is a movie director. Did Safehouse most recently. Must watch. I detected a sadness and longing in her. Would like to know her better. Seems such a deep and loving soul.
Wim– caretaker and cook…took great care of us. Sharp wit. Thinks we are all crazy
Mo-his wife. Always smiling, very kind, also cooks, lovely, doesn’t speak much English
Maytie -lovely young girl from Burma. Helps in kitchen and cleans. Laundry. Puts yellow clay type stuff on face to detox? Sweet. Not much English. Always smiling with her eyes. She brightens when you smile at her. 🙂
Flo -beautiful long haired, curly blonde, blue eyed German guy. Moving here with gf in koh Samui. She’s from here. Did detox. Very laid back. Chill guy. Funny. Inquisitive.
Emma-beautiful Aussie lass. Blonde. Tall. Clear blue eyes. Great sense of adventure and enthusiasm. Here with her lovely friend Jaz who didn’t join yoga.
Liz– lovely Aussie, dirty blonde. Very kind, sweet as well. Always smiling. Everyone is always smiling…
Frederica-German. Dark hair. Arrived second week. Boyfriend is flight attendant. Here for a month.
Becca – massage therapist, yoga teacher, fascinated by Ngin…great with massage..lovely…seems to be some drama there brewing? Not sure what. She’s bubbly.
Sophie (karma cat) love.
Sally G. (Meredith) Friend of Olivier, gorgeous inside and out. This young woman literally glows with love and radiance. She oozes genuine kindness.
Utah– Quiet, curious Japanese friend of Sally. Seems a bit lost, but like a nice guy. Joined acro yoga. Wants to take classes. Seems hesitant. Maybe just misunderstood.

Two weeks of:
Ashtanga class
Ashtanga philosophy
Pranayama classes
Meditation classes
Kirtan chanting Friday
Acro Saturday
Trust.
Trust everything, the universe and give gratitude.
For everything. Always. Every day. Repeat.

First Martha Beck class started while here …

Themes for me: letting go. Surrender. Open my heart. Open heart chakras. Balance heart and root.
Open root more
Jade for my heart
Jasmine and rose for the balance
Purple visions during reiki….catacombs…me emerging from purple?
Hike at the waterfall w Silke, Chris, Celine and Ray. Fish pedicures for free.
Homemade vegan coconut ice cream -dear god, that stuff is ridiculous.
Raw food. Raw pad Thai. Hummus salad. Kombucha. Coconuts.
Indian night Fridays.
Thai massages. Cheap and life altering. Got one every day.
Detoxing people glow, literally. Glow as a verb.
Card reading session first night with detox Tonya from UK who doesn’t like food. Odd woman. Seems deeply troubled. Has confusing negative energy. Interesting reading though. Theme was courage for me. For myself. For my vision. For love. Loving myself. Loving for free. Shining my light. Letting go. Playing more. With myself and others. I am rather serious come to think of it. No time. Accept whatever comes. Ask myself what I desire. And go get it. Send joe light from my heart and crown chakras to his. Visualize it. Send love. Then let go. Wish him healing. And courage. And clarity. And more love.

On Tuesday…went to wonderful macrobiotic restaurant owned by Greek man. Had tabbouleh, hummus, pesto pasta made with organic grain of some sort that starts with a T. Rode on bike with Olivier and joined Chris, Audrey, Celine, Ray, Sally, Utah, Flo… Then for coconut ice cream. (Again…). Sigh…

A bit of a fantasy…I realize after a couple of massages, reiki, yoga adjustments, hugs and bike rides that it has been far too long since I touched another human or was touched and I dearly, deeply want to be touched. So not sure how to encourage that to happen. I suppose I will let the universe know that I am ready and watch her deliver again. She always seems to. Trust. Trust. Trust. All is coming. Practice…all is coming. Trust. All will be ok.

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