Same, same, but different
After unpacking and admiring my accommodation for the week, I was curious to meet my fellow zen explorers. It turned out to be a lovely group of women and one lucky guy, from many different nationalities. Norway, Italy, New-Zealand, Germany, Denmark, Australia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Finland, Holland (jup, see always there, makes +2), the Maldives/Spain and our teacher from Canada. All here in the same vibe, with similar and very different intentions and stories. And most of all with incredible openness and full moon powered energy from the start. What a relief.
After 4 days this hard core was left
Friends not food
We started our journey together with amazing food. Vegan pulled pork, made from jackfruit, so luckily no pork actually had to be pulled. They created the most beautiful vegan dishes throughout the entire week. And even the meat eaters were positively surprised by the possibilities of a plant based diet. One of the big plusses of this retreat and one of the reasons I choose it. Finally I was able to enjoy these delicious dinners with others, completely cruelty free. For animals and for me. Because it actually feels horrible sitting at a table seeing people stuffing their faces with innocent animal corpses. It's even more horrible hearing pigs scream for their lives while you are in the middle of a meditation workshop. And that's exactly what happened. There was a full moon ceremonie close by, in which Balinese people ritually sacrifice animals, to set them free. Oh, how I wish these animals could be indeed freed from all of this animal abuse. There is no excuus for keeping these cruel, needless traditions. It was hard being in this safe vegan, zen haven, getting this rude awakening. The cruelty of the outside world wouldn't be silenced and couldn't be ignored. Looking back it was meaningful that this happened. So we would not forget that there is this big bad world out there, that we need to do good in. We can't meditate our way out of that, but maybe we can use this new positive yoga energy as our superpower. Well, that's how I decided to see it.
Turn around, dead end ahead
The next day I asked the retreat staff if I could visit a nearby pig farm, because my need to give back love for all the hurt that I had just heard and felt was un-ignorable. Right next to the retreat there was a small farm. I visited it together with Eli, surprisingly the only other vegan on the retreat. The farmer and his family were so welcoming and nice to us. They lived in this wonderful temple-like house. You could tell he was proud of his pigs and bragged about the tasty dishes you could make using their bodies. It was clear he didn't see them as somebodies, but as somethings. Providing him income. He is disconnected from their souls, so he is able to do the work that he does with a smile. He also had a few dogs in small cages, that were going crazy when we walked passed them. I was already back at the retreat, but it didn't feel ok that he would probably think we were admirers of his profession. I had to go back to make sure he understood I was there to give his animals the love they deserve. With my very limited Indonesian vocabulary I continued our open and friendly conversation. He knew about vegetarians and I know he will not become one, but at least he had met a vegan and hopefully felt some of my concerns and sadness.
The number 1 principle of yoga is non-violence. In the classes we honoured different Balinese and Indian customs. Which do provide some very inspirational lessons. Couldn't help to think that these (and many other, if not all) countries need all those ceremonies, spirituality and hope, to deal with the violence, poverty and hurt that have been and still are present within these societies. Holding on to traditions seems to be a way of coping with this in some way. I feel the same about religion. It has it's perks, keeping things the way they are. Keeping certain people and businesses in power, rich and wealthy. It provides predictability, acceptance and structure. Maybe it's time for things to get a bit more messy. And have Mother Nature as our God. I'm worried that the way we are heading has a dead end.. to me it feels like we are following our leaders of a cliff. But that's probably just going to be the way it is. Even though me and many others don't agree. We will keep disagreeing and fighting for what we believe in, giving us that purpose and a clear conscience for our time here. Creating balance. That's one of the things I learned from yoga.
Principles of yoga
So you notice with all these dark thoughts I could use some uplifting yoga, intentions and meditation basics. The non-violence principle got me straight away. Living life, minimising the harm and impact I cause. And then there are the principles of truth, purity and love. I liked that this retreat mixed physical sessions with informational workshops. Both swinging me from left to right, as I questioned and learned:
- History already designed the way the present will unfold. Enjoy the now and just be. Everything will come and go.
Really? I think if the majority of us would adopt the 'Let it be' mindset, many horrible things that fill our history books would still be around. Every change, good or bad, starts with this one or a few people standing up. I strongly believe in that. Turns out this luckily is'nt against yoga principles. Yoga is all about finding balance between opposites, and in that creating optimal situations. Mahatma Gandhi definitely was a world changing yogi.
- Keeping negative energy on a safe distance, so it can't hurt you and enter your positive bubble.
Was what I understood at first. Do I really need a shield? You have these naturally given emotions and I believe they will often steer you in the right direction. If you find yourself getting hurt by a situation or person over and over, it is probably better to walk away. I think I'm just afraid of those people that want to become mentally stronger and then turning into absorbed, egocentric, disconnected snobs. It happens, I've seen it. Or am I jealous of their carelessness and confidence? Anyways, selfcare first, but sometimes you just need the world or a loved one to kick your ass and set you straight. I got a professional answer that I could work with. You can actually expand your positive bubble, including everything around it instead of pushing it out. Helpful!
- You are not your thoughts, body or character, you are just you.
There is someone in the control centre though, but it's nice to let all the judgement and thinking go a bit. This does give me a lot more flexibility.
In the physical practices I found the routines of daily yoga calming and energising. But meditation not so much. Counting your breath actively, letting thoughts come and go, just recognising them and move on with your next breath. A nice way to deal with thought loops that bother me sometimes. Maybe it's just that. My expectations of meditating were so high, so I was a little disappointed to be sitting there with my legs sleeping, counting and feeling my breath going through my body. But it became more clear to me how powerful that actually is.
Indonesia has sparked my fire
Another part of the retreat was learning more about Dosha's, Ayurveda types. You can be Vata, Pitta or Kapha or a combination of them. I'm a mix of all three, but with a strong tendency towards Pitta. That's the firery one. Before I moved to Thailand I definitely was leaning towards the Vata/Kapha type, and proud to. We did a water, fire, earth, air type workshop in my former job. I was mainly structured, social, very adaptive, considerate, a planner, but laid back. I was water and think I would be considered a Kapha in Dosha terms. So that's exactly the opposite of fire. I remember then looking around me and feeling I was in the right company. I looked across to the bossy fire people, and was glad I didn't have to fill their shoes. Let them call the shots, that the rest of us have influenced with our substantive qualities. But as it turns out I did became stronger and more assertive in the last 2 years. I hope in a good and still social kind of way, I shifted from water to fire. I can imagine that when I return to Holland I would become fluid again. Maybe because I'm really used to adapting over there. I was 9 when I moved from the Caribbean to Holland and noticed that being adaptive to others gave me the best chances for being socially accepted. But even in my younger days, at home I'm sure my parents would call me firery. And now I'm apparently back to that. What is actually perfect to start up my own business, in which I feel confident that it will turn out to be awesome. Holymoly, I really am fire. That in combination with drawing a Playfulness and a Listening card as guidelines seems to give me a promising base to continue on.
Spread the love through ceremonie
We ended the week with a Balinese holy water ceremonie. Starting with an offering and then praying with intention, washing off the negative and filling ourselves with positive intentions at each shower. People thinking positive thoughts together creates such a lovely, powerful energy. I remember wishing for this positive energy to travel home with all the people there and spreading to those they would meet outside.
The best souvenirs
So the Blooming Lotus yoga retreat was such a great experience for me. Anisha, our teacher was such an inspiration with her bright appearance and calmness. At some point we actually thought she was a real angel. I now have these basic yoga and meditation routines, new like minded friends from all over and a mind filled with a little more clarity. I would love to make the yoga a daily and me going on retreat an annual thing. Because I'm sure in a year I could use some grounding again. Help me notice it, allright? That's why we are in this journey and life together.