10 Apr COLLECTING EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS: A DETOX AT A YOGA & MEDITATION RETREAT
Our motto and motivation is to “collect experiences, not things”. Whilst on our journey, we’re aiming to spend our time and money on spectacular experiences, to be left with incredible learnings and memories, not tangible objects. This way, we’re sure to keep our lives light without additional luggage, but also be the change we want to see in the world.
Our next featured experience is a detox at the Yoga and Meditation Retreat, Vagabond Temple, in Cambodia.
I’m writing this from what is known as “the private corner”. The private corner is essentially a small square table (positioned perfectly under five trees to attain constant shade), surrounded by four wooden benches. If one sits in the private corner it means he or she is either wanting privacy, or some ‘me time’ (guess those aren’t mutually exclusive). This is one of the spaces created here at the Vagabond Temple, and I thought it’d be a suitable place to write this post. But let me back track a little…
Stevo and I have been staying in the South of Cambodia at the Vagabond Temple (let’s call it VBT from here on, shall we?), for the past few days. We have a couple days left to complete our week. The experience, on a whole, has been like nothing either of us expected (not surprisingly at all), and I guess when you sign up for a yoga and meditation retreat, you think you’ll spend some time practicing yoga and (obviously) meditating, but you never think about the holistic effects a week like this can have on you physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Looking at our current life on the road, besides the occasional jogs we’d do with our backpacks when chasing down a bus or Tuk Tuk, exercise has not been a huge focus for us during our journey at all. When we began in early 2015, yes, we were committed to daily made-up-yoga and stretches and runs, but as the travels continued and energy deflated, we have sadly put physical activity at the bottom of the list, to preserve what energy we have for the long-haul flights and full-day explorations. This experience at the VBT, on the contrary, has been a very physical one – close on 3-4hrs a day spent using almost every muscle we have. Sure, on some days we focused more on meditation and breathing practices, and on other days we needed to wake up our dormant core muscles, but when our heads hit the pillows during “silent time” at 21:30 each and every night, we REALLY felt like we needed the sleep ahead.
A typical day
To our initial surprise, the days are very structured here, and although you have a few hours a day to yourself (to visit the nearby beach or lounge around in a hammock drinking freshly made sugar cane juice from Sena, the local Khmer lady on the property) you need to be completely committed to the practices and your stay at VBT.
We wake up each day into silence (a real challenge for me, as I normally tell stories at 200km/h when waking) and head straight into a yoga class. The 2hr session is followed by breakfast (all vegan, like the rest of the meals, to my pleasant surprise) and then an interactive completely-out-of-the-comfort-zone-as-you-are-forced-to-share-your-thoughts-and-potentially-dance assembly led by the owners and spiritual teachers, Kobi and Pazit. We’re all then assigned tasks, and spend the next 10-15mins practicing what is called “Karma Yoga” either sweeping the pathway, watering the garden, or preparing the next day’s ‘quote of the day’. Quick hour break, before the daily Dharma class, where Kobi shares enlightening learnings from the Buddhist traditions, normally finished off with a meditation, and then after lunch, you have your free time, before the second yoga class and meditation class end off the day before dinner.
As you can hear, staying at VBT is pretty full on, meaning, personally, the online classes we’d planned on recording during this week did not happen, and the photos we planned on taking in the surrounding areas also did not get taken, as we spent most of our free time stretching our aching muscles and contemplating that day’s learnings.
What we learnt
This is tricky to pinpoint, as the timing of our visit to the VBT has been quite fitting. We’re nearing the end of our travels (for now) before returning home to recover for a couple months (this announcement probably deserves its own blog post – stay tuned), so this holistic detox has been exactly what we needed.
We gained some great insights into the vast teachings of the yoga practice, the art of meditation and the beautiful traditions of Buddhism. Our minds were opened up from our very-Western-world way of thinking of yoga as a series of twisty poses, when in fact the various kinds of yoga range from, yes, some twisted poses, but the intent of yoga is to set your body up for meditation, and so there are poses (or asanas) that require very little movement and very little twisting, too.
From the daily Dharma talks, we were enlightened about the beautiful ideals that Buddhism stands for – everything from gaining wisdom internally, and the power of karma, to making compassion your ultimate goal and realizing that death is imminent (so living each day as if it’s your last is really the best way to live). Eye-opening (in this case all three eyes) would be the best way to describe it.
Aside from the technicalities of this Eastern practice, we were also reminded of a few values that we perhaps have forgotten about, and it definitely feels like we’re on a pretty straight road again after curving with a few tight turns the last several months.
The most memorable “reminder” was that sometimes you need to let the mud in a river settle, before you can see the water clearly again*.
*no mic was dropped when it was said outloud, but there should’ve been some mic dropping.
Even though my arms hurt just from typing this, and I have awoken butt muscles I haven’t used in centuries, I do feel like I’ve gained a fresh perspective too – on our journey as HFFH, on Buddhism (which started to interest me after our visit to Siem Reap), on the concept of communal living, and on my own passions.
Our week-long detox – going completely offline like we did back in Sweden (again, proving that the real world is so much better than the world on our phone), and without any alcohol, chocolate (and for Stevo, without caffeine) – has been refreshing, and for that we are grateful to Kobi and Pazit and the rest of the VBT community.