A week before I came to Thailand, I had already packed my suitcase. Needless to say that I was ready for the journey. I had no idea, however, what I was signing myself up for. Knowing that I would have some down-time to heal, reflect, and re-center myself, I threw two books on top of my suitcase. One of them was called Chakra Therapy: For Personal Growth & Healing. I had bought the book about 10 years prior and thought it would be a great way to make use of my free-time, a newfound concept. What I didn’t know, is that I would discover an entire week of chakra therapy, first hand, at a yoga and meditation retreat in a beautiful ashram just outside Chiang Mai, Thailand.
A coincidence, if not small miracle:
My roommate walked into my room and noticed the book sitting on my suitcase, so he picked it up and started thumbing through the pages. He asked me if I was taking it with me and I replied that I was. I explained to him that I had bought it about ten years ago and have been meaning to read it. Somehow I managed not to loose it throughout my many moves around the country. He looked up from the pages, a bit startled. “You haven’t read it yet?”, he asked me. He turned it around and flipped through the underlined, marked up, and highlighted pages. Even the margins of some of the pages had been filled with notes. I got goosebumps all over my body. It was all in my handwriting but I honestly could not recall reading it. He pulled a plane ticket out that had been used as a bookmark. It was dated March 18th. I had put the book on my suitcase the previous day, which happened to be March 18th…but in 2017. Apparently we learn things when we are supposed to, even if we plant the seed years earlier.
Many events, realizations, profound healing, and increased knowledge followed the moment I stepped barefoot inside the walls of that sacred space. It was a week of kicking off my heels, or flip-flops in this case, and relearning how to walk. Perhaps I will share some of my experiences in future posts, workshops, or in my upcoming book. For now, I will share what I will call my “post-retreat-integration.”
I left the Ashram, my newfound friends, including the symphony of geckos selling life insurance to me every night outside my window, feeling ready and able to integrate back into normal life with a broader awareness of everything in and around me. It was going to be great.
A week of barefoot love had changed my view and awareness of myself, as well as everyone I came into contact with. There is a reason why they say that love is in the air or I am on cloud nine. It is because when you are filled with love, you feel like you are floating in a cloud that exists just an inch off the ground.
My Uber driver was completely silent during my ride but I know it was because he was secretly sending me love the whole way back to my building. So of course, I reciprocated the feeling the entire drive home. It was a special connection.
I entered my room and consciously grounded myself into my new surroundings as I emptied my bag, sorted my laundry, put things away, and took a shower. All very normal. Integration was going great so far.
It was refreshing to get dressed in clothes that didn’t resemble a yoga class or a character from Aladdin. I had been sporting some obnoxiously colorful, blousy pants bought at the night market the previous week for $3. I had also forgotten what it felt like to wear a non-sports bra. However, that sensation was nothing in comparison to the surreal feeling of wearing shoes. I might contain everything in the universe and eventually understand fully the concept of oneness, but at that moment my toes were wiggling with love and happiness in my cozy socks, fully embraced in oneness with leather, rubber, and lace strings. If I wasn’t fully enlightened, at least my toes were. The beams of light streaming out of my toes definitely didn’t have anything to do with the impending pedicure situation; it was assuredly the shoes.
After acquainting myself with my lovely room, I walked out of my building to buy water. I went over to the ATM machine near 7/11. It felt strange to touch my wallet and money, something I hadn’t touched in a week. It made me pause before I pulled my debit card out. Forgetting I was thirsty, I began wandering around the streets of Nimman in Chiang Mai, feeling like my feet, although so full of love for the shoes they were wearing, seemed to barely skim the ground I was stepping on. My little backpack didn’t hurt my shoulders. In fact, instead of switching from one shoulder to the other to avoid too much load on one side, I just left it where it was. My neck was completely relaxed.
I began to notice people in the streets walking, sweeping, shopping, eating – I could feel their palpable pain, hurt, and yearning for love. I wanted to walk up to each one and give them a hug. I also wanted to tell them all the love that they are searching for exists right inside them. I had to mentally restrain myself because they might think it a little strange. I sent my thoughts instead. I also had to restrain myself from shedding tears of compassion as I passed them, something that had become a trend over the past few days. By the end of the retreat, filters no longer existed between everyone who had participated in the week long journey; smiles, hugs, tears, and laughter were fully embraced. It was like a teenage girls camp except with grown adults, both male and female. I finally understood why a diaper commercial with naked babies brought tears of joy to my mother’s eyes. My mother isn’t crazy; she just has an open heart. It is incredible to be in a space of love that enables you to fully experience and digest whatever emotion you have. We are all capable of replacing judgement and doubt with hugs, appreciation, and kindness. Love can spread like wildfire.
As I proceeded to walk down the street, I stopped at an inviting boutique and stepped inside. Wandering past the adorable items that I didn’t need, I noticed a woman who was trying to choose between two dresses. She was utterly perplexed at the life decision in front of her. I wanted to tell her, you actually don’t need either one of those but you really, really need a hug. She looked over at me and so I gave her a big smile. She was caught a little off guard but then relaxed and smiled back. I sent her good vibes as I left the store.
Realizing that I wanted food, I felt a surge of energy knowing that I had something specific to do. Nimman is full of restaurants so it wasn’t hard to fill my rumbling belly. The problem was, I was having difficulty finding food with love in it. I stopped inside one restaurant after another, only to walk out again. The aromas that filled my nose in most restaurants were not what my body craved so I found a salad place that looked good. I thumbed through the menu and settled on a beautiful picture. It was a papaya filled with yogurt, bananas, blueberries, and Muesli. It was labeled, “be happy yogurt.” I think I was purchasing the message more than the food, but I guess it’s the same thing. I stared lovingly into the eyes of the waitress as I ordered and she looked away. I’m sure she felt the same about me but was too shy to gaze back. It’s ok – next time. Definitely not awkward at all.
Finishing my food that was as happy as advertised, as well as my matcha green-tea latte, I sat and observed the people around me. I noticed their posture, tone of voice, gestures to one another, and also gestures towards themselves. I had never noticed how much people touch areas of their bodies that are hurting. I wanted to stand on my table and announce that I was available for free hugs and loving words of affirmation.
Fast Forward a Few Days
Of course the evening following my week of heaven in the ashram was a bit surreal. However, there are a few things that have enabled me to stay just a little more aware and conscious of myself and the beautiful world we live in:
- Breath: I have continued to practice yoga and meditation every morning, but even a few minutes of quiet attention to your breath, body, and different senses each morning will make a difference in your day.
- Smile: perhaps hugging strangers can create some awkwardness, but a genuine smile can change someone’s day. Be sure to look in their eyes. You will most likely get a smile in return. Smiles are easy and accessible food for the soul.
- Baby step: do something, even something ridiculously small, that will support you in a goal that you have pertaining to your personal health and well-being.
- Reflection: before you go to sleep, close your eyes and reflect on your day. What is one thing you did well? Thank yourself for it. What is one thing you could have done better? Let it go. Then, make an intention for the following day.
And with that, I wish you a beautiful day, wherever you are in the world and wherever you are on your journey.