I came back from my trip to Cambodia a week ago, mainly to Hariharalaya, a 6-day yoga & meditation retreat where we woke up 6.30am every morning for yoga and meditation, and another set in the evening before we had our dinner. There was once that I did yoga 4 times a day, it was... memorable, to say the least. I've travelled without my parents & family quite a bit since I was 17 - New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, London, Laos, Scotland... every trip meant something to me, I could never say I prefer one trip over another, there were always, always, first times in all my travels, yet this one has to be one of my most memorable trips, I'd almost use the word important, because this was the first time I jumped into the unknown alone and made friends only when I was there, and it was so great.
I was initially a little worried because I'd be spending the new year eve and the first day of the year far away from my friends and family. Would I feel homesick, or lonely? Will I go well with the people there? I decided to give it a go despite all, it might be a good way to end the year, give myself some time to reflect on the past and perhaps make plans for the coming year? Although I must admit I didn't do too much of either, I simply enjoyed every single moment when I was there that I didn't quite feel the need to think about the past nor the future.
There were about 20 of us from roughly 10 different nationalities. We were waken up by gongs every morning, we had movie night, game night, we did yoga and meditation near one of the ancient ruins, in front of a massive lotus pond, we walked around barefoot all day, whether it's on the concrete floor, grass, soil or sand, we danced around the fire and let it burn away the past we wanted to let go of... You can do whatever you like during the afternoon, you can read by the pool, take a nap in a hammock with the wind and sun as your company, play the musical instrument in the art and music room, play card/board games in the game room (although not many of us did this...), or you can cycle out to explore the villages nearby. All of us throughly enjoyed the slow living without our phones buzzing, we would sit around and sip on the signature Hariharalaya chocolate-banana-coconut smoothie (which is called the Chocolate Heaven, and did taste like one) or coconut water, talk to each other, and then read a book in a hammock until we fell asleep to the peaceful noise of nature.
What I really liked about the yoga classes we had everyday - our yoga instructors constantly reminded us that it wasn't just about the physical practice, perfecting your poses or comparing how you did with your neighbours; we were reminded to pay attention to ourselves, what emotions emerged when we were doing certain poses, especially the difficult ones. Were we resisting it, were we hating it or were we unconsciously comparing ourselves to others? Be aware of your feelings. I had a private yoga class one afternoon with the head yoga instructor, Bianca, and I told her about certain poses I was bad at or afraid of trying, and felt shy when I saw people could do something I couldn't (one example would be the shoulder stand damnnit I really wanted to be able to do it), and I wondered if it had become my fear to even try it because I was afraid to fail before I even tried, and asked what was her advice. She told me I really didn't have to have all these judgement on myself; if I had to do a modified poses, it did not mean that I wasn't good enough, simply because everyone's body was different. I sometimes didn't realise how harsh we could be to ourselves.
Honor your body. Non-judgement and awareness were something we practiced and cultivated a lot there, not just to other people, but ourselves. It's also the one thing I'd like to make sure I bring back with me even after I left there.
Meditation were also great, you finally got to sit with nothing but your thoughts (just so you know, meditation can be done in any comfortable positions, though you'd want something that'd keep you alert, you don't have to sit with difficult positions to meditate!) and you watched them come and go without doing or reacting to anything, just observed what were there and accepted them. It gave me the time and space needed to remember what's really important, and what truly mattered (and not mattered).
Another thing I truly enjoyed during the retreat, it allowed me to let myself be the introvert I'd always been. Many people who first knew me almost immediately assumed that I was an extrovert, or they found it hard to imagine I was an introvert. I worked hard to blend in, and I am glad I am not too much of either side. I could go out and have fun with friends, but I would also truly appreciate time of just me and my journal, a book or my camera. During the retreat, I allowed myself to withdraw and head out alone with my camera on a bicycle if I felt like it, when everyone was talking joyously in the dining hall. Sometimes you'd want to stay because you didn't want to miss out on stuff people were sharing, but I allowed myself to go if I wanted to. And the awesome thing was, no one would ever question "Why are you leaving?" or making you stay if you simply chose not to. And it made this place and these people so special, we let everyone do what they want to do and not change, judge or stop them.
I was exposed to people from all walks of life, sharing their experience, journey and what brought them there. It was really such a unique experience to be celebrating the new year with a bunch of new faces that became friends just a few days ago, with lots of gratitude.
I had a few days left after the retreat and stayed in a backpacker hostel with Terryn, an Australian girl who was going to be a doctor next year and explored the ancient temples with her and another Italian girl, more pictures and posts on the New Year's Eve and Angkor Wat soon! Posting and looking at these photographs alone made me dream of our time there again... I might be back some time when I feel the need to recharge again. Oh yes...