|sadhu crew at bamboo|
Somehow my time in the French Alps had taken its toll on my mind, body and soul. I'd held myself to ridiculously high standards in terms of my work, my diet and my lifestyle and after 5 months working a six day week so intensely with all the responsibilities that came with managing chalets and a team, I could see how my relationships around me were telling me that something wasn't right and I was slipping in to a place of guilt for not doing as much yoga and running as I had hoped while nibbling on croissants and allowing a bit of winter buffer around my belly to bug me.
After some curve balls and disappointments, I chose to step back in to my power again. It was time to give myself a gift. The greatest gift of extreme self-love and extreme self-care. Nourishment from the inside out, a polish and a realignment with the rhythms of nature and all her blessed shapes.
On a beautiful remote beach on the coast of Koh Phangan immersed in the jungles along the beach lives a stunning retreat centre called The Sanctuary. After two planes, a cab, a ferry and a fisherman boat, I stepped on to the sandy bay and breathed it all in. It was like stepping in to a dream and London felt a lifetime behind me as I gazed up at the open ocean calling me in to her waters.
I had visited The Sanctuary in 2011 with my Mum and we had opened up to the beautiful therapies, yoga classes and detox programs of the resort. I'd spent a session with a shaman going on a journey to find my power animal(s) and had had wonderful enlightening experiences for the two weeks we were there. This time round however, rather than being a corporate advertising executive with my designer bikini, playing hard ball negotiating my next contract and staying in one of their beautiful air conditioned Garden Suites, I was donning my rasta string bikini purchased at a local shop for a couple of hundred baht, had no time restrictions to my duration and no Mum to take care of. Just me and a humble fanned room with an epic view of the bay.
My first two weeks I spent without food and having a self-administered plastic tube up my bottom. Some would argue that this isn't a very loving thing to do but my goodness when one feels the boundless energy of the emptiness created, the heightened awareness and looks in the mirror to see the slender body once a distant memory, I can guarantee it brings about great appreciation. The detox program involved regular clay shakes of benzonite clay and psyllium husk, super food capsules, daily yoga classes and spa treatments... along with a daily enema. It required a fair amount of discipline and time keeping.
What amazed me was how ok I was without food. I really wanted to explore what Russell Brand says "lives behind your hunger" but I actually felt ok. I sat with people eating at the incredibly healthy and delicious cafe of the retreat centre, admired the salad bar and perhaps felt a craving or two for the Raw Bliss Balls and cheese cakes but otherwise what really filled my being was gladness.
"There's no where I would rather be" I found myself saying as I surrendered my whole time in Thailand to that bay. I didn't go on any big adventures, I didn't trek the jungles or wash elephants. I didn't visit a single temple nor step on the streets of Bangkok. Instead I immersed myself in the beauty of the bay and shared some of the happiest moments with the gorgeous family of therapists, yoga teachers and travellers in this little hub of paradise.
"Don't be sorry, be sexy" was the mantra of the bay and boy did we all feel it.
Open mic night saw me step in to my vulnerability and read poetry and sing in front of an audience. Movie night I buzzed with excitement watching this incredible documentary; What About Me? I joined Craig Stuart from Coral Alive replanting coral in the reef donning masks and learning to hold breath underwater. I danced wildly with an empty stomach in the small hours of the morning at the local weekly shindig, I watched the sunrise over the bay in pink golden light and connected with some beautiful new friends from around the world.
|the special veranda|
|Brett on the rock.|
Another evening I experienced the incredible luminescent plankton as we went on a night swim and I felt like a child in ecstatic wonderment watching my movements create sparkles in the deep dark waters. I recall lying on a beach bed looking up at the stars with a soul brother Dan from the States. A kindred spirit who too had studied Law and pursued a career in the corporate world before it spat him out and he journeyed through Tibetan Buddhist culture and became a yoga teacher. His words still with me now and inspiring seedlings we birthed in each other.
My people I found there. Grounded, open hearted and inspiring souls from everywhere who reminded me of things I already knew and whispered through their hearts "keep going Jess, keep going". I cannot begin to explain the love and gratitude felt for the tender hearts on that bay. Its a magical place.
After meeting a powerfully healing ROLFING practitioner Sarah, I spent a month having regular sessions and experiencing some of the deepest healing's I've ever had while bringing my body in to its fullest alignment and posture. I won't lie, there was certainly pain. Ever questioning I couldn't believe it when I physically felt an energy leave my stomach like a tangible ball of anxiety dust extracted through a cosmic vacuum cleaner. "Oh my God... What the hell was that?" I said to Sarah. "It doesn't matter now dear, it has gone now in love and light" and then a world of tears fell as feelings of betrayal vibrated through my body and intense heat gushed through to my finger tips while a sigh of relief breathed my insides. Wow. Then there were cacao ceremonies, elemental dances, sound baths, Ayurvedic classes and all the other incredible workshops the Tea Temple hosts for guests at The Sanctuary.
Well, I could go on and on. I can say that nothing felt more liberating, more empowering and more inspiring than this time being at The Sanctuary. I was bare feet for a month - that is always a good sign for me. I swam in the ocean everyday and wrapped myself in the sounds of nature; the frog orchestras, the birdsong, the monkeys and the soft beating of the gentle waves crashing on the sand. And I've been writing, that long awaited tale that I've spoken so much on and finally found the inspiration to write. It feels like an old painting that I am merely articulating through words. And my goodness is it flowing, I've filled up the back of my journal and found myself scavenging scraps of paper to capture the words that want to live somewhere. So exciting for this little writer.
I appreciate that not all jectaspecta readers live a lifestyle that gives them the means, time and space to go on long nourishing retreats like this one (and so does The Sanctuary with its weeklong programs). I can't say that my lifestyle is always easy but I can say that like the human experience, it is one hell of an adventure and I love it most the time... and in moments when I'm not, I know I'm growing in appreciation and strength.
Admittedly in the past I have got entangled in the heavy stuff, fallen in to places of doubt, frustration, envy, anger and sadness. These places are hard for me - I'm sure like many of us - because I grew up believing they were wrong and I didn't have the courage to sit with the pain. This nourishing experience really acted as a soothing balm on what has been one hell of a deep process on the road and while I was there a beautiful friend and Yin Yogini Georgia shone a light upon my grief one afternoon as we swam through the ocean together. She helped me see that what I thought was grief for an old love and everything that revolved around it, was actually the grief I had for my old self. A simple realisation but the most liberating to date to realise the intense transformation the last few years traveling has had on me, shedding the layers and old programming and coming to accept the person I have become through it in the NOW.
So more and more I am learning about self empowerment - to find the love and care for me from within and give myself a lot of it because I bloody well deserve it as do we all! As my Mum would say "Happiness is always with you, patience and faith are a good combination. But happiness is with you always." Such a wise woman she is and what an empowering reminder for us all.
Thank you The Sanctuary and all the incredible lights that held and shared space for me while I was there. I am still buzzing in grace :)