A silent retreat - hanging out inside your own head

I waved good-bye to my husband and son as they were driven away down the bumpy, rocky road, through the rice fields, past the roosters and over some massive potholes. Ahhh, a silent retreat. Nothing being asked of me. No one to keep a constant eye on. Nothing but silence, yoga, meditation and some good food. There was a moment of mild panic when I realized I was without phone or internet, in the middle of a rice field in the middle of Bali, about 30 minutes from my husband and son with no way to contact them. But then I took a deep breath and asked myself to have a little faith. Faith goes a long way.

And there I was, alone in Bali. But being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely.

My silent retreat was very silent, frustratingly silent at times. I was surrounded by all of these other people - where did they come from? Did they speak English? What brought them here? I bet they were interesting people, but I’ll never know, because that’s not the purpose of a silent retreat.

The silence is jarring at first. You almost don’t want to make eye contact with anyone because you can’t exchange a “hello” or a “where are you from” or even an “excuse me”. It just feels odd. So you start to pull away. You start to hang out inside your own head. And once you get over the initial shock, you begin to accept it. You begin to feel quite comfortable eating alone, staring off at the rice fields or reading a book or maybe even just looking at your food. They encourage you to eat slowly, to really let your senses envelop what you’re eating. I realized I’m quite poor at this. I tend to inhale the food in front of me.

And once you’ve really accepted the silence, you start to embrace it. You start to explore some of the deeper corners of your mind, some areas you maybe haven’t opened up in a while. This can be fascinating. Maybe you write, maybe you read, maybe you just sit and think. You start to notice those around you less and less as you sink deeper into this open eyed meditative state. 

The sounds from the jungle around you, the chanting from the villages at the base of the hill, these become your sound track. The schedule is so simple: yoga and meditation early in the morning, followed by breakfast, lunch, then yoga, dinner then meditation. The hours in between are filled with whatever you want to fill them with - a jungle trek, a labyrinth walk, exploring the surrounding gardens where they grow the food they serve, lounging in a hammock, staring at a wall…really whatever you want, just no talking and no technology. And you do all of this alone, completely alone. No one cares what you’re doing because no one knows you.

FullSizeRender-22.jpg

And there’s no coffee. I didn’t know this before coming to the retreat. I drink a lot of coffee. I am a fan of occasional detoxes…but it’s been a few years since my last one. What better place to detox than at a silent retreat where nothing is being asked of me, my responsibilities are very minimal and I can’t complain to anyone? I felt fine for the first and most of the second day. But that second night, I was lying in my bed, surrounded by my mosquito net, listening to the bullfrogs and other random jungle sounds when my head exploded. I realized I’d been drinking way too much coffee. That night I woke up many times with a throbbing head, but what could I do? Nothing. Just deal with it. So I did. I even dragged myself out of bed at 5:45 for 45 minutes of meditation and an hour and 30 minutes of yoga. Meditation was ok - I tried to focus on my breath, and I tried not to cry or scream or punch someone in the head. Caffeine withdrawal isn’t a joke. My husband gets a big “I told you so” on this one. But yoga, yoga was a bit of a different experience. It usually feels like a big yawn for my body, but on this day it felt like someone was drilling into my head. And downward dog was the worst of it all. I hung out in child’s pose a lot. A lot. But that’s ok, that’s totally ok in yoga.

After a night of little sleep, 45 minutes of meditation and an hour and 30 minutes of yoga, I felt so much better. I felt amazing. Lesson learned: keep a good eye on that caffeine intake. I switched to tea.

It's impressive what you can learn about yourself when you take a break from the world. And I believe finding silence is important - we reconnect with ourselves, with our bodies, with our thoughts, with our desires, with our goals, with our feelings. Some of these are scary things to face. Some of these things we turn away from and never face. But I believe that stepping away from the busyness that surrounds us, closing out the constant demands and to-dos, this is when we are really able to discover what has brought us to where we are and what will move us forward in this world. It took a silent retreat in the middle of a jungle in the middle of Bali for me to disconnect from the world entirely. It was scary to do, but the world kept spinning in my absence. In order to love our best, we must be at our best. And sometimes we need to disconnect to truly reconnect.

-------------------------------------------

Bali Silent Retreat is a bit like summer camp meets Anthropologie in the small town of Penatahan, Bali. It's a glorious retreat. Every single thing you could need is provided at top notch quality. I opted out of the single room and stayed in the dorm (if I couldn't talk to people, I at least wanted to be with people), and I was still super impressed with the accommodations. The food is all grown at the retreat or in the surrounding villages. They use New Earth cooking principles in their food prep, so I was in heaven. It's an excellent retreat. It's adorable. It's peaceful. It's probably exactly where you need to be. Check it out if you're ever in Bali and in search of a bit of slow.

Bali. No speed limits, just hold on tight.

You cannot have a speed limit when you’re sharing the road with a moped carrying a family of four, a goat, a truck of chickens, 2 boys on bicycles, 25 motorbikes going in every possible direction, a semi carrying furniture with its flashers on and a man walking uphill in his bare feet with a bundle of bamboo on his head. You just cannot. But sometimes you have to surrender and have faith, which isn't always easy when you're a mother. The experiences that wouldn't affect you in the past take on a new meaning now that you have a life to watch over.

Today we drove from the south of Bali to the north. Our driver was fierce and confident. He’s made this drive a few times, over the mountains of Bali, swooping through rice fields, flying past coffee bushes and cocoa trees. I held my breath many times. I find myself doing that a lot during our transport on this trip.

These mountain towns are small, with clove leaves drying on blankets next to the main road, and children standing naked at the front of their parents’ shops. The glorious rice paddies go on for miles, but after witnessing the process of tilling and planting these fields, it’s shocking that we have such an abundance of rice in our lives. It’s a laborious task.

FullSizeRender-20.jpg

Mangoes, cocoa, coffee beans, clove, pineapples, durian - these orchards are amazing. And the terraced, geometric splendor of the rice fields, with the skinny reeds sticking straight up, the tanned workers trudging through the muddy depths, it’s all so impressive. I saw a man rototill straight through 2 feet of water.

And scattered throughout the small towns the smell of incense emanates and smoke wafts across the chaotic road. I asked our driver what was burning. He gave me a confused look and said, “At the altar.” The Hindu religion is an amazing one, and it is everywhere in Bali - the temples, the altars, the daily rituals at morning and night. It is such a beautiful religion to get a glimpse of.

But these roads…

Sometimes all you can do is close your eyes and hold your baby tight.

Cambodia, it hits my heart. Heavy.

Cambodia has hit my heart the hardest out of all of the places we’ve been. This place, it’s heavy. It’s gorgeous, but heavy. After another morning of touring some of the most amazing temples, we asked our driver and tour guide to take us to an orphanage. I had seen so many children in need of love that I needed to give something in some way. I didn’t even know what I could give, I just wanted to give something. Our guide knew of an orphanage where his friend taught English, he said it was a place in need of so much. Their primary funding came from a foreigner who was aging, he was near his end. Their funds would run out and he didn't know what would come of the children when the money was gone. So he took us to a local market, pointed out what we should buy - paper, pens, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes. The things I take for granted. The things used for learning, cleaning, staying healthy. Basic. Toren screamed that he wanted stuff. Try explaining this shopping trip to a 2 year old. We did our best.

Our driver took us down the bumpiest of dirt roads. Was it even a road? We patiently waited for the skinny cows to get out of our way. They didn’t want to, but they eventually gave in. What is it with these Cambodian cows?

When I didn’t think the tuk tuk could handle the dirt road any longer, we arrived at the orphanage. Tin structures. Tattered tarps. Shoeless children running, sitting, waiting…waiting for what? Chickens. A beat up soccer ball. Dirt. And then the signs of a classroom. A poster of vegetables in English. The alphabet. We got out of our tuk tuk. What would they think of us just showing up? I didn’t think of that. Is this even ok? Am I doing this for them or for me? I can’t tell but I would like to cry. They greeted us graciously.

They wanted us to sit down. Why didn’t we? We felt a little self-conscious I think. We should have sat down. Stayed a while. Played. But we didn’t want to interrupt. We just showed up. Were we being rude?

And then the children stole my heart. Their eyes. I told a girl I liked her skirt and she just stared at me. I really did like her skirt. And the little boy I saw, I wanted to bring him home with me. I think that’s how you feel when you stare into the deep brown eyes of a child in a poor country with no parents. You want to save him.

I climbed back in my tuk tuk with my hired driver and tour guide, my husband and our smiling son. We drove back down that dirt road, past the naked children running down the streets, through the skinny cows staring us down, over the bumpiest of bumps.

That evening I walked around the grounds of our hotel while hauntingly beautiful funeral music played just a few hundred yards away. It had been playing for the entire day. My son falling fast asleep on my shoulder while the rain poured down on us. The magnitude of the day. It was heavy.

This is one of the strangest photos from our travels. We are all looking in so many directions, thinking so many things.

If you are interested, they are in need of the following (contact me for details):

Uniform for school 27 kids , 8.5$ X 27 children=283.5$ , 

30 chairs x 11$ =330$

Building the circle and pole flag 165$  infront of English school . 

Computers 10 x 450$ = 4500$ 

Sewing machine 250$ x 5 = 1250$ for girls 

Cement table eating food of the kids 340$ 

Rice 10B /500kg x30$ =300$ 

Seed vegetable 50$ 

Chicken seed 3$ x 100chicken = 300$ 

Duck seed2.5 x 100 ducks =250$  

Meals of ducks and chicken for one pack 20$aweek/ months 80$ x 3month=240$ 

My introduction to Cambodia. This is a place so unlike any other.

Yesterday we arrived in Cambodia. I am happy to be here. I couldn’t have imagined this place before we arrived here. It’s green and gorgeous and poor and happy and sad and fresh and dirty and kind all at once. After a busy week in Chiang Mai, we’re slowing down. We’re staying at a small place down a dirt road, past 16 cows roaming around without a fence, a kid with no clothes on, many lizards, a women’s services store (use your imagination), a kid puking, a gorgeous Cambodian rice field, 23 shacks in the dirt, many happy people and many tired people. That’s where you’ll find our place. You couldn’t find this place if you tried. But beneath all of the layers of Cambodian culture, we’re here. And you can see cows from our balcony. I swear one stared at me for a long time this morning. He was like, “This isn’t a fancy resort place. I’m a cow and I can see into your room. You’re in Cambodia now. The cows don’t have fences. This is how we roll.” The place we are staying at is small and gorgeous. There are only about 12 rooms and I think only 2 are taken right now. When I walk downstairs to the open air reception/lobby/restaurant/etc place, we are greeted by our private driver, the chef, the manager and reception all at once, eagerly looking up at us to see what we could possibly want. It embarrasses us. And we’re only paying about $25 a night. We have a private driver. I got a massage for $9 the other day. This place is so different than anything we've experienced before. This is such a poor country, but the people are so gracious and kind. We asked for a water and they misunderstood and brought us 2 cokes, we happily accepted. I don’t drink coke, but I will today. They tried to bring them to our room for us. Anton really just wanted to drink something, anything, right in that moment because he was dreadfully thirsty. It all gets lost in translation and they’re just trying to please us. We’re just trying to be thankful. In the end we just nod and smile, they do the same. We’re all just kind of happy if the other is smiling.