8 November 2017

Back to the Lake for another inner deep-dive – Tantric Way and beyond

After being in Costa Rica for some time, it became apparent that the Lake was calling me back. I'd heard a lot about Gaia Ma and her transformational Tantric way course, a 3 week deep-dive into all sorts of interesting topics, so after meditating on it and hearing that some of my earlier San Marcos friends were also joining, I signed up. I am a workshop junkie, I confess. I do self-work all the time, but there is something to be said about these containers where the growth is exponential since there's nowhere to run or hide and you really have time and space to stop, feel and think. And explore, especially on a course that labels itself as tantric.

I purposefully didn't want to read too much info about what was in store for us, as I wanted to take the plunge without building too many expectations. "The Tantric Way is a carefully designed and spontaneous process of awakening. You will transform your relationship with life by learning to cultivate intimacy with yourself, to deepen intimacy with your sexual partners, and to create intimacy among groups." is what Gaia says about it on her website, and there is more info there as well, if you're interested in reading for yourself. I only needed to know that I would finally be able to spend some time in my favourite ashram Mahadevi and to return to the lake for round two of personal growth.

So, after Costa Rica and I were done, I made my way back to San Marcos via Antigua and trying to regulate my post-cleanse diet somewhat in the plentiful temptations Antigua restaurants had to offer. After a week of reigniting my love to the Lake I then packed my bags again and moved to the ashram. 3 weeks of intense work with a group of about 20 people, with all of us living in the ashram and only venturing out briefly in the weekends, might sound hellish to some, but for me it meant having a wonderful chance to really build intimacy, go deep and to experience whatever there would be in a safe container without people going outside to be involved with others too much. And that is exactly what I got.

Workshops like these can't really be described; they must be experienced. Within the three weeks we explored our relationship to ourselves, to our intimate partners and to all fellow humans. We used a wide array of tools and techniques, and everything was steadily and flowingly moving as Gaia lovingly tailored the content to fit this particular set of soulsearchers who were making experiments on themselves. Some examples of the methods and exercises we did were family constellations, breathwork, Osho meditations (revisited my beloved and hated dynamic meditation from the good old Nepal days :D), repatterning our false and hurtful beliefs about ourselves and relationships, exploring our boundaries and comfort zones and supporting one another through the intense emotions that came up. It was beautiful to see how complete strangers became the best of friends, the shyness melted away and everyone moved into a more empowered and confident version of themselves. Even me, who still was somewhat in her "I don't really enjoy the company of others" bubble broke free of it and started socializing again. Oh so good!

 I have slight issues with authority and I tend to be very critical of gurus and teachers, but Gaia was truly something else. Raw, vulnerable and real, she took the leadership position clearly but without setting herself above us in any way. She has also gone through a lot in her life so she can relate to our struggles and stories, staying empathetic but also incorporating a no bullshit attitude while guiding us into facing whatever we need to face to learn from it and move on. I have utmost respect for her and her work and would recommend her to everyone. She has a center Inanitah in Ometepe Nicaragua, so if you're ever around there on the Fire season, go check her out. Or go to her workshop somewhere else (Mahadevi ;)).

After the tantric way some of us continued on to take Gaia's transformational facilitator course. I joined mainly because I really wanted more time with the people, plus I was on a total self-confidence high after the Tantric way and I didn't want to go anywhere just yet. Plus I actually didn't even have any plans for after the course (look at the previous compulsive planner go with the flow!), so procrastinating while continuing to explore was the perfect thing to do. And boy was it worth it! We rented an amazing Airbnb mansion together with 2 other tantricas (love you, Lili and Bobby!) and we proceeded to host amazing gatherings (*cough*, orgies, *cough*...) and continue empowering ourselves and each other. I don't think I've ever felt as liberated and confident, sexually and otherwise, as I did after the second stay in San Marcos. After the much more challenging first encounter, the Lake definitely showered me with much more pleasant gifts and blessings this time. Thank you thank you infinitely.

View from the Airbnb tantra pad balcony and "the usual brunch spread" :D

Even after the extra week I refused to break the spell, so me, Lili and Bobby continued on as our little family to Tikal, and then me and Lili onwards to Mexico via Belize. Tikal was absolutely gorgeous, our guide totally brilliant and exploring the ruins after a sunrise in the Star Wars pyramid with some medicinal plant friends as enhancement was definitely an experience I will never forget. The amazing marriage between nature and man, blending into each other, blurring the borders between built and grown... I don't think I need any more ruins. This was it for me. And the time to visit was perfect, we had the place nearly to ourselves and could really concentrate on feeling what the Mayas had left behind. If you go, I definitely recommend staying in one of the hostels in Tikal, even though they're a bit more pricey than the ones in the nearby Flores where most of the tourists stay. To spend more time so close to the magical ruins gives you a much deeper experience than what could be had by just zooming in on a bus, following a horde of tourists, snapping a few hurried shots and heading back out again for the night. 

So, this was my second helping of Guatemala. And no, I didn't get enough. As I am writing this, months after I actually was there, my heart leaps with joy to know that I will be back in March 2018. So much gratitude and love!

Somewhat illegal sunset spot

30 October 2017

Costa Rica – Clean water and workshops galore

After the relatioship workshop blew up into my face and going to a same festival with this person was no longer an option, plans had to change again. Tribal gathering in Panama was swapped into Envision in Costa Rica, and after crying tears of desperation on the airport after they tried to make me pay 300 $ for checking in my bags only until Costa Rica and not Panama like my ticket stated (the flight went via Costa Rica, so in my mind it would have made total sense to just cancel the connecting flight and check the bags to CR, but apparently not), I managed to get myself and my bags into CR with only 15 $ less to my name. Mental note, never expect airlines to follow logic. Mental note 2, crying always helps. So I did Envision as a road trip with a couple of lovely Florida girls whom I found on the carpooling site. The festival was lovely, but I was still reeling from my relationship crash and was somewhat distracted the whole time. But it was so so lovely to be warm again after the coolness of high altitude San Marcos. And there were beautiful people and wonderful food, so I was happy.

As I hadn't really "done" that much during my time in SM ("intensely being" was the term I used when people asked me what I'd been up to during my three months there), I had booked my Costa Rica month full of things. Envision was followed by Forest dance, an amazing conscious gathering where we danced and made music around the sacred fire for 3 nights and filled our days with workshops and lounging in hammocks or taking dips in the river. I was nursing a cold and battling with my demons of unworthiness which made me keep to myself a lot and retreat to my cancer mode of being the outsider, observer, not feeling like I fit in. I did make a couple of lovely connections when I finally felt brave enough to expose how I really felt, and the nightly rituals were powerful, so it was definitely a worthwhile experience in the end. I will never forget the last night when we danced till sunrise and spooked a pair of toucans from their tree as we hit the last beats on the drum, followed by a victorious cry of pure energy, togetherness and belonging. Those tribal moments are infinitely important for me and this was no exception. So much gratitude for my life and the universe that leads me to such places!

The next stop was volunteering at the Women's equinox gathering at the lovely Finca Amrta near Tinamastes in the middle of Costa Rican jungle. By then my social batteries were totally empty, and I welcomed my work contribution as a respite from having to actually take part in the program. I was in the kitchen a lot, read, decorated the place and tried to not feel like I was wasting a chance to make new friendships. But by now I had become much more comfortable and accepting of this side of me, this somewhat introverted Patience who just needed her own time and space. So it was good practice in listening to myself and not pushing myself to do or be more than it felt good to do. And I did make a couple of lovely connections as well, plus enjoyed so much spending time on Suzanne's amazing Finca. Well done, me!

I did have some time to just be and relax between all the workshops as well. I explored some of Dominical and Uvita and stayed a couple of lovely days in Posada Natura. My last CR adventure was a stay in Pachamama, a beautiful although quite expensive retreat center in the Nosara peninsula. I participated in a mindblowing White night ritual and took a body detox program which I can only highly recommend. I'd been wanting to do a fast or a detox for a while but what with my health history and trust issues with health practitioners, I had not felt comfortable enough to dive into that just yet. The team in Pachamama was so knowledgeable and the program so well done, that I felt really safe and supported, and it was not nearly as taxing or exhausting as I would have thought. I left Pachamama much lighter, in body and spirit, and am really grateful for everything I experienced there. And for the raw chocolates in the Wild treats bar. Oh so much yum <3

All in all, Costa Rica was lovely, although it makes me a little sad how much it is a playground and an amusement park for the rich Americans, which makes the prices skyrocket. But the nature was gorgeous, the fruit absolutely heavenly, public transport easy and affordable. And the biggest plus: you could drink tap water without dying or getting an interesting array of unwanted intestinal company. It took me a week of being there to stop cringing every time I filled my bottle from the tap. San Marcos habits die hard ;). In Costa Rica I also had my first experiences with the more powerful plant medicines, which opened yet another gateway into remembering the love we ultimately all are and the connection or sameness of us all. I can never thank these medicines enough for their lessons and for letting me dive deeper into the divinity of myself and the universe. 

San Marcos – Deep growth in the loving embrace of Lake Atitlan

What is there to say about The Lake and its magic? I came, I saw, I fell in love. And stayed. I got my Spanish lessons started, I got involved with the Fire Fuego space (more on than later) and yeah, there was a man whose name was Truth. Hilarious, as I'd been asking the Universe to manifest truth. Just shows me to be more specific in my requests. I wanted to find my own truth, not a man called Truth. The Universe has a wicked sense of humour... But I digress. The idea of the horse caravan started to sound less and less appealing the more time went by. So I decided not to go join it in the end. It seemed that there would have been more people interested in joining than there would have been available horses, and what with all the love for San Marcos, the journey up north didn't seem like a good deal anymore. It felt like the caravan had been the mind idea that had brought me to Guatemala, but it was not what I was there for. I was there to learn other things.

 The Lake taught me about relationships and about what I really want from a partner. It taught me about anger, the white glowing burning kind that I had never felt before. It taught me about surrender in the face of the most difficult bout of sickness I've ever experienced. Long story short: spinning vision even when laying down, intense nausea with the slightest of movements, complete loss of balance and horrendous vertigo, total helplessness in the first couple of days. Having to rely on the good will of complete strangers taught me to trust that I will be held and helped, no matter what. I was truly truly blessed to have the equivalent of an angel, Ellanah, as a housemate in the hostel I was staying at, and she totally saved my life. It is still intensely challenging for me to ask for help, and my feelers for seeking signs of being a burden to other people are intensely fine-tuned, but she was one of the most genuinely good and selfless people I have ever met, and never did I once feel like like I was taxing her or annoying her in any way. She helped to heal that false sense of being a burden and of that (and the countless juices and food and taking me to see the doctor and other things she helped me with) I will be forever grateful.

Well, it wasn't such a short story in the end, but I did recover. My balance was off for months afterwards, and only after seeing a chiropractor a couple of times, having massages and eventually going to another body worker in Mexico did I figure out that it hadn't been a freaky virus attacking my balance organs in my inner ear like I thought at first. My neck vertebrae had been severely misaligned, and even after that was corrected, there was a nerve in my neck that would get pinched when the muscles got too stiff, and that would cause the vertigo, spinning vision and loss of balance. Weird and wonderful, this human body! But now I know.

Sticking to the health related issues for a while: San Marcos also excelled at being Parasite Central, like I lovingly called it. The last rainy season had been very dry and the community water reservoirs were running on empty. So the people resorted to using lake water for washing dishes and household water. And that water was not clean. Giardia and other lovely parasites ran rampant, and everyone had their favourite special remedy to recommend for getting rid of the parasites (Grapeseed extract! Garlic! Apple cider vinegar! Diatomaceous earth! You name it...). There was a wonderful health food store in the nearby town of San Pedro (the town that excelled at being a party spot and a haven for backpackers wanting to learn Spanish), so we would stock up on all sorts of meds and supplements and herbs as well as luxury items such as special snacks (Finnish licorice!!, Edamame bean snacks! Peanut butter chocolate squares! Rice cakes! Almond butter!) and revelled in the ridiculously awesome selection of bulk spices, herbs, flours, nuts and whatever the health nerds heart could possibly want. I know it sounds a bit weird, but I loved those 15 minute lancha (boat) trips to San Pedro to make a quick shopping trip (and spend exorbitant amounts of money) and then return back to San Marcos, very happy that I didn't have to stay with "the normal people";).

San Pedro

The San Marcos crowd was a truly interesting mix. A spiritual hub like Koh Phangan and Bali, it draws a lovely conscious community, most of whom stay the whole season. So there was no shortage of workshops, yoga classes, sound healing sessions, ecstatic dances etc etc etc. And of course the two most important San Marcos bliss inducers: kirtans and cacao ceremonies.

Kirtans in the amazing Mahadevi ashram in the nearby town of Tzununa (translates to home of the hummingbirds) became my weekly trip to devotion. It never ceases to amaze me how much pure joy and bliss and strong connection to the divine chanting the names of the various gods can give me. Combine that with the most wonderful cacao known to man, and you have a ceremony like no other. There I felt like I belonged. I sang with my heart and soul and gave myself fully to every emotion that made itself known.

San Marcos is also the home of Keith the cacao shaman, who hosts ceremonies on his tiny porch. He is one of the clearest channels of universal wisdom I have ever met, and sitting with him always left me with an immense sense of balance and inner strength. Everything seemed easier, lighter and things just aligned and made sense. He has a wonderful loving, selfless and welcoming aura and I so look forward to working with him again. One of the most hilarious highlights of my San Marcos existence was to do a work trade for a ceremony, where my task was to sew patches on his pants with an old Husqvarna sewing machine that was the exact same model that my mom has. Such amazing home-feeling-inducing objects we find in the most indrecible places around the world.

One of my projects in San Marcos was also to bring a community space called Fire Fuego on its feet and brainstorm its kitchen into existence. We had a lot of fun and the opening was a big success, and the place had a lovely little life span. It did peter out in the end, which was sad to see, but by that I had already moved on. A wonderful experience nevertheless, and an important anchor for me in the early days of SM life.

I also had the honour of working at one of the most amazing restaurants I've ever been to. Medicine Foods was run by Kadhi and Chetan, a lovely warmhearted couple who had made their dream of a cafe serving healthy high vibing superfood into reality in San Marcos. They truly are warriors of culinary creations, always managing to keep the spirits high and the food clean and pure even with the super challenging water situation (no running water in a kitchen? Not the easiest of things). And they have an almost uncanny sense of how to perfect the flavours in their dishes. Nothing ever tasted bland or boring, and their raw chocolate praline selection was to die for. Not to mention their smoothies. I ate there like three times a week at least and still always wanted more. Such an amazing place!

Hole punch, San Marcos style

My San Marcos existence spanned across the transition from 2016 to 2017, and we decided to celebrate the new year at Cosmic Convergence, a music/yoga/healing festival just across the lake, near Santiago. A truly magical location, and an amazing near year's adventure, where I finally ended up getting a new name. I'd been wanting one for a while, thinking that the change I had gone through also warranted a new start, namewise. Plus it had gotten somewhat exhausting, introducing myself as Lilje, since nobody ever got the name or was able to pronounce it (which I found baffling, since it isn't that hard, now, is it?), which led to the first step in a new friendship always being one of confusion and slight awkward annoyance. I wasn't in a spiritual sangha that would give out new names though, and wasn't about to seek one out just for that purpose. I believe in being my own guru, so it felt only fitting that I would also be the one to name myself. So, new year's eve, a nice consciousness expansion journey, and the dance floor. I danced, I meditated, and in the end there were two names left: Patience and Faith. Patience won. So the first of January was also my new birthday. Welcome, Patience! A trait and a virtue I had not excelled at, but which I was to become more and more familiar with as I continued to introduce and associate myself with the name. It is lovely to see the light of recollection in people's eyes when they hear my name now. "Patience? Really? Wow, I need more of that in my life!" So do I. That's why I chose it. And I chose well :)

Oh yeah, and then there was the guy who played the leading role in my San Marcos experience. So yes, I fell in love with a man, or more like an idea of a man.... He was the most challenging and complex person I've ever tried to make a relationship work with, and he turned out to teach me exactly what I needed to learn about my wishes and dreams about relationships. Namely, that I was so deeply craving for this soul partner, travel partner, life partner, and for him to be the safety network and ground on which I would yet again build my life like I always had before, that I fell in love with the possibility. And then woke up to notice that no, this person is definitely not the one I could make my dreams come true with. But I did get a 3 month intense relationship workshop out of it. And we did also have good times. But mainly it was a tremendous lesson and exactly what I needed to wake up and notice my patterns even more clearly. After this experience and after diving deeper into my own strength, the new encounters with interesting people have started from a much more stable and balanced space. Thank you, Truth.

So, San Marcos. What more is there to say? I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. I don't think I've ever grown more in a place than I did in San Marcos. When people ask what I did there for the whole of 4 months, baffled about the size of it (tiny) and the apparent places to do stuff in (less than few), I always answer "I was intensely being". My time there was not fun and games most of the time, it definitely was not a holiday, but in the end it was perfect as it was (like things always are, because they went exactly the way they were supposed to). I learned to trust, got more confident, learned to deal with intensely difficult situations. Made amazing lifelong friendships with the Atitlan Tribe. Became Patience. Learned to love myself even more. And that is ultimately what all of this travelling and seeking and exploring is all about.

1 October 2016

Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving

Things are about to get personal. Even more so than before. If you're not into that kind of stuff, I suggest you stop reading now.

I've been struggling with the decision to stay or to go ever since I've been back in Berlin. The funny thing is, that I think I was never here to begin with. I was in Afraidland. I was afraid to stay. Afraid, that I wouldn't make it. That I wouldn't find enough stamina to pursue my caking/baking passion. That I wouldn't stick with anything long enough to make it work or last. Long enough for it to make me stay. I was looking for an anchor. Something to keep me here. Or someone. I didn't find it.

Here, the insecurities start descending again. Here I forget how to listen to my inner voice and I let my thoughts run the show. Here, staying in balance requires much more work than on the road. Here I start feeling small, insecure, doubtful, worried. I lack structure but I'm afraid to build one. A friend wrote a long, soul exposing Facebook post, where he said: "Suddenly without structure and support all my anxieties return... ". He was talking about workshops, but it sums it all up so well. I lack structure and I don't use the support system I have, with some exceptions. I don't really want to talk about my imaginary problems with my friends, since I don't like to whine about nothing. In my head I often refer to myself as "the girl who got it all and went crazy"... But since these things are occupying such a big chunk of my thoughts, they have a tendency of slipping out like lentils out of a sieve that's not fine enough. So I start to dread meeting people, or close up or find it difficult to speak even when I am with someone. And then I spend more time alone. Which makes things worse. A fine vicious cycle!

Life is a big workshop, I know, but it does help to have more structured sessions to deal with our shit. I've noticed that it is so much easier to open up and to peel away these ego protections when you have that support of a group, those strangers that are in the same structure. Everyone going through their own shit but sharing the structure nonetheless, so that you are on the same page with what kind of things might and will be stirred up. And in those workshops it's ok and encouraged to be as vulnerable and open as possible, which also makes it collectively easier. But the moment that structure is gone, all the old anxieties and fears and insecurities start creeping in. When the experience high, also known as the "I was so open and authentic me and it felt fucking amazing" high starts to wear off. sooner or later they will emerge in some shape or size. I do believe, that in every workshop or ashram trip or festival or whatever mindfulness self exploration soul tripping thing we happen to do does take us in the right direction: to know ourselves more and to give us new tools and new insight. But sometimes it can just end up being tripping and sailing from one experience high to the next without actually integrating in between. That's what I'm worried I'm doing. I'm worried that I'm so hooked on this high, this ultimate love and excitement high: excitement about new experiences and level ups, love towards myself, the universe, a certain someone or many someones, or all that in combination. And that's a pretty powerful drug right there: the feeling that the happiness and balance was actually found from within. It's a powerful fucking drug.

Of course I also feel in balance and happy and blissful without structures. I'd like to say most of the time, but I'll settle for "often", which is sliding into "occasionally" the more anxious about the future I get. Spontaneous random gushes of love are always wonderful. But the longer time there is between these experiences, these moments of clarity and self love, the deeper the mud gets. The anxiety and doubt monsters descend. I desperately try to find something to cling on to, something to give me courage to stay somewhere, to commit myself to something. And when I don't find it, I leave. I'm a lover of leaving, like Rumi so well put it.

So now I'm leaving again. I'm joining a nomad horse caravan in Guatemala. And I'm scared shitless I'm doing it because I'm a sissy coward who's afraid to commit to anything and who's just chasing the next rush, the next experience, the next high. But I'm still going, and those are fearthoughts that are not true. I know this is not "escaping the future into an endless holiday" (even though I do believe the fearthoughts quite often), but there are things I actually want to learn, mainly Spanish and living and travelling as a part of a community. The ache that comes from the lack of a tribe, of a community to belong to, is sometimes disturbingly painful. I know this will only be a temporary fix for that, or maybe I won't feel like I belong in this particular group at all, but at least I will have tried, I will have given myself the chance to learn how to live and function in a community, how to communicate and how to resolve conflicts (a skill which I desperately want to get better at). And deep down I know there's no right or wrong choice here. By going I'll gain something wonderful. And also by staying I would gain something wonderful. But when I'm on the move, there isn't this amount of existential angst and lack of purpose. Then my purpose is to travel, to get more in touch with myself, to stay in the moment. Here, I have no purpose. I'm a jobless hippie who's stuck in a mire of imaginary problems. And who's being way too hard on herself. So I'll go.

Often I also think whether I'd like to redo my blue/red pill choice. I'm pretty sure I'd still take the pill of self-and consciousness development. But boy is it a hard road and feels damn lonely sometimes. I'm still confident there is a more lasting balance to be found. And I know it won't be in workshops but in "real life", whatever that is. The workshops help, but they are tools. But damn easy tools to get hooked on. I'm trying to find that balance and I will get there. Or I am there already, actually. I've just forgotten I am. But I will remember.

27 June 2016

Osho Tapoban – Meditation and a horde of monkeys

The last stop on my journey before returning to Europe was a 21 day meditation retreat on the Nagarjuna hills, on the outskirts of Kathmandu. The place is called Osho Tapoban, and they offer week-long retreats, 3 week packages or just a regular meditation schedule which anyone can attend to for as long as they want to. I signed up for 1 week of vipassana, which means silent sitting meditation, followed by two "normal" weeks and an almost week of "no mind" programme (more of that later) before my flight to Finland on the 6th of June.

Meditation hall

I'd really been looking forward to the retreat, but of course things weren't that simple. I had quite a lot of resistance still, mainly to the fact that we had to buy robes for the meditation, one maroon for the daytime sessions and one white for the evening satsang (which I ended up using maybe 4 times, since my mind often convinced me that after a full day of meditation, a couple of episodes of Agents of SHIELD would be a better idea than to listen to Osho videos). The cheapest ones didn't cost that much, but in principle I have a problem with the fact that I had to buy an outfit to be able to attend something. It does have a unifying aspect to it and I got used to wearing mine pretty quickly (plus having to wash the damn thing was a good excuse for not attending some sessions I didn't feel like going to ;)) so it was all ok in the end, though.

Vipassana is all about getting still: sitting in silence and being the observer. In the beginning it's easiest to start by observing your body, not giving in to the mind's impulses of moving this part or that, or scratching an itch. And learning to disregard the creeping discomfort which starts inevitably at some point during the 1 hour sessions (if you don't choose to sit on a chair which was also an option, but I found it too easy to nod off on a chair, so I tried to stick to the cross-legged posture). After that we move on to observing the breath, coming in and going out. And after that, we try to catch the thoughts as they emerge, and observe them. The point isn't to stop the thoughts, but just stay the observer and not get carried away by them. But getting carried away is also fine, it's all a matter of learning and practicing. And it does get easier: I had some wonderful calm periods when there were either no thoughts or I could spot them when they started and move my attention back to watching my breath straight away. Yay!

I also chose to be in silence during vipassana week, which is the "normal" way to go when doing vipassana, but there in the centre I think there were only 2 people who actually did it, myself included. I also gave up internet for that time, which was a challenge, especially in the beginning when my mind was going "AAAARGH WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE, THIS ISN'T WHAT I WANT" and trying to convince me to spend the last days of this leg of the trip by indulging in something "fun" instead of sitting on my ass and observing the movements of my mind. There was even a bird whose call seemed to be "POKHARA, POKHARA" which is a lovely area some 200 km west of Kathmandu, were I could've gone hiking and just being in nature... A tad tricky, trying to concentrate on meditation when there's a real life, feathery reminder outside, trying to persuade me to abandon the meditation ship and swim ashore to the island of earthly delights.

 The mind really doesn't want us shining the light of awareness on it and seeing what it's up to, trying to make us believe all sorts of things that just aren't true. But I persisted. The actual silence in the retreat wasn't as difficult as internet-silence, since most of the residents were locals or indians and spoke mainly Hindi, so there wasn't a danger of me being pressed into joining a conversation. Things got trickier when my friend from Koh Phangan, K, arrived, since of course I wanted to share my experiences and thoughts with her, but I persevered, only cheating with a couple of written notes ;). Her arrival also lessened my isolation, as now I could be around people who were talking in English and even "take part" in conversations, which K was having for me, introducing me to people :D. It was a lot of fun actually, and the first day after I broke my silence was also a cool experience as I actually wanted to talk, which is something I struggle with quite often.

There were a couple of westerners and younger people around as well, so we spent some time hanging out with them, doing some sunset treks and escapes to Thamel. A really nice bunch of people, but for some reason I didn't feel that big of a connection with them (not including my lovely K). Probably it was just me, not really making the effort either, but it felt that more conversations and a deeper connection would have meant more pushing, and I felt quite ok being in my own little bubble, enjoying the solitude, silence and relative emptiness of the mind and concentrating on the meditation (ok, and Agents of SHIELD and food blogs, towards the end ;)).

Osho posse

Sunset walk

The meditations were interesting, especially the dynamic one which always started the morning. It involved 10 minutes of fast, deep breathing to get the energy moving, 10 minutes of letting loose all the madness inside by howling, screaming, shaking, talking gibberish etc., 10 minutes of jumping with arms raised, going "huh" and concentrating on adding onto the life energy in our "hara", our center, located in the lower stomach (according to this branch of belief), then standing still with the arms still raised for 15 minutes and in the end dancing for 15 minutes. A challenging meditation, but a very good one, and good exercise to start the day with. I only held my arms up the whole 15 minutes a couple of times, but I still showed myself that I can do it if I choose to. I don't think anyone actually did the whole 15 minutes... But I did howl and scream like a banshee. Ah, fond memories: screaming like a madman in the middle of Nepalese jungle, wearing a maroon sannyasi (a person dedicated to meditation) robe, surrounded by a bunch of monkeys. What weird places this life takes me to! Gotta love it.

The last week was a therapy week with a program called "No mind", which entailed an hour (!) of the madness-howling/gibberish/whatever your body wanted or needed to express followed by an hour of silent sitting. It was very interesting to see what kinds of stuff came up and let itself be felt and experienced through crying, shouting, punching a pillow or just talking gibberish. An intense 5 days of purification, experiencing sadness and letting it go, moments of pure joy and strength and belief in myself. I highly recommend the experience! And I don't think I've ever screamed at the top of my lungs anywhere. That kind of noise just isn't fit for the modern society we live in. Not even in our summer houses can we actually make as much noise as we want; there are always neighbors around who will complain if you start your days by screaming and shouting all your trapped madness out. I think I could've done it in Karnataka when I was trekking in the jungle as it was pretty deserted, but I didn't have this technique in my repertoire back then. It is very very liberating, let me tell you. Everyone should have a go. But no wonder the Nagarjuna hill monkeys seemed a bit looney, having to listen to that day in and day out :D

Getting to know the neighbors

The monkeys, them I won't miss. They were everywhere: intimidating us into dropping our trays when we were trying to put our leftovers in the trash bin. Snatching our morning bananas. Digging through the garbage and sending the tiny ones for deep-dives in the leftovers bin. Running around on the roofs making a lot of noise and hanging from the power cables. Stealing laundry and shoes. And just generally getting into all sorts of monkey business. I learned that it isn't wise to look a monkey in the eyes, as they tend to take it as a challenge and come at you, hissing. Yes, they hiss. Also eating inside your room with your curtains open isn't a wise move, if you don't want a bunch of monkeys sitting on your window sill, trying to get the window latches open. Yes, we were technically in their forest, but they still creeped the hell out of me. No, they are not cute, no matter what you say to try to convince me. But I managed, and did actually only get touched by one once. And I don't think anyone got bit ;).

So, all in all the meditation experience gave me plenty. It gave me a chance to be kind to myself and not judge myself for not taking part in everything that was on offer. It gave me a chance to observe my mind and get glimpses at the deep stillness that lies beyond all the traffic noise of the thoughts. It gave me a chance to experiment with the amount of social contact I need. And it gave me a chance to get more closely acquainted with a horde of monkeys.

Before leaving Nepal I stayed in Thamel long enough to go drink a ridiculously sugary and delicious coffee frappe, buy last minute souvenirs and do a bungee jump and a canyon swing adventure. Because sometimes a moment appears in a girl's life, when a bungee jump just seems like a necessity. On normal standards it doesn't really seem to make a whole lot of sense: travelling 4 hours on a bus to jump off a 160 m high bridge, have a mediocre lunch and then travel back 4 hours. But normal life is boring and mad people are the most interesting ones, so off I went. Wow, what a thrill! There's really nothing like it (well, before I've tried paragliding and skydiving, which are on the menu next). And no, it doesn't feel anything like flying. It feels like falling like a rock. And you don't really remember that much afterwards for all the adrenaline, so the videos they shoot are quite useful. We also wore a GoPro camera so we could shoot our experience first hand. Very neat, although the prices of the videos weren't that cheap. But hey, the package did include a T-shirt :D. If you're ever in Nepal and in search for some adventure thrills, go check out The Last Resort. They also do white water rafting and canyoning!

The bridge of doom
Does your soul tell you it's a good idea to jump, when you see a view like this?

As I'm writing this, I'm sitting in the flat of one of my best friends since University times and listening to the rain beating on the windowpanes. My time in Finland is almost done, only week to go before I return to Berlin. I've had a wonderful time, gained like 5 kilos with all the yummy stuff I've been ingesting, and will tell you all about it in the next post! Stay tuned :)