Hello dear readers.
I am writing from Pai, a lovely little town in the north of Thailand. After staying in Chiang Mai for the last few weeks - technically a city but which felt more like a sprawled town - Pai seems even more relaxed and laidback.
Slightly bigger than I imagined, Pai is a beautiful place that has a strong hippy or 'alternative' vibe to it. Everyone here seems to take things slow, and the pace of life is set to snail-speed. This has been such a relaxing and enlightening part of my trip.
Before deciding to come to Pai I booked myself onto a 5 day Reiki and Spiritual Awakening Retreat which I thought sounded intriguing. I've experienced Reiki in the past and have taken two courses back home but I wanted to extend my knowledge and deepen my experience of this type of healing. Although I'm still pretty skeptical about the beliefs and benefits of Reiki I tried to go into this course with an open mind and an equally open heart.
On the sunday before the course began I met up with Julie, the Reiki teacher, and a lady called Nadine from Canada who was also doing the course. Julie took us both up to our accommodation which was out of town. Little did I know that we would be staying at a Pihrana Fishing Guesthouse! We were taken down a steep dirt track and I was expecting the worst, but to my surprise the place was lovely; quiet, scenic and very relaxed. Our rooms were little hut type buildings with open air bathrooms - quite interesting waking up in the night to spend a penny and finding a collection of fallen leaves, twigs and insects scattered on the bathroom floor! On my first night I had two cockroaches scurrying around, some massive ants and a millipede, all of which I killed (yes, I know it's barbarous of me, but if you think about it I'm just helping them on to their next life a little more quickly...).
All our meals were included in the price of the course, so the first night we had stirfried thai mixed veg with cashew nuts and rice, and vegatable tempura. We were fed so well while were there - three big meals a day, all of them absolutely delicious. The guy who owns the place is british and has been out here for 10 years with his thai partner, Nat, and their gorgeous little girl. Nat's cooking was sensational. Her chips were gorgeous and she cooked us amazing thai yellow curries and tofu broths. We had spaghetti bolognaise one night with home made garlic bread which was divine: and coming from someone who doesn't normally like it that's saying something! I met up with Chris later, Nadine's partner and the only other person on the course. It actually turned out really well that there were only three of us (four including Julie) as we got more time for treatments and were able to have more time to ask questions about what we were learning.
Our first day consisted of some introductory meditations to open our heart chakras (energy centres) and balance our other 6 chakras. We also had one of two attunements where you are opened up to higher frequencies of energy vibration (this is where my skeptical, rational mind starts to go into overdrive). Anyway, I was expecting to feel nothing as I layed down and waited for Julie to come over, waft some symbols in my aura and attune me to the reiki energy. But to my surprise it was quite an overwhelming experience...I felt a massive surge of tingling all over my body and then got a massive wave of emotion come over me. I started crying and had to leave the room! Apparently the shape of the building - The Healing Pyramid as it's known - which is on one of my photos, is meant to amplify the natural energy and some stange things have happened in there, so Julie told us!
The rest of the week was a mixture of meditation; personal treatments in which we practiced healing each other; another attunement, which was also very powerful; some lovely treatments including thai massage, crystal theray and cranio sacral therapy (still not quite sure what that is though!), and a final fire ceremony to end the retreat. For the fire ceremony we all had to go and buy earthy foods that we could burn in thanks to the earth, lots of incense and candles. It was all a bit pagan and weird but I went along with it. We were told we could write down things we wanted closure from, and also things we wanted to manifest in our lives, so I had a massive list and threw that in too. The fire itself was really interesting - it burned for ages and smelled really sweet and nutty. I threw in some cookies that I bought (after having already eaten one of them and deciding they were delicious) as I thought it would be good to sacrifice something I enjoyed and found pleasurable to hopefully get more in return! A little bit of cookie sweetness for a lot of spiritual recompense: I think that's a pretty fair exchange.
Anyway, despite not feeling anything while doing the healings, and despite not believing whole-heartedly in all the hocus pocus, the retreat itself was very interesting and enjoyable. It's given me time to think about where I am mentally and spiritually, but also emotionally (especially so). I've had to face up to some important truths that I've been aware of for a long time but have either been afraid or in denial of. I think the real healing will take place when I'm back home and have to put into practice all I've learned on the trip.
I'm grateful to have met Nadine and Chris. They were such a relaxed couple and so interesting to talk to. We made a few nice trips to the local waterfalls in between treatments, and Chris helped me get used to my scooter (yes, I've been riding a scooter!), which I had to hire to get around. They gave me lots of advice on personal stuff, and I'm really going to try and keep in touch with them. They may be in england next summer so I'll make sure I'm around to meet them (that's if I'm not back in Vietnam already!).
I'm back with my friend Rosie now and we're sharing a cute little wooden house by the river. We're staying in Pai tonight and then going to a Buddhist meditation retreat about 30mins away where you can meditate in caves! We're planning to stay there for a couple of nights, then head back down to Chiang Mai where Rosie will depart to Laos and I will remain, hopefully to do a bit more Reiki at a volunteer place that Chris and Nadine recommended: you get to go to local hospitals and old people's homes to give them treatments, so that should be different...
I'm off to find some mango and sticky rice (Becky, I've only had it twice this whole trip - can you believe it?!).
Love and life, x