If you’re looking for a retreat programme that will enable you to powerfully connect with your own heart and reignite your passion for life, we highly recommend checking out Back to Life’s Wellness Retreat, which will take place from March 13th to 15th in Bobbio Retreat Centre, Magheramore, Co. Wicklow. Read on to learn all about it!
By Sigita Paliukaité
I flew to Thailand, straight to the islands. The way I planned it, this was supposed to be my time of peace, laziness and enjoyment, while resting on its white sand beaches and swimming in its blue waters. But suddenly, my journey turned into something unexpected and entirely different. It felt as if my world has shrunk from 3D to 2D.
Myanmar was such an experience! Travelling through timeless beauty and unspeakable poverty, seeing human conditioning and at the same time the vastness of forgiveness and kindness. I saw layers inside myself I wasn't aware of. And here, here I was, in a supposed paradise, packed with tourists, having a drink every evening. I started smoking again, was solely in my head, feeling lonely and totally separated. Something snapped inside me when I
arrived to Thailand. Once again, ego was the main participant in the play of life.
I can’t really explain why or how. Did I just absorb my surroundings, shape-shifting into what was around me? Myanmar was true and raw, and I was true and raw. And here in Thailand, on snow white beaches, looking at the sun mirror itself in sky blue waters, I was playing a part in my ego’s masquerade once again. Even if I hated it, even if I knew I hated it, I picked up and put on that heavy layered mask.
I was quite miserable for very petty, silly reasons (on top of spiritual, energetic or whatever relapse I was going through); such as people around me were all couples or families on holidays in their own private bubbles, or not being able to rent a motorbike and drive (have no driving licence. I know, shocking). I was stuck on the island, with waterfalls just in the mountains behind me which I’d never see (as my time and travels went on, I’ve visited countless stunning waterfalls, falling down in many tiers and swam in their pools, but back then, my mind kept me preoccupied with “wanting and not getting”).
And then I heard of this island; a few square kilometres, a handful of locals, electricity after dusk until midnight, only one place on the whole island, at the end of the beach, with a few bungalows to rent. It sounded exactly what I need. So I made my way there. I was scammed on the boat ride, only to find out that the night in a bungalow would cost me
€30! I couldn’t help myself though, as it was to be my ultimate island experience, the one I’d dreamed of and imagined all my life. So I made a decision to use my whole journey’s funds on about two weeks’ budget and have this experience. I booked myself in for three nights, for my long anticipated peace and quiet.
And I hated it! The water was too shallow for a swim and there were odd creatures (sea cucumbers as I learned later) on the bottom of the sea. There was no breeze and the heat was just too much. Drinking water was not included in the bungalow price and my silence disappeared with long-tail boats with snorkelers coming close to the shore from late morning until sunset; I was so uncomfortable there all the time. Expectations! Hadn’t I learned yet?
One of those days, I realised something of great importance. Well, it wasn’t like I haven’t heard it before, but perhaps I needed to learn through my own, however painful, experience rather than in theory; There is no peace without only within. I’d been looking in the totally wrong place!
I remembered a split second of peace, like nothing I’d felt before, which I experienced when I was having an anxiety attack (yes, I hear the irony!) back in Myanmar. I just allowed all that was to be. After such a powerful revelation you’d imagine me to shift towards where that revelation was pointing at, right? No such thing! Every time I tried to ground myself in it or meditate – I’d pass out to sleep! And I knew very well, that was the ego’s response, when it’s
about to be degraded, but I couldn’t help it, the grip was too strong.
So there I was, awfully uncomfortable. Unable to move. Just hoping I’d come out of it eventually. I was feeling so paralysed. I was incapable of even thinking about where I would head to next. And so I extended my very expensive suffering for longer… How bizarre! Two unbelievable things happened that day – to wake me up, to open my eyes to seeing that one-way traffic bridge from within to without.
In the late morning, I was walking on a long, empty beach and a massive coconut fell from a palm tree onto my footsteps, just a second after I’d passed. It gave me a good scare! And that night, I witnessed contraband being brought from a ship to the island. Three small boats came to the shore, soundless and in complete darkness – no lights, no torches, nothing – from a French ship anchored farther away in the sea (I presumed it was a French ship, because I saw the crew on the island earlier that day and I heard them speak French. I knew three little boats came from there because I saw the ship well-lit just before midnight, men unloading cargo onto small boats). They came straight to the beach where I was sitting, watching stars, alone. Men carried large heavy crates in silence, to golf carts, waiting by the beach in (again!) complete darkness. We all pretended not to notice each other’s company – twelve black ghostly silhouettes, bent beneath the weight they carried, soundlessly crossing the beach, and me, sitting on the sand, “star-watching”, exposed and thinking I’d be murdered that night. I’d sensed from the first day there was something fishy about the whole island, there were too many odd, little details that just didn’t add up. However, I don’t want to go too deep into speculations now, and none of them in fact matter here in my tale. So that night I finally knew – the universe is telling me something loud and clear. I knew the message straight away!
My last morning in Myanmar, I was having breakfast in a guesthouse when a Buddhist monk appeared from somewhere and gave me a little card, with hand writing in English that said “those who are present will never die, but whose who live in past or future, are already like the dead.” Now, life was showing me the direction, was telling me that there's only one “real” reality and that is present moment, but I still didn’t live it. So coconuts fell on my footsteps and danger found itself on my path…
I kept island hopping for three more weeks, stayed on seven islands and visited many more. I experienced the beauty of turquoise waters, countless sunrises and sunsets setting the sky on fire, white sand as soft as powder, mountains covered in jungle, cliffs, tropical flowers, fireflies, stars in the night sky. I swam in beautiful coral reefs, with big and small fish of all the colours of the rainbow, with little sharks and sting rays, and with a huge white sea-turtle. The islands were mesmerizing! But I will remember it as the time when I was the most lonely…
That “ultimate island experience” shed a lot of light onto some questions I hadn’t even verbalized properly back then. But, clearly, the teachings and teachers are always provided, we just don’t recognise them, or we get disappointed because they’re very often not the ones we would like or expect to learn from. “Our experiences are never suffering. We just choose to suffer our experiences.” These are not my words, but profound insights of a wise man whose book I was reading at that time.
I was talking to a friend of mine, who is on her own quest far away across the ocean, by the end of my third week in the islands and she made a very good point. She told me to acknowledge how symbolic "island" is. The same friend asked me then, how my heart was? Have you ever been asked this question? It baffled me. After an audit my reply was “overlooked…watching the mind dance.” I surprised myself by how clearly and easily, without any internal earthquake to shake feelings and force insights to become more vivid, just in a conversation with a friend, I truly saw it as something cardinal – my ‘heart’, my core. And that was as far as I figured. How to identify with my heart, not my mind – I did not know. That was the end of the rational road. And all I could do was hope for grace.
After days of denial, I finally saw “island” for what it was- a mistaken choice to look for peace in the outside world of expectations- and took a ferry to the main land.
Cherishing Love Amidst Loss
By Elva Carri
This summer I lost someone I love. I count myself very fortunate that, until now, the only people I’ve lost who were dear to me, were elderly. I knew it was inevitable that one day that would no longer be the case and I felt that there was no way to prepare. In the sadness however, there were things that emerged as special, or a comfort. I realise that as humans, death is something we mostly prefer not to consider in our day to day lives, but it’s worthy of more of our time than we give it.
I DIDNT GET TO SAY GOODBYE
When I found out the news, this was what hit me hardest. I had shrouded myself in a belief that she would beat cancer, but it was all I could think about the day that I heard. I had the honour of reading at her funeral, one that celebrated her life very beautifully, and so I treated that as my farewell but it will never be the same as what I wished I would have done. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you didn’t have a moment to say goodbye, I would encourage you to find some way to do this. The tears that come feel like they need to happen.
WHAT STAYED WITH ME
I have carried two major things around with me since losing her. The first is sadness that she’s gone. The second is memories of her laughing and smiling and us talking together. For reasons that would take a while to explain, I can’t load the dishwasher without remembering our conversations fondly. I feel like she’s with me when I do that and I feel blessed that I had so much wonderful time with her. I am also so pleased that I can remember so vividly her face when she was really happy or laughing and I’ve sworn to now memorise those expressions of everyone I love.
THE NOD OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Nobody knows what to say to someone who’s lost someone they love. While this person was someone special to me, I didn’t know what to say to people she was even more special to – her husband and children whom I also love. I said whatever I could and hoped it would do. But at the funeral I noticed something that I never thought about before. At times in life, I’ve wondered if it would be “appropriate” for me to go to someone’s funeral. Hundreds of people arrived at hers and the number felt like an acknowledgement of the size of the hole left in the world that day. Even if no one had said a word, I felt it marked the size of the loss. I’d beg you to keep it in mind the times you may be considering if it’s appropriate to go to someone else’s.
There is a Bahá’í quote that says, “I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve?” While it seems unusual, it gained some clarity for me through this occasion. I remembered the laughter and the smiles and the warmth, I spent time with other people I love, joined together in marking the excellent life of a woman we all cherished and it has put a dedicated servant of the world to the fore of my mind for me to work to live up to. For that, I’m grateful to have known someone so hard to lose.
Relationships ending can be difficult, especially when it’s with someone with whom we’ve been very close, shared dreams and hopes with and imagined a future together.
Our souls choose the teachings we need in order to grow and often our greatest growth can come through our personal, intimate relationships. Yet we still need to deal with the pain, hurt and anger when these relationships come to an end.
We need to recognise the deep effect this has upon us, on so many levels. This is where a ‘Separation Ritual’ can be so powerful in bringing closure to the relationship. I create a sacred space, where the couple comes together in ceremony to release, recognise and acknowledge the roles each took in the other’s life.
I hold the space for the couple, first to talk and then release, the dreams that they each had shared and worked upon, both in the partnership and that each had held for the other; moving on to thanking each other, for the lessons and the gifts that they had brought to one another.
I have found, over the years, that sharing this Rite of Passage with either one, or hopefully both partners of the relationship, gives each the opportunity to recognise the cycle of birth, growth and death within the relationship and from this, many have found they can grow and move on, conscious of what they no longer need to carry forward into future relationships. I offer this as a new Rite of Passage which is sorely needed for heart-healing.
Amantha Murphy, Ancient Irish Shaman, Healer & Seer