The Yoga Experiment Part 2 – Koh Phangan, Thailand

A week ago, I spent my break at the beach snorkeling with some of my classmates. I got some great footage of schools of sunset colored parrotfish before my camera died. I was pretty bummed that my Olympus which was supposedly waterproof/shockproof didn’t hold up.

After a quick bit of internet research to find a fix, I found out I was not the only one with this glitch. Seems half the models out there are failing. So there is a good chance I won’t be able to post any more photos which is really too bad since there are so many once in a lifetime shots occurring. After four tries with this brand, I guess that is it for me and Olympus.

My second week of yoga school went well enough but it really got intense. We are advancing quickly adding harder asanas and 12 sets of sun salutations every day. There is much less theory and more practice. I have been struggling as my emotions are flipflopping everywhere. I am doing alright with the postures but its my head that is the problem. I can’t seem to focus no matter how hard I try. Infact, I would say it was easier the first week. Now my mind is rebelling in every way it knows how.

I can’t even begin to understand how some of these thoughts leak into my day. Things that happened when I was 6 are replaying themselves to me. Unfinished conversations I had with old mates present themselves again for consideration. Random outbursts of sharp judgmental thoughts about so and so doing such and such appall and embarrass my higher self. New and wonderful ways to solve all sorts of problems that I don’t even have pop up in my consciousness. Not to mention the no holds barred peanut gallery constantly critiquing my performance. “Monkey Mind” they call it but I would say mine is something more like a mosquito. Sucking my energy flitting around uncontrollably with that ever annoying buzz you just can’t get away from.

I did make a few positive steps forward with my practice which kept my morale high enough to make it to Saturday. The soles of my feet have stopped burning and I am able to stand stone still for at least 20 seconds. My balance seems to have improved which makes a huge difference in postures like cakrasana and sarvangasana. I am surprised at how quickly I got the somewhat intimidating shoulder stand yet how far away I am from reaching the seemingly simple gomukhasana.

Since I am finding it such a challenge to tame my body and brain, I have helped myself to a generous slice of humble pie. There are certainly more overt ways to learn about humility and I’m grateful for chance to take the gentle path. I guess when it comes down to it, I need to stop comparing myself to others and quit trying to be perfect, whatever that means. I sense that Compassion is another significant training that is waiting in the wings eagerly.

Could it be that trying harder is not always the best way? Could my new mantra be to try *softer*? This is a brand new direction for me and it is a bit of a mind trip. Being accustomed to pressure cooker world that says bigger, faster, stronger = better, it is a real challenge to accept peace and harmony as another way. Having resigned myself to stress as the way to success, its hard to accept that there may be a more efficient (and possibly even more effective!?!) path of less resistance. It takes so much to *just walk*…when I know I can run and possibly even win the marathon. But then I remember, there is no race. And knowing that, I have already won.

Half way through my week, I had to do a visa run. This is one of the exciting routines that farangs (foreigners) living in Thailand, get to partake in once every few months. It involves crossing over a border (usually Malaysia or Burma, here in these parts), getting stamped out of Thailand, then into said country, then out of said country, then back into Thailand. The whole process took me only 10 minutes but it was the 20 hours of travel time that was the real pain.

Luckily I came upon an organized systematic border run which for 1900 baht (60 dollars) pretty much did everything for me. The price was right and it took all the guesswork out of what could have potentially been a headache and a half. I was glad to have taken the easy option. Having exhausted myself with the yoga, I don’t think it would have gone so smoothly had I gone it alone.

One snail slow six hour night boat, one really fast ten hour A/C van ride driven by a guy who calls himself Schumacher (!), four stamps in the passport, three coffees, four mini banana muffins, no sleep, two new friends, one 3 hour ferry later, I was home. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see my scooter waiting for me at the pier. Even though I had not even been gone a day, I was so relieved to be back on Ko Phangan. I tell you, island life is where it’s at.

Today I woke, stretched in the sun, picked several varieties of purple and yellow flowers in my garden, cut up some watermelon and papaya to eat with a splash of lime, and watched the guy next door try everything to knock a coconut down from the tree. A half hour later, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when he let out an unabashed victory “yeehaw!” proudly presenting his take to his lover. I went to town to pick up some fruit for the week and also found a purple hammock for 170 baht (5 dollars). What’s a beach house without a hammock? It only took me an hour to figure out how to put the thing up but I think I need to work on my knot skills.

Now Sunday is just about over and I am officially halfway through the course. I am feeling optimistic but a little nervous if I were to be completely honest. We’ve had some very interesting lectures and it has put a lot of questions in my mind. I am now contemplating things I have not ever imagined would enter my path. I suppose what will be, will be. I will keep plugging away and hopefully, the answers will present themselves.

Grateful for paradox.

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