Shifting Sand

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Yesterday, I took a walk on the beach in Soma Bay before our last afternoon class. Just the day before, I led our yoga group on a meditation walk at the very same spot. And I was struck by how much the landscape had changed, how the sea and tides had reshaped the sand. It was so different from the previous day; it was another world.

Everything changes. When we surrender to the flow, when we stop resisting the natural forces that move us, we simply shift.

Leaving Soma Bay now and as I reflect at the week that passed, I can see how everyday was different. How the various elements (detox diet, treatments, meditation, community, yoga) have been forces that have worked subtly on each participant. How, as our inner-scape changed, so did the body, the face, the light in our eyes.

Yes, everything changes like the beach constantly resculpted and reformed by the tide.

PHOTO: Beach, Soma Bay, Red Sea, Egypt. Grateful for the shifts this week.

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Natural Teacher

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Nature is a great teacher.

So many inspiring lessons from the Nun Center Yoga and Detox Retreat at Soma Bay. One afternoon meditation we took the class to the great outdoors, meeting on the beach before sunset for a walking meditation.

There, each participant walked quietly, with presence and awareness, each taking their own time to feel each barefoot step on the sand as the Red Sea lapped at the shore, meeting at one spot where the sun ducked behind the mountain ranges.

With little instruction other than to breathe, to feel their feet and be in the present moment, each person set off on their own small journey.

Each experience was different from the another, but what was clear was how nature became their teacher that afternoon. How the sand, the water, the epic far off mountain ranges, the air and the sun took part in a range of subtle and spectacular lessons. How when we relax into nature, it holds us, and leads the way.

Nature is a great teacher.

PHOTO: Retreat participant Amber and her son Jonas watching the sunset at the end of our walking meditation.

Seeing Shadows

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It’s interesting how when on long retreats or long periods of intense practice inevitably the dark shadows come.

Not that darkness itself comes, but
rather how in all the brightness and illumination, we see more clearly the shadow self: the dark egoistic tendencies, our repeating issues and patterns, old but not so forgotten sadnesses and bad feelings.

Not that we are meant to dwell on these things, but rather as we see them for what they are, we become less scared or intimidated or bothered by them. It is only a shadow after all. And there, we are able to move on.

Coming to the end of this week long yoga and detox retreat with Nun Center here at Soma, I’m reminded of how seeing these dark versions of ourselves are really gifts of light and vision. That clarity in the heart and mind comes from really truly deeply seeing.

In my way, I am excited by all the shadows that surfaced and by the courage and openness and exploration such shadows inspired in our wonderful group here. Everything is a gift. We simply must be open enough to receive it.

PHOTO: My own shadow on the beach here at Soma Bay, Egypt, which has been a lovely setting for a retreat.

The Yoga Bridge

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For nearly a week, three times a day, I’ve been meeting with our Yoga and Detox group here at The Thalasso Spa Soma Bay yoga room, unimpressively called Gym 2.

From day 1, we’ve been building something, though at the start, well, it seemed indistinguishable.

Bits and pieces if this thing we call yoga. Shapes and forms with the body. Sanskrit Mantras. Breathing techniques. Meditation.

And with our group of mostly beginners, some entering the retreat midstream, even I wondered at the mysterious structure, I wondered how the yoga portion of the retreat would take form.

Now, nearing the end, I see that we have been building a bridge. That in this setting of detox, of clearing the body and mind and emotions, of letting go, the yoga practice has been about building a bridge between one way of seeing, living and being to another more wholistic approach.

We are between two varying paths. Yoga is a bridge. And I’m looking forward to seeing myself and this group on the other side.

PHOTO: Bridge at Soma Bay. Excited to lead the group over this bridge later on our afternoon walking meditation. Though the retreat is soon coming to an end, I know that whatever has started here will continue to move people forward. Happy to also know I will continue to have contact through classes as NUN Center this month and an Ashtanga and Inner Dance Workshop there at the end of the month. It’s going to be great!

Into the Horizon

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There is a point where the beginning and the end is indistinguishable.

Yesterday, as I looked into the horizon, I wondered if the pier here at Soma Bay ended at the horizon or whether it simply kept on and on beyond my scope of vision?

As humans, we like to look towards the ends of things; we like to draw conclusions. We live with end goals in mind. We look towards the event at the horizon as some kind of finishing.

This is a constant battle in life and in practice. How do we fully be present in the moment when we are constantly looking beyond? How do we motivate ourselves in the present without constantly grasping at some projected future, allowing expectation to creep in, as does desire, followed by the accompanying suffering when things don’t go our way. How do we come to the mat, make our best effort, without grasping at the idea that we will conquer that supposed next penultimate posture, the next promotion, the next accolade?

Looking out at the horizon here yesterday really got me thinking. How irresistible it is, this wanting to look beyond where I stand at the present moment. But also how this insatiable need to go beyond supports the recognition that there is simply more. But what if this something more isn’t about finishing a race, what if it is about reaching a point where all things meet, like that point in the horizon, where the sky, the ground, the sea, all of it come together, where all ends and beginnings meet?

PHOTO: Pier at Soma Bay. First full day of our Yoga & Detox Retreat. Classes Today is about exploring this thing called yoga, what it means to be in yoga, to be in that precious state of union.

Inner and Outer Magic

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Recent Aswan Retreat is a reminder of the rich connection between our inner and outer worlds, how one reflects the other, how we can use nature and our environment to access the mysterious and ever expansive world within.

Teaching at Fekra Cultural Center which sits right on the Nile, swimming in the powerful and refreshing Nile itself, visiting Isis temple Philae and meditating on the idyllic islands on the Nile has been about deepening such connections; how a place can help us access our essential nature, which though always with us, we often feel cut off from in the bustle of everyday life.

This, for me, is the power of retreat. It’s a moment for us to give ourselves space to be with ourselves. To remember who we are. To deepen our relationship with our own heart and soul.

Leading such retreats has been a great blessing and an incredible reminder that maintaining a healthy body, heart and mind is related to maintaining a healthy relationship with this incredible outer world, a great mirror and tool for self-exploration.

Grateful for the Aswan retreat a couple of weekends ago and excited for the two retreats ahead: NUN Center’s Yoga and Detox here at Soma Bay which starts today and and the Siwa Yoga Retreat coming up on the 19 of November.

For more info on the upcoming programs, call 01008330269 or email: kaz.castillo@gmail.com.

PHOTO by Hazem Khamis. Taken during one stop during our boat tour of the Nile. This beautiful beach/sanctuary was the powerful setting of a chakra meditation led by Iman Elsherbiny and an Inner dance (pictured here) by myself. Classic case of how nature supports the inner exploration; everyone dove deeply into the ID process. Gratitude abounds.

Being the Instrument

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We sit in a circle of sound
closing our eyes, returning
to some sweet source
where the heart sings
And soars…

A beautiful full moon evening yesterday at The Shala as we gathered to belt out the soulful sounds of devotional Sanskrit. Although most were new to the practice of Kirtan, we all naturally took off in song, a testament on the sheer harmonizing power of this yoga practice.

More to come: Amy and I have one more Kirtan together before I leave Egypt at NUN Center in Zamalek on Friday, November 28, 7:30pm.

PHOTOS: Aum Mural at The Shala here in Maadi. And the sacred circle last night.