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.
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.
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.
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!
Landing in Egypt today marks a return to work. Here are some of the exciting things lined up for the next couple of months:
* October Classes at The Shala & Ashtanga Yoga Egypt
* October 30-November 2 Ashtanga in Aswan w/ Iman Elsherbiny at Fekra Cultural Center
* November 9-14 Nun Center Detox & Yoga Retreat
* November 19-23 Siwa Yoga Adventure w/ Iman & Freedom Travelers
More are in the pipeline. Will post info as soon as.
If you would like to join or would like more information, email at email@example.com.
It’s surreal to be back in Manila, an entire year since I first set off. Again, coming to full cycle.
So ends an incredible journey of both teaching and learning, which has taken me to North Yorkshire, the Spanish Pyranees, Barcelona, Japan, Egypt, Barcelona again, London, and Cairo for a second time. So ends a series of sharing in Egypt, so begins new opportunities to share and grow. So ends a year of travel, so starts a new adventure. Always: the end is the beginning.
Over a week ago, I was leading a retreat in Gouna, Egypt through Nūn Center. There, away from life in Cairo, overlooking the Red Sea, we found respite from the day-to-day madness. We were coaxed deeply into process: the detox diet coupled with yoga and inner dance facilitated some deep purging. Some kilos, tears, and a lot of old limiting ideas were shed. We were all sad to see this special time come to an end.
In truth, however, the end of the retreat marks the beginning of the real work ahead: the challenge of how to bring the lessons and impressions of that week into our “real” everyday existence. Returning “home” carries the weight of our old samskaras, our old patterns.
Sometimes, these cycles may make us feel like we are on some strange loop, things interminably repeating. And we struggle when we see that we ended up exactly where we started.
But nothing stays exactly the same. Change is inevitable–even if we appear to be revisiting a similar place or moment. One teacher/friend likes to point out that these cycles become more and more refined over time. It’s true; as I sit in my old room here in my family home, where nothing appears much to have changed, I cannot help but notice the biggest difference: me! I am different, and through me, things will continue to change.
PHOTO: Closing Circle for the Ashtanga Yoga & Detox Retreat with Nūn Center in Gouna, Egypt.
I love it when yoga and inner dance are a surprise. Yoga, particularly, has hit the mainstream. We all know what it quote-unquote looks like, and from there extrapolate certain ideas. But when we really experience it, everything changes…
It’s a little like walking down a long pier and then getting to the end and seeing the expanse of the sea before us. We can look at it. Observe its beauty. Be in awe of it. We can take in its coolness, its freshness with our eyes.
Or, with a little courage, a little effort, we can walk to the pier’s edge, and plunge in, bathing in the cool clarifying waters, being surrounded by it, being in it. It is a different experience altogether.
The sea and its depths may continue to be a mystery, but we have a deeper (more sea-level) understanding of it. There is an experience of the sea, which often–in the yoga tradition–is a metaphor for Consciousness–with a capital “C”.
Yesterday, when we closed the Ashtanga Yoga and Detox Retreat in Gouna with Nūn Center, more than a few people expressed what a wonderful surprise the whole process was, particularly the yoga and inner dance process, how both supported the detox but also opened up the body, heart and mind.
I loved teaching this group for a week. A week program gives people time. It allows to people to slowly get their feet wet, to take a dip, then wade, until they are ready to dive.
Into the sea. Of consciousness. Of change.
PHOTO: Steps to the ocean. Off the pier near Sharaton Miramar’s Palace, the setting of the week-long retreat. A beautiful end to a very special time here in Egypt. And I think also a beautiful beginning, no, many beautiful beginnings… Gratitude abounds!
Yesterday, just past the halfway mark of the Yoga and Detox Retreat here in Gouna, a retreat participant shared her surprise at the emotions which were coming out of the process (juice fast, bodywork, yoga…). Some issues she had thought she was well past. I could not help but smile a little. Yes, I thought, this is also a part of the process.
I will always remember my first trip to study ashtanga in Mysore, India and how subtly and dramatically it worked on me. It was a breakthrough, with emphasis on “break.”
I recall how the months passed softly, beautifully undramatic. And then, quite suddenly, close to the end of my third and final month, I found myself crying over my favorite Indian breakfast, triggered by one little question: how are you today?
Not much had changed really. Life was still good. The practice was amazing–somehow, however, it had facilitated crucial movement, it had stirred some very old stories. And these old stories continued to cast their shadow…
How this usually obscure shade on the ground, when I looked properly, was quite a telling reflection of me, triggering what was the beginning of an epic healing journey.
We all cast some kind of shadow. It is a reflection of us, but not who we are. When we notice these shadow sides, it is an opportunity to recognize who we really are as opposed to what we are not. And as we change, so do our shadows.
PHOTO: Today, I love my shadow, as pictured at a pier here in Gouna, Egypt. It’s been a very special time here at the Nūn Center Yoga & Detox Retreat. I am totally inspired by these group of participants, who are taking this opportunity to shed unnecessary weight in the body, mind and spirit. It’s been wonderful supporting this process with yogasana, meditation, pranayama, chanting and inner dance.
This week I am in Gouna. And all around me, there is water: inviting poolsides, the Red Sea, the manmade lagoons that break the desert landscape here with different shades of cooling blue.
I am here to lead the yoga program for Nun (pronounced “Noon”) Center’s Yoga and Detox Retreat. Nun, it turns out, comes from the idea of water. Nun spells out the ancient letter N, the hieroglyphic symbol of which looks like waves on water, like so: VVVVVVV.
Water is a powerful element. Without it, life would be impossible. In the Pharaonic tradition, water is the source of life. From the water, the lotus came into existence and from the lotus, light, everything… Water is the primordial stuff, from which all is created.
And so, it feels apt, that we return to the water. To cleanse. To wash away the grime of daily urban existence. To deeply undo the unhealthy patterns of living, from the food we eat, the activities we engage in, the thoughts we have or the ideas we take in. To create new patterns: healthy and sustainable ways of engaging with our bodies, our emotions, our minds, the food we eat…
It is said that water has memory and that it is a great conductor of information. So, I’m excited. It feels a little like we are diving into this great transformative soup, with many elements to support positive shifts: the different aspects of yoga (yogasana, meditation, breathing, chanting) combined with inner dance, nutrition (organic food, vegan or juice fasting), and body work.
We jump in the water, so to speak, later this afternoon. I am eager to get in, to see the waves on water, to experience the ripples of transformation.
PHOTO: Gouna, Egypt, the site for this week-long yoga and detox retreat with Cairo’s Nun Center.