Back at Pha Ngan

Hi Everyone!
About a week ago Azure took off and went back to Seattle, leaving me to travel alone for the last three weeks. We had a great time in Ko Pha Ngan (site of the jungle sauna) so I decided to come back and spend most of my time here. Body Mind & Soul:

Body – Yoga
I have this secret fear of looking back one day and saying, “That was when I was in the best shape of my life, and I’ll never be in that shape again.” So it’s a perpetual goal to be in the best shape of my life, at some point in the future (kinda like how “best case scenario” is always in the future, as I wrote at Thanksgiving after my bag was stolen). It’s optimism, I suppose.

So I went to a Hatha Yoga retreat in the middle of the island where there were, probably, 50 people practicing where the jungle meets the beach. 50 liberals. (myself included). It was very peaceful with the chants and the moving and the teacher talking and all that, but there was this chainsaw right outside the room that cut through you like the voice of a whining kid. It kept going, people tried to ignore it. People tried to center themselves and ignore the outside world…. eyes closed, focus on breathing and….

BOOOOOM! A tree came down right next to the practice area. It clearly jarred everyone because their faces looked like they’d witnessed an execution. Back to center, eyes closed again…. Breathing….

BOOOOOM! This time, a little closer. The students were starting to get uncomfortable, shifting in their poses here and there.

BOOOOOM! Finally, the instructor asked someone to go tell the tree murderers to stop. It was hilarious.

I don’t know if all Hatha Yoga is like this, but I hated this version. First, they told us to keep our eyes closed the entire time. I don’t know about you, but every good decision I’ve made has been made with my eyes wide open. Every realization, every relevent observation. (When we were in Laos the lights went out and it was SO COMPLETELY PITCH BLACK that by association I felt my eyelids must be closed on my eyes because that’s the only time you ever really see that blackness. I made that observation with my eyes open.) Second, there was just a hell of a lot of meditation going on – chanting, listening to “meditation music,” and straight silence. Third, I sat there and watched (against the rules) as people chanted in a dead language, bowed to the sun, listened as someone talked about our connections to the larger life forces around us. And I realized… it’s a religion. An almost organized religion for (us) liberals. So I bolted before I got a panic attack.

Then I discovered what I was looking for – Ashtanga Yoga. The Australian instructor kicked my ass. I was sweating before the warmups were over, I was in over my head physically and it forced me to raise my game mentally. And, the best part – the practice was held INSIDE the ring at a boxing school. Now THAT’S yoga.

Mind – Reading
I’ve been reading a lot and two of the books were Palm Sunday and Welcome to the Monkey House, both by Kurt Vonnegut. In Palm Sunday he gives this amazing commencement speech, part of which says that the most powerful form of meditation is reading. Instead of retreating into our own minds (as in yoga) we can actually share thoughts, read the minds – literally – of some of the most wise people who have ever lived. Or the most wicked or most talented or whatever. It’s available to us and we don’t even have to close our eyes.

Soul – Music & Writing
Ko Pha Ngan is known for their awful music, indirectly. So I was totally blown away to walk by a bar and hear some beautiful Hendrix I’d never heard. The DJ said the song was, “Blues.” I’ll have to look this up. It was a peaceful moment – Hendrix is/was such a magician. Then the DJ played some Bob Marley who I consider over-rated to an extreme matched only by U2. I don’t know about this place. There’s beauty and pollution.
I’ve also been writing a lot in my journal. I had the intention of writing letters to all my favorite authors (Vonnegut, Larry McMurtry, Daniel Quinn), but I don’t know what I’d say beyond “Please acknowledge me!” I think that’s what everyone wants, to an extent, so I shouldn’t feel bad about writing it.

I didn’t even write about my bungalow, and it’ll have to wait. Next time.

Take care everyone!

Mike

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