Before embarking on this trip, it was hard for me to answer when my friends and family asked why I was coming to Thailand for a yoga retreat. There were many reasons that I was unable to briefly summarize into a single response. I'd never been to Asia before. I felt called here because of my prior connection with Echo. I had seen friends traveling to Thailand and Bali (and posting photos of jungles and monkeys), and I was envious of their escapades. I wanted to be around people who were living creative, non-conventional lives and learn from them. But mostly, I thought, I liked practicing yoga, and Thailand seemed like an interesting location in which to do it.
On the first night of the retreat, we meditated together, and then took a moment to write down our intentions for the remainder of our time together. Why did I come here? What was I hoping to get out of this? I thought my answer would be a little more hands-off. Yoga and Thailand. Yoga in Thailand. Did I really need to say more? Throughout my journey, I've done this kind of thing many times—set intentions for the practice, notice how my body folds into various shapes, share meditative experiences with strangers and see how in a day they become close friends. Even when people cry or reveal hopelessly frustrated dark nights of the soul, I'm not surprised because my mind has been there, too. When it comes to journaling and holding hands in circles, I'm an old pro.
But on that first night of focus, preparing for a week of what I hoped would provide clarity and a light on the path to bliss, my mind's eye revealed something more. I always like to pretend that I'm an expert at things, exceedingly nervous to show flaws in whatever I'm meant to be knowledgable about. Yoga, meditation, travel—no big deal for me! I'm a teacher! I've been to 30 countries! However, during meditation that night, after a week of flying over countries and oceans, carrying heavy backpacks, and taking in so much of the external world, it felt so welcoming to return to my mat. Even though I was a full twelve hours time difference from where I normally live, I was grounded. I was home.
As I sat there trying to settle on an intention or a reason to write on my little slip of paper, I could finally see the childlike part of me that was kneeling in the presence of these timeless teachings, patiently and earnestly hoping to see and learn. I didn't need to try to sound cool, experienced, or knowledgeable with a load of classes, workshops, and explorations under my belt. I'm here because there's so much that I haven't seen and so much that I don't know. I saw clearly the innocence in me of someone who never feels like an expert, who has found that the road to self-discovery is as challenging as it is rewarding. My intention in that moment, which remains with me as I write this now, is to hold onto that vision of myself, and to recognize it in everyone around me. I want to realize the unblemished wonder with which we are all encountering this world, and look past any disguises, fancy language, or walls that get in the way. And then, of course, to see some monkeys, too.