A Day at the Suan
It’s 5:30am and the light is barely starting to peek through the clouds,
depending on the season.
A loud vibration is sounding outside the walls of your bamboo living space. And even though you’re supposed to be on holidays, it feels oddly satisfying to get up this early knowing it’s with good reason – the health and well being of the soul. The comfiest bed you’ve slept on in Asia, maybe even in your life, is easy to leave for the day.
You brush your teeth and walk to the big house, up the stairs to the yoga shala. The mats have been mindfully set out by whomever is leading the class. You grab an extra cushion from the prop room so your hips can sit higher than your knees, allowing a comfortable sit through the morning meditation. The ring of a singing bowl starts practice.
Two hours later, the same sound awakens the class from savasana. We all sit up together and reflect. The tone has been set for the most […] of days. Insert whatever adjective you want it to be, it’s your own day to move through however you wish.
Walking down the stairs into the dining area, the kitchen angels have done it again. A luscious spread is laid of tropical fruit straight from the garden (the suan) or the local market. And waffles. Can’t forget the waffles. They never do. And chocolate sauce?! Are you sure this is vegan?!?! We assure you, it is.
The day is so ripe with possibility.
Read a book from the spiritual section of the library?
Attend the daily workshop?
Or have a creative romp at the ever abundant art table.
Define your “why” upon arrival.
Know why you’re here, and it will be easier to make those decisions.
But really, any choice you make will enrich your life in some way.
The flavors of lunch waft around the big house as 1:00 approaches. Meals around here are… bountiful. Plant-based local Thai cuisine, which is hardly easy to find anywhere else, mounds the dining table as we all gather to ground before diving into the pot of green curry.
Laughs are shared while washing up, and the idea of a nap in a hammock arises. Seems fitting as the jungle heat creeps in or an afternoon rainstorm rolls over the sky.
4:00 already? Well, 3:45 as the gong sounds for the afternoon session. Mmmm, this one is going to be delicious. Something slow and juicy to wind down the day.
Followed by dinner, it feels like much of what we do around here is eat. It’s where good conversation really happens, over that plate of stir fried veg and sticky rice.
Maybe there’s a movie afterwards or an ecstatic dance or a jam session with all of the instruments laying around. It’s okay if you don’t know how to play, just make noise with something. The fun is in the collaboration.
We all retire to bed, exhausted from the day and shocked that it’s only 9:30. We’re so used to staying up much later in our regular lives.
There’s just something about the jungle that gets us in tune with our natural rhythm…
Come find out what yours looks like in the Garden of Mindfulness.
Words by Kelsey Stratton
Dancing with Balance:
Expansion + Integration
Whether traveling or stationary,
we’re constantly out in the world.
Experiencing new things.
Intaking the energy being thrown at us.
Bombarded through the day with messages.
Sometimes we hear them, sometimes they pass by.
And the day goes on into the next one.
Without reflection or processing,
we let it all get stuck in our energy field.
How many times have you been
OMG SO INSPIRED
by something in one moment,
only to turn around an continue on with life,
letting the fire pass through with the moment in time.
There’s so much opportunity in the world.
A raw reflection for us to learn about ourselves through the global mirror.
(At a spiritual level, isn’t that the point of our human existence?)
We see it and do it and move on with our lives to the next.
The only way to find the full range of of expansion is through the balance of integration.
A practice of sitting down and contextualizing the process of learning into our own experience.
Alchemizing the lesson to fit into our backpack of wander.
There’s a fine balance, easily tipped in the midst of hostel bunks and extraordinary scenery before we hop on the overnight bus en route to the next trek.
In the space to sit with ourselves and process our encounters,
we breathe life into what resonate with our purpose
and let the rest pass. Lightening our load by carrying only what serves us.
In summation, we’re always out there in the world.
Gathering information and inspiration.
But unless we do something with that, we become hoarders of our experience.
We must transform them. Construct something with what we’ve learned.
How is it that you choose to integrate the practice of living?
Today I realized I would really like to deepen my connection to the moment.
The poet r.m. drake said,
“you have to find that place
that brings out the human in you,
the soul in you, the love in you.”
Suay, chai mai?
(Beautiful, isn’t it? as we say in Thai)
So where is this place?
As travelers, we go all around the world looking for it.
Searching far off lands in quest of… something.
A view so profound we can carry the memory of it through our entire lives and be at peace knowing it exists in the world. An experience so life altering, it just might lead us to the trajectory of the rest of our lives. The path of our true calling that we just can’t grasp without perspective.
We put a pin on the map and stuff our backpacks and declare,
“Farewell, I’m on a journey.”
By bus and train and motorbike and boat, we drift around. Taking in the wonder of foreign scenery, adopting new cultural norms, engaging with people from all around the world on the same path of magnificent exploration.
And we have these moments of pure bliss and faux pas and horror at our sleeping arrangements in the budget hostel and absolute peace sitting in the sand after dipping our toes in the ocean, like nothing else in the world could ever matter other than this moment in time.
And what about that time we were so ignited we almost quit our jobs to pursue an idea with the passion fuming from our hearts?
In his short film titled “The Existential Bummer”, Jason Silva describes his feelings on transience:
“I do not accept the ephemeral nature of this moment,
and I’m going to extend it forever, or at least I’m going to try.”
So, how do we do this? How do we take all the pieces of everything and everyone we have loved along the way, all that we have absorbed through the pores of our soul and even begin to take it from head through heart?
First we grab a pen.
And a piece of paper.
And we kindly say to the ego, “Thank you for the help, but this is not for you to censor,”
and we let it flow from head to heart.
We let our story wash through every crack that’s been held together and take a ride to the one true place left pristine in the world: within, to our internal landscape.
Among the trekking boots and cameras and travel yoga mats and water filters and first aid kits and all the things we carry, a space to record our true experience is our most imperative tool we can use to hold the spark.
Because this life is the story we tell ourselves.
The movie we watch as a third party observer.
Which is what makes traveling is so… interesting. It breaks all that is routine and gets us out of our place of comfort and makes us face something unknown and shows us that there is so much more to the human experience than the boxes we unconsciously confine ourselves to.
And with just a pen and piece of paper, we are empowered to craft the plot. To curate the crescendo and orchestrate the audience. We see the light of perspective and alter according to our wishes.
Because even the best of experiences can go numb if we don’t give them room to breathe, and it’s in the sharing of our stories that we grow from the inside out. Even if we’re the only ones to read them.
And finally we realize, the real journey is within.
Sometimes it just takes a world of distraction to understand.
Rumi : The Guest House
This being human is a guesthouse
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you our
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them all at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each guest has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Like asana and mediation, yoga extends to the practice of life.
That’s really all this is. A practice of the human experience.
Think about one event or moment in life that felt really terrible. Like, the worst.
Does it still feel that way?
Acknowledge one way in which it changed your life for the better.
One of the highest vibrations of the human experience we can encounter is gratitude.
Life happens. It’s how we respond to it that defines our reality.
And if we truly trust in the process of life happening in our favor,
every moment holds a magical opportunity.
Tools of Harmony
The Garden of Mindfulness:
a pin on the map at the intersection of yoga + permaculture known as Suan Sati.
A plot of land developed with intention: to make steady changes in the world, one step, person and breath at a time.
“Little actions turn into a big movement… a change in consciousness.”
Explains Pee Will (Big Brother Will),
the man with a vision who turned it into action to make a place in the world for people to grow while giving back to the land.
A place to balance all the doing of life by just being.
Abhyasa and vairagya, the yogis call it. Effort and surrender.
So how does the practice of movement and meditation translate to working with the land?
In more ways than not.
Yoga means union, to yoke or to join.
Permaculture is a practice in living harmonically.
One with the Self, one with the Earth.
As above, so below.
Both concepts a tool for continued development through awareness, reflection and intention.
Thai people would say.
Robert Swan explains,
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else is going to save it.”
Same goes for ourselves as individuals.
When we develop questions in our lives, some kind of deep seated conditioning has made led us to believe that the last person to know the answer to our question is the person who asked it in the first place.
As Rumi exhibits though,
“Why are you knocking at every other door?
Go, knock at the door of your own heart.”
How do we make a change in the world?
We start local.
We sit with our hearts and listen to the answer.
We sit in the garden and let it tell the story.
As within, so without.
Peace in our hearts, peace in the world.
Well Suan Sati Family, I’ve been looking at this blog feature for a few months now and decided to give it a go finally. I want to share how things are going here, and where we’re headed in the future.
We have officially been open since January, and we have experienced some big ups and downs. Overall, we have emerged from the fires of starting a new venture unscathed, and are doing quite well. In January when we opened, I had no idea of what to expect, or how to manage a project like this. I was making nearly everything up as I went along. We adjusted our schedule many times, how we served meals, who cooked those meals, the volunteer program, where Lisa and I slept (everywhere at least once!), and there has been a constantly changing cast of characters. Things have gradually settled down, and the land is looking better every day. The rains have come early and the land is greening up again after a relatively mild hot season. We’ve recently finished construction of a new volunteer accommodation for visiting teachers, a roof over our dining area, and some roofing over a few small sections of the showers. The garden is looking much improved thanks to our permaculture loving friends Ian and Sasha along with many others who have come to lend a hand. Thanks to help from my Thai big sister Pee Ohn, our systems are running quite smoothly now including the kitchen, housekeeping, and overall property management.
Next month, we’re excited to play host to a yoga Teacher Training Course led by Dali Dhamma of Buddho Yoga, a friend and fellow practitioner of Therevadan Buddhism. October will see us hosting another TTC by Buddho Yoga which we decided to run after seeing the overwhelming interest that the first one drew. We’re completely booked out, congratulations Dali!
While we are enjoying operating like a yoga guesthouse, we would like to transition to hosting our own retreats this upcoming high season. Our popularity is building at a sufficient rate that I feel confident that we could be successful. The reason we didn’t start like this is to be able to capture as many potential guests as possible. In other words, someone who could only come on a Tuesday for 3 nights, as opposed to saying everyone comes on a Sunday and leaves on a Friday. I could foresee still using this model at times, but I also find it rewarding to go through a retreat together as a group from start to finish. This enable us to build relationships over the course of a retreat, the students can become gently familiarized with our style of teaching, and we can watch students grow during the course of the retreat. I could see how it could get old repeating the same instructions over and over, but we do that several times a week at this point anyways. I think that the students could get more out of the teaching team with a scheduled plan to deliver teachings sequentially and tailored to each group. Look out for Suan Sati 6 day retreats starting this November!
The balance for Suan Sati will likely be to host private events for 4 months per year, run Suan Sati branded retreats 4-5 months per year, and to operate like a guesthouse the remaining months. We will stay open and flexible to whatever the market will bear, and I’m personally excited to watch the growth over the rest of 2017.
Thanks for reading our inaugural state of the union address, and stay tuned for what’s next here in the Garden of Mindfulness 🙂
Read what Jess has to say about our super food breakfast over at kale.life: