My wishes for you in 2017: nurturing your inner and outer sanctuaries with love and compassion
Sawadee ka! Greetings to you all from Thailand where I have been for the last 6 weeks, journeying alone, taking space away just to be me: not something I have done in this way since I was in my 20’s, before my children, before Well Mother (born 1990).I went partly to nourish myself from the inside: to study and receive Thai massage, to keep practicing beginners mind. I also deepened my yoga, meditation practices and Qi Gong and began learning tai chi. I was lucky to have some classes with Ping, a teacher from the Yang Shu Tai Chi school in China. I also went to receive a different kind of nourishment from the outside by being in another landscape and culture. I’ve enjoyed the warmth, a break from the Yin winter of Europe, and being in a country where I don’t understand the language.
What I would most like to wish for you for 2017 is that you each take the space (especially if you are very busy! ) to create at least an hour each day, to nurture yourself with love and compassion. Find whatever way nourishes you most. This can involve drawing nourishment from what is outside you (your outer sanctuary): being in nature, with friends or family, with precious objects or engaging in outward activities. Or it can involve drawing nourishment from what is inside you (your inner sanctuary), resting, doing yoga, receiving massage or shiatsu, or simply just breathing and being. Ideally you need both inner and outer nourishment: Yin and Yang and the awareness that you are the microcosm of the macrocosm. Who we are on the inside is influenced by what is all around us. Especially with the work we do, caring, supporting and “mothering” our clients, we need to make sure we are nourished and supported, that we “mother” ourselves.
Outer spaces of sanctuary: the macrocosm
Travel is interesting as it highlights what supports us from the outside. I began and ended in the south, in Koh Yao Noi, an island about an hour away from Phuket. My initial destination: Island Yoga a yoga retreat centre created in 2005 by David Sharpe (www.thailandyogaretreats.com) The island is largely Muslim and not particularly developed, although cycling round I found worrying signs of land for sale and more development on the way. However it is still immensely peaceful and nurturing. I found it restful looking out from the peaceful beaches at the craggy limestone rocks rising out of the ocean. These karsts were originally coral and are amazing intricate sculptures, like Haolong bay, Vietnam. At times they are like frozen cascades of water, or curved fingers, or magical figures. Bond fans will recognize this scenery from the “Bond island” in “The Man with the Golden Gun”. At Railay, just across the bay, where I ended my trip, there are sacred caves dedicated to sea goddesses. It is not surprising that people saw magical and sacred figures in this landscape.
Inland there was lush green tropical vegetation, bananas, rubber and mangroves with swathes of hilly green views. Huge brightly coloured butterflies fluttered around in groups, often of 20 or 30. The yoga studios were beautiful: Thai wooden structures with banana leaf roofs and large glass windows to allow the outside world in. I tried to be at the front or edges of the room so I could look outside at the trees and flowers, butterflies and sea while I practised. We did tai chi on the beach to the sunrise looking out at the karsts. At full moon you could see the moon and the sun simultaneously.
When I arrived in Chiang Mai in the north, everyone had told me what a peaceful city it was, especially by Asian standards, but after the natural rhythms and simplicity of Koh Yao Noi, it seemed busy and it took me a couple of days to settle in and appreciate a different kind of outer beauty. The Wats, temples, were almost on every corner and incredibly beautiful and peaceful with their golden domes (chedis, stupas) and colourful, ornamental tiered roofs and gables often adorned with nagas (snakes). I had never seen so many Buddhas in one place! The main huge Buddha was surrounded by many other buddhas. There was always a place with a display of budhhas for each day of the week. As well as the hundreds of buddhas, there were usually many Indian gods, the most popular of which was Hanuman. Some wats had large tranquil gardens.