(Continuation from The Retreat (1.0)
And so it was, on Emma Olmi spontaneous madness style, within a few minutes, I thought this was the best idea ever and got a flight to Kathmandu.
My concern was making sure I would leave Bali before I became an illegal expat but also had to be back in London for an important appointment – which gives me 12 days window to explore a brand new country.
12 days only… I kept thinking… Cannot see much in 12 days if I want to do a retreat. So was time to choose… or either I do a retreat which was my initial plan or I do a proper exploration with the limited time I have…!
So the research began. I was determined to find a Buddhist retreat in Nepal.
And I did.., several in fact, but they were very specific with the dates which were not compatible with mine!
After a couple of hours, I started to get my hopes down …
But then it became clear. I was looking for retreats in Pokhara (which is supposed to be the best area if you want a more spiritual experience) but decided to give a chance to Kathmandu… After all, I was flying there anyway – and just like that, there it was:
The perfect arrangement!
A Buddhist / Meditation / Silent Retreat. All in one AND during the days I would be in town: “perfect”, I thought.
On top of that, I need to mention that when I booked the course, I was quite taken back on how cheap the whole thing was… I mean, 10 nights accommodation, 3 meals a day plus the course itself… all that for roughly $150 USD. YES, you did read that right – I paid a tiny bit more because wanted to have my own room, but I kept thinking: “What is the catch?”
I know Asia is cheap. Been living and traveling there for a while but damn, $15 USD a day sounded too good when all was inclusive….
Too good to be true or was I about to get a positive surprise?
Well, first things first,
I arrive in Nepal and loved it. But I always do, that feeling of being in a new place where everything is new.
Had a couple of days to explore Kathmandu before the retreat started, which was great to be able to absorb a bit from the capital of Nepal, and then off I went, to an adventure!
Wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention how I got there in first place.
And it was memorable, as I will never forget that taxi ride to the Monastery.
Roads were terrible in Kathmandu, but like magic, they could become even worse as soon as you leave the center…
To make it even more challenging, the taxi, AKA car I was being transported in, was at least 60 years old – No jokes… that car had to be way older than my dad!!!! In fact, I wonder if was my granddad’s age… It was proper vintage and don’t know how it got there but it did!!!
*I did celebrate once I got to the top of the mountains and realize I was in the right place AND alive – still.*
After securing my own room – I had convinced myself I wanted to be as alone as possible, so I could talk the less I was possibly allowed… After all, that was the goal when in that questionable moment of sanity, I decided to book a 10-day meditation retreat – to have a break from the World (technology and people in general), relax and so some meditation and yoga.
Oh how wrong was I…..!!!!!
So imagine a United Nations congress. A lot of people from all over the World. And they all seem so interesting… How could I not talk?
The first day was amazing as we could still talk to each other. Within minutes I met a Brazilian awesome lady and from that moment I just knew I was in trouble. How couldn’t I talk to her? She was an ass kicker and was loving to get to know her. It just got worse as within a few hours we met another Brazilian and suddenly we have our little Portuguese speaking gang. (A few days later I met a bunch of Portuguese: well 3, but still 4 Portuguese and 3 Brazilians out of 150 people was entertaining).
Introduction day was fun and cool. But I don’t think we knew what was waiting for us …
At least I definitely didn’t!!!!!
My “let me relax and perhaps read a bunch of books while in silence – and because I have no access to internet” theory went out of the window during the first day.
Had a great dinner and spoke away as we were warned that we wouldn’t be able to speak until the evening of the next day. “This will be entertaining,” I thought…!
So basically after that first “relaxing” first day, the following days went like this:
- The super early morning start – even though we were supposed to wake up at 6 am, there was a special waking up time for the monks at 5 am – and how do they wake us up? With bells and gongs… guess who listened to the 5 am bells? Yep… of course I did, therefore, I would wake up at 5 am (my normal bed timing is 3 to 4 am yall).
- The cold showers (I thought they were supposed to be cold until a few days later I realize it was just my shower and not a common practice — still suffered washing my curls and body with cold water for like 4 days),
- Then I would have to run to the temple, as we would have the first meditation of the day with Ani Karin, an Australian nun, (strangely, even with a cold shower, I somehow would be on a semi-conscious state…) – p.s this was no 10min meditation yall. I know you probably are used to a quick “headspace” but this was serious stuff – and have I mention how hard it is to sit still on the floor with your legs crossed? I am sure I will be mentioning this again…
- Followed by a doubtful breakfast! Well, I have to say that my first breakfast at the monastery I got really disappointed and even upset. Lol – I will explain. I was convinced all the food would be vegan – well during my world trip, I would look refuge at Buddhist temples to calm down my tummy when I couldn’t find food anywhere else which basically translates that I survived due to Buddhism. So when I served myself the porridge and some infamous Kopan peanut butter and bread, I was convinced it was soy milk they were using. So you can imagine I wasn’t a happy bee when I discover I betrayed my veganism after so many years. Kopan, if you hearing me (or reading me): Go Vegan yall. Cows also suffer when you steal their milk. Anyway, as you probably can imagine now, for the next few weeks my breakfast was limited to bread and peanut butter… Unsurprisingly, the tea and coffee station became very popular… And I start flirting with the idea of drinking coffee… oh well. I might survive without .. been surviving all these years…
- Then we would gather for the morning teaching with the coolest nun of all time – Karin from Sweden. I could write nonstopping how wonderful and inspirational this lady is, but for now, I will just say this was the time to get mind challenged… but bum bum would be hurting … why seating on the floor with legs crossed?
- Then we would have lunch – which I must say it was pretty decent and mostly vegan so I did not starve in case you wondering… but would always be a bit awkward as we were not allowed to talk, so everyone would look at each other and share a yellow smile and quick node…
- We then would have a little break, and to be completely honest, I would RUN back to my room and NAP. I know… Shame on me but I was destroyed. Too much mind activity ahahha
- Then we would have a group gathering and discussion where we would discuss important and quite often controversial topics such reincarnation, death, happiness etc – this was the first time we were allowed to talk which was interesting as some people wanted to talk as more as possible while others would avoid to even open their mouths during the discussion. We had roughly 5 to 10min each to talk.
- After a short break we would go back for more teaching, this time with the lovely Lama Sherpa (a Lama is an honorific title applied to a spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism – basically a special monk) which was always very entertaining. But that lotus position…. Why oh why? Do round butts can become square? That thought would cross my mind every 27 seconds… I like my bum round..!
- Then mediation time with Ani Karin again. This was always the hardest session for me – because after all these millions of hours of meditation & learning, my back, bum bum and all the other parts of my body would be hurting. Seating on the floor with your legs crossed for hours is just not for me…. Lol I did try and try and try but was so painful and I had a feeling my butt became square the whole time I was there. At this time of the day was also harder for me to concentrate (morning meditation is easy as I am half asleep so my brain doesn’t wonder as much) but by evening my brain is working full force and any attempt to mediate would make my mind freak out, but I would eventually manage… at least for a few minutes at a time (could be seconds, to be frank)…
- Followed by favorite part of the day, Dinner, where we could finally speak, eat and have a short break. Food was decent and so was the chats… and eventually, the staff would have to turn the lights off and let us know they were closing the area – the most subtle way to send us back to the last session of the day.
- Finishing the day with Q&A and meditation with the hilarious and adorable Karin, the Swedish nun. Even tho I did love these sessions as not only we could ask questions and we would also do some cool activities like watching documentaries on reincarnation and speak about random subjects – less holy lol, I have to admit that by now I was pretty destroyed…! My legs would be completely numb and I would often imagine what would happen if the circulation of blood gets cut off for too long and my legs fall off? Crazy I know but the excruciate pain was so strong that my mind would race on the most obnoxious and demented thoughts and theories. So I would often be attempting to paying attention and find that liberation from suffering and total enlightenment while at the same time my brain would keep trick me into any distraction, then made me travel to the past followed by any other distraction to then fantasizing about the future (everyday I would have like 5 different new business ideas and books subjects I wanted to write about…) – this would happen in any session, to be honest.
- Then the silence would restart, and I would then run to the balcony, to contemplate the moon and the stars to then fall in my bed and start all again in a few hours time. Wake up, and repeat.
So this was pretty much the routine for the entire time I was there.
So there was actually no catch. Food was simple, but don’t think anyone would drop any weight as we mostly ate bread, potatoes, and rice. The accommodation was perfectly fine… there was hot water after all so no reason to complain. And the teachings were very valuable and even though I didn’t reach total enlightenment, I did learn a lot about my body and how to connect more with myself and disconnect from things I am not interested in.
The bum and back pain never went away I am afraid, but somehow, with the passing of the days, it became easier to manage.
On top of that, even though my intention was to disconnect the most from social media etc – which I really did – well, I had no choice since I did not have internet connection… I did connect with lovely new people which I am still in touch with – which is an extra bonus.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely.
Would I go back? Oh, Definitely.
And to finish, from the monastery, I went straight to the airport to fly back to London after roughly half a year away. I must say that for the first time ever I wasn’t happy about having wifi at the airport… you can only imagine how inundated I was with notifications…!
Much love and light,
P.S. If you would like to know more about this adventure, I did break a couple of rules and recorded a video from my room where I did a little update of what was happening there, feel free to watch it here: