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Published: February 21st 2016
I had no idea what’s got into me but after I tendered my resignation, I was terrified of leaving the banking industry after 27 years. When my friend Rosina suggested that I went for a one week silent retreat in Ubud, it seemed like a great idea. Timing wise, it was perfect as I would not start the new job until a week later. I needed to clear my mind so that I could start fresh at the new workplace. So, off I went the next day.
It was at Bali Usada’s office in Sanur I met a few other participants, most of whom were first timers. Arriving at Svarga Loka Resort later in the afternoon, I was relieved to see the decent looking resort located in the heart of Ubud. I had zero expectation and had prepared myself well. The rest of the participants, including my room mate from UK, arrived at 4 pm. Both of us were in between jobs.
By 6 pm, the 30 participants gathered at the Meditation place overlooking Ayung river, and without thinking, I went ahead sitting on one of the mats. Each was numbered. I sat on number 9, which turned out
to be the assigned one for me (eerie, wasn't it?). When every one was seated, the instructor, Michael, entered the room with his assistance, Pak Suardi.
Through tele-presence, we were greeted by our teacher, Pak Merta, who gave us some background about Health Meditation Bali Usada. He explained at length how our mind, body and spirit work, and in a nutshell, our mind consists of conscious, subconscious and unconscious thoughts. The subconscious and unconscious thought usually do not surface until they are triggered, of which reaction - depending on our experience when the thought was being created - varies. For example, a person suffering from a phobia could have been caused by a negative experience in the earlier part of his/her life, and in some instance, it could be as early as infancy (or even when being a fetus in mother's womb). He also explained that our mind was like an ocean as it constantly moved, and when we tried to clear it, we only cleansed the surface, while the deeper thoughts remained unchanged. My long standing question was answered at last. A few years ago when attending Alchemy of Breath at Yoga Spirit Festival in Ubud, I had
a mind boggling sad feeling when asked to imagine the Ocean, which no one could explain the reasons. Determined, I was convinced this was what I needed and was meant to be here.
That evening after the talk, our valuable belonging was collected: mobile phone, wallet and passport, etc, and the silent retreat officially started. No talking, no eye contact, no mobile phone, no reading, no writing and no alcohol or cigarettes. As we need to purify ourselves, we need to detach and avoid any emotional reaction. Michael guided our first meditation before we were allowed to rest. I had to say that focusing on my breath in the dark while hearing the river flowing, crickets chirping and frogs croaking was an overwhelming experience!
Our meditation started at 5 am the following morning, followed by having a fruit breakfast and light exercise. Our day was filled with 45 minutes each meditation, bathroom breaks and light exercise up to 9 pm. To my surprise, I didn't have any difficulty in following the program. It felt like being in New York - among the crowds but alone. By then, I was confident having acquired the skill needed to focus on
At Svarga Loka
my breath and felt the heaviness on my head and shoulder started to disappear. We needed to give a break to our mind; it was a mind holiday. Once in a while, I could not help noticing another group performing aqua yoga in the swimming pool next door, which definitely looked more interesting than ours. Throughout the stay, we were served vegetarian food as it would speed up the body purification and reduce the negative energy from the meat consumed.
By the third day, I felt my breath got softer and longer (if practised consistently, this would help me staying longer underwater when scuba diving) and somehow my body felt lighter. I must have experienced the Flow - in psychology terms - where my mental state was fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity. We were trained to be more sensitive listening to our heart by being mindful and compassionate to achieve wisdom. The analogy was like using a mobile phone. We need to purify our soul to get stronger signal reception. When we are in tune with our harmonious mind, our body would simply listen.
much for the wisdom, that evening I experienced the negative reaction coming out from my unconscious mind without realising it. Somehow, the dinner menu had upset me so much: Salad and Banana in Coconut cream sauce (or "Kolak"), and in a nano second, my easily-ignited genetic-energy button was pushed. Off I went to pack my stuff. When I told Pak Suardi of my intention to leave, he suggested that I met Pak Merta.
Pak Merta gave me a warm welcome with a big smile on his face. When asked the reasons for my intention to leave, I told him about my frustration with the food and how I missed my comfort food: Satay and Gado Gado. He said he would try to accommodate it (no Satay of course) and would meet all the participants for the first time right after our discussion. He encouraged me that I stay as the 5th and 6th day would be most interesting. Convinced, I stayed.
Later on, he shared the different types of energies and bodies: Gross Body (physical body), Meridien Body (used in acupressure techniques), Cakra Body (7 main energy centres) and Metal Body. His teaching is based on Metal Body.
He would give us the tools to control our mind and, once mastered, eventually we ought to have the ability to heal our body.
Despite the inspiring explanation given, that evening, I found it difficult to unwind and to close my eyes to sleep. In hindsight, when I looked back and analysed the experience, it must have been the negative reaction coming from my unconscious mind. The most possible explanation was I could have been deprived of food during my infant years, and no matter how short the experience was, it must have left a scar in my deep in my brain.
The next morning during my first meditation, I had difficulty to concentrate. I must have been blocked mentally by my own frustration which is a No No in meditation world. My aura must have changed from calm blue to childish purple. Apologetic, I decided to write a letter to Pak Merta giving my justifications to leave for the second time.
In no time, I left Svarga Loka resort, headed towards Plataran Resort and gave myself a treat: a spa, a dip in the pool and of course, great food! After such a great mind detox,
I felt I was zen enough and was ready to start the new chapter in my life. It's time to head home. The next day, as I landed in Singapore and had a cab ride home, the three-nights Zen-like efforts were instantly wiped out. Even though it was a small argument with a cab driver, it put me in a real life emotion-control test. Yet, I lost.
I remembered Pak Merta's words: "Buying a book on fitness is not going to make us fit". Yes, I got the message. There will be plenty of efforts to continue practising, and thanks Pak Merta, Michael and Pak Suardi for giving the much needed tools!
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