t is dark outside. Maybe 10 o’clock, maybe 11. Who knows? For all I could guess it might be 3AM or how ‘bout 9PM. There are no clocks around me, only a lace of mosquito netting cascading over the large bed like a whale’s mouth around a school of fish. Everything manmade is mute. There’s not a sound except nature—roaring nature. I hear the ocean pummeling the shore; waves peeling atop barnacled rocks and round bulbous stones the size of Smart Cars. And there are crickets; humming and buzzing, strumming and rustling. It’s a full-force ensemble, but it does not bother. Instead, it soothes. It mellows. It drifts me back off to sleep as I roll over and spoon the naked body beside me.
Sometime, the sun will rise. The light of day will slowly weave through the netting and into the bed sheets to awaken me. I’ll then yawn, stretch, rotate in the covers and twist my spine. Cracking. Popping. I will then open the folds over the bed and look into the open, casting my gaze over the Pacific Ocean to what appears to be an infinite horizon. Then I’ll sit on the crapper with this same view—beautiful,
incredible, delicious (never thought these words could describe a defecating experience)—and then proceed to shower without ever taking my eyesight off this panoramic scenery. Warmth washes over me before I shower, before I empty my bladder, before I open my eyes. Joy spreads across my wings simply because I’m in paradise in an open-aired casita
with my lover on Valentine's Day. This is Haramara Retreat
After the shower, after gazing for migrating humpback whales in the ocean, after brushing my teeth, after a morning snuggle and hug, after dressing; after all these wonderful things that happily make my morning routine, I will walk up the dirt path barefoot to the dining area for homemade ginger tea. And with the other yogis and yoginis I’ll settle my mind, body and soul into a two-hour yoga practice in a yoga palapa
. Tough way to begin the day.
I never thought once of home, really. I never returned to the stresses of work, finances, goals & plans—the how-tos and what-ifs. No. Everything faded away into the ocean’s pulse, lost in the cricket-talk that vibrated the night air. And there couldn’t have been a better place to let this all go
as part of YogaLife’s Yoga Bliss Retreat
led by Laura DeFreitas
and Michael Suzerris
. Located at Haramara Retreat just south of Sayulita in the state of Nayarit, the eco-center is founded on principles of serenity, security and personal growth. The word haramara
itself originates from the Huichol language, meaning “Grandmother Sea”.
So we’re nestled here, a vast landscape spread over the hillside, each inhabiting a traditional adobe hut with enough walls for privacy and otherwise open to the sea’s horizon. There is no electricity in any of the accommodations; only a bed, hammock, drawers, benches, a seat, sink, shower and the best toilet seat in the world. And the days for the 23 attendees are as peaceful and as simple, or as adventurous and arduous as each wish them to be. Two yoga sessions—one in the morning and one in the evening, with the instructors trading off respectively; breakfast of fruit, yogurt and granola; exploration, beaches, swimming, walking to Sayulita, reading, etc.; a three-course lunch; more lounging, exploring, etc.; and then another three-course meal for dinner after evening yoga. A day-in-the-life-of from Feb. 14th - 21st, 2009.
On the day’s arrival, Laura & I checked into our casita “Amethyst”. I couldn’t help
draw my attention to the nature surrounding us. Butterflies were enchanting; each one a new design, a different color, varying sizes and flight patterns. One specifically resembled a monarch butterfly, but the oranges were replaced with a tie-dye splattering of green and yellow. It was large. It’s wings flapped rapidly like a sparring eagle. Then there were the unique types resembling no other. And one stood out from the rest. It was ethereal in its flight, eclectic in design. The small oval butterfly was all black except two discerning features. Running horizontal across its back was a thin yellow line as straight as a ruler, and on both wing-tips a vertical red stripe running perpendicular into the yellow, creating a long “H” with stubby legs. And it flew like a flag found at circuses and fairs, appearing as though it rolled over the crowds fast enough to form the illusion that the yellow and red lines never disappeared… like a animated book flipped with the fingers creating a visual story in motion.
At ground level, lizards ran full speed into the brush, stirring leaves as they scurried up hillsides. Doves cooed. Trogons sat still in the boughs leaning
over the trails, while Imperial woodpeckers pounded hollow holes into trunks. Vultures spread their wings and swooped at eye level and even higher up the frigate drifted as if in a league of its own, aerodynamic like a descendent of the late Jurassic pterodactyl.
Off land and into the sea was a sense of the colossal. One morning we drove in a caravan south to Punta de Mita
where we launched into the surf of Bahia de Banderas
in long narrow fiberglass boats powered by a 75hp Yamaha Enduro
. Upon the waters we sped in search of humpbacks and within ten minutes a spout of air shot from the surface, breaking the tension and releasing a vertical tower of water into the blue. Humpbacks. Whales. Swimming in the vastness of the sea. Twenty feet away. How small I felt. How human. Yet how connected. We followed the pod, gasping, shouting, pointing and exclaiming to each other at the same time when these water-based mammals broke the surface, exhumed blowholes and displayed their massive flukes. It was stunning to be so close. To hear their spouting. I wanted to lean my ear against the slapping waves. I wanted to dive
in and swim along side, perhaps transform into Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants and get sucked inside their mouths. Well…maybe not. I'm no Pinocchio. I was better on the boat with our Enduro
humming, making our own Reiki whale songs and yoga dances (Is there a whale-god in the Hindu pantheon?).
Under the bright sun, we toured the Marietas Islands National Park
where blue-footed boobies defiled the rocks with a wretched smell. We snorkeled and searched for schools of king angelfish, giant Pacific manta rays, friendly dolphins and of course, o’ whale where art thou. However, besides the abundant parrotfish, we froze in the cold ocean and sought secluded caves, coves and arches for relief, taking our time as we drank beers back on our boats. Then we were off to the mainland for more cervesas, guacamole, ceviche and margaritas.
The days were numberless. Time didn’t matter. We lounged on the private beach. We walked to and from Sayulita. And we read. One afternoon Michael led a yoga beach session, like a free-style jam where the entire Playa Carrizitos
was ours. We practiced pranayama
—a dynamic form of yogic breath-work—and we performed our Sun Salutations to the falling sun. I
took photographs, explored new composition points and played with the warm glow of the late afternoon shine.
On another evening Laura led a 108 AUM
workshop. She began the session by describing the meaning of AUM, its significance and the religious/spiritual auspiciousness this root seed-sound lives, breathes and vibrates. And so, with our malas
in hand thumbing the 108 beads through our fingers, we began the verbal journey. The AUMs were rocky at the start; off key, disturbing, high to low, and disgruntled like a coughing senior. But within minutes, as the group sat in a circle with eyes closed and tuned into the harmony of this sacred sound (In the beginning was the AUM
), the sound vibration rose and met a beautiful chorus of rhythm and movement. It aligned with the birdsongs. It merged with the sunrays of the setting star. It became us. Us became it. And thru-and-thru the sound shook. The feeling I felt inside was elation. It was an ecstatic peace running between my blood cells, pumping my veins and highlighting my vision. There was pressure build-up in my sacrum, my pelvis, my belly, chest, shoulders, neck and head; and with each AUM the force was
freed, sent out into the ether like the humpback’s spray, like the butterflies loose flight-path, like the cricket song pulsing through each nighttime dream.
By the end of the 108 AUMs, albeit a mere 20 minutes of “tuning in and dropping out” I was spacious and could feel the mirror reflection in every other participant. Chanting AUM one hundred and eight times was a natural pattern. It resembled a vibration of thought, a cyclical nature of a plant, insect, beast or earthly season. There was the beginning. There was the middle momentum. And there was the ending, with a following silence before the next beginning when everything was still; just as the pause in a choir of crickets, just as the calm after a storm, just as the slack of a tide ebbing and flowing round the world’s seas. AUM mirrors the universal nature of life. It is the beginning. It is the middle. It is the end. And it’s everything betwixt the action of birth, movement and death.
AUM-ing, feasting, lounging, yoga-ing, meditation-ing, nidra-ing, whale-watching, photographing, reading, sleeping, exploring, living, breathing, loving…blah, blah, blah, AUM! And the in-betweens were equally enthralling, magical in their depths of peace,
serenity and tranquility each enmeshed within the surroundings of Haramara. Yogis and yoginis walked to Sayulita. We shopped. Some surfed. Horseback rode. Others checked Internet and connections in a place called home so far removed from my sphere of experience. We wandered through jungle paths, discrete cemeteries on the edge of villages and drank coconut helados
from roadside stands where iguanas dodged traffic into trees dry from a rainless season. All in all, the yoga retreat was exactly that: BLISS. It was divine, removing, surrendering and re-centering.
Internationally-acclaimed Power Vinyasa yoga instructor Rodney Yee
sums up his experience:
Coming to Haramara is like coming home. My body returns to the earth, my mind mesmerized by the rhythms of the ocean and my spirit flies in this magical place. Yoga is a way of life and Haramara Retreat is where we can reeducate ourselves to live in balance.
AUM. Namaste. And Amen yogis and yoginis, brothers and sisters. Amen. Wishing to join the next yoga retreat voyage? Need no fear, the next one is in-country: Whitewater Rafting on the Salmon River in Idaho. Check it out and sign up for this upcoming August '09 adventure at www.lauranidra.com
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