Birthday Treat - Thai Yoga Retreat
I celebrated my birthday last year at Xhale Yoga Retreat Centre in Pai, Chiangmai in Thailand with a dozen strangers, people from around the world attracted to take a week out of our lives to study with Bhud Sunshine, the owner of the retreat. She is as her name describes, nurturing and an excellent teacher, an ageless, timeless wise practitioner devoted to sharing her understanding of this ancient art as a lifestyle.
We spent long days doing yoga, practicing meditation, chanting, discussing philosophy and eating vegetarian meals prepared with fresh locally sourced foods. It was a nurturing experience to say the least, and those of us who found ourselves together easily became comfortable in each other's company.
It wasn't long before I told people about the book I was working on and found myself in the midst of another interesting conversation debating the language of knowing we are the most important person. I recorded much of it on my phone and when I listen back I find it interesting to not that women everywhere in the world aren’t taught to put themselves first, No matter where we come from, it seems, it’s not easy to choose personal happiness, especially where relationships are concerned.
The first person who spelled it out was my new friend from Switzerland. She said, "For women, you know, we're not encouraged to be ourselves.We’re more encouraged to, to do the washing and the, you know, the care giving. Housekeeping. Kid’s raising.
My new friend from France was the first to point out that saying the words out loud made her feel uncomfortable. She said, "My first impression is it’s selfish. Not selfish, but if I have to say that I feel not guilty, but, self-centred. My ego is too much. But I think it’s important to know that you are the most important, but not to – to know for you, but you don’t have to tell to each other that you are most important, you don’t have to make the feeling to the other that you are the more important. I don’t want the other to feel that think that I am more important. It’s just for me. I just want to keep this feeling for me. It’s not to share with each other. It’s just for me.
I asked her how thinking of herself as most important made her feel, and she said, "Maybe I feel more self-confidence. I will have more, the possibilities are open when I say that to myself. I will travel alone, I will do many things that I will not do if I think I’m not able to do. So yah, when you feel that I think you can do many things."
My new friend from the Netherlands told us her story; "A lot of people do things only for other people and I can see that in my father’s and mother’s relationship. Because, I ended my ten year relationship at the beginning of this year and my mother was like, “Why are you doing that, you just bought a house, you go on holidays three times a year, you don’t argue. You look happy. And you have commitment with him and you have to stay together with him. You’ve already been together for ten years” and like, yah, well, it isn’t that I don’t want to break up but it isn’t what it is anymore, to stay with him felt even more selfish. So that is why I broke up the relationship. He gives me more love than I can give him so it’s not equal anymore. I know my mother was only thinking about what should a person do and what shouldn’t a person do instead of talking about how she felt. So, and that was when I had to teach my mother, don’t think about what other people think about or what do my colleagues think, or what do they think what do my friends think when I broke up with him because nobody saw it coming, but I said, yah. It’s not about them, it’s about me and my life, because I’m the only one who can make me happy. And I was like, oh shit, I’m like twenty-eight, twenty seven at the time and my mother is fifty plus and I had to explain to her how those things work, in my opinion. It made me sad a little because she does things, she does it for other people or she thinks other people. So I’m really saying it to her all the time. Don’t look too much to other people and worry about what they think. Don’t limit yourself and stuff like that."
I thought to myself, her mother will need to read my book. I have that thought a lot these days.
Someone asked me what had changed for me since I knew I was the most important person. I said, "The biggest I’m thinking about right now is that I’m in my own body. As opposed to the way I used to live, as if at arms length from my life, like an observer, with this spiritual identity. I studied Gurdieff and became a very good observer of my life. But until I knew I was important I used that information to serve as a kind of tool, but it kept me separate from experiencing all of my body. Now that I’m the most important person in the room, it’s up to me to write this book. It’s up to sit here and say, yah, spend the ten thousands hour.
My new friend from Germany had the final word and I was happy to hear it, although my book may not come out in her country for a while. She said, "I think your book is for everyone. We don’t learn it today, to be this way. We do and do and do. In Germany, you know. I thought about the title of your book, and I was, Oh no no no no..."