I’ve just returned from a week in the sunshine that has changed the way I think about certain things to do with life, the universe and everything and I’ve been asked to write a paragraph or two to explain myself.
My wife – a Yoga teacher and Thai Yoga Massage Therapist – booked us both on a Thai Yoga Massage retreat on the Greek island of Samos.
Not being a particularly spiritual person (and having experienced the wilder side of life that comes with 22 years service in the Royal Navy), I must confess that I did wonder whether or not I would “fit in” with a group of alternative therapists. For a start, I have long harboured a healthy scepticism towards those who espouse the notion that to heal the world all that is needed is a foot rub, a scented candle and a cup of Jasmine tea (which tastes foul – IMO). Such people do exist and the thought of being amongst them for a week made me wonder how long it might be before my BS alarm kicked off.
All that said, I went along with an open mind and we landed in Samos early one Thursday afternoon. After picking up our hire car we commenced a leisurely journey around the island towards the villas where the retreat was to be held.
After unpacking and settling in to our room we went down to dinner to meet the most eclectic and cosmopolitan group of people I have ever encountered. Wine flowed and we tucked in to some of the most delicious food I have ever tasted.
Any notions I may have had about being considered an outsider were dispelled immediately. Within minutes of meeting up with (for me) a bunch of complete strangers, I felt like I was at a reunion of lifelong friends. Conversation was easy and laughter was in great abundance.
This first night set the scene for the rest of the week and we came away with some new friends and some great memories.
During the Thai Yoga sessions, I found a quiet place in the shade and worked on my novel, Fat Man Blues, in the most productive bout of writing I have ever experienced. I have a playlist of Delta Blues music from the 1930s and interviews with old blues singers. I use this for my inspiration to get me ‘in the zone’ and also to try and keep the dialogue authentic. So it was that for 2x 3-hour sessions each day I immersed myself in the blues and as I wrote, scene after scene unfolded, appearing like a hologram just in front of my eyes. It was great.
All too soon the holiday ended and left me a changed man. You see, for the entire week the spirit among the group was one of complete acceptance and the feeling of positive energy that prevailed (and which I could actually feel) has made me question my previous thoughts towards the concept of spirituality.
This was condensed into a moment at the end of the final session. I wandered along to where it was taking place and was invited to join the group for a final chanting session as the sun went down. I didn’t chant myself (when I sing, deaf people refuse to lip-read) but closed my eyes and let the experience wash over me. The trance-like rhythms of the combined voices carried me along and I felt moved by an overwhelming feeling of goodness.
The chanting ended and we sat in silence, watching as the sun dipped inexorably below the horizon. I looked up to see one of the group – a successful and hard-nosed businessman in the real world – in tears at the emotion that the moment stirred up for him.
The week in Samos has challenged my perceptions and invigorated my writing – the stuff that I produced during this week is among the best I have ever written (IMO).
More importantly, meeting such wonderful people and making such great new friends is perhaps evidence enough that there is more to this alternative therapy / spiritual malarkey than meets the eye. I certainly intend to explore further and find out for myself.
Mind, I still think Jasmine tea tastes foul.