I’m Bringing My Weirdness to a Yoga Retreat

I look civilized but spend a day in my head…

In the morning, I begin a yoga retreat. Have you ever seen Parks and Rec? I feel like what Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec would be like at a yoga retreat.

Or Happy Gilmore when he becomes a golfer.

Or Gollum…

It’s been almost two weeks since I got to Thailand.

Those weeks have been a whirlwind of travel, returning to my favorite cities north and south, sights and hostels from four years ago.

I have also realized, it’s been almost three months since I quit my job.

Those months have also been a whirlwind. I’ve been from Portland to Seattle to Morocco, Spain, Portugal, a few nights in London then home to Montana. Even when I was in Montana, I was splitting my nights between my apartment, my sister’s house and my parent’s house.

Now, three months later, I haven’t spent an entire week in the same bed since I don’t know when.

Honestly, I think the longest stretch I’ve had in the same bed was when I spent five nights at a hostel in Lisbon, Portugal. It was one of the best hostels I’ve ever been to, but still, five nights in one place?!

You would think that this would make me totally miserable, but it seems more normal than staying in a 400-unit apartment complex that doesn’t feel like home.

That being said, I’ve also realized that this year, finding a more permanent place for me, my stuff, and my cat has become a need, not a want. I need to belong somewhere. But that’s not the mission I’m on right now.

Tonight, I’m in my last hostel for a month.

Tomorrow, I’m going to a yoga/meditation retreat where I’ll spend four weeks in the same location, the same room, and the same bed. A room all to myself. I think I even get my own bathroom.

This retreat should be a really good thing for me. And I’m saying should because I’m so scared and hesitant to do this I took six months to commit. It took me months to decide that going to Thailand for a yoga/meditation retreat was an okay thing to do. I’ve got the money, I’ve got the time and I’ve come to realize, no one really cares what I do so long as I take care of myself. There’s a lot of freedom in that.

It just felt so self-indulgent. Why, do I need a yoga meditation retreat? My life is great. I’m the luckiest person I know. So why aren’t I working and contributing?

But then, there’s that dark shadowy part of me that feels like if I were to let myself cry for more than just a few tears, I would cry for a week and not be able to stop. That part of me that can’t deal with the hurt and loss that pile up over the years that never get sorted. The part that has recollections of giving more eulogies than toasts. That part tells me to go, because I’m holding myself and my life back if I don’t. The world does not need more sad, broken people.

There’s a song that goes, “Ever lost your morals, your religion, your house?” I kept my morals but I left my religion, my house, my job, relationships, you name it, all casualties of a life that is led by someone who is searching for something and will make sacrifices for a life that has more meaning.

This isn’t unique to me. What is unique to me is that I’m really good at joking my way through things. I’m not good at letting myself feel pain, heal and move on.

I compare myself to Chris Farley at times, he was great at making situations into jokes, but not great at dealing with his own demons. Only my demons aren’t drugs, they’re feelings.

Freaking, living in a van down by the river.

I may have quit my job almost three months ago, but the need to deal with the pain I carry around got the ball rolling closer to six months ago.

The thing is, I’m calling it a yoga/meditation retreat because that’s basically what it is, but I found it one night at the bottom of my despair while I was still living in Portland. The real title is so much more embarrassing. It’s called a month of “Healing and Awakening”. It sounds so…. Pretentious? Self-indulgent? Hippie? I’m freaking awake. I don’t know, it’s definitely not the “suck it up and get back to work” mentality I’ve surrounded myself with. When I tell people what I’m doing, I instantly blush and get exceedingly embarrassed. Yet, here I am writing about it, because sometimes when I can’t talk about things, I write about them. It’s like I’m whispering them to the world and that makes it all okay.

So here it is, the master plan.

I knew I was coming to this place as far back as August and yet, I couldn’t commit to booking it online. In fact, I booked my ticket to Thailand back in October, not knowing if there would be space for me. I traveled 38 hours from Montana to Bangkok and then took trains, ferries and more flights all the way to the island of Koh Phangan with the intention of staying for a month without making a reservation. I just showed up.

Koh Phangan is the Thai island that is known for the crazy full moon parties on the beach. It attracts 20-something backpackers who typically burn themselves jumping the flaming jump rope and risk alcohol poisoning. Sounds fun, right? It is.

It seemed like a legitimate place to go looking for things like peace and serenity. A scooter ride to the northern part of the island and it feels like a totally different environment. There are dozens of yoga retreats, vegan restaurants and a lot of people in dreadlocks wearing natural fabrics. I like hippie villages. There is usually a laid-back atmosphere where you can get good food and see lots of art. But I felt like a fish out of water.

A friend and I managed to find the retreat center I had heard about online. We took a moment to walk around. It was a beautiful setting full of westerners who probably wanted all the same things as I did; a chance to improve their lives and heal their broken hearts but I felt like I did not belong. I was uncomfortable. I felt like I was too rough around the edges for all these soft-spoken people. My sense of humor was too dirty. My sarcasm was too pronounced.

My deep sense of disdain and need to rebel against everything popular was too real.

I was reminded of walking down the street in a very affluent community in Portland one morning. A woman exited a nearby yoga studio wearing pastels and called to her children from the door, “Ascher, Beckett, please get in the car, we need to get to swim practice.” My immediate thought in that moment was the quote from Happy Gilmore when Adam Sandler looks at a guy dressed in plaid pants and a polo for golf and he turns to Chubbs and says, “If I was dressed like that, I’d have to kick my own ass.” Only I thought, “If those were my kids’s names I’d have to kick my own ass.”

Fuck. Why do I have to be like this?!

My dad has a saying, “You can’t beat out with a stick, that which is bred directly into the bone.”

Perhaps it is bred directly into my bones. I can blame previous generations for making me this way, but honestly, fault doesn’t matter. The point is, the same girl who once criticized those poor children’s names was now at the central hub of where names like that are created.

I didn’t feel like I’d fit in with these people. I brought knee-high leather boots with me for Christ’s sake! Why isn’t there a month-long awakening/healing retreat that one can do whilst completing a construction project? Do logging camps ever offer such activities? Perhaps not.

I continued my brief walk around the campus feeling absolutely out-of-place. But at the same time, I positively knew I was going to do this.

It’s an odd conflict when you get to a place that you realize is extremely uncomfortable and yet you fully commit to spending a month with the discomfort without knowing why.

At the front desk the woman told me that since it was high season there was no longer availability for the retreat but possibly I could call that afternoon and see if anything had opened up. They were trying to get more rooms at nearby resorts for students to stay in while still participating in all the activities.

I left and didn’t call that afternoon.

I figured it would all work out.

That night, I booked my stay online and got an email the next day that they’d have me stay next door for the month.

This seemed wise for both them and me. I’d have my own little place to go back to every night and text my friends dirty jokes away from the watchful eyes of the enlightened. Like Gollum talking to himself in the bottom of a mine. The soft-spoken hippies could relax away from my boisterous influence in the evening hours. I could retire to my lair.

This could work.

Six months ago I decided to do this. Now I’m here and fully committed.

We begin at dawn.

In this moment, I may have been contemplating life and I may have been replaying scenes from Tommy Boy in my head. Is there really difference between the two?