I am back in the yoga community of Koh Phangan, Thailand.
If you are a frequent reader, you know this island is in Thailand, but rather than being distinctly Thai, it is more like the Bermuda Triangle of new-age spirituality, which I wrote about here.
By that I mean that an array of people ranging from Canadian farmers to Swiss Reiki practitioners all wander in to "re-connect", "re-center" or whatever you're suppose to do at a place like this and then basically remain stuck in a web of experimental healing exercises.
It's life-changing and about as "woo-woo" as it gets.
That is, as long you don't end up in one of those weird situations in which your spiritual guru tries to perform a healing ceremony with his wiener and demands you both be naked....
Because that kind of weird stuff happens too. In fact, there's a Vice doumentary about a rather notorious guru who is about half a mile down the road...
Anyway, as with many utopian islands, people are people wherever you go. And Koh Phangan is no exception. In fact, it is more of a close-up view of life’s realities than you often get back home. That's because everyone is purging up their dysfunctions like a sorority girl after 4 wine spritzers.
Let me explain…
Many people come to Koh Phangan for healing.
These are people who, like me, have come to the realization that life has beat them up and they need a place to rest and recharge before returning to the fight.
Some are the once-in-a-lifers.
Some are the drop-in-for a healing type.
And some run this circuit for most of their lives.
Everyone comes with a story; corporate burn-out, incurable depression, addiction, overcoming trauma, grief, breakups and any of the millions of things that have made most sane people wake up one morning and decide that enough is enough.
Out of anywhere you can go, counseling, prison, Krispy Kreme, for whatever reason, these people (including myself) have ended up on a Thai island full of white people.
The amazing thing about this island is, a lot of people actually find what they are looking for here, under the sun and drinking smoothies from bamboo fruit stands by the side of the road, they find a way to heal.
And maybe that's the miracle of it all, all the lost people converse on this place, somehow manage to come out a little bit better for their efforts.
If that's not a miracle, I'm not sure what is.
Yoga and meditation are a given. Reiki, re-birthing, ecstatic dance, kambo, inner child work, or just being near the ocean and under the sun are some of the offerings.
It’s a bit of a spiritual one-stop-shop, and for all your material needs?
There’s a 7-Eleven for that.
But as I said, people come here broken and busted and carry baggage from around the world to set down here. So you get a mix of all sorts.
On this island, I have met some of the most sincere, energetic, and open hearted people I have known in my life.
I have also met some of the most judgemental, close-minded yoga practitioners with Ohm tattoos as well.
Just because someone fits the picture perfect image of a yogi, doesn't mean they are.
Some of the most enlightened people here are wearing New Balance tennis shoes and follow a carnivorous diet.
It takes all sorts.
I was walking towards my first yoga class since being on the island when a scooter pulled up near to me at the intersection.
On it was a girl who could have been the poster girl for hippie-boho life. She was beautiful, tan, had long blonde hair, tie-die shorts and a crocheted top over her bikini top.
She just oozed island life and fresh, healthy beauty.
She looked cool.
She looked the part.
I smiled as I walked past.
She mean mugged me back. But as with many people, they don’t mean to mean mug, that’s just their face. So, you know, no hard feelings.
Two minutes later I got to the yoga studio. I had to check-in at the desk and my boho friend was already there.
“What?! I basically already talked to you guys about this yesterday.”
She sounded pissed and more than a little condescending. Then she stomped out, her crocheted top swaying with the rhythm of her steps.
Her attitude was built for the counters of Palm Beach Tan and yet, here she was in Koh Phangan.
I took my yoga 1.5 hour yoga class like the beating it was.
As I left, the boho girl appeared again in the scooter parking lot. This time she was accompanied by one of the island’s standard imports; a very tan, fit, long haired guy with a few tattoos and some prayer beads.
“I mean, it was such a beautiful experience…” she was saying, “the vibe of the place is just magical.”
Her voice was soft and airy, her demeanor was calm and silky smooth, her crocheted top glided across the lot as though she barely touched the ground when she walked.
I threw up in my mouth a little.
Maybe it was the yoga and the heat…
You see this a lot here. People who look the part for all the world but play a very different character depending on the audience.
She mean-mugged me again as I crossed in front of her on the way home.
So much for the magical vibe.
It's not surprising after spending so much time on Koh Phangan. I have come to realize there are certain cliques on the island that seem to mimic the movie "Mean Girls", only they reject name brand clothing for tie-die leggings and organic cottons.
But they are the minority.
I looked at my own clothes. Leather sandals, Levis, and top made of some inorganic material that was probably in the polyester family.
Correction, not probably, it IS in the polyester family.
I’m ok with this. Like, I do want a macrame top, but I don't know that I could play the part, even with the right costuming.
It would be like a dog walking on its hind legs.
And the thing about not belonging to anywhere is that you start feeling like you sort of belong everywhere.
And from this place, a person can observe from the fringes of a fringe community.
Later that day, I meet the other type on the island. The type that makes you really think the world is a better place because of the healing these types of communities offer.
My friend Mark bellows at me to come to his bungalow. There’s a girl about my age there in pajamas bottoms and a tank top looking unassuming.
He introduces us so I can do a short film project on a meditation she’s leading here at the festival.
She is one of those people that’s pure sunshine. There's just no denying it, we all know the type.
She just oozes a bright, happy energy. In her pajama pants. Without trying.
And because she just is, she makes everyone around her feel more comfortable with themselves too. Soon, everyone is brightening up.
And maybe that’s the thing, she doesn’t look the part, because she doesn’t need the costume to be herself.
I walk home and think about my last 10 days here on the island, feeling a bit like a local and a little like an outsider.
I've spent quite a bit of time on this island over the last two years and sometimes, there's something a little off in how hard this community has to try to fit the desired hippie persona. It all just rings a little basic sometimes. And what I mean by that is, it just feels like we are trying too hard.
And in the midst of all that, if you dig around a bit and get kinda dirty, you can find the really good stuff.
It's not picture perfect usually, but it's the stuff that feels real.
Because it is.