this thai beauty lives at the elephant nature park, an elephant sanctuary and animal rescue
outside of chiang mai. it's an amazing place.
the view from our morning yoga deck.
sarita and i playing after our last class of the retreat.
little balinese dancer
this is one of the original thai massage diagrams at wat pho in bangkok.
editing photographs after a big trip, like the one i just took to thailand and bali, always intimidates me. in addition to the jet lag and the laundry and the emails, getting my personal photographs in order in a way that i can show the world what i experienced sits a little heavy on my to-do list. that is, until i actually just sit down and make myself do it. once i do, i am absorbed in the memories and really happy to see what actually surfaced through the images. to be really honest, it took me years of studying photojournalism in college and my first year of doing this professionally to believe that i hadn't royally screwed up the photographs with each shoot. editing always began tense and ended with a pleasant surprise and the thought "i guess i got lucky this time." (in my defense, i saw an awesome magnum photographer speak once and he said he feels the same way after every shoot). now i do trust myself and have some great self-talk to ease my nerves before a shoot. more than almost everything, photography teaches me to trust the process and to trust myself. if i show up on time and do my very best, then the results are usually pretty good.
now that i write that, "self-trust" feels like a good way to describe my trip. i really did plan my journey in risky ways. i bought no "lonely planets." i didn't have a thai massage teacher when i showed up in chiang mai. although i have led yoga retreats abroad before, i have never done one so far or known how many travel issues can crop up with 11 people traveling around the world. sarita and i had only seen photographs of our retreat center on their webpage and i had little voice in my head that would mention now and then that perhaps we were getting scammed.
yet i went anyways. after 35 hours of traveling, i got giddy upon landing in chiang mai. the surrounding hills were green and the people were kind and within three days of asking around, i found my thai massage teacher. nha ja was experienced and jolly and taught me many things about thai massage. but mostly she just told me that i knew what i was doing and that it was ok for me to spread thai massage around the world. she gave me permission to trust myself. that, along with the excellent food and a surprisingly great yoga studio, made my trip to thailand so, so worth it.
and of course that trend continued as i headed south to bali. it was stunningly beautiful, the people were kind, and things fell began falling into place. of course there were travel issues but my students amazed me in how calmly they handled each one. we settled into our daily schedule, waking up when it was still dark to practice ancient kundalini breathwork, followed by sweaty vinyasa flow and then finished the afternoon with meditation and journaling which brought so much to the surface. in between we had delicious meals and took walks to the sea and got massaged. of course, the yoga retreat center was way more beautiful than the website could express and this physical beauty paled in comparison to the lovely staff at gaia oasis. we were taken care of so incredibly well, with a spirit that felt more like close family than business. when it came time to say goodbye to them, i only had tears and gratitude for such big things they had given us.
this spirit of giving is what i most want to take with me from this experience. it's given me something to ponder and aspire to and what keeps surfacing for me is that in order to give with my whole heart, i really need to trust myself. what i mean by that is that i need to trust that i am connected to the people around me, nutured by their brillance and that i have the capacity to say thank you by giving my own beauty back to them. these are big concepts that i have understood for a long time on a mental level, but taking this trip has brought in down into my heart and shown me that the time is really here. endevoring to trust myself this fully brings up everything--fear and shame and hope and inspiration--and it also shows me that i truly am strong enough to hold myself this way, that all my practice has led me here.
as always, it wasn't until i edited the photographs and wrote all this down that i have been able to really see what is had been for me. i am grateful to have the strength to take the first few steps to get here, even if i must walk alongside my old friend fear, so that i get to see the results roll out in front of me. getting to this place that feels open and clear is why i continue to show up and i'm grateful to be on this journey alongside you all.