Learning Resilience and Trust in Cambodia

I’ve been travelling on the road for nine months now and have been journaling my experiences with my students and friends through my newsletter. This meant less time here on my blog so I decided to also share my musings, experiences and understandings here as well. So here we go….. time for a little catch up!!

I arrived in Cambodia in March after spending time studying and working in India and Sri Lanka. I was full of hope and excitement for this new leg of the journey which was about to unfold.

I started in Phnom Pean and I liked this country immediately. The easy way of the people, their warm and friendly smiles, the bubbling energy that gently bounces off the streets. I felt at ease and connected straight away.

As I stepped a little further into the country I began to see something else. The simplicity. The difficulties. The poverty. The hardship and intensity underneath the surface. But still, the smiles, the warmth, the energy. Considering their relative recent past their basic happy nature somehow surprised me. They are resilient people, a resilient country.

The Lesson of Resilience

Who knew that here in this country, that is exactly the lesson that was given to me. The lesson of resilience.

I came to Cambodia (Siem Reap) to teach Yoga at a well respected Yoga and Meditation Retreat Centre, Hariharalaya, for 3 months. I had booked my flight, arranged everything around this 3 month commitment. I didn’t doubt for a moment that this place was for me, that I would fit in and have a wonderful time in the process. Playful, creative and open hearted were the main descriptions the place gave itself, so I naturally thought “perfect!”. I will thrive!

But the opposite happened to be true. I got there and very quickly I felt restricted, controlled, naughty! I felt everything I did, I did wrong and too loud. Instead of cultivating creativity and playfulness it was bound in order, silence and control. It had more of an Ashram style to it, something that I know doesn’t suit my way of being.

So during my time there, I did push back. Just a little. I did this not only to push away the feeling of restriction, but also I wanted to find my boundaries, to understand where exactly I stood. How the way I taught could be woven into how they wanted me to teach. How my playful ways could be expressed in silence and my creativity could flow around their well formed structure. Perhaps I should have found another way but even as I look back I’m not sure how it could have been done without reducing my own power. That is seems, wasn’t something I was willing to do. I wanted to grow, not to wither. I wanted my skills to be used and sharpened, not to be ignored, dulled and rejected.

Facing Reality

So they saw me as aggressive, too certain and a threat to their very well oiled system. Perhaps they were not wrong. I could see they had done this many times and they liked how smoothly everything went when you stuck to the routine and system. However, that system gave a dryness to the place, especially for those that come to serve instead of receive. The creativity felt contrived and the system dogmatic. Something I have always fought against. After the first retreat was over, without a word of warning, I was told to leave. Immediately. I couldn’t believe it. I was uncomfortable and felt like an outsider. I knew I needed to adapt and felt given the time, it wold be ok. I thought we definitely had room to move, to settle. But it seemed, we did not.

It was a hard blow. I wasn’t happy there, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so forcefully and outwardly rejected. And in such a sudden and cold hearted way. It hurt more I’m sure, as it came from a prestige Yoga centre. I couldn’t believe how well guests at the centre would be treated and those (usually budding yogis and yogini) could be treated so badly. It was disappointing to say the least.

We have all had a moment or two, when things went (what may seem) horribly wrong in life, in our plans. This is where the real work starts, the seeking of true happiness. To learn how we can meet ourselves eye to eye, get to know ourselves a little better and to accept ourselves more fully. And of course, to forgive ourselves and in turn to forgive others.

As the tattoo of my tuk tuk driver Visut says “Life is Struggle”, a popular Buddhist concept. But lets not to be too attached to the struggle. See the struggle, respect the struggle and let go of the struggle. This is resilience.

Learning to Trust

After a full week off holidaying and site seeing (I really needed to distance myself from the experience to see it more clearly) I decided it was time to make a decision. My visa was going to run out and I needed to find work, accommodation or my next place to study or be. It came to me, I knew what needed to be done. I needed to stay and understand what had drawn me here to Siem Reap. What did I need to learn or do here?

So I sat down and looked at what yoga places were around and was surprised to see how many small studios were here. I choose 2 places to write to. I thought I may as well even do community classes if nothing else. So I wrote to a resort centre offering yoga and to a small ‘shala’ (yoga centre) giving donation based classes and offered my CV and services for the time left that I planned to stay.

To my surprise within an hour both places had replied saying “Can we meet?”. Apparently, in this transit  industry, people with my experience are highly sort after! That afternoon I went for chat with the manager of this luxury resort, Navutu Dreams, and she offered me a job.

The job, interestingly wasn’t so much about teaching yoga but being the resident Wellness Practitioner. While I would be teaching some classes and managing the yoga schedule and teachers, I was predominately to be their ‘healer’. I was to start within one week, living in a villa right next to the resort.

So pretty quickly after making the decision I had my accommodation (with air con – SO important!!) sorted, some meals provided at their high quality restaurant (actually, too fancy for regularly meals, but what can a girl do…..!?), a wonderful place to swim with a choose of 3 beautiful big pools, a house to my own and a paid position. Things seemed to have accidentally fallen into place, in a very positive way. Was this what was meant for me all along?

When it All Falls into Place

I have no idea, but what I do know is that I had landed on my feel rather well!! I was worried about a few things at Hariharalaya, as it was rather basic there. Perfect for a one week retreat to escape the trappings of modern life, but hard for this old chook to handle for 3 months over the hottest period of the year.

First, the heat there concerned me (I was housed in a tin shed, among the pool table and pingpong board!). Secondly, the hours they expected me to work, from 6.30am to 9.30 – 10pm!! With little to no time to do my own things, work or practice (as they had promised). And thirdly the lack of payment for the effort expected. US$100 for a month, would not have even covered my expanses for staying there. I was also concerned that there was no opportunity to practice my other skills, such as healing and massaging.

All that fell apart and I landed a job where I am able to continue with teaching as well as attend to my own business like producing videos, blogs and newsletters. And I am now developing my skills as a healer and being able to practice my recently required Marma massage and other knowledge gained (in India studying Ayurveda). I get to develop skills of managing people and working in a place that focuses on wellness as well as yoga. I landed in a position where I get paid for the work I do and get paid well enough to save some money as well as covering my costs.

So from being in a place that undermined my skills and experience to coming to a place that would develop and enhance them. It really can be funny how things work out.

Surfing the Waves…..

So there are a number of lessons here. First, try not to judge an experience or enforced change of plans too quickly. It may pay to stay and see what opportunities or other options the changes bring for you. Perhaps its the real opportunity that is waiting for you.

Second, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there or try for something different. If it feels a little out of your comfort zone its probably just the ticket for you.

Thirdly, learning from our mistakes. Don’t shy away from looking at yourself and seeing where you went wrong and how you can manage yourself better next time. After being called ‘the most aggressive person they have ever had’ I have really contemplated that. Though I think that was a huge over statement, I have watched my behaviour and can now see some adjustment is required. And here in Cambodia, its a wonderful place to work on it! Impatience and pushiness is NO way to get things done. And I can see I do lean on them when things aren’t as I believe they should be. Here kindness and softness wins the minds and hearts and the people, and I for one think that is just lovely!

Will you join me in practicing patience and a gentle approach to sorting out any problems that arise at home or work? Even if you could rightly so point the finger and say ‘tat tat’. We all want to be treated with kindness. That much I do know and continue to experience as truth.

Life is about learning to surf the waves with patience, openness and a willingness to go with the flow! Resilience is about getting back on the board and paddling out to the next wave. Meeting Life, Surf and Self where you’re at. Enjoy the Ride. Let me know how you get on!

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