by Terry Herbert
My 6-Day Retreat on the Butterfly Path, here at the Wayist Spiritual Energy Center in laid-back Siem Reap, has fundamentally changed me in so many ways, on so many levels, it’s really hard to know where to begin.
I was a battle-weary westerner, desperate for a stress-free release from a life that was damaging my health, my racing mind and my relationships, especially with loved ones. Everything was out of whack! Plus, I was trying, unsuccessfully, to deal with deeply-held traumas. Sound familiar? Well read on.
Let’s start with the geography and accessibility of Siem Reap. It’s unequivocally, in my opinion, the most spiritual place on all the gods’ green earth and I’m glad I found it. You will be too.
Also, it’s small enough that you can move around easily and safely (endorsed by many solo female travellers I spoke with including my 22 year-old retreat buddy), but large enough that you can choose from a vast myriad of local arts and crafts markets, cafes, bars and restaurants laden with delicious Khmer food that ranges from $2 to $4 a meal.
Prepare your self, transformative work-in-progress
I think Shakespeare’s Hamlet summed it up: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Everyone will come away from their retreat changed in some spiritually transformative way. Changed in ways you can’t “dream” about until you are here to experience it. Adele and Jean are your guides and teachers; both of whom are grounded, wise, engaging, informative and spiritually aware. Wise and joyous souls.
I’ve got one of those charging pads by my bed-side unit at home. When I simply rest my mobile phone on it, it recharges. That’s how it feels when you come to the Wayist center. You enter feeling depleted or exhausted or stressed. After Day One, just being here amidst the trees, you can feel your body and soul beginning to recharge. That recharging really kicks in with all you learn and the spiritual (and physical) healing you experience.
For me, by Day Six, my body, mind and soul were not only fully “charged”, I fundamentally knew I had changed physically and spiritually.
Every day begins with meditation
Karman Yoga Meditation starts every day and you’ll grow to love it. This active meditation takes you through 14 choreographed movements cunningly devised over 1600 years ago to keep Shaolin Monks physically, mentally and spiritually fit. It worked for the monks. It will work for you too. As you bring in Prana, the universal energy that surrounds all of us, and is within all of us, I am reliving the moves now, inviting in Prana energy, feeling blessed, looking toward Heaven, looking back at my life, letting go of my regrets and sharing with my community─ all with Adele’s wide, beatific smile.
You deploy your own strength as resistance and young and old alike will benefit. Each move is designed to impart a teaching such as “Remove obstacles”, or “Share with all beings”, but your body gets a thorough workout in the process too.
A neat trick Adele has learnt over years, is tying a different ribbon around the right wrist. The purpose is two-fold. Because Adele stands in front of the group, she is “mirror-opposite” you, and it is easy to confuse left from right. Just follow the ribbon. The other reason for the ribbon is that the colour matches that day’s chakra lessons. Red for the lowest chakra, orange ribbon for Svadhisthana chakra and so on. By the last day of retreat, you wear a rainbow of “chakra” ribbons around your wrist.
Karman meditation is followed by Heart Sutra meditation which is contemplative, restorative and mindful. How can it not be ─ you listen to the beautiful Sanskrit Sutra chant as incense you lit next to the statue of Amitabha, the Father of Infinite Light, curls upward through the canopy of trees toward nirvana. Bliss!
I’ve said it elsewhere, if you can, refrain from eating until after meditation. Local Khmer snacks and fresh fruits are provided straight after, so there’s no way you’ll feel hungry.
Meditate, Learn, Heal
Apart from a half day excursion to the Silk Farm and a full day at the Angkor Temple Complex (see my blogs “Silk Farm Tour” & “Meditating Angkor Temple” for more details) each day, in order, consists of: first part of morning meditation; second part of morning theory & learning; afternoon one-on-one healing sessions.
Chakras, Theory & the Whiteboard
After morning snacks, Adele explains (over the 6 days) what the 7 Chakras are, their purpose and how we can gain from the learnings. And here’s me, a burnt-out westerner, actually getting it.
We “retreaters” sit comfortably as Adele standing next to a whiteboard takes us through one chakra, one day at a time: Muladhara─red, earth, our base foundation chakra, “The Will to belong, The Right to have”; Svadisthana─orange, water, the seat of ‘self’, “The Will to become, The Right to feel”; Manipura─yellow, fire, where we learn self-worth and so much more.
All 7 chakras: those already mentioned plus Anahata, Vishuddhi, Ajna and Sahasrara are covered and delivered in such a way that it makes sense to each one of us and is applicable to our own spiritual journey in a very personal way.
Over the course of 6 days and upwards of 18 hours of theory, I am held spell-bound with the content and Adele’s teaching, which is peppered with her personal anecdotes which help lock in the lessons.
Jean provides detailed and interesting information during the Compassion tour of the icons of the world religions decorating the outside walls. Decorating I thought, until Jean taught us the deep and spiritual teaching of each of these icons and then the golden thread of universal wisdom of all religions became known to me.
My retreat was over 2 months ago and with the prompt of a snapshot I took on my phone of the completed “7 chakra” whiteboard at the time, all the lessons are there for me to continue to live by. We also receive a comprehensive folder at the beginning of the retreat, so we can continue Karman yoga on our own, understand more about our chakras and of course we are each emailed thorough reports about Know Your Karma and other therapies so they can be more easily assimilated into everyday life-after-retreat. Pretty cool huh!
My own karmic lessons really centered around Svadisthana (feelings of guilt) and Anahata- the heart (compassion and self-love) and the bridge between lower-self ‘soul’ and higher-self ‘spirit’. It’s different for all of us. Each chakra specializes in a different aspect of the soul’s human experience. Is it complex? No, you’ll understand ─ with clarity and purpose.
Healing therapies & being touched by Angels
The afternoons, after lunch, (and the delicious, nutritious, filling vegetarian dishes served at lunch are worthy of their own blog) is when personalised one-on-one Pneumatherapy healing therapies take place.
Adele has the hands of a healer and the intuitive wisdom to match. Chakra healing has been studied and refined for over 2,000 years and Adele especially (but there are others) is a distillation of all that knowledge and specialized discipline.
What continually amazed me was even after a rigorous treatment, (well actually you just lay there and luxuriate), Adele seemed fresh and energetic. She explained that she draws her energy from Prana, the universal energy that surrounds us all and that she definitely “feels” Angels working with her. There were moments when I too felt a sacred presence was with us.
It’s almost impossible for me to rate one treatment as better than the other. I had several “wow” moments during treatments. The Spiritual Energy Diagnostics and hands-on Dhatri full body therapy were stand-out: one treatment to diagnose, the other to “fix” the diagnosed symptoms.
I had “blockages”, I was told after, in the lower chakras especially Muladhara: low blood pressure, poor circulation and general fatigue and Svadisthana: abdominal stress. I was pretty messed up emotionally as well, more on that later. After, I immediately felt “lighter” and more in control.
In the middle of Pranamayati which energises, unblocks and heals chakras I could sense a benign, healing presence beside me, hard to explain but like a warm, enveloping “tingle”. I somehow sensed I was blessed.
During the foot reflexology session (Hara of the feet) I felt an incredible and instant “warming sensation” and ongoing pain in my lower abdomen just “ceased”. I was moved to tears of relief and gratitude and then embarrassment at my reaction.
The full-body oil massage was also incredible also. I’m searching for the right words to describe how sublime and relaxed I felt. Suffice to say, you’ll know once you’ve experienced this for yourself. And after the detox session your body will literally glow with health.
The end of Retreat is just the beginning
A couple of months down the track, and I’m very pleased to report that my life has changed permanently in so many ways and for the better. We really are a manifestation of our body, mind and soul and neglecting one part will negate or restrict the others. I have found my balance.
Physically, I follow advice Adele gave me about incorporating ayurvedic principles into my diet. Following her simple instructions, I have eliminated processed foods, most wheat products and I no longer drink water at mealtimes. I chew mindfully and thoroughly to engage saliva that initiates digestion. That makes me fuller sooner and I eat less. I eat lots of fresh vegies, fruit and more Omega 3 fats. Result: I’ve lost 15 pounds, osteoarthritis especially in my legs has gone, my energy levels are high, my IBS has disappeared and I’m sleeping soundly through the night.
Emotionally, I have come to accept myself and love myself. All wisdom starts in your own heart. I meditate each day and I know this “resets” me and occasionally I can reach a blissful state of being completely in the moment.
As for my soul, well as I said, it’s an ongoing work-in-progress. I will continue to live my life with compassion, humility and simplicity. I don’t know if I’m wiser, but I know I’m happier.