After 6 days on Koh Phangan, I felt I was home. Faces became familiar, I’d already navigated my way around a comfortable 2-kilometre radius. I knew where to get a good, cheap pad thai – Mama knew not to put a straw in my drink. I’d deciphered my favourite swimming spots and I had accommodation booked for an extra week over the Christmas period.
The week-long awakening and healing workshop did wonders to my mind, body and soul. My body felt stronger from all the yoga I’d been doing, my mind was quieter from daily meditation and I was feeling deeply connected to the energy of the island. I was a far cry from the girl who left Sydney, yet I was still her.
In my blog, I talk a lot about transformation, and this whole journey, this beautiful life, has been extremely transformational – all our lives are. But I have a fundamental rule about transformation – never lose sight of who you truly are. We reach so many crossroads in our lives. We encounter experiences that shift our perspectives and enlighten us, and it can be so very easy to latch on to those moments or conceptions or ideas and let them fundamentally change us. They can take us so high that we forget to come back down again and be our true selves. I am mindful of this and during my transformational week at Samma Karuna I was mindful of it as well. It’s funny, my mum even sent me a message literally reading “As long as you don’t shave your head and dye it orange I’m happy” – referring to the fact I could get lost in this hippie world and never come out.
My time at Samma Karuna came to an end meaning I had to venture to a new part of the island. Before I came to Koh Phangan I was aware that the easiest way to get around the island was via scooter. FYI – I was shit scared of riding a scooter. My “I can’t” mentality reared its ugly head as soon as I contemplated the thought. But, lucky for me, I had made it a priority in 2018 to vanquish that negative mentality and turn it into “I can”. Remember back in March when I faced my fear of public speaking? Albeit I choked up 2 seconds in, but I managed to find my voice and speak for a whole 5 minutes. It has been all uphill from that evening, as I continue to turn my “I can’t” into “I can”.
This one sweet day on Koh Phangan however, would be a huge testimony to that decision as I rode a scooter for the first time. OK, not the first time – the first time was back on this island 8 years ago when I made it about 5 metres before I checked out.
So, here I am on Koh Phangan and I meet a guy who offers to teach me to ride. What are the odds? If I were him, there would be no way I’d let me get on his scooter, that he rented, and he is liable for. Either he had faith in me or he was just a carefree guy that liked to live on the edge. Turns out it was the latter.
So we take the scooter for a ride in one of the small backroads. After one little stumble, I feel I am getting the hang of it. The next day he wants to double-up. “Is this guy crazy?” I think. Now he wants to put his own life in danger by riding on the back with me driving. I remember being at the edge of the driveway to Samma Karuna. I froze up. “Go” he yells. “I can’t” I reply. “Go” he yells louder, my heart pounding faster every second. “I can’t” I reply again. He is persistent and in a final battle between my mind and my body I give in and rev the accelerator. I am driving. I am safe. I am free. In that fleeting moment, I faced my fear. It might not seem like a huge deal but it was to me. It represented so much more than me and that bike. It represented a whole lifetime of limiting belief. Matt if you’re reading, thank you for believing in me and letting me believe in myself!
My new found freedom was exhilarating. It took a few days to get completely comfortable with the bike but I was no longer limited to one area of the island. I drove myself to Haad Yao, in the north, so I could explore a new part of the island yet still be close enough to Samma Karuna to keep taking their classes. I decided to stay in a hostel because the full moon party was coming up, and Christmas was just around the corner, so as a solo traveller I wanted to put myself in a place where I could meet other travellers. I’m an extroverted introvert when I travel. I love meeting people but I love my solitude, so I find the balance between the two. When I want to be alone I choose private rooms. When I want company I choose a dorm. It works almost every time.
For a few days, I sat on the idea of even attending the full moon party at all. For those of you who don’t know about the full moon party, it’s essentially what put Koh Phangan on the international radar – for the wrong reasons. Think about the biggest beach party you could imagine, throw in copious amounts of alcohol, fluorescent paint, loud music and a bunch of travellers with the intention to get completely and utterly f***ed up. This paints a pretty blanket picture of the infamous full moon party, but I was intrigued. Yet I’d been spending almost 2 weeks in a polar opposite world, only 15 kilometres away. Zenning out, meditating, joining ecstatic dance classes. The contrast is uncanny when you think about it. One side of the island gets intoxicated through human connection, spiritual movement and journeys within, while the other side gets intoxicated through – well – intoxicants. They could make a reality TV show about this – beer vs meditation or drugs vs hugs. That show would sell.
So back to my point about not losing yourself, I decided to experience the full moon party for all it’s worth. I bought myself a fluorescent dress and the carefree, dancing, wild diva inside of me showed up in the hostel bar with my head held high ready to party.
I should also mention that before 10 pm that night I was at a women’s shakti meditation circle – talk about polar opposite. I had met two girls at the hostel at about 4 pm that evening who invited me to the circle.
The invitation read:
A dynamic shift is taking place in the role of the Divine Feminine and the rise of Feminine Consciousness and empowerment. It is our time to empower and step into our role as leaders in this Aquarian Age. To gather to support, nurture each other in a Sacred Circle is one of the most powerful ways that women can heal, excel and empower. Using the science, teachings and wisdom of these ancient practices and techniques. Come and release, work to heal and awaken your creative power. We will close our sacred circle with a meditation to balance our Moon Centres. To embody Shakti is to take back one’s own power. Our sovereignty, our light, our grace and joy!!
I too was intrigued by this. I am a firm believer that a shift is happening in our universe. Compassion is rising, people are awakening. Call it feminine energy, call it Yin, call it the Divine – those are just words to describe a phenomenon where we, as humans, are rising out of a dark age and embracing a more connected, enlightened and humane way of living. God knows it could be our only hope to survive on this planet.
I was excited to join this circle in particular on a full moon. Despite the full moon party in Koh Phangan evolving into a superficial congregation of inebriated egos, many cultures throughout time have had lunar deities and celebrated the cycle of the moon, including Aboriginals, Buddhists, Pagans and Mayans. Moon cycles also affect the Earth, manipulating the tides, weather and, for those who believe in this, our human emotions. For me, there’s always been something magical about the light of the full moon and so this night was special.
We arrived at a dimly lit house in the middle of the forest. Candles formed a shrine where at least 30 women circled around. Our host, Louise, was pleasantly surprised by the turnout. It seems many women on the island were feeling drawn to this space, feeling the Divine energy of the full moon. We started with some chanting, a practice that I find to be both relieving and soothing. A few years ago you wouldn’t get me comfortable in a room with 30 chanting women but here, today, I was gratified and humbled.
We participated in a number of meditations and intention settings. One of the activities was to speak about what it was we wished to leave behind in 2018 and manifest in 2019. “I want to let go of fear and bring in compassion and courage,” one woman said. “I want to let go of fear and manifest self-love” said another. I was surprised to hear so many of the women wanting to let go of fears, in the same way I had spent much of my year letting go of fears. For a moment I remembered how much we all suffer from this wretched emotion. How many of us are held back by our fears. It was beautiful to be in this room with women just like me, and know that even the women, and men, who weren’t in that room are going through the same emotions and challenges, fighting the same fights and trying to manifest the same fundamental values that are intrinsic to our existence – love, compassion, vulnerability.
The evening ended with a beautiful group meditation. I could feel the powerful energy in the room. I felt nothing but love for my fellow sisters and nothing but gratitude for my openness to such an experience. I grow from these moments, they fill me with understanding and wisdom. It’s the reason why I travel.
That night I took a journey from the mountaintop to the marketplace, so to speak. I left the meditation circle and switched costumes to experience one of the other things I love about travel – letting my hair down and dancing the night away.
“Vodka Red Bull buckets at the bar!” I hear the bartender yell. Dizzy Rascal was playing in the background as guests sank into their second Changs and began to loosen up. The paint came out and we all became artists, drawing on each other’s skin with fluorescent colours that would shine under the light of the full moon. I asked for a peace sign, a love heart and a recycle sign with an intention to inspire people to be mindful of their plastic usage. I could still try and be green at the full moon party, right?
By the time it hit 11:30 we were already tipsy. To put it in perspective one of these buckets probably contains about 5 standard drinks! “Taxis are here!” – I felt like I was in an episode of Jersey Shore. About 16 of us jumped in the back of one of the signature blue utes that are Koh Phangan taxis. Most of us were solo travellers and so at this point I probably knew about 3 people’s names, but it didn’t matter. Tonight we were friends. We chatted on the long journey from Haad Yao to Haad Rin, literally on the other side of the island. I could already hear the sound of music blaring as we drove to the entrance of the beach. Lights lit up the road as thousands of raucous, fluorescent, intoxicated humans paraded the streets on their way down to the beach. The entry fee is a small 100 baht, which is about $4 Australian dollars. We joined the parade and made our way down to the beach as well. As I turned the corner I had a full view of an incredible ocean. The beach would have had to be about 1 kilometre long, it was absolutely spectacular. I must admit I had low expectations but this was fantastic. There was a lot of space for people to move and many different bars/stages playing all sorts of music. It was everything I imagined it to be and more. Before long I was on the dance floor listening to drum & bass, one of my favourite types of music to dance to. I put down my bucket, took my shoes off and danced like no one was watching. That was the last time I saw those shoes.
Back on the beach, I sat down to rest. At this stage, I had lost all the people I was with and was in a completely different state to the one I had been 4 hours earlier. Before long I was approached by a guy. “Please don’t hit on me,” I said to him in my drunken state. He laughed at me. “I wasn’t trying to hit on you, I just wanted to talk to you” he replied. We laughed together as I warmed to him. Even with my walls up I was instantly attracted to this man, although not wanting to show it. I remember feeling comfortable with Max, we joked and played. I practised some drunken Reiki on him (I don’t even know if that’s such a thing though). Then, out of nowhere, he says to me “Let’s go to Eden!”. “What’s Eden?” I asked. “Paradise” he replied.
We walked towards the ocean, away from the crowds and towards a single long-tail boat that was docking in the sand. “Get in” Max prompted me. I had no idea where this boat was going but the idea of paradise seemed too good to pass up. I walked through the waves closer to the boat. The water washed over my barefoot feet, and clutching my belongings I jumped in. We were accompanied by about 12 other partygoers and as the driver revved the engines we rode into the horizon. I could see Haad Rin lit up in the distance as the sounds of the music became more distant. By this time it would have been about 2 am and I still had no idea where we were going, but the anticipation was exhilarating. The boat drove out into the deep ocean and then back around into a small cove. There, up ahead, I could see a vague silhouette of some beachside huts and on the rocks, there was a bar lit up by lights. Music started to ring in my ears again as we got closer to the shore. The boat dropped us on the beach. It was dark so we needed to use our phones to see. We followed the trail up through the side of the rocks and onto a makeshift bridge that led us to Eden, the name of a secluded bar, only reachable by boat. The excitement in me was overwhelming, I headed straight to the dance floor and once again lost myself in the music. I could see the horizon through the wooden stilts that held up the roof. “This is paradise” I thought.
For the next few hours, I had lost all inhibitions and danced my way into the early hours of the morning. I was buzzing from the adventure and admittedly stimulated from the alcohol in my bloodstream. I was entirely and utterly carefree at that moment. But then, suddenly, like Cinderella at midnight, I had to leave. I had to go back to Haad Rin and get back to the hostel. I was running out of time and it was almost sunrise. Without saying goodbye, I left Eden. I walked back down the makeshift bridge, back towards the ocean and back on a boat to reality. Did I just dream all this? I thought to myself. On any other day, I would have stayed on that dance floor until the sun came up (that’s a future story) but today was a special day. I had to go back to the mountaintop… today was the day I would start my journey with Reiki.
To be continued…