“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
This year, one of my new year’s goals was to “go with the flow”, specifically, the spiritual current. As I was in the process of planning my epic adventure around the world, I knew that I didn’t have control over everything that would happen. I have a tendency to over-plan for trips, including things to do each day, but with this trip, since there were so many transitions to different cities and countries, I tried to keep the planning to a minimum.
When I got to Thailand, the only thing I wanted to do in Krabi was to kayak around the huge limestone cliff islands called karsts. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far for a tour as my hostel featured a sunset kayaking trip every Wednesday. I quickly signed up for this opportunity.
The next morning, Wednesday, was a warm 80 degrees Fahrenheit with partly cloudy skies. I strolled up and down the beach, dodging the reach of monkeys with my watermelon smoothie. I was captivated by the beauty of this spectacular unique backdrop and I couldn’t wait to get a closer look.
I visualized this upcoming experience… with the sun shining down on me, I’ll receive a soft bronze glow and I’ll playfully cool myself off while splashing the oar through the bay. I longed to learn the mysteries of these every-changing forms made of earth and vegetation.
At three o’clock, I arrived ready in my bikini and floral bodysuit. A few others sat down beside me on the hostel lobby bench. I looked out the window as I squinted. Are my eyes playing tricks on me, or does the sky seemed darker than it did earlier today?
Then, thunder shook me out of my seat and streams of water began plummeting from the sky!
Uhhh…I guess this means we’re going to cancel the kayaking trip. I was thoroughly bummed, but I kept looking out the window hoping that it would stop any minute now. Lucy said that this happened yesterday afternoon, but it only lasted about 20 minutes.
Just then, the tour truck showed up and the leader told us all to pile into the back.
Wait a second! We’re actually going to partake in a kayaking tour during this monstrous storm???
Did I mention that I’m from San Diego and it rarely rains? It’s a semi-arid climate, when it does rain, some people decide to just stay home because of panic. The roads turn into scary seas that require unknown skills. Most of us don’t even own umbrellas, rain jackets or rain boots.
This action of stepping from the hostel into the truck completely drenched me. My inner ego screamed into my head, “I don’t like being wet!”
I still can’t believe that we piled into the back of a truck and were on our way to go kayaking in the rain!
Attuning into the feel of my skin, I noticed the day’s contrast; what started as a warm blanket of humidity has turned into a biting chill in the air. Although my chin was chattering, I tried to think higher thoughts… remember that you just survived hiking through a blizzard in minus five degrees Farenheit. Oh ya, I almost forgot about that. This is actually pretty warm. It’s all relative…
We paired off, climbed into tandum boats, and started paddling. Not only were we paddling on the water, but the water was completely saturating us, running down through our hair, our face, arms, and legs.
These grey clouds also took the blue out of the sky’s reflection. This is not at all the picture I had dreamed about in my expectations, my reason for visiting the gorgeous islands of Krabi.
The sky broke the silence with a roar of thunder and electric white jolts of lightening scattered all around us. We were caught in the heart of this storm. Electromagnetic energy was swirling all around us! Sounds and Light: Fire, Space, and Water all colliding.
Photo Credit: Loehr Lightening
I knew at this point I had a choice. I could choose light or darkness, positivity or negativity. I could absolutely freak out, panic, and worry, telling people that we need to go back, this isn’t safe, or I could go with the flow and try to enjoy myself. In yoga philosophy, we refer to water as part of the personal observance of cleansing. This Niyama (according to Pantajali’s 8 Limbed Path to Enlightenment), saucha, is not just for cleaning the outside of the body but also for revitalizing the inner mind.
Further, the Element of Water represents our ability to feel and adapt. A little discomfort is not enough for me to loose my inner joy and peace. I felt the wetness of my skin and hair, and then I chose to adapt to the situation.
I decided to be brave and breathe through my natural fear of danger. We can cultivate the positive qualities of Water through deliberate movement. The flow of water (spiritual current) is supported by repetition in simultaneous movement between breath and body. I directed my attention to my breath and movement of my arms on the oar. Inhale as I bring the right side of the oar into the water, and exhale onto the left side. I found a peace in being focused on this present action.
At one point we were going against the current and when we looked at the strip of land next to us, it appeared that we weren’t going anywhere, but instead just wasting our energy. Our goal was to make it to the lagoon. Lucy and I just kept paddling slow and steady with our breath, choosing to look forward and not be discouraged by looking to the side. We watched as other panicked and yelled that there was no hope. They tried to get out of the boat to attempt to push it through the current. We paddled on in quiet patience.
After over an hour of paddling, we finally made it into the lagoon, but only to find that the tide was too low for us to move any further. Our kayak came to a thud into a bank of mud. The leaders shouted to us that this was a great place to take a break and enjoy a beverage and a snack, provided by management.
As I climbed out of the kayak, I was met with terror! My foot started sinking inches and then feet into this mushy quicksand! What if this “island” of mud swallows me up whole? Is this like the quicksand in the movies? My heart was beating fervently and I almost let panic sink in. Then I stopped and looked around me.
The cliffs were breathtaking! Karst landscapes feature limestone cliffs and caves that were formed by erosion of acid rain. I admired each crevasse and bend in the stone. With an array of brown and green shades and tints. These symbols of change and flow prompted me to once again go with the flow. The Universe brought me here for a reason. There is something for me to learn.
Water dripped off the surfaces as pieces of sand fell with it back down into the lagoon. In this process, the landscape is everchanging because of the water. In the words of the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, “There is nothing is permanent except change.”
Did I mention that this tour was somehow 95% boys? They took a different approach to this seemingly miserable obstacle. They started wrestling and racing. Who can get the most covered in mud? This scene brought laughter to my heart.
I never would have planned a situation to go like this, but this surprise encourages me to look for the silver-lining in every situation. I am now a stronger version of myself. I know that I can be wet, cold, tired, and scared, but still smile, laugh, and have gratitude for this body and life.
I know that I can handle whatever is thrown at me. We can manifest water through the processes of entering and leaving, or arriving and departing. Whatever challenge that I face, is placed in my path for growth along this journey that we call life.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
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Fun Yoga in the Park
Travel the world with me through yoga!
These themed lessons are fun for all ages and levels at Mission Bay Park.
See the page, Park Yoga, for more information!
Lessons from Abroad