A Retreat and back again

As unbelievable as it may sound Joyce and I have just returned from a spiritual, meditation and yoga retreat.

We decided to venture into the spiritual realm more out of curiosity than anything else and we were both unsure – a little apprehensive even – about spending 5 days at a Retreat – Hariharalaya. However; we not only survived but really enjoyed our time and, I feel, has opened up our minds.

It was great to get off the backpacking trail – which can be a little frantic and fast paced at times – slow down our bodies and minds, unwind and connect with ourselves in a different way (… Well, try at least).

And so we spent 5 blissful days surrounded by a beautiful garden filled with fruit trees, bamboo huts, hammocks, lounging seats, great people and a positive energy. It was incredibly relaxing and recharging for us and we are still feeling its effects. And we managed to achieve so much…

A different style of yoga everyday, chanting, tarot reading, detox talk and guidance, dancing meditation, chakra meditation (my favourite; a lying down meditation… and yes, people fell asleep and snored), lots and lots of sitting meditation (I think I achieved nothingness – being in the present – once… For maybe 10 seconds… Damn my frantic mind), bliss ball making (very tasty sweet vegan treats), blind shiatsu massage, head massage, reiki, energy visualisation (Prana), an awesome guitar jam, a wicked new card game learnt (it’s called oh he’ll… Aka ‘In the name of god’ and warning I plan to spread it to everyone I now meet), reading and chilling, chatting (to amazing people) and showering under the stars underneath a mango tree!

Oh and eating some of the best food we have had since travelling! And I can’t believe I’m saying that as a devout meat eater. The all vegan food was incredible and the rush for breakfast, lunch and dinner would have broken down into scuffles anywhere outside the Retreat!

And now we find ourselves out of the bubble and back in the real world. I hope that we take the mindfulness – the awareness – with us and live every moment in the present. As we have learnt meditation is just a way to practice being in the present; as this old Indian story shows:

A monk went to his guru and asked, ‘Can I smoke while I meditate?’. The guru replied, ‘No!’

Later, the monk saw a peer of his meditating and smoking. He was shocked and when his peer had finished meditating he asked, ‘How can you smoke while meditating? The guru told me I could not.’

‘Simple’, replied the other monk, ‘I asked the guru, “May I meditate while I smoke?”, to which the guru replied, “Of course”.’

So it is not that we need to sit and meditate. We should meditate all the time. We should be present all the time. Not in the past. Not in the future.

So our travels now continue, from a little coffee shop in Battambang (where we are right now) to wherever the path leads next.


This is Joel Altman – founder and heart of Hariharalaya. A fascinating man, who is creating something enlightening and powerful at Hariharalaya. If you are in Siem Reap I suggest: visit.

2 responses to “A Retreat and back again

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