Cambodia, Southeast Asia

March 2, 2015

Living Life By The Gong – Hariharalaya Yoga & Meditation Retreat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Back in Canada, if someone asked me to give up my cell phone, my internet, my computer, go vegan, and do nothing but yoga, meditation and relax for one week – I would say they were crazy. First of all, I am not very good at relaxing unless it involves a hungover Sunday… but then again, isn’t that why I have found myself on a seven month vacation? Because I burnt myself out living the way was?

The best part of travelling is bringing on new experiences. It does not matter if you would do it at home. You are here – right now. And almost everybody is here because they are wanting something different from what they have at home.

When Pam and I first made the decision to sign up for a yoga and meditation retreat, we were excited! I simply googled meditation retreat Cambodia, clicked on one of the first ones I saw and when we read through the website for Hariharalaya, we knew it was exactly where we wanted to go. The TripAdvisor reviews boosted comments about how it was some of its guest’s best experience in Southeast Asia. Those are bold comments, I thought… and TripAdvisor doesn’t lie.

Hariharalaya is located about an hour outside of Siem Reap in a small village. It was perfect. The property was beautiful – full of trees, huts, hang out areas, hammocks, a small pool, and the main house with a library of books and the yoga studio. If I was going to learn how to relax, this was the place to do it.

When I got there, I locked up my electronics (other than my camera because I wanted to capture some of what was happening) and did not look back for those six days. For those six days, I did not miss checking my phone, or my Facebook, or looking at what time it was. I did not know what time it was, and frankly, I did not care.

I now lived my life by the gong. If I needed to be somewhere – the gong let me know. image

The gong sounded in the morning to wake us up. It sounded to let us know morning asana and meditation was starting. It let us know breakfast was being served. It let us know when optional activities were starting… lunch was starting.. afternoon yoga and evening meditation was starting and so on. It was great. It was about the now.

Meditation is about the now. Which sounds pretty straight forward. Take a seat cross-legged for about 20 minutes, focus on your breath and just be. Sounds simple enough, I should be able to do this, I thought.

Have any of you, EVER tried to actually meditate? It is one of the most difficult things I have ever tried to do! There is nothing easy about it. I see why I have not done it before….

I sit crossed legged and within about 2 minutes, my feet and legs are tingling. I tell my mind not to worry about it. It is fine – just ignore it. At that point my body starts demanding my minds attention by making my feet go completely numb. Come on, reach down and touch them, my mind taunts. When I further ignore this, my body steps up its game by making my legs fall asleep along with my feet. If you don’t move your legs now, you may be paralyzed… it starts to warn….When you go to get up, you won’t be able to stand. You will fall and hurt yourself. Do you WANT to hurt yourself?.… And somehow – every time – I fall for it. I worry I will become paralyzed and have stretch out my legs!

Sitting still is not a skill that I have.


AND THEN, there is the whole power of the mind thing during meditation. Have any of you EVER tried to focus on only your breath for 20 minutes? It’s beyond difficult!

It generally starts off peaceful…. and then… Look at you, killing it, my mind chirps in. I wonder if any one else is doing this well?… How long has it been? Surely, it’s been at least 10 minutes. I can’t wait until lunch.. what are we eating I wonder? Man, I want to learn to play the harmonica! I can’t wait to do this in Costa Rica…. Wait. Stop it… focus on breathing only….. Deep breath in…. and out. That’s good. Much better…. Stupid legs falling asleep.. wish I had better circulation. It’s not my fault I am disadvantaged… Is it me who smells?…. I think I am being attacked by mosquitos.. I should swat them away.. What if they have malaria? I could die… Other people MUST be bothered by the mosquitos!…..I bet lots of people here are failing at this right now and miserable….. Good… Ugh. I do not want to go back work… when AM I coming home?…

Needless to say, I am not very good at it. But I am hopeful that I will improve. Clearly, I need to learn to do this because it is exhausting to be in my mind. It would be like being in a room with three Tori’s. And as I am sure all those who have met me can agree – one is more than enough.

So, the meditation was challenging but the yoga was incredible! Our teachers Mary, Sacha, Maike and Inma were amazing and taught me more in those classes than I had learned since I started practicing yoga. I felt strong and motivated. I was excited!

We did all types of yoga. Partner yoga! Which is a lot less hard and more awesome than I would have imagined… yoga outside by a temple… restorative yoga … vinyasa yoga… you name it!



The most useful part, however, was the yoga alignment class. This was inspiring. Three hours going through multiple positions in innate detail to show you how you are ACTUALLY supposed to do them. Needless to say – I had been doing almost everything wrong. BUT, it is super exciting when you figure out HOW to do them right!

And then, there was the people! We had such a kick a** group of people!  How we all ended up there separately from countries all over the world at the same time was awesome. Everyone was truly special and it was so cool to have this experience with everyone.



After the retreat, we all headed back to Siem Reap to indulge in everything we had been missing… booze and crap food!… Seriously, Pam and I ate 2 whole pizzas that night. That’s not slices. That’s whole pizzas.

Hariharalaya was more than just an awesome couple of days… little did we know while we were there… this place was going to change our lives…

….. to be continued…..

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