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The Web of Love: Part One – A story of remembering the sacred feminine through earth-based spirituality.

I can still picture it: the teak house on the top of the hill overlooking the gulf of Thailand. The hill was so steep I was completely removed from the village beneath me.

My friends used to curse me when they had to walk up that hill to visit. They’d arrive at the top, out of breath. I’d see them doubled over half way up the climb. Riding my motorbike down it often felt like the back-end might tip up. It was 2015 and this house was my sanctuary. It was my temple.



The House on the Hill

The owner was in Mooji’s inner circle and pictures of him (which I had turned around in an interesting foreshadowing) and Ramana Maharshi were stuck into picture frames and mirrors throughout the house. 

Its wooden structure meant that the earth energy palpably circulated throughout. It didn’t have a door as such, it had a concertina-type wooden panel, which opened onto a large balcony, wide and long enough to comfortably fit 20 people, and overlooking endless blue seas and skies, sandwiching emerald green jungle in between. 

A military coup had seen me leave my journalism job at a Thai newspaper and retreat to the island with enough savings to not worry about work for a few months. I’d left social media. I didn’t own a phone or a laptop. I had a battered iPad and used it to listen to spiritual lectures and music and watch YouTube.

I had recently completed a 2-week silent meditation retreat at a local temple and, inspired by a friend, had decided to attempt a longer one at home. This was the perfect place. The hill made sure that no one ever came upon me by accident.

The retreat at the temple had been life-changing. Once it was over, the hall where we had sat in silence for 2 weeks became full of the noise of happy people finally able to speak. But I wasn’t ready to yet. I wanted more. I took to temple life like a duck to water. Mostly.

We did back-to-back walking and sitting meditation from 4:30am to 8pm with a half-hour break for breakfast and an hour break for lunch – our last meal of the day. For an hour in the afternoon there were dharma talks. I’d studied Buddhism since my teenage years and found it fascinating, though I had always known it was not my practice. Listening to the dharma talks was like trying on a pair of someone else’s glasses to try and see the world better. For me, it was a fundamentally flawed pursuit.




The Feminine Spiritual Path Calls

Something else had bothered me about the temple retreat. I was a mover, a dancer, a yogini. I had already been an avid meditator and was able to sit comfortably for 30 minutes to an hour without needing to move all that much. But after 8 hours of sitting, my body craved to spiral and snake itself. I found myself moving to the beat of the dripping tap when no one was watching. I craved sensuality. I craved the feminine. I craved my clothes. On retreat we’d been asked to cover up and dress simply. This was understandable. Though I hadn’t realised just how much I would miss my colourful silk dresses.

“Craving”, said the teacher, “is the root of all suffering.” And I got it at the time and I still get it today: there are various escape hatches built into this reality and no doubt one such door is opened by denying sense stimulation and practising non-attachment. I had a feeling there were other ways, too. Overall I enjoyed the peace; the slowness and the stillness. One day I had a powerful experience during a walking meditation where I started to view the connection between the senses – specifically sight – and attachment. 

I had chosen a track in the temple yard for my walking practice and was doing the very-slow, four-part steps I had learned when I suddenly had the urge to bend backwards slightly to click my lower back. My mind and my sight became momentarily detached from each other and I was struck by the realisation that what I saw through my eyes was created by my mind like projections onto a screen. For what felt like an age but was in fact around 30 seconds, everything around me took on the effect of a movie. It felt surreal. I had had the experience of “no mind”. And it was f*cking trippy.



Naughty Nuns

My experience at the retreat wasn’t fully nun-like. I had joined a close friend at the temple. We’d promised not to speak or distract each other and I had only broken the vow once when I saw on the karma schedule that my intensely germaphobic friend had been put on toilet cleaning duties. I sent her a note offering to swap. I was on leaf sweeping. She soldiered on. On the end of the 14th day when we were finally able to talk and to process a bit of what had gone on, I confided in her that for 9 of the 14 days I had thought about sex, almost non-stop. And not the usual kind of sexual connection I craved but a kind that was far kinkier than my own tastes. She stared at me, unbelieving. She’d had an almost identical experience, right down to the kink.

The generous balcony at my home on the hill meant that I could lie naked, sunning my most intimate places, listening to the waves lapping at the shore and the sounds of the birds and monkeys. And occasional motorbike exhausts backfiring.

Having an abundance of spaciousness after being employed full time since leaving university, I wanted to fill the spaces with all the audiobooks and lectures and music I had always wanted to dive into.  I would sit outside in the sun, naked, listening.



Entering Silence

The view from the house on the hill

The day came when I was ready to begin my retreat. I was aiming to go for one month at home (including the generous secluded garden) in silence. I would meditate for several hours a day, but I would also practise yoga and move my body. I would have no conversations, no emails, no writing, no listening to music or lectures or watching videos of any kind. I would see no friends.

I went to the market and bought enough food to last me on a similar diet to the one I’d had at the temple. I told my friends I wouldn’t be seeing them for a while. Most rolled their eyes and said they’d see me in a few days.

It was in the third week that it happened. I was sitting on the balcony in the sunshine, meditating. I remember the sounds of the birds, the ocean, the fluttering breeze and the smell of the frangipani flowers scattered around my feet from the tree which hung over the edges of the house.

Everything fell away. Everything I could perceive through my senses dropped off and I saw and felt the structure on which all these sensual stimulations were painted. A web of love. 

I saw that life is the fruit of love. That every living thing, every breath, every flower which hums with life, is infused with love. Everything that comes from the earth is a love song.

And then I heard the birds and the flowers and I realised that they’d been singing to me all this time. Asking me to remember.

The Web of Love: Part Two is coming soon.

If you’d like to learn about earth-based spirituality, specifically rose medicine, join me on pilgrimage in Glastonbury for my women’s retreat: Rose Priestess, May 24-27th.

Read all about it here.

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