ESCAPE: Museflower Retreat & Spa, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Connecting with my inner self at Musefower Retreat & Spa

By Pamposh Dhar 

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As a healer and meditation teacher, I am constantly urging people to accept life as it unfolds, to make time for themselves, to savour every moment. And yet, earlier this year, I found myself struggling to accept what was happening in my own life. “Physician, heal thyself,” said a voice in my head, but I did not pay heed.

In fact, I was not listening very well to anything—I developed a rather awful ear infection that greatly affected the hearing in my right ear. If a client had shown up at my centre with an ear infection, I would have asked: What are you refusing to listen to? But all I asked myself was whether or not I could take the flight from Singapore to Chiang Rai, in northern Thailand, and go ahead with a three-day retreat at Museflower Retreat & Spa.
My doctor said I could, so off I went, hoping it would be a relaxing long weekend.

Set beside a tranquil lake, surrounded by forest and low hills, Museflower is the perfect place to reconnect with nature—and with oneself. If offers an opportunity for a physical and digital detox, replacing heavy meals with light but tasty ones, sedentary days with walks along the lake or through the organic farm, and screen time with yoga, tai-chi or meditation. To add to the sense of well-being, one can try healing therapies like massage and Reiki. The resort often hosts special festivals and retreats. I arrived just in time for a Life Festival.

The resort’s founder, Tania Ho, says Museflower offers a “gentle” rather than a rigorous detox. It serves vegetarian, organic food flavoured with Thai and other Asian spices. Besides freshly cooked vegetables, the lunch and dinner fare includes tasty tofu and noodle dishes, wholesome soups and black or brown rice. Breakfast options include eggs upon special request— fresh ones, from the resort’s own duck farm.

But the detox is not limited to food. “Emotional and mental detox is also important,” says Tania. Without that, people tend to go back to their old ways as soon as they return home.

This other detox happens quite naturally at Museflower, as one gets away from the busyness of life and spends more time with oneself in the natural surroundings, the meditation pavilion or in the relaxing swimming pool cleansed with Himalayan salt.

There is no WiFi in any of the rooms, only in certain public areas like the dining hall. So you are not completely disconnected from the rest of the world, but at the same time you are not constantly distracted by a pinging phone or laptop. The digital detox, like that for food, is both gentle and effective.

On my first morning there, I woke before sunrise and went for a walk. As I walked in the organic vegetable garden, I quite unexpectedly came upon beautiful pink lotus flowers—or were they water lilies? In any case, they were gorgeous. I watched the sun come up over the lake, reflected in its waters. I felt utterly peaceful.

As I meditated by the lake, I started to look into my own internal struggle and the outer manifestation of it in the form of the ear infection. I saw, what I had avoided seeing until then, that I had been really shaken by my mother’s recent collapse at home, and even more so by the discovery that she has a tumour in the brain. At 92, there are few treatment options available for her.

Logically, my mind tells me I have to be ready to let her go. But when she collapsed at home, logic flew out the window. All I kept saying to myself was, “I’m not ready to let her go.” Luckily this did not turn out to be a problem as she recovered fully in hospital. However, the fact that she has a brain tumour started a new worry in my head: will she live long and suffer?

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Sitting by the lake, watching the sun rise, I began to understand that these two conflicting thoughts had been running around in some part of my mind, but I had not wanted to acknowledge them, or the distress they caused me. I did not want to accept what the doctors told me, that my mother had a severe illness, which could cause fits, disorientation, and an imbalance in her hormones.

The first step to making peace with change you do not like but cannot stop from happening, is acceptance. So I always tell my clients. Now I said this to myself. Then I remembered another thing I always say: Be  kind to yourself too, just as you are to others. So to help me relax, accept life and let go of my anxiety, I decided to try Museflower’s signature massage. As the therapist worked on my muscles, I felt myself really letting go. I reminded myself once more to accept what life brings; do not waste your energy vainly trying to resist what has already happened! This time I listened to myself. I relaxed into the massage. By the time it was over, I had released so much stress I felt I was floating.

Never one to do things by halves, I decided to try some Reiki too and see if that would bring even more healing. When I asked the therapist for an appointment, she folded her hands together in her gentle Thai way, and said: “But you are a Reiki Master yourself.” I was touched by her humility, but explained that I wanted to receive Reiki from her, which would be very different from what I could do for myself.

Different it certainly was, and not only because it came from Watchararat Srichamroen, known around Museflower simply as A, who exudes a beautiful, soft energy. Along with the Reiki, she offered me some sound therapy, a little massage and the most relaxing aromas. Somehow she managed to blend all these therapies into a relaxing, soothing, harmonious whole. If you want to try only one therapy at Museflower, let it be this one!

I felt I had done a lot of my own reflection and come a long way towards accepting
what I had been so reluctant even to hear. I had relaxed, connected with water, sunshine, trees and sky. More importantly, I had truly connected with myself. Yet my ear infection had not cleared fully. Was there still something I was not willing to listen to, and so to accept? I could not think what.

I kept this question at the back of my mind—surely the answer would come to me. Meanwhile, I joined Museflower’s regular yoga and tai-chi sessions as also some of the sessions on offer as part of the ongoing Life festival to mark Museflower’s second anniversary. At one of these sessions, the last piece of the puzzle finally fell into place. I cannot remember exactly what the facilitator said, but what I heard was that I did not need to take on other people’s dramas.

Now I understood that there was one last thing I needed to accept. Although I take a great deal of responsibility for my mother’s care because she is no longer able to make fully informed decisions, she is still a strong-willed woman with her own likes and dislikes. She will do her physiotherapy exercises when she feels like it; she will only accept Reiki once in a while and usually for short periods; she loves going out but will always resist doing so initially. This is who she is and she has a perfect right to be this way. I must respect and accept her choices.

That was quite a lot of reflection, learning and insight in three days! In this quiet, peaceful resort, I was able to listen to myself, my internal struggle and my inner wisdom as well. The help from the therapists, resource persons and fellow guests was the icing on the cake.

Physically, I was hearing much better by now, but I needed a final push to fully clear that nasty infection. David Leong, who had earlier led us in a session of dance-like somatic movements, offered me acupressure. On our last evening at Museflower, he worked his magic and taught me the points to massage myself. I felt immediate relief and I woke up next morning to a fully functioning ear!

There was one final reiteration of the learning at Museflower on that last evening there. Tania asked us all to write one wish for ourselves that we would tie to a floating lantern and send up to the sky. What a beautiful idea! I immediately thought of my mother and asked if I would make a wish for someone else. Tania very gently suggested that I write two wishes, including one for myself. Once again, I felt my own words to so many others coming back to me: Be kind to others, but be kind to yourself too!

The trip was sponsored by Museflower Retreat & Spa for Yoga Journal. You can learn more about the resort at http://www.musefloweretreat.com. YJ subscribers can mention code YJMUSE when making a booking.

Pamposh Dhar is a senior YJSG writer and the founder of the Terataii Centre. You can email Pamposh at terataii@gmail.com and visit her website at www.terataii.com.sg