Cause Fitness – Thailand Retreat Reflections: Part 2
Continued from Part 1 here…
I was en route to witnessing a dream come true and it wasn’t happening because I made it happen, but because God allowed it to. He was carrying me there…
…It was the feeling of knowing that I was exactly where I was supposed to be at exactly the right time doing exactly what I was meant to be doing without even really trying to.
“I feel equal parts ‘why me?’ and ‘I was born for this!’ but humbled by both,” I wrote in my journal on my layover in Bangkok.
(I’m so grateful that I kept a journal! Always keep a journal – It’s your personal history book!)
The feelings continued overlapping faster and faster as the retreat I’d envisioned so many times played out in real time. I so wish you could have been there, but my hope is that by reading this blog you’ll be able to imagine yourself there with us (and join us next time)!
When I arrived at the airport in Koh Samui, I was ready for the adventure ahead, and my driver was waiting for me. I spent the entire 20 minute drive taking the island in through the window’s of his car, capturing some of it on video, but it doesn’t do it justice. (I did a pretty decent job of “Snapchat-documenting” the trip, so I’m working on stitching a couple videos together for ya’ll too, so you can get a feel for it.)
The scene changed suddenly and the car stopped. I was no longer winding through no-traffic-laws streets of colorful Thai-island culture, but on on a cliff, overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, being welcomed into my home for the week: Vikasa. I checked in and was greeted with fresh coconut water served in a young coconut. Looking out over the ocean from the top of this open-air, cliff-side resort restaurant, waiting for my guests while my bags were delivered to my personal bungalow was nothing short of overwhelming…in the best way possible.
That arrival evening was full of moments like this as I took my retreaters through a brief orientation, our first buffet dinner of fresh Pescatarian Thai, and got settled in our rooms.
The first full day couldn’t have been better, in my opinion.
I got up an hour before the schedule began, took my coffee and a homemade protein bar (leave me a comment below if you want the recipe) out onto my private deck where I had my “Jesus Time,” and prepared for the day to the sound of island-birds and waves crashing on the beach below me. *Bliss!*
The days all started early, but I made sure there would be plenty of down-time to schedule spa treatments, hang out at the beach or the infinity pool, explore nearby towns, or take any of the yoga classes the resort offered. I wanted everyone there to get the workouts and education they came for, but I also wanted the retreat to be just that: a retreat! With time to breathe, time to relax and rejuvenate and restore…time to just BE, away from “it all”.
Here’s what our scheduled days looked like:
8:00 Devotions (optional) @ Small Sala
8:30 UnBootcamp @ Small Sala
9:30-11:30 Brunch Buffet
12:00 ‘Cause Fitness: Nutrition’ Workshop
4:00 Open-workout @ Sky Gym
6:30-8:30 Dinner Buffet
To be honest, as I was walking to the “Small Sala” to lead a pre-workout devotions that day, I wasn’t sure if anyone would show up since it was optional and the retreat wasn’t a “Christian” retreat, but to my surprise everyone was there; curious, expectant and full of energy! I said a silent “thank you” prayer.
I said A LOT of silent “thank you” prayers that week.
Wanna know another fun-fact?
I had prepared everything ahead of time for the retreat except for the devotions. The topic(s) to focus on escaped me all the way up until my trip there but I was confident that God would enlighten me and provide the message(s) He wanted me to deliver in His good time. I just had to trust and be willing to share.
He did. He always does.
I was in the middle of reading “Love Does” by Bob Goff, the book I had brought to read on the plane (highly recommend it), when I started thinking about what I would talk about. Distracted by the reminder that time was running out, I stopped reading and prayed for clarity. Later on the trip I was reading again and stopped to dog-ear yet another great example-story about what real love looks like when it hit me. Love. I’ll talk all about real love; unconditional love; God’s love vs the world’s love. I had also recently been reading what John and 1 John have to say about love. It was all coming together and I had my inspiration. God’s love is love that “does”. Thank you Jesus, and thank you, Bob Goff! :)
Day 1: What is love?
Day 2: The Laws of Love
Day 3: Love Does (Love as Action)
Day 4: Love is… (My story of how agape love, God’s love, changed my life).
So Tuesday was on schedule, and wonderful, but it was a day to adjust. The scheduled free-time was a blessing, but one I found I struggled with. I felt the need to “do” something, as if I couldn’t allow myself to just enjoy it all without a to-do list. But I did adjust. I prayed silently. I breathed it all in, and out slowly, and tried to accept that everything I was experiencing was real; that I was where I was. It was all so…good! As I began to relax, I started observing in more detail. This island and culture were unfamiliar, but so was the lifestyle. It was quiet – no music; very “zen”. I felt a bit out of place for a second, but then took it as an opportunity to stand out in a good way; a conversation starter. It turned out to be just that, and wonderfully so.
I had a feeling things would continue to get even better as the week progressed and I was right. Wednesday was our second scheduled day, and established and adjusted we all took every opportunity to experience more.
Everyone showed up at the devotion time again, UnBootcamp was awesome and went even more smoothly since everyone was familiar with the flow of it now, and heading up to brunch (about 200 stair steps “up”) we were all looking forward to more of the resort’s amazing food! Our conversations were more relaxed; deeper. My little tribe was thriving!
After brunch, Maggie and Julia left for the massages they’d booked, and Jonathan and I continued to talk. He shared his story with me and I got to know better how much of a gift this retreat really was. While we talked, Lisa, one of the Vikasa employees came over and sat down with us to check in. When she asked how everything was going so far, I began to take her through the schedule saying something like “It’s been great! Today was our second full day. We started with devotions at 8…”
“Devotions?” She cut me off with the question.
“Yes, a Bible study,” I confirmed. At that moment I got the feeling that this was good news to her.
“Really…” she said, looking at me incredulously.
I confirmed again. Lisa just sat there for a second, speechless, before explaining that she had been working and studying at the resort for seven months as the only Christian there and, missing like-minded community, had texted her sister about it just minutes before sitting down with us.
I immediately invited her to join us. She accepted enthusiastically, and was excited try UnBootcamp too. We also agreed to get together later to talk more. This was too good!
Something even crazier…
Without going into too much detail, I had had a dream about 3-4 weeks before I left for Thailand where I woke up with the unshakable sense that I needed to pray for someone, a woman, in Thailand outside of my group/retreat. I truly believe I was praying for Lisa long before I met her! It was all so unbelievable, and that is just one of the miracle stories I have from the trip! God works in such crazy, awesome ways!
Thai New Year
We were in Thailand at such a great time. The week we were there was the week all of Thailand celebrates “Songkran,” the Thai New Year, with a playful country-wide water fight. With any means necessary (hoses, buckets, water guns, etc) the entire country goes outside and gets soaked. And it’s not just water. They make a white paste (baby powder mixed with water) to cover each other with too. The water symbolizes a washing away of the old year and the paste is a blessing of good luck for the new year.
Sounds of music and laughter and delighted screams were coming from the street outside the resort. The girls had gone to the pool, right after the nutrition workshop, but Jonathan was curious, I was definitely curious, and since this retreat was symbolic of new beginnings for me too, I embraced it all!
Wash the old away and bless the new!
I embraced something else that day too.
After experiencing the loud of Songkran I went for a swim, then walked down to the quiet of the beach by my bungalow. I laid down in the shallow sun-warmed turquoise water and let the waves lap over me as I scooped up sandy pebbles and watched every glassy color sift through parted fingers back into the water. I embraced stillness.
Thursday was excursion day! That morning, Lisa joined us for devotions, UnBootcamp, and a quick brunch before jumping in the tour guide van for a day exploring the lower part of the island of Koh Samui!
The pictures will tell the story better than I will, but I will tell you where we went! We hiked up to “Waterfall II”, toured a safari zoo (saw tigers and monkeys and elephants and crocodiles up close), visited a coconut farm and saw how coconut milk is made, saw a Buddhist temple on the beach, ate fresh papaya salad made from a papaya tree behind the restaurant we stopped by for lunch, perused a pearl farm and store, and explored a couple of street markets where we had coconut ice cream out of the coconut and bartered for souvenirs!
Last day on the schedule, but one of the best. The tribe had grown! Lisa came to the devotions again, and Roberto (another yoga instructor at the resort) joined us for UnBootcamp. Beyond blessed by this, because two of my retreaters had had to drop out last minute. Lisa and Roberto were a picture of redemption for me. God is so good.
And, my little tribe was awesome! Roberto loved the class, Maggie and Julia crushed it, Lisa was enjoying the change of pace from yoga to high intensity, and Jonathan was doing more pushups and burpees consecutively than he had all week!
The day was relaxed and productive – there was a sense of accomplishment and of sadness as it was our last full day all together. That afternoon, Jonathan, Julia and I got a workout in before dinner at SkyGym while Maggie got some beach time, then we all got back together for dinner and drinks to celebrate the week and ring in the Thai New Year with Vikasa!
Deep, deep gratitude.
Jonathan had already left for the airport at 6am (we all said our goodbyes the night before), but this morning everything seemed to slow down in reflection of a week full of adventure, and sadness for the end of it.
I took Roberto’s meditation class at 7am before the last UnBootcamp (which actually wasn’t scheduled but he and the girls talked me into it) and spent the time praying and praising. I have never experienced such a deep sense of gratitude! My week’s experience summarized. Tears fell silently; unexpectedly.
Julia and Maggie and I spent Julia’s last hour together after brunch. We sent her off together, with happy tears.
One more beach opportunity for Maggie while I got my first massage of the week at the cliff-side, open-air spa: heavenly.
Afterwards, we met again to say goodbye, and I sent Maggie off, again, with happy tears.
I took the afternoon in slow motion too. I had a lot to take in and process. So much had just happened that even being a part of it all I feel like I still have catching up to do!
I took my first acro-yoga class though. It was something I’ve wanted to try forever, and Lisa was in the class so I got a little professional help too! (I’m obsessed…)
The rest of the trip was blissful. The responsibility of a schedule and leading was over so I got to really, truly relax and enjoy the paradise I was surrounded with, and spend time with the new friends I’d made until I left Sunday evening.
Mission accomplished, the first international Cause Fitness retreat had been a complete success, and all I can say to that thought as I type it, is that I still struggle with the gift of it all — it blows my mind every time I sit with the realization of it.
Remember what I said in Part 1? How I had “very good intentions of writing and posting this immediately,” but “little did I know that such a surreal trip…would also induce (in equal parts) feelings of intense gratitude and mourning or grief, which would then provoke a foggy, almost escapist mindset for the entire rest of the week(s) following my return”? Yeah. This is what I’m talking about. I mean, how long has it taken me to process it all, sit down and write this to share the experience with you? Too long.
That said, God willing, I will do it again, and next time, I want you to come with me!
Until then, whatever you’re doing, #CauseFitness!
YOUR TURN: Where should we go for the next Cause Fitness retreat? Tell me in the comments below!