Self-experiment: How a monk helped me forgive death

After the sudden death of her father, our author wondered what to do when life changes from one day to the next. Stop? Keep going? Run away? Embrace the change, she was told. A trip to Asia as a self-experiment.

by Carla Cabeus

There are times in life when your thoughts just don’t stop circling. Somewhere in the fog between head, heart and stomach, the same questions keep popping up – but never the right answers. Everything is insecure. An endless search that turns into a persistent cramp, also physically: blocked shoulders, pain in the stomach, nerve tracts glowing day and night. Suddenly there is this feeling of having lost myself between all that unresolved. Yeah i miss me

“Perm. Online yesterday at 11:04 “. Less than 24 hours have passed since my world has changed forever. And now? On, on, on, do something. Work, play sports, meet friends. My brain has no software to stop it. I feel obliged to be paralyzed in pain, not able to do anything. Now that my father is no longer there, I feel guilty, infinitely guilty, for distracting myself with everyday banalities. To give them importance. Because they cavort where there should really only be grief: in the head, in the heart, in the stomach. Can this damn it hurt more please?

Six weeks later. On the darkest day of the onset of winter so far, I leave the gray city. Alone at the airport the collapse follows: “Damn it, what am I doing here?” The last uneventful days have finally torn my nerves apart. I kept going, until there was nothing more to do and then looked for an adventure that now seems much, much too big to me. An escape to the other side of the earth – now? I actually went crazy.

The beautiful dream of “Eat. Pray. Love.”

The tour operator with the exotic-looking name gave me “Travel to oneself and others” Lotustravel promised. And hit a nerve in the process. Because right now here alone at the airport I realize: I’ve lost myself. Between palm leaves and Buddhist philosophy, I want to find my way back to myself. And at the same time knows: Now he has me, Eat’s beautiful dream. Pray. Love. Julia Roberts Hollywood Far East Romance.

November is a rainy month on Koh Samui. For days it has been rushing like a waterfall on the firm, large leaves of the lush green tropical forest in which the Kamalaya Resort seems to grow into it almost originally. Rain so loud it can wake you up in the middle of the night. However, on the first morning of my stay, I wake up tickled by the rays of the sun on my bare toes. In my pajamas I paddle from the bed to the balcony – and see nothing but the blue sky, the turquoise sea and the green and colorful splendor of the tropical vegetation, which shines unreally in the sun.

Despite Koh Samui’s reputation as a package holiday magnet – there is no trace of tourist crowds here. On the contrary, I have the feeling of being alone on this sunny island. I am a small part of this sacred microcosm. Mini-villas, natural pools, yoga temples rooted in the slopes, a densely overgrown sports and wellness center and the resort’s own traditional Chinese medicine practice (TCM), which I would never have recognized as such on my own, I discover on a first walk. Just like a café called “Amrita”, a life-extending elixir in the ancient Indian Vedas, and a restaurant called “Soma”, which translated from Sanskrit means “intoxicating drink of the gods”. Organically, all of this fits into the slopes of the bright green cliff, which flows into a paradisiacal bay with a white sandy beach. A shallow coral reef that seems to be sleeping all the time. The glistening sunlight, the turquoise blue bay, the exotic background of noises and smells and this calm above all: “Surreal!”, I think while I let my gaze wander over the area on the hanging terrace of the Somas.

“Embracing change” – in German: Embrace the change. This is the title of my program, accompanied by Buddhist coaches and medical practitioners, that I will be going through here for the next week. Because not only a change of job, a move or a separation is considered a way of life here. Death is also in the Kamalaya viewed as a radical change. And hugging him will be the greatest challenge of my life so far, if at all possible.

No term for grief

On the first day of my stay, my wellness trainer explains to me how to work in the Kamalaya encountered the hoped-for new beginning. Marissa, a Canadian woman in her forties, laughs so warmly that it is easy for me to tell her the reason for my visit. “Grief” sums up my explanations with understanding. Sitting barefoot in her tropical wooden office, I encounter the English term for mourning for the first time in my life. From now on it will be part of my vocabulary forever. The seven-day trip back to me, Marissa announced to me, consists of a mixture of yoga and meditation, Far Eastern head-hand-foot and full-body massages, a Bach flower medication specially tailored to me, Chinese acupuncture and a kind of talk therapy with one monk trained in India. A soul cocktail filled to the brim that uses almost the entire range of alternative healing methods. “Maybe too much relaxation to relax?” I asked myself when I handed over my daily schedule, which is filled with appointments. I let it come to me.

A cry for silence

But actually: The first two nights at Kamalaya I still sleep badly despite numerous massage treatments, yoga and the tranquility of the resort. Yes, more than that: I am more agitated than ever. My thoughts turn non-stop. Right side, left side, restlessly I toss and turn and it comes up what I want to keep under control with all my might. Loud like never before it screams for silence inside me. The stronger the call, the more thunderous the rush of thoughts. Until we start traditional Chinese acupuncture on the third day.

Bernie, my personal TCM doctor, speaks a pleasantly slurred Aussie German. “Duuuu,” he whistles as he taps a needle into my left knee. A lightning bolt in my foot makes me wince. “Energy discharge,” Bernie dismisses. He diligently gropes and observes with a distant gaze: “You are just trying with all your strength to protect your boarders, how do they say, to protect your borders, right?” “Yes,” I say, surprised, I hadn’t seen it that way, but it was true. “You feel like you don’t know what is good or bad for you anymore, right?” Right. Bernie can actually read the language of my body. He writes a log and passes it on later for the next treatment.

Because in the twilight of the same evening I meet my mentor for the first time. Sujay, himself a young man with brown-milky skin and raven-black hair, tells with cheerful, blue eyes why he is here. As a 14-year-old he already knew that he wanted to show people what he had learned about pain after an argument with a friend. Before he came to Kamalaya, he traveled as a monk through India for a few years to expand his knowledge of people, love and pain.

The sun in front of Sujay’s treatment room sinks into the sea much faster than at home. Together we go to his small, air-conditioned practice. A room with a lounge chair, a desk and two chairs. Sujay also asks me to tell my story. This time I have no idea where to start. Yes, there was a job that made me forget what I could do. And a love whose language I no longer understood. But at the end of this journey came the day that overshadowed all of this: my father, the anchor in my life, was no longer there from one day to the next. It was only a few seconds that changed everything forever. A single, violent impact.

He carries my pain with me

My life turned completely inside out, totally out of hand within a few months. Sujay listens, listens and nods. And when I finally dare to say what sends a cold shiver through the people I tell it to, Sujay remains gentle. It doesn’t reflect my pain, no. He carries it with me. He takes what I say and holds it on with his gentleness instead of sending it away. Without pressure, without direction, without a goal. My words, they just hang in the room. Between us, around us, in us. No rating whatsoever.

Over the next few days we will practice pranayama together, a breathing technique that helps calm the thundering nerve tracts and slow down the chaos of thought. And we talk about how pain arises. Sujay believes that it is our own unfulfilled expectations, and the resulting disappointments are the main cause of all our internal conflicts. The only way to transform pain into something good is to accept things as they are instead of fighting them. To live with change, to find one’s peace with what has happened and to stop quarreling with fate means to forgive. To suppress pain leads to bitterness, Sujay believes, to accept it brings liberation. “Forgive him for leaving you alone,” my mentor encourages me. And I take his words home with me.

“We don’t need to look for the answers to our questions”, Sujay gives me on the way, “they are long ahead of us”. According to his philosophy, all we need is trust that the good is already in everything and around us.

Even in change.

Christinabelow That Kamalaya, a holistic, award-winning 5-star wellness and healing resort on the island Koh Samui in southern Thailand, was founded by a former Buddhist monk and his wife. They wanted to create a place that would attract people from all over the world to “come to themselves”. There are special programs on offer that focus on different areas such as stress & burnout, detox, fitness, weight reduction or emotional balance. By the way, “Kamalaya” means “land of the lotus”.

* Lotustravel has since been taken over by FitReisen. The offer remains.

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