After leaving Nepal in our wake, we headed to the Northern Thai city, Chiang Mai. This city is a very well-known spiritual place, filled with retreats, elephant sanctuaries, and other fun things for the conscious tourist. After landing in the city, we got picked up from the centre to start our retreat. I was excited about this, as a German Yoga instructor recommended Suan Sati. We would be spending 2 weeks in their Truck-a-low. This was basically a truck that had been converted into a romantic room for two.
As soon as we arrived, we were shown around the retreat, where they have permaculture as a strong theme sown into a huge amount of what they do. The basis of this is to try and use things for multiple purposes. An example of this was re- using water for rinsing, washing up and watering the plants. Another example is converting rubbish into building blocks for furniture. The other strong theme there was spirituality. This was a huge part of what had attracted me here. I wanted to learn more about the spiritual practice of yoga and meditation. And as an added bonus, the food was vegan (with a huge portion of it grown organically on the site).
As the week started, it became clear very quickly that the Magician was starting to tackle some exceptionally hard thoughts and behaviours. For the first time I could see him starting to slip further and further into this continual questioning. This demand to know how could he stop suffering? How could his mind be at peace? How could he actually be grateful for anything, when he wanted to quit suffering. I wanted so badly to fix him, to make all this pain go away, to help him see the beauty all around. But no one can fix anyone, this is a solitary journey. But I kept trying, and every time I tried I felt my energy drop to a level, where I wanted to bury myself in my bed and never get up again. This didn’t stop the Magician continuing to ask me for the answer I did not have. And it didn’t stop me trying to fix him. As the days became more intense, I got to the point I couldn’t take anymore and I decided to leave the retreat early. Knowing that the Magician would benefit more from the beautiful retreat, I decided I should be the one to go. Deep down I also knew I had my own journey to go on. A few weeks earlier I’d had an experience of intense peace, and I now knew it was possible to become enlightened. This wasn’t a fairy tale myth. It was real, and it was the most beautiful state in the world. Next month I would be walking alone on the Appalachian trail for 6 months to understand more about how to live in this state. And the Magician would be going on his own journey. The question I was scared to say aloud to anyone, was I had no idea where this would lead our relationship.
The moment my taxi left the retreat for Chiang Mai, all I wanted to do was scream at the taxi driver to turn around. I couldn’t then help but decide to spend a few extra days in Chiang Mai, before heading on. This would give both of us some space to calm down, but also a chance to see each other again at the weekend. I spent most of my time sat writing, but treated myself to a massage at the Women’s Massage Centre (by ex- prisoners).
During our weekend together (before I went onto Koh Samui, and the Magician went back for the 2nd weeks retreat) we started to talk about different ways to communicate our needs to each other. We started talking more and more about enlightenment. Taking an opportunity to talk with a Buddhist Monk, where we learnt more about meditation, and dedicating yourself to the search for enlightenment. Its strange to talk to someone who is 15 years younger than I, and whom seems to have had more happiness and peace in his simple (consumer-free) life than I can understand. This continued to convince me, that following Buddhist teaching would help to show me the path.
We also took the chance to visit Wat Jetlin, one of the many historic Buddhist temples in the city. The temple is covered in gold, red and white decorations and I enjoyed sitting and watching people, as the Magician meditated next to me. I found the tourists hilarious in their quick photo’s, before they ran onto the next site. And mothers trying to quiet their excited sugar fuelled toddlers. For a place that is meant to be filled with silent peace, there was nothing but life exploding in every corner. And a visit to Chiang Mai wouldn’t really be complete without experiencing the madness of the walking Saturday Market. During this night market, the streets are stuffed with vendors selling lots of varieties of food, and stalls selling cheap(-ish) clothes and trinkets for tourists. As the Magician and I said goodbye, our argument was finally behind us, as we started to find different ways to communicate. And I finally learnt a few important lessons. One, being that I didn’t have to sacrifice everything of myself to the Magician. It was my responsibility to manage my own energy and to openly tell the Magician what I needed. But I also started to understand that arguments aren’t necessarily evil and an indication that we were going to fall apart. And I learnt that the Magician needed more reassurance from me that I wasn’t going to run away from our relationship anymore, and that I needed to finally start facing up to my issues around trust.