As someone who lives on Koh Phangan, I’m always surrounded by the amazing natural beauty that it’s blessed with. For me, not a day goes by without having an appreciation for the island’s changing skies — the dawn sunlight heralding the new day paints a stark contrast with the dusky horizon. That day, as the sun set, people gathered on the beach to sing, play instruments, and dance to celebrate the beautiful day that it had been.
While my eyes were fixated on the sky’s grand transition, my ears were treated with soft whispers from the waves. My naked feet felt divine planted in the fine sandy beach and my skin caressed by the salty ocean breeze. In that moment, I truly understood what it meant to be alive. Life was such a wonderful and sacred thing. Sometimes we forgot that we, too, were created with wonder.
Forgetting, however, seemed to be the last thing on these people’s minds. Each of them had their own way of seeking out spirituality. Some would pray and some would allow themselves to be in that gravity-free flow state through activities such as dancing and qi walking. Some chose to practise stillness, listen to their surroundings, and then pray. Whatever they did and whichever chapter of life they were currently in, they would remind one another not to forget the state of holiness found within themselves. This year marks the third edition of Sacred Mountain, a small festival that previously took place on the mountain in Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai. The change of location perhaps made it an even more ideal spot for strengthening the bond between mother nature and her children.
Chosen by the pilgrims of Sacred Mountain, Haad Tien Bay is also home to the world’s renowned resort The Sanctuary. Over the course of five days, we participated in various activities designed to connect our spirituality with the sacredness of nature. We were reminded of the warmth from our mother nature’s bosom and the wonder of being alive under the theme “Remember, Reconnect & Return.”
On the first morning, the sound of Tibetan bells signalled the pilgrims who might still be swimming in the ocean or having a chat over breakfast with their peers to circle up. The moment when everyone started singing the mother nature chant, I became intensely overwhelmed right within. Realizing human beings’ failure and recognizing her infinite, unconditional love brought tears of gratitude to my eyes. We completely forgot that, in her home, all of us were her most loved children and all things were interconnected.
The common aim for each day’s activities is to bring ourselves back to love. Love for oneself as well as affection from mother nature to others and those surrounding us. On Day 2, I attended a workshop called ‘Embrace Your Failure.’ At first I was skeptical of how much soul transformation I could get out of it since it was quite a popular class. Nevertheless, I chose to address an epic fail of mine when I didn’t go see my sister at the hospital as soon as I landed in Thailand. And like fate intended, I missed the chance to see my sister’s face for one last time before she’s gone forever. During the session, I drew a tiny angel to reflect on this experience and, even though a few girls were interested in my drawing, I could only talk about it with my partner.
At the end of the workshop, we were given a chance to embrace each other. As soon as this one girl touched me, she burst out crying despite the fact that we hadn’t even spoken before. We held hands and locked eyes with only a few words spoken. We felt the energy of love radiating from one another. The most powerful thing she said to me was that she felt hopeful when she saw me. I could see it in eyes and I could feel that she saw just how many times I had been broken and how I’d managed to remain one with my body, mind, and soul. I even joked with her that if I were to be compared to the Japanese art of ‘kintsugi,’ I would have been covered in gold.
The highly anticipated moment finally arrived when DJ Ecstatic Dance and his buddy joined us on the third day. We were each given a cup of concentrated cacao drink before joining the Cacao Ceremony. Full of vitamins and minerals, cacao stimulates our hearts, helping us to connect with others. The ceremony concluded with a celebratory dance to bring upon soul transformation, which was the festival’s highlight.
The scene I’d been waiting for was now in front of me. Fellow Thais were moved to the sound of electronic music designed by the two professional DJs. At once sensual and fierce, the rhythms of shamanic drums took over my body. Others were no different. Some were rolling on the sand, some were meditating while some were going with the flow of music. Out in the sea, some were surfing the waves with their bodies and vice versa. As for me, I alternated between the sauna/dancefloor and taking a dip in the ocean, repeatedly letting the waves wash me ashore.
No single words were spoken for the next couple of hours. Unleashing their inner child, everybody danced to the beat of their own drums (literally). We were able to foster oneness, thanks to the safe space that’d been created for us without judgement. Believe it or not, Ecstatic Dance became a catalyst for a lot of people to overcome their sorrow, insecurities, losses, and life changes. The dance then finished off with Sound Healing, the period when everybody emerged from the experience secure and completely renewed.
The festival also offered several other kinds of experiences such as Labyrinth Ceremony where participants were led into the heart of the maze as they prayed, Transformation Game which invited participants to investigate their own behaviors for growth potential, Alchemy of Touch, and The Tree, which involved sitting around a tree — an image you might have seen depicted by The Sanctuary before. It was during this activity that we prayed as a collective, vowing to conserve and protect our innocence without succumbing to modernity.
I have no words to express the overwhelming gratitude in my heart. I wish to thank every single soul out there for this wonderful and invaluable experience. The promise has been made and I will not forget this incredible bond between us, between mother nature, and between all things. We should reunite because we all are one.
“Remember, reconnect and return”
Picture credit Nabi Tang