On our last day in Lima, we had the privilege of eating at Central, currently rated as one of the best restaurants in the world. It blew me away. At the beginning of our journey to Peru, we sat in circle, a group of people, some strangers, some not, with a collective intention of connection. Anna, our retreat leader was upfront from the start; “Think of the trip as you would a symphony. There will be highs and lows, there will be waves that you wish were over and waves you wish would last forever and there will be waves of stillness and being.”
It’s hard to put into words all that I experienced during the two weeks away but the one word that keeps coming back to me is subtle. It might seem like a strange word to describe Peru. There is nothing subtle about the country, its people or the energy there, however the whole experience for me was deeply subtle. There were the emotional highs and lows, and at times anxiety, anger and sadness; there was resistance and holding on; and then there was letting go, laughter and love. Most important of all there was connection and beneath the connection there was the subtle beauty of experiencing a land that holds a strong spiritual energy, a land that holds sacred secrets that it shares with the people who choose to visit, secrets that can’t really be communicated outside of it. The movie Avatar was at the forefront of my mind while we were in the Andes. I can almost see where James Cameron had his vision realised and just as there is the underworld of Avatar, a wondrous place of synchronicity and connection, this exists deep in the heart of Peru if you are shown the way and the places to look.
To the outside world there are the pictures I took, the new friends I made, the people I met and I can show this all on a screen to you but the subtle intense energy of Peru seduced me in ways I never dreamed possible. The things that I couldn’t capture on camera are the memories I will treasure forever. Sitting in a garden surrounded by hummingbirds as they flew from one plant to the next, watching a caterpillar connect to a wooden table and begin its journey inwards towards its chrysalis, tarantulas that show themselves only when they feel the need too, sloths who hang out in the jungle, hidden unless pointed out, happy within themselves to be on their own and yet part of an ecosystem that is greater than any other on earth, pink dolphins who hide beneath the waters of the Amazon and pop up once in a while to say hi and stars that glisten in the sky during a night boat-ride with fireflies twinkling on the river and a guitar softly playing in the background... this is the connection, the subtle softness of being present and part of a world that is touched and yet untouched by western society. This beauty, that cannot be captured in an image, is what will bring me back to this land again and is also what brought a lost part of me back to myself.
Coming together at Central, as a group of individuals to celebrate our two weeks on retreat together was a subtle but stunning experience. From entering through high gates, where outside it is only recognisable with a simple sign and then wandering through a garden, a hidden gem tucked away from prying eyes full of flowers and herbs and fresh produce, a garden of eden in the midst of a busy city. Seated at tables with numbers restricted so that the conversation level never quite moves above a certain decibel, a menu that is a veritable taste fest of all that Peru has to offer, decadently prepared with care and served in a timely manner with soft music playing in the background that seems to match each course perfectly. As we sat together and shared our meal, it was not lost on some of us that this experience really epitomised the entire trip. The blank canvas of a gate, our own outer forms as we arrived in Peru, the hidden gems inside ourselves which we were shown time and time again, the stirring of all senses as we moved through the Andes and the Amazon and finally back into "normality"... all culminating in a final dish that tasted sweet and yet left us wanting more.
There were days in the lead up to travelling where I was nervous and excited with anticipation. There were moments on the trip where there was an edge to a conversation that felt uncomfortable and yet held a lesson and knowing it was time to let go and to move on. There were times where I had to say no and permit myself to be true to my needs and also the days where a yes was the way forward even if it felt out of my comfort zone. And there was the day when the realisation came that sometimes the distractions in life are the point and the space held for heart-opening experiences are exactly why we chose to be a part of something bigger and greater than ourselves.
In truth I feel a bit like the caterpillar, who has just attached itself to prepare for its' time inside, retreating to allow itself to grow into something wondrous and beautiful. What it may look like, it may not know yet and for now it doesn’t need to know. This is the time for dreaming and being in wonder, the time for allowing life to unfold without an agenda. How timely it is that we have the gift of winter and all its beauty of allowing us to be in hibernation for a little while, so that when spring comes there is something new, something unexpected that arises from the lessons, the learnings and the letting go. There is a pressure that builds so that when it is time, the transitional state of the chrysalis bursts open and the wings of a butterfly unfold to show itself in its truest form and its wisest self.
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