I Take Refuge in The Sanctuary

sanctuarynightSo, what is life at the Sanctuary like, I hear you ask. Well, it is interesting. And relaxing. Sooooo relaxing. Its secluded island location means that there are no roads and therefore no traffic nearby. The only sounds are those of the waves lapping against the shore interspersed with the symphony of bugs and birds that are performing 24/7.

Those privileged souls who stay long-term are walking around in bare-feet, their tanned legs long and toned. Everybody seems to have two things I don’t: A MacBook Air and a tattoo (or five). They lounge around the tree-house like restaurant drinking wheatgrass. Naturally, my first instinct is to eavesdrop and figure out who’s who – where these people are from and what they do. I overhear conversations, many with Australian accents about ‘slinky swarmies’, about friends who have died of overdoses, about the energy channels, the perineum. I even heard one very beautiful woman say after checking her online businesses, “I have to figure out how I’m going to spend all my money!”

On the boat ride over, I met a woman from New York who is studying architecture in Oxford. She saved me from some creepy old guy who hit on me by suggesting we could share a bungalow. We hung out a lot over the next few days talking – she about the man who she moved to the U.K. for and who had recently broken up with her, about her life working for the summer in Malaysia, about the future. Me about my life in Korea, my life generally and the future, which didn’t seem to exist in that blissed-out place.

My new friend seemed to be very spiritual, and into Yoga, Buddhism, astrology, aromatherapy. I could get onboard with some of it, but her extensive knowledge of planets and moons was going too far for me. Still, I believe I am healthily curious and open-minded, so when she suggested we go to a workshop about EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), I said, ‘OK, I’ll tag along. I’m sure my hammock would be happy to have some time to itself.’

Including the teacher, there were five of us (a petite yet aggressive Russian woman, and of course, the creepy old guy). The teacher was a voluptuous woman, tanned and glowing, like there was a candle burning inside of her. She fit the new age hippie stereotype, dressed in bell bottoms, wearing a tiara and having a made up name (Nika One). I was polite and attentive as she spoke about what we would be doing. She had a sing-song voice and spoke beautiful, educated English with a hard-to-pick accent (I found out later it’s part Russian, part Nepalese, part American). Then we started the work of tapping meridian points and chanting phrases related to each of our issues.

statueI found it boring and repetitive. I had made up my mind that this was flaky psuedo-science and a waste of my time. I was trying to plot my exit as I was sure my hammock missed me. I wanted to drink chai tea in the tea temple and read a book. I was yawning and rolling my eyes (not at the same time). Then, the teacher started talking about the fallacies of the western scientific paradigm. And the matrix. I’m thinking, ‘Who are you to talk about science? Is that what they teach you at Rainbow School?’ I can’t wait for this to be over. Eventually, we stop tapping and chanting and it’s time for a meditation. I’m hot and thirsty by this point. And tired too. We lie down and she guides us through it with her soothing voice. Except that it turns out to be some kind of hypnosis as we all fall into a weird sleep-like state. I can’t recall most of what she said, but I wasn’t sleeping or dreaming either. She tells us this is good because it means our subconscious brain is listening.

I’m grateful for the session to be over so I can go about the rest of my day. Before we leave, the teacher passes around a pamphlet about other workshops she is giving, as well as a brief bio. Four words jump out at me: PhD. Neuroscience. Stanford. Neurosurgeon. It turns out, I have been in the presence of a freakin’ genius! My brain can’t quite process the impression I have made of this person versus the reality. We hug goodbye and I trot off to rehydrate and of course, to Google this incredible woman.

According to the blurb on her book, The Human Journey, which showcases her artwork and poems related to her experience, Nika One is:

A fellow traveler who has surrendered the ‘past life’ of a neuroscientist, a mathematician and surgeon after an intense transformation, a genuine Dark Night of the Soul. Everything I knew myself to be has shattered before my eyes as I have faced death through a severe illness. I watched in stunned paralysis as my life burned before my eyes, feeling unable to stop the fire….mesmerized, numb…. I have fought it. I have found the futility of the fight. I have surrendered, finally. From the great Clearing of Surrender has come my greatest gift and access to the Light.

I have read about these experiences in all kinds of spiritual literature. But I never thought they were real. I mean, how many people ever experience this? There was Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight which sounds similar, but I never met her in the flesh. Now I have met someone who has undergone this kind of conversion. Now it seems more real to me.

Incidentally, Nika spent a lot of time traveling around Asia after her conversion. She even did a stint teaching in Korea and has written about this online. I hope to republish some of her thoughts here because her observations of Korean society are so astute. It’s good to know that although she “unidentified” with her degrees, her professional identity, her incredible cognitive and intellectual capabilities remain intact.

So while the Sanctuary was a lovely experience from a vacation point of view, I think that my life has become more enriched from the people I met there. Which is probably always the case.





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