by Danielle Thornton, 300 hour Cambodia yoga teacher training student
As I sit in the Bangkok airport on a layover the day before meeting up with my fellow Zuna Yoga crew, I can't help but reflect on the past two weeks of solo travel, and much more on the past 15 months since completing my 200 hour Bali yoga teacher training with Zuna Yoga.
My travels throughout Thailand and Cambodia thus far have been quite the interesting ride! First, let me explain that as a very generous birthday gift, my aunt and uncle set me up in rather luxurious accommodations for a portion of this trip (for which I am very grateful). And I had booked myself in a few more modest Airbnb places in between, as I also wanted an authentic cultural experience. Little did I know the contrast of luxury and bare minimum would play such a huge part of this adventure, not only externally but also internally. I went from one night in a suite with marble floors, steam shower, silky sheets, and fancy meals to a hut in the middle of the jungle with a trough of collected rainwater, a scooping bowl for a shower, and a basic wooden bed with mosquito nets included.
As I lay one night in the hut, paralyzed with fear, listening to a loud "sniffing" of what my imagination construed to be a tiger, the luxury I was surrounded by just one day ago seemed like an alternate reality. Ask most of my childhood friends or family - I assure you that a couple years ago I would have probably ran out of that hut crying, never wanting to return (if I had even made it past the initial shock of the shower situation). After my adrenaline calmed down, I realized the sound I heard was merely a baby chick. I couldn't help but laugh, realizing that my level of contentment internally was the same in the hut and the luxury hotels-- regardless of the drastic difference in external circumstances. I attribute a large part of this to my yoga practice, to learning that true peace, love, contentment, authenticity, and power can be found within, through connecting to Source. I feel that life gives us these experiences as a gift - a "measuring tool" for personal growth. I'm reminded of a favorite quote I picked up this year: "Peace, it does not meant to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart." ~unknown
I'm so grateful that this teacher training has brought me to this side of the world where I spent New Years Eve on a beach in Koh Samui, Thailand releasing a floating lantern and watching it dance over the half moon in the clear sky; to an excursion in Erawan National Park to an elephant sanctuary where I helped care for, wash, and love on elephants; that night watching the local boy scouts sing and dance to Thai songs around a large campfire; the following day a trip to marvel, play, and bathe with butterflies and fish in the majestic waterfalls, and hiking to the Phratat Caves in all their wonder and glory. There in Erawan, I created a bond and relationship with the wonderful host family, that made me feel at home in a far far away land, who cooked and taught me how to make some of the most flavorful and made-with-love Thai dishes. Ending the trip in Cambodia, where I watched in awe the sunrise over Angkor Wat, explored temples, learned about ancient wisdom, mythology, and history; explored the floating village of Chong Kneas, and had the best curry of my life, a local dish called Fish Amok.
If I had to pick one word to describe the last year since completing my 200 hour teacher training, it would be transformation. When arranging to go to Bali for my initial training, I didn't quite have a solid reason or clear intention other than that I really liked to travel, and I really liked yoga. A part of me was also wanting to run from the monotony of everyday life, a running theme I've found to be a pattern in the past. But this time, the nature of my travel and 300 hour yoga teacher training is much different: it's with purpose and clear intention. I realized that I have created a life that I love, a job teaching that I find so fulfilling, enhanced deeper relationship with myself and therefore with loved ones new and old, and finding myself apart of a community that I find lovely and inspiring. Most days seeing life out of a clearer lens/perspective, making small and big decisions out of love rather than fear. Don't get me wrong, as I still have darker days and parts of myself, but take it differently than before. There is beauty in the darkness as well as the light. Finding it no longer scary to explore those darker parts, working to keep steady, yet moving with the tide of emotions that run through, knowing that nothing in this life is permanent.
This brings me back to one of my favorite things about what can come of a personal yoga practice; it's always there, always available, on the light and not so light days. Practicing inner contentment, joy and authenticity, whether in the hut or luxury hotel. It can be ever-changing, evolving, growing; never stagnant or constrained ... as is this life.
So this time, my clear intent is to use this training as another building block from my initial foundation. Implementing the tools for freedom and life mastery one moment at a time, one day at a time. First filling myself up, and then spreading it in my classes, daily interactions, relationships, even the world. Ambitious, I know, but I'll end with a quote that I'm sure most of you have heard and can always stand to hear again. "Be the change you wish to see in the world." ~ Mahatma Gandhi