As winter 2014 approaches, I’m reminded of the time I spend, once a year for a week, in the mysterious rainforest of Northern Queensland. Sanctuary Retreat is not too far north – an hour’s drive south of Cairns. I go in July, just as the Melbourne winter is beginning to drag, even for someone who generally prefers winter to the heat of summer. Already booked for this year, too – I’m going from July 12th to July 20. Some years the sky is blue all day long; last year it was strangely mystical – stormy, rainy, windy, and warm.
Life in the forest
The rainforest is thick and quiet and often rustling with small wildlife who pursue their lives privately and entirely unaware of the vast impositions of humans. Sometimes fowl seem to shriek through the forest – imagine my surprise at being told it is the sound of a gecko throwing its voice to avoid predators! An English lady who came to the retreat with us a few years ago said she felt afraid of the “chickens with megaphones”, we had to reassure her that she was perfectly safe.Of course, the biggest “fowl” are the magnificent Cassowaries, stately birds. While on the endangered list, a mating pair has a territory on the very land the Sanctuary Retreat is built on. Such a privilege to meet one of them on the path.
Meeting a Cassowary
Last year I was approaching the Yoga room, where the others were already. A cassowary had wandered underneath the room, and they were all looking at it, thrilled by its shakti and presence. As I came up the path, I stepped off to allow it to pass. But after checking me out – another big orange bird, did it think? – it moved behind the building until I had passed, and then resumed its journey. I felt that we had exchanged pleasantries with each other, and the dignity of its response was unmistakable and powerful.
Humans in the forest
I love the way those who come to the retreat soon form a community. We live either in cabins or in rainforest huts, and meet together for times where we explore our lives, sometimes the fabric of being, what it is to be a self. I don’t join in the asana classes, but I notice the vibrancy of the group after the activity of stretching and laughter as challenges are met.
Sometimes, individuals will come to visit me in my cabin, requesting to talk about some problem in their life. These conversations are intimate, and I feel so much love for those who trustingly share their pain or difficulties in the search for a new perspective or a light to shine into a dark area. Sometimes I make a visitor a cup of tea. And sometimes, I just enjoy the privacy of a cuppa and light meal alone in the solitude of my balcony sitting atop the rainforest. Dinner time is a different matter – we eat together and share the events and pleasures of the day. It’s fun! The spiritual and the social together. My stream of yoga is humorously called “yoga-bhoga” – spiritual discipline along with activity and enjoyment. Or, Shiva experiencing being human.
Meditating at sunrise and sunset in such a location is just beautiful, feeling the rhythm of the natural world, the forest and its creatures. I realise that I am one of its creatures, too… and the world turns, and the seasons of my life turn with it… and vast peace comes upon me… and the realisation that the forest and its creatures including this one meditating are all within the one SELF, not I or they, just diversity of experience.
Glad to be in my cabin when the night wind blows, though. I guess I would rather not live right amongst them on the forest floor. Hmm, oneness of being, duality of sleeping quarters. And after sunrise, breakfast on my balcony, or breakfast on the communal balcony of the Long Room? Such is life on retreat in the Rainforest.
If you’d like to join me and others in the rainforest this year, you should contact the Australian College of Classical Yoga who will help you with arrangements.