On Sunday May 1st as I flew across the skies to Portugal I had absolutely no idea what lie in store. All I knew was that the Merkaba community (formerly called Rainbow City) were waiting to greet me! This was to be my month long birthday present to myself... honouring my continuing journey of self discovery.
"The mer ('light'), ka ('spirit'), ba ('body') union is a sacred one that responds directly to emotion. A simple way to define the Merkaba community would be as a 'Vegan-Yoga-Eco Community' operating from the side of a mountain in the Northern Portuguese wilderness.
I was absolutely comfortable with not knowing what lie in store... It was only when others began asking me 'so what are you going to be doing?' that I began to wonder and worry a little if I should have enquired a little further... I needed have worried!
The Merkaba community is based in the mountains of north Portugal and I had to reach them via a 3.5 hr train ride to Fundao station, it's a small station and there are only a couple of trains that run there each day. When I arrived and the train had left and the few other passengers departed, I thought I was all alone until I spotted a lady in tye-die trousers waiting at the edge of the platform. This was Tracy (amazing raw food chef and yoga teacher) who was also heading there!
Another hour later and we'd arrived.... In time for dinner! We were greeted with hugs by everyone in the community, a tour of the site and shown our rooms in a huge tent like dome- one of two that make up the main living spaces on the site.
The adventure had truly begun!
Twenty Six days is the longest trip I've taken in my my life so far. What I found interesting what how quickly it became 'normal' life. When I've been somewhere for a week, or even two there is always an awareness around only having a 'few more days left' once the initial wow impact settles. Not this time. Each and everyday was incredible (yes even including the eight days of solid rain) but there was definitely a big chunk in the middle where I became almost complacent- thoughts such as 'I can take that photo any time' or 'I can read those books later' crept in. It's interesting how quickly this can occur, or maybe a beautiful testament to how at home I was made to feel. To really allow myself to become immersed in 'life' and thus grow as a person I am so glad I took an extended stay.
To say this was a life changing trip sounds proper cheesy but it's true. These last couple of months have been deeply magical, with my trip to Thailand so closely followed by Merkaba. My heart arrived wide open and it was filled and remained topped up by the magic and love offered by every single member of the community each and every day I was there.
Love is everywhere.... In every nook and cranny- literally!
It's painted on walls and signs and infused in the food we ate as we held hand together and blessed each meal, yet maybe most importantly (from my perspective) love is abundant in multiple hugs every day. Hugs are a big deal for me- we don't hug enough as a culture and when we do it is often simple the 'action' of a hug with superficial meaning. The Mekaba gang gave the real deal! I have more thoughts on this you may well hear more of another time.
During my stay, there was a combination of those who lived and worked there and those like me that were on 'retreat' - though of the 'reteraters' I was there for the longest time period. Whilst there no obligation to get involved, of course I wanted to join in with the vibe and so I whipped up a few healthy vegan cakes in the kitchen (all the food we ate was locally sourced plant based whole foods), made a couple of dreamcatchers, a big sign for the landscape and helped out with a bit of gardening. I'll post more all about the food and some recipes on the nutrition blog soon!
The best part of the experience for me was the morning yoga sessions, especially the consistency with which this was practiced by everyone come rain or shine. A practice that has truly changed me. Once again (like the meditation practice at Madhyamaka) it is the energy of the space that created the magic for me, and I will be looking at how I create this energy for myself back home. Some days were taught a structured session, by more often that not the yoga was our own free-flow practice in the sunshine to a backdrop of powerful music and bird song.
Each session opened with picking oracle cards and I absolutely loved this part of the process... So much more than I ever anticipated. It also shows me how much my spiritual journey has deepened this last year to being open to receiving the message of the cards. It was incredible just how appropriate the messages were at times and cannot be put down to mere coincidence as I once would have declared!
Another proud moment was when I opted to sleep in a hammock hung from some trees amongst the rocks on the mountainside. At one with nature. Feel the fear and do it anyway. I was all alone. Yet I was not alone at all. There was suddenly no fear in that moment. Only unity. Turning my face to stare at the almost full moon. Time stood still. The stillness filled my soul.
I am the universe, and the universe is me.
As I sat alone again upon waking, watching the sunrise emerge from the top of the trees, I was immersed in the sounds of the birds calling to each other from each side of the mountain. The warmth of the new day greeting me. I realised that these are the perfect moments, the moments that create our lives, yet the moments so often overlooked.
Every member of the community had their own unique skills that offered a beautiful contribution to the overall dynamic of the space... Tommy with his Tai Chi, Jamie with his life coaching, Jeremy with his amazing breath work (also known as re-birthing) and Kerri with her reiki. Dan Kruger is the main man- the guy who held the original vision alongside Anthony Lowther when it first emerged as Rainbow City, and has built it from nothing but this powerful vision that has driven him forward ever since. I have huge admiration for Dan's personal journey and was privileged to share an interview with him, one that will form the first in my forthcoming series 'Nutrition Is The Gateway To Your Optimal Self' ....more to come on that very soon!
There is also an incredible spontaneous and playful energy... this is not lost when there is a birthday in which we take the opportunity to dress up, have a morning rave and drink apple cider vinegar shots for a post breakfast boost!
There is so much more to express than I could ever put into words... And at risk of this blog post becoming even longer than it already is, I will finish here with one final anecdote that had huge meaning for me...
One morning at breakfast after six days of continuous rain, one of the resident volunteers- Charlotte, remarked how she had woken up that morning and had consciously and verbally offered her gratitude to the rain so that it could not bring her spirit down. It occurred to me that on a wider context, such a subtle simple act could be the difference between letting a situation bring you down, or accepting and rolling with it and thus the difference of how your mindset and your entire day might pan out. It has stayed with me ever since.
The community at Merkaba is unique. The energy is pure and profound. If I can extract aspects of this energy into my own retreat space one day and within the retreat holidays I look to create.... Then this is all I could wish for!
Thank you to Merkaba and to everyone who's lives I have shared over this last month.
Thank you for the love you give so willingly and freely.
Thank you all for being so brilliantly true to your highest self and following your calling, and in doing so allowing me to come closer to doing the same.
If you are intrigued to know more about Merkaba, you can find them here:
Why not sign up for my newsletter in my sidebar where I feature roundups and special offers plus my FREE ebook. If you are new round here you might like to check out my 'About' tab up top. To buy healthy nibbles you can also find me over at my sister site Wholeplus.
Day to day you can always find me hanging out in these places: