As promised, I am delighted to share the first of our guest blogs, written by our commune community at Gratitude Vietnam. Each have been invited to share their journey, experiences, photographs and a quote...
Gratitude to Ratna for being the first to brave this invitation, with acknowledgement of the vulnerability and courage it takes to 'put it out there' to an unknown readership!
Shelter from the Storm
When Hugh and I decided to travel to Vietnam, the plan always was to visit Hannah and Naomi at Gratitude Vietnam. Arriving on 14th January we spent the first week at Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, before travelling to Mui Ne so Hugh could spend a month windsurfing, and I could be a lady of leisure.
Whilst in Mui Ne, we could see the effects of Covid-19 including uncertainty, school closures, lack of tourists and subtle racism, but life seemed to continue without awareness of what was still to come.
We came to Hoi An on 3rd March and were delighted to be here with loved ones, home comforts and surrounded by Vietnamese community, with children flying kites, women running the daily markets, animals roaming free, and an abundance of nature, sunshine and fresh breeze.
By mid-March people were cancelling their bookings and soon Gratitude Vietnam had to cancel all their activities with worries of what was to come, and how to sustain their livelihood. This is when Hannah and Naomi looked at what was happening and what was needed, which gave rise to the idea of turning the retreat centre into a much needed commune that can provide shelter from the storm for fellow travellers.
Whilst embracing all necessary precautions, a group of like-minded people from around the world were starting to form a new community full of love, gratitude, appreciation, positivity and generosity at Gratitude Vietnam. We all take turns to cook, and eat delicious communal meals together as well as sharing skills, hobbies, interests and stories. We support each other in being present with emotions during this turbulent time, and accommodate each other’s personalities, rather than finding fault (if only we lived like this in ‘normal’ life).
With loved ones all over the world, fear and uncertainty surrounds, and keeping the monkey mind at bay has been the most challenging. We all know about the self critical voice inside us, the stories we tell ourselves, the incessant need to worry along with the stress of modern life. This not only has played havoc with my health, but has also made me realise the fact that my health IS my main priority. As well as doing all the above, the most important for me is exercise, meditation and breath-work for balancing, keeping calm, grounding, mindfulness, and acceptance of uncertainty.
The trauma of this global pandemic, has highlighted the need for self-care and my days are spent walking in the meditation labyrinth, yoga in the yoga sala, sound bowl meditations in the meditation room, reading on the rocking chair, swimming with an inflatable flamingo, connecting digitally with loved ones round the globe and in person with fellow travellers seeking shelter from the storm here at Gratitude Vietnam.
As well as doing my TEFL qualification, I am enjoying doing henna tattoos and engaging with other creative activities including @writeyourjourney with Kerstin Pilz.
I continue to practice TRE @TensionandTraumaReleasingExercises created by Dr. David Berceli, improving my gut bacteria with a vegetarian diet and sleep hygiene by implementing a routine.
The book I am currently reading ‘The body keeps the score’ (@thebodykeepsthescore) by Bessel Van Der Kolk is giving me some much needed insights into the devastating effects of trauma for individual sufferers, their loved ones and future generation, and hope informed by alternative approaches that heal the mind, brain and body.
The other book I am reading, is ‘The Fibro Manual’ by Dr Ginevra Liptan, @drliptan which is an accessible and empowering manual for understanding and treating fibromyalgia - informed by clinically proven alternative and conventional medicine along with experimental research and discoveries that alleviate symptoms of fibromyalgia in four simple steps: Rest, Repair, Rebalance and Reduce. As I approach three months of rest, repair, rebalance and reduce, I am delighted with the improvements in my health and well-being, which was the main reason for travelling, along with not wanting to wait until we ‘retire’ to travel.
Like the rest of us, fear, anxiety and uncertainty dances around me but my heart is full of love, gratitude and hope here thanks to Hannah and Naomi for giving us fellow travellers shelter from the storm. I feel we are in the process of metamorphoses - transforming our consciousness from knowing something on the surface to undergoing this deep experience of a global pandemic, leading to whole new capacity and perception.
Vietnam and its people have welcomed us with open arms. But Hannah and Naomi from Gratitude Vietnam have welcomed us with unconditional love, care and generosity. Thankful for all the home comforts and the most fantastic community of people we are blessed to be sharing this moment with. I am so grateful to be sat here at Gratitude Vietnam in this moment, with the afternoon sun shining warm on my back and the gentle breeze keeping me cool as I write this blog…
With gratitude and love,
Ratna Jan Bibi
“Mindfulness not only makes it possible to survey our internal landscape with compassion and curiosity but can also actively steer us in the right direction for self-care.” - Bessel van der Kolk