A Cambodian Retreat That’ll Help You Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions
Remember how you told yourself you’d finally start to meditate, stop spending hours on social media, and eat healthier this year? Well, the Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Retreat Center is the place to make it happen. Hidden away in the quiet Cambodian village of Bakong, just outside of the hectic city of Siem Reap, the retreat center hosts thousands of travelers each year who stop by from all over the world for a week of detoxing, introspection, and spiritual guidance.
The daily routine is very simple: Every morning, the group wakes up at 6:30 a.m. to meet in the beautiful, open-air studio for 90 minutes of Asana yoga and 30 minutes of sitting meditation. In the afternoons, there is free time to relax and walk around the village, a wellness-related class, and then another hour of breathing exercises, yoga, and sitting meditation. Lastly, at nighttime there is a range of activities like a live Khmer traditional music performance, a movie screening, or an “Ecstatic Dance” meditation. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner consist of delicious, vegan dishes made by a Cambodian family that cooks up the fresh meals every day in Hariharalaya’s kitchen.
Photo courtesy of Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Retreat Center
Unlike hundreds of luxurious, upscale retreats where you get pampered and stay in a beautiful private room overlooking the ocean, the Hariharalaya center is a place to strip away all materialistic comfort and pleasure. For six full days you sleep, meditate, and practice yoga in a house without hot water, fluffy beds, Wi-Fi access, air conditioning, or any animal-based food products. The buildings stand among lush greenery and are held up only by wood and roofs made of dried leaves. Admittedly, on my first day at the retreat, I wasn't sure I’d make it through the week living in such rural conditions.
Much to my surprise, after the first days at the center, I became accustomed to walking barefoot on the dirt, waking up before sunrise, and meditating to the sound of pouring rain outside. While being completely disconnected from the outside world, it became easier to focus on myself and quiet the constant rambling in my mind. By the last day, I was able to sit through the entire meditation session without falling asleep or being distracted by the heat or sounds of nature. My breathing slowed down, my muscles relaxed, and I was able to distance myself from all of my worries.
If you’ve been looking to slow down and connect to the present moment, there is no better place to do it than away from society at retreats like Hariharalaya with a team of guides and like-minded travelers. Sometimes all you need is a couple of days to refresh your mind and focus on yourself.