Reflections on Meditation: Laos and the World
Every month, we put the Spotlight On one of the key players that make it happen for your privileged clients.
This month we spoke with Ruben Derksen, Business Manager, Khiri Travel Laos. From a viewpoint at historical Wat Phou, he reflects with us on meditation and yoga from the Victoria Falls, via Nepal’s Himalayas, to a war cave in Laos
How long have you been practicing yoga and meditation?
As well as countries in Africa and Europe, I grew up in Bhutan, Nepal, and India. Buddhism and mediation is very prevalent there and my parents practiced yoga and meditation everyday. I guess because I grew up in that environment it has been a part of my life, on and off, since I was a child. When I’m living in countries that have a lot of natural beauty I always get back into it. Laos is absolutely one of those places. I love going on treks through the forest and finding a spot in the middle of nature to do a short mediation session and become aware of my surroundings.
What kind of yoga and mediation do you practice?
I think that all types of yoga and meditation are great. It simply depends on what you want to get out of it. I mostly practice Ashtanga Vinyasa or power Ashtanga because I like sharpening my concentration, balance, strength and awareness. Ashtanga Vinyasa means ‘breath-synchronized movement,’ and is a series of poses that will move you through the power of inhaling and exhaling. The movements are smoothly flowing and almost dance-like, which explains why it is sometimes referred to as Vinyasa Flow or just Flow. In the power form, the series of poses become almost acrobatic and require a lot of upper body strength and balance. For example, going from a seated full lotus pose, straight into a headstand without your feet touching the ground.
To what extent is it physical or spiritual?
I practice various sorts of meditation depending on the situation, but predominantly Vipassana. Vipassana meditation is something of a mental balancing act. It is about cultivating two separate qualities of the mind: mindfulness and concentration. It’s great to practice it in a peaceful setting free from external distractions. But I sometimes like to practice it in a place with a lot of noise and really absorb everything that is going on around me while balancing a sense of inner peace and calm. That’s definitely the next level.
Why do you think that Laos is suited for yoga and mediation?
It is beautiful and peaceful in Laos. Most of the country is still covered in forest, so there are an incredible number of stunning locations that tourists don’t generally know about. The Mekong is a wonderful slow-paced river. Meditating on a platform above the river in Nong Kiauw has got to be one of the most peaceful experiences I’ve had. Also, it’s very down to earth here. Especially in Luang Prabang and Nong Kiauw. Unlike Bali, there aren’t swarms of new age hippies trying to find themselves while arguing about what type of yoga or mediation is best.
What were some of your favorite meditation locations?
I’ve done a lot of exploring in my life. It’s hard to choose. If I had to name my top three, I’d probably say at 4600 meters along a side trek of the Annapurna circuit, overlooking the Himalayas in Nepal. Also, sitting opposite Victoria Falls early in the morning in Zimbabwe, getting drenched by water. And sitting at the back of a war cave in Muang Noi, Laos, contemplating the past and the impact that that cave had on saving lives during the 1960s.