Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 134: The Alegraluz Tantra Center

Once again I find myself immersed in an unexpected situation. Carnival in Cadiz ended and I needed to stay around the South of Spain in order to meet up with my dear friend Monica who was coming to visit from the States. I cannot express how excited I am to see her. It's been four and a half months since I've been around someone that has known me for a long time. She is also bringing a package from home which includes my drivers license, medical card, and my debit card which I've been without since my third night abroad. Instead of CouchSurfing, I wanted to try something new.

Welcome to a Spanish paradise.
In the first week of my trip I signed up for HelpX, a website that connects volunteers with places that need them. Until now CouchSurfing had met all of my needs, but since I had a week to burn and the weather is warm, I thought working on a farm would be the perfect hangover cure. Before I left Cádiz I sent out a swarm of requests to interesting places in Andalusia. A few days later a group in Marbella said they could use me. Their description was pretty vague but they said they could use a graphic designer so I was excited to learn more. As I left Cádiz I had no idea what I was in for.

Since I didn't hitch hike, the trip was boring. Thankfully I arrived so late in Marbella that they were all asleep so I spent the night in the bus station. The next morning I was off to San Pedro, a small town near Marbella where these people live. Despite not knowing where to get off the bus, luckily my timing was perfect and soon I pushed their door bell. An incomprehensible young voice crackled through the speaker. "It's Ross!" I said, and I was in!

I jumped in the pool. It was rather cold.

I passed through a heavy wooden door into what appeared to be a vacation resort. Sitting behind a green lawn and clump of banana trees was a large house, swimming pool, grilling area, and two smaller houses. I followed the red tile walkway straight, past the pool, unsure of where to go. A face appeared behind the glass of one of the smaller buildings in front of me. The glass door opened and out flowed a warm greeting sealed with a hug. Her name was Ansa. Amazed that I made it here, she showed me around and soon I met the rest of the crew.

The back door of the big house.

Paradise is inhabited by four people. I was greeted by Ansa, a kind woman from South Africa. The next person I met was Peter, who is from Ireland and organizes the volunteers. He was the one who I corresponded with through email. Then Maria, a vibrant woman who travels the world healing clients and wife to Martin. Martin is the heart of the operation and owner of this business which I was about to discover.

Martin with myself and Anna, a student.

Peter sent me Alegraluz's websites, but exactly what they did didn't sink in until I heard it in person. "Most people think we're a bunch of sex freaks," Martin told me. Talk about unexpected situations; Alegraluz is in the business of Tantra. I was comfortable to begin with, but I was coming from a point of no knowledge. As Martin described more about what they do I became more comfortable. He told me that "Tantra gives you opportunities to reconnect with yourself." While most Tantra schools focus on states of bliss and 'happy endings', Alegraluz strives to help people rediscover themselves in order to live their lives from within. "We have everything we need to live a fulfilled life inside of us," Martin continued. It was immediately apparent that there was much I could learn here.

Ansa, Anna, Peter, and Martin starting their day.

As Martin got up to continue his work, Peter began to show me around the house, describing my duties and the rules. In exchange for free board and meals I needed to work five hours a day. Most importantly I needed to post ads on free classified sites promoting upcoming Alegraluz events. Posting ads is the only religion here. Apparently, all of Alegraluz's income comes as a result of these classifieds. It sounded like drudgery. I hoped to do some hardcore labor like lifting hay bails or something. Sitting behind a computer posting ads all day was not what I was looking for.


After CouchSurfing for so long, this was a big change of lifestyle for me. The first two days I spent with the Alegraluz crew were lovely but I felt uncomfortable and upset with posting these ads and spending so much time on the computer. Looking back now I realize that it was because of this preconception that I felt uncomfortable. Thankfully, once I accepted that I had to post these ads, I was able to focus on the positive aspects of my environment.

Ansa enjoying the sun.

The people, the lifestyle, the location, the food, and learning about Tantra has made my life over the past week immensely pleasurable. Every morning just after 7 my alarm goes off. At some point before 7:30 I get out of bed, fall into my pants, and shuffle into the living room where we do breathing and stretching for an hour.

The vibrant colors of the fisherman's boats are beautiful.

By 8:30 I'm eating a breakfast of museli, honey, fresh fruit, raisins, yogurt and cinnamon (it's my own concoction). Sometimes I meditate in the mornings after the breathing and stretching but usually it is enough of a meditation. After breakfast I try to get my ads out of the way within two hours. I've also been taking photos of the crew in order to revitalize their website and improve the ads. I'm happy that my design skills can be of use.

Lunch outside in the sun.

Lunch is the big meal of the day. Everyone here is an amazing cook and we all take turns. Normally there is a salad that compliments a few pots replete with nutritious deliciousness. When the table is set I'm always reminded of the feast scene in Hook.

Anastasia made one of the most delicious meals I've had and didn't eat any.

I usually recover from lunch by taking a walk to the beach. The relaxing sound of the small waves lapping against the rocky sand. Blue sky illuminating the brightly colored fishing boats. A ways down the shore I can see the white buildings of Marbella and across the sea I can see Africa. Paradise.

The beach!

Night has fallen when I finish the rest of my work and then it's yoga time. Peter leads a nightly Yin Yoga session which makes me feel like I'm dying. There's one pose called 'full saddle' where you sit on your feet and you're supposed to lay all the way back. Beginners use pillows to raise their back up off the ground to a comfortable level – I use the sofa. The best part about Yin yoga is also the worst part. The poses are held for around 5 minutes each. After 5 minutes of 'full saddle' I feel like my legs are going to explode.

I went for a jog one morning and found these horses.

The smell of tea and call to meditation signal that it's time for bed. Sometimes a few of us will get together and watch a movie or play cards. I've also been reading two books by Osho. Unfortunately I can't read for long before I pass out. It's nice to have my own room and place to sleep.

Full moon the other night. Amazing over the sea.

Now that I've gotten over my initial mindset of lifting bails of hay, I've become extremely comfortable here. The people of Alegraluz are warm and genuine and through them I'm learning about life and growing spiritually. We've become great friends. In fact, a few days ago Martin did something he never does. He let a volunteer take place in one of his Tantra workshops; but that's a story for Friday.


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