Blogging (to be interesting, helpful or provocative - or all three) is challenging at the best of times, but after our Bali Retreat it hits another level of challenge. After so much fun, friendship, relaxation and deeply enriching experiences, finding the words to describe what happened is a bit like standing in front of your favourite ice-cream parlour's window on a hot day, not knowing where to start or what flavour to choose!
Our group was a delightful mix of women, most from Perth and others travelling from as far as the Philippines and the Netherlands. Friendship and laughs came with ease. As each day unfolded, the individual stories did too, giving each person time to air their challenges and insights - and to finish-off conversations completely - without the need to rush back to family or work commitments.
Mealtimes were a favourite time to share, as we explored the awesome western and Balinese vegetarian food created by Ketut and served with love. From tofu and bean stir-fry, to pumpkin soup and gado gado, to pisang goreng (fried bananas) and klepon (sweet coconut rice balls) our tastebuds were treated at every meal. As yogis, there was always plenty on offer to tempt us and thankfully the mindfulness we generated during our yogic practices helped us to not over-indulge!
Our retreat theme, the Joy of Being seemed to unfold naturally, right from the moment we entered the village of Seseh along the quiet, coconut palm and rice field-fringed road. The serenity oozed from the lush green surrounds, beckoning us to surrender to its peacefulness. This road would become a pathway our retreat goers would often tread, in quiet contemplation at sunset - except for the cheery rice field farmers, quick to raise a smile and wave hello.
Speaking of sunsets, the beach was the other magnificent venue for nature's nightly display of colour and contrast. Our venue at Kura Kura was just a stone's throw from the ocean and our group enjoyed many splendid vistas, across the waves and over the horizon. Falling asleep to the soothing sounds of the waves was magical.
Aside from the peaceful surrounds, fabulous food and friendly care by the Kura Kura staff, the 'juice' on our retreat came from diving into yoga, meditation and breath work at the start of every day. The opportunity to loosen physical and mental boundaries, and dedicate time to going more deeply 'inward' was embraced by everyone. Each day we explored different themes in our yoga asana (postures) and movements, such as Grounding Down, Letting it Flow and Finding Your Edge. Sometimes quiet and passive and at other times strong and dynamic, our bodies responded in ways that surprised and delighted us. Being given careful instructions on the finer points of breath work (pranayama) and meditative practices was the icing-on-the-cake, showing us the way beyond self-doubts and giving us a deeper taste of our loving hearts. Our yogic practices culminated in spending a day in silence - whilst still in the company of others - it was an unforgettable experience that was appreciated and relished by all, including Lucky the resident dog who joined-in by being bark-free for the day!
We spent part of most afternoons in self-discovery workshops, where we could explore how to integrate the benefits of our yoga practices into daily life. We learned about the role of samskaras (our learned patterns of thinking and behaving), the eight limbs of yoga philosophy and the anatomy of the koshas (or energy layers) and doshas (energy types). Great fun was had in our mandala-making workshop, where we loved playing with colour and creativity to express ourselves.
A visit to a sacred Balinese water temple, accompanied by a healer, was the perfect way to experience the spiritual essence of Bali. Being immersed in temple spring water that rises from the centre of the earth, cleanses the mind, helps to heal the heart and soothes the soul - and the shiny looks on our faces afterwards said it all.
The true sanctuary of a retreat comes from the attitude and generosity of all those who partake. And this one was a beauty. Thanks to our retreat participants and to everyone at Kura Kura for an unforgettable Bali Retreat 2014.