The Bibbulmun: day thirty seven – Woolbales -> Long Point

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

THE COAST!! Hit it finally –absolutely stoked. Had a couple of km more of wading, then crossed a few nice granite slabs, then the first dune! Another 6km before the beach. Sat and had a snack when got to the beach – devastated to realize that Always Smiling was nowhere to be seen. Remember shoving AS in my pack to use with peanut butter, so can only assume he jumped ship when I pulled out a nut bar or something. So sad. As been with me a long time – Japan->Perth-> Albs-> Melb…. :’( Enjoyed the rest at the lookout, had a chat to some peeps. One lady gave me an apple ‘you look like you need it!’ and an old dear shouted to me as I walked past ‘keep going, girl!’ Spirits and energy were very high, so happy to be in familiar coast territory that felt like home. The smells of the bush in the sun reminded me of camping at East Cosy when we were kids.

Stopped at the freshwater creek just off Mandalay beach to rinse the mud from my shoes –creating a dark cloud in the water. Then, going up a dune I heard a ‘chink’, a few seconds later felt something poking me in the back. Thought was a stick, put hand behind – piece of wire. The wire stay of the frame of my hip belt on my pack had broken. 2nd gear failure. WT actual F. Tried to fix at the hut but no go. Just wadded the pointy end with tape to stop it scratching me. V disappointed, again. At hut, went to ‘little cove’ to sunbake on beach – did I mention today was blue sky and sunny??!? 1st time in ages (until now, 4pm, clouds again ) Walked the about 1km down, but only wild rocks and big waves and limestone and granite cliffs, nowhere to swim. Took some pics and enjoyed the salty spray on my face and negative ions! Fucking love the sea.

Saw another emu today too. Saw 2 snakes coming back from rocks, 1 stripy patterns and one grey-brown. Both small. First snakes of the trip! Meant to double to Walpole tomorrow, not sure how my pack will go being broken. Worried weight won’t be held properly on my hips anymore. Left foot is sore too. Don’t think orthotics are sitting in shoe properly. Shoes are basically dry though, hurray! Amazing the boost to morale having some good warm sunny weather. Here’s hoping for more…Have descended into new level of dishevel. Fingernails black, not bush bathing (can’t be fucked, what’s the point, too cold etc), nail beds ragged and bleeding from using too much hand sanitiser, see others rinsing at end of day and can’t be bothered. Bandages look like dead animal, not even washing feet properly before bed, just putting socks on so sleeping bag doesn’t get dirty (walking around hut in socks yesterday as shoes wet).

Speedwalked/jogged down to the coast to try and catch the sunset (on a whim) – was stunning. LOVE this rugged coast line. Beautiful evening.

Funnily, Jerry found a spoon the same day I lost mine. His was a long handled titanium one, which I am now borrowing! Got dad to bring nail clippers yesterday but he brought nail scissors instead, couldn’t do my right hand with left, got him to do it but he didn’t do a great job! They look terrible. When people heard my pack broke, someone asked ‘what are going to do?’ and Jerry says ‘Call Dad?’ I was like ‘nah’ and he says ‘Call Mum?’ Cheeky sod. He tried to fix I but didn’t have the gear. Think it needs replacing, don’t think a repair will cut it. We lost another today: Sonja was going to call DPaw to get a lift from Woolbales, hopefully. She could hardly stand on her knee let alone walk. Poor thing, she looked pretty upset. And the wildflowers were so great, she would have been loving it! The Bibb claims another E2E hopeful’s dream…

The Bibbulmun: day thirty six – Mt Chance -> Woolbales

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Highlight of day was meeting Dad for gas and lunch exchange. I exchanged my rubbish for lunch haha. He had Lara with him (Swiss chick who was backpacking and in Albany). Much talk by hut mates at Woolbales re: sandwich – ‘how was the sandwich?’ ‘bring any sandwiches back for us?’. Guess I went on about it a bit the day before.

Was/is a really weird thing to see the fam while on the track – it’s like this odd brush with another parallel universe, another reality. Where people are clean and cultured and not obsessed with food. And then there’s this odd tearing away when you leave, where you sort of want to turn back and just go home with them, to showers and beds and shoes, but you keep walking and soon enough that feeling fades and you’re back in the bush, at home.

Back to wading again, and deeper than yesterday – pretty much up to my knees. So much for the guy telling us it was only shin deep (half way up shins he said!). The first part of the day went really quick and easy, saw the karri trees I knew (from guide book) the road would be in to meet Dad and thought ‘the karri trees! That’s where the sandwich is! I mean, Dad. That’s where Dad is.’ After leaving Dad it dragged though, felt I’d been going for ages and FINALLY allowed myself to look at the clock and only been about 40 min. (This is after leaving the 16km mark). Crossed some deep sections mostly fine – a couple of dark ones you couldn’t see through which was a bit creepy, and a few with thick, slippery mud. There was this one that was so bad, slipping around, half losing my shoe, using heaps of energy to walk, slow going, would have fallen many times if not for sticks. Lining on inside of shoe has holes rubbed in it, through which sand and mud go, which builds up under my feet, squishing my toes. When I took my shoes off this arv (felt v grumpy when FINALLY got to hut,) I had about ½ cup dirt packed on top of my toes. With my holey socks and disgustingly dirty bandages, Lynn said I looked like a leper haha. Anyway, totally underestimated how the shoes would go wading. I thought light weight runners would be better, but in the mud they are shit house. Boots would have been better. Also really wish I had a pair of camp shoes as mine just wet and fucked, which leaves me going around camp in bare feet, which is cold, sometimes wet and dirty and maybe ouchy!

A wallaby growled at me today. Gave me a fright. I didn’t even know they growled. It was like a dog! Saw 2 hawks yesterday. Hoping for clouds to clear tonight so can head up to summit and get some pics. I feel v tired. Felt so great this morning having a sleep in! Up at 5am for toilet (bad cramps – poop or period? who knows?) then back to bed and dozed til 6, lay around for a bit, got sunrise hill pic, brekkie, sat around, strapped sonja’s knee, etc. Coffee! With found coffee bag someone left behind. Left at 8:30, perfect timing to arrive and meet Dad, stayed there about 1.5 h and still got into hut around 3pm. Should have long breaks more often! Ocean tomorrow. Today is 749km – ¾ of the way there. Far out. Only 250 to go, come on feet…right heel hurt in new place today. Arch joints sore when got to hut, hip aching right now, woke me last night. Want to finish! After crossing the (relatively) deep creeks coming into the hut, you think you’re done and then there’s one more long, boggy, swamp. You can see the hill in front of you that you know must be where the hut is, but have to get through this long deep quagmire…so demoralizing!

The Bibbulmun: day nineteen – Yabberup -> Noggerup

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Hard day. Rained basically non-stop. And occasionally quite heavily, right from the get go. Tried to leave camp late in order to arrive at Mumby Tav at opening time – nearly 8am (late start!). Glen Mervyn dam was pretty, sat on a log – in the rain – and ate a snack. Feet became v wet – could see droplets of water splashing out of the tops of my shoes as I walked. Feet v sore – feeling despondent and that they’re getting worse when I expected them to be getting better. Also left hip very achy at night and interrupting my sleep. Sad face.

Was such a luxury/relief to stop at Mumby Tav for lunch – dried shoes and socks by fire so was only very slightly damp when left. Ate steak sanga and chips (gluten – farts are so bad) which was v yum. Sun even came out for the afternoon’s walk which was nice but distracted by sore feet. Even doing 20km is a struggle, which is like a short day. So frustrating. Not sure how long will be able to continue if feet keep getting worse…Put windscreen reflector under sleeping mat last night, much warmer but so noisy it even kept me awake. Every breath in and out it creaked. FARK. ONLY ONE THIRD THROUGH AND I’M FALLING TO PIECES.

Paid $3 for black, instant coffee today. New low, coffee wise. When I asked if had soy milk, bar woman gave me funny look and tried not to laugh/scoff.

Posterboard on the wall in the tavern full of bogan things – Japan not allowing muslims (Australia should be like Japan), ‘I swear because I fucking can’ etc. Ultra offensive/hilariously bad. V, V bogan place. Much Ned Kelly paraphernalia.

Feel like am just ‘getting through’ this section rather than actually enjoying it which makes me sad. Can’t imagine how great it would be to not be hurting every step…Sigh. Just want to eat so can go to sleep. PS had most tasty dinner last night – instant (freeze dried) rice, freeze dried veg, TUNA STEAK, olive oil and parmesan. So so good. Same tonight but instant mash instead of rice. Soaked feet in small river in front of hut, v cold and nice.

The Bibbulmun: day sixteen – Yourdamung -> Harris Dam -> Collie

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Stop for snack around 8am (1/2 bag doritos, healthy morning snack), early sun coming through trees. Very still, sun catching wings/bodies of many large mozzies – look like tiny golden fairies! V. magical.

*very tired at end of day. no energy for writing*

The Bibbulmun: day nine – White Horse Wells -> Mt Wells -> Chadoora

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

My god. I am tired. 31 ish km. Did the double. Feet are throbbing – I haven’t taken off my socks yet to look at them. Wait, I just did. They are dirty as fuck. Saw several kangaroos today – after all the wallabies, finally some decent sized critters! Walked slower today and with smaller steps, trying to place my feet more softly to not hurt them so much – instead of slapping them down like lumps of playdough. They weren’t too sore by the time I got to Mt Wells around 10:15am. Left at 6:40am after a 5:30am wake up. Was so cold I walked in my gloves and beanie for about an hour, then my raincoat for a couple of hours even though no rain. Just to keep warm.

A section of the track this morning is from the original alignment of the track, from the 70’s. The yellow markers are really faded, and are really high up! I mentioned it to the guys when I got to Mt Wells and stopped for lunch, and one of them said ‘Yeah, I was wondering why they went to the effort to put them so high. Like, did they climb up there?’ and I was like ‘Um….they put them at eye level and then the tree just grew…’ haha. Numpsy. It was cool to imagine what the bush would have been like, and what the people who were in the bush were like, that long ago. And wondering how many people have walked the track during that time…

It turns out even though I was planning to hike two more nights, I actually only brought enough dinner for tonight. So that’s lucky! Otherwise I would have been hungry tomorrow night. I had some thoughts – about a couple of friends who complain about the same general story, over and over, in different contexts. Thought how tired I am/was of hearing the same story from them; but then how tired I am of my own repetitive stories.  Like the one of me being sick/broken/not good enough. They’re not serving me, and I want to drop them out here in the bush and leave them here. Bush has enough space to absorb my stories without being bothered by them. Practiced breathing in, then breathing out my stories and letting them go, as I walked.

I’m so tired. Want to sleep. Only 4:45pm. Also at one point today I thought I heard a kind of singing voice, like ‘yoohoo!’ like an old grandpa might call out to you as you walked past. I looked around, and saw no one. I heard it again and realised it was the tree branches moving against each other making that noise! I saw a reference tree (which was marked in the guidebook) as I looked around which I wouldn’t otherwise have noticed (CWsomething). I figured the bush was singing to me as encouragement and to point out how far I’d come. Thank you bush. Thank you feet.

The Bibbulmun: day six – Monadnocks -> Mt Cooke -> Nerang

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Far out. So pissed off with the oldies last night. They were unprepared to the point of irresponsible. No sleeping bag (they had a doona/blanket each, sheets, etc – but the poor old dude had brought a doona that was too short, so he has to sleep curled up in the foetal position to stay warm and is thus sleeping really badly…they also had no tent, I heard the story about how they got lost one night a few nights back – someone who had passed them during the day and knew they were meant to be arriving at the next hut got worried when they never rocked up and called search and rescue. Who flew around in a helicopter looking for them (didn’t find them). But they found their way back to the track when it got light the next morning.  They are carrying 27kg each…I’m sort of impressed. Except that, part of that 27kg was a radio which the guy used to listen to the footy…until 8:30pm when I asked him to turn it off. I’d already gone to sleep around 7 with some Harry* in my ears to drown out the “…And Dickhead passes to the other Dickhead and he goes for a kick of some sort and ahhhhhhh he misses!…”and woken up again and it was still blaring. I swear he was asleep. He was snoring! I asked him to turn it off at 8:30 – practically midnight! Hiker midnight, anyway – and he didn’t answer. I asked again and then his wife woke him up and was like ‘Turn off your game!’. Geez. And then the South Africans they were walking with were kind of weird and non-talkative. So I wasn’t going to double on my original walking schedule, but then I was like, I don’t want to spend another night with them! So a double it was. Also when I did the 1st two peaks and got to the first hut, I still had energy, which was another reason to do the double.

Before Mt Cooke I had a wee break. Went to grab toilet paper from it’s usual spot in the front mesh pocket of my bag. Not there. Weird, it must be in the zipped pocket. Not there. Toilet paper gone. Tummy still unreliable. Disaster.
I realise it must have fallen out when I was hefting my pack around, trying to reposition it more comfortably on my shoulders and hips. Fuck. Luckily, for this wee break at least, I have some old used tissues in my jacket pocket. Linton is always ripping on me for keeping old tissues in my pocket, but this time I was like ah hah! I showed you! Eddie caught up to me at Mt Cooke hut, and I asked – ‘Did you see anything on the track along your way, per chance?’ He said, ‘what do you mean?’ ‘I’ve lost my TP,’ I say. ‘Did you see it?’ ‘Oh.’ he says. ‘Yeah, I did see that.’ My face betrays my excitement for a minute before he says ‘I walked past it.’ 🙁 . He softens the blow of my TP loss by giving me a few spare baby wipes to get me through to tomorrow, when I have a restock at the road house anyway.

I climbed over Mt Vincent, Mt Cuthbert and Mt Cooke. I got to the top of the second peak and called Linton and mum re: my Achilles. Which was REALLY SORE! I realized I had forgotten to pack the heel lift that the physio gave me as he said it might help. I asked mum to post it but she wasn’t sure it’d arrive in time (for Nick to bring it down). I asked Linton to post my old runners last night but then by today I wasn’t sure it was a good idea – could I make to the town where he could post them to? I called him back and told him not to bother. But I couldn’t keep walking with my achilles this sore.

By the time I got to the third peak I tried a new tack. I got sat on a little rock with some signal. Googled shops in Perth that sell Vivo Barefoot shoes (as they are the only brand I know that I can wear new out of the box without getting a blister (except for the fucking hiking boots that I am currently wearing). Bought a pair of trail runners over the phone with my credit card. Low ankle, which is not awesome for sticks and stone etc but can’t deal with the pressure on the back of my ankles. Rang little bro and was like ‘Ehhhhh bro! How about a road trip?!!’ He agreed to go pick them up from the shop the next day and deliver them to me at North Bannister tomorrow. What a good bro! 

Spent the last 10km walking with Eddie and chatting about life. Was cool. He did a good part of the Bibb last year – got to Denmark but then ran out of money and time to finish it off. He is a hiking machine. Was also good because while I really enjoyed the walk up and down the peaks, the last 10km were flat and boring along old fire roads and the like. Now here at the shelter along with Julian (who I met the week before I left Perth in the Mountain Designs shop) who is also cool. Hiker life! Did 26km and three peaks so sore feet.. Too busy chatting with fellow hikers to write! Saw two wallabies today.

*Harry Potter Audiobook

Is this the end of The Mind Movement? (you tell me)

Hey there!

This note has been a long time coming, right? I haven’t written for some time. Due to a few different reasons, but there’s a couple of biggies. Namely the following:

  1. My life has changed a lot in the last 6 months. In a good way! I’ve quit my job, moved house, I’m doing new things. I’m really happy with how things are going.
  2. With this change has come a change in where my attention and curiosity are focused. I loved Elizabeth Gilberts talk on hummingbird curiosity and following these roads, so I’m rolling with that.
  3. Part of this shift in focus has meant that I’m less focused on the scientific world of exercise and mental health. Which was a big part of starting the blog.
  4. Part of the change in my life has also been a change in some of my theories/opinions on …life stuff. For example, I’m leaning away from our current western medical definition of depression as an ‘illness’ caused by brain chemical imbalance, and exploring other ways of seeing depression, such as that written about by Kelly Brogan.
  5. A big, big part of where my interest is going is into wilderness and nature. I’m very interested wilderness therapy, equine experiential learning, bushwalking/hiking, and I’m currently planning a long distance thru-hike for myself. I see all of this as very much related to mental health and wellbeing, as well as movement. But at the same time, I see it as a very different approach to the more traditional ‘gym workout three days a week for 12 weeks to see if your mood improves’ typical ‘evidence based’ exercise for mental health.
  6. I ended up being ‘depressed’ (I’m currently unsure how I want to frame that particular title) for much of last year, which left me feeling really depleted, and like I didn’t have much of anything left to offer to other people (including you lovely blog readers).
  7. I’m really, really, really over the whole online fame/instagram/marketing game at the moment. The idea of yoga poses in natural landscapes, pictures of lattes with props arranged just so and the like is just so not my game right now. (Totally fine for others to go ahead if thats what they’re into! This is not an attack!). I’m finding it difficult to fit myself in to current popular social media trends and would prefer to be a bit more dirty, gritty, swear-y and real. Not that I’ve been inauthentic in anything I’ve written, but I’ve often censored myself for fear of offending, and often feel the need to provide linked evidence whenever I state an opinion. And I’ve found myself, from time to time, trying to create posts or photos to be more like those peeps who have 1000’s of followers, coz that’s what the world says is a good thing for a blog and for a business. TBH, I’m a bit over that. I just want to write what I want to write, while giving zero fucks.

So there’re a few big changes, right?
What I’m questioning at this point is the following:

  1. Should I keep the blog going in its current form? Was it helping anyone? Was anyone reading it? Were people getting any meaning from it?
  2. Should I divert the focus of the blog incrementally towards the things I’m currently into (aikido, hiking, alternative ways of looking at mental health. Feminism, energy healing, horses. Sustainability. SLOW (seasonal, local, organic, whole) food. Tuning into the seasons and living accordingly.)
  3. Should I start a new blog about the non-movement related stuff I’m doing at the moment? (see above).
  4. Should I give up the blog altogether and just write things for myself? And not publish it?
  5. Should I just do what Ive been doing and avoid all these questions by not writing anything and leaving the blog sitting there?

I’d love your feedback on this, because as much as I have written this blog as place for me to record my own thoughts, I’d hate to shut it down if people were finding meaning in it. I just feel uncomfortable with it sitting here doing not much. It’s kind of like that nagging thought: Is there something I forgot? Did I leave the oven on or something?

Hope you are all making meaning in your lives and finding a way to move that works for you.

Big love,

Louise xx

The major factors to consider when choosing the right yoga class for you

Often when I tell people that I work with peeps who want to use movement to help manage their mood, they respond with ‘Oh yeah, like yoga and stuff’.

There’s a reason that yoga is one of the first places peoples’ minds jump to when they think ‘movement’ and ‘mental health’ – several studies have shown results like decreased rumination (focusing on unpleasant thoughts), improved sleep, decreased severity of depression and improved quality of life. One study even found that a yoga intervention worked better for improving depression symptoms than pharmacotherapy (drugs)! So, there’s certainly validity in using yoga as part of a movement practice to improve mood. But, the difference it makes can depend on a few variables…

how-to-pick-yoga

Photo by Leo Prieto

The style

Of course, the style makes a huge difference, and there’s no ‘better or worse’ –it depends on your purpose. If you want to work your muscles, get warm, and sweat it out, and increase energy, power yoga or vinyasa might be good for you. If you want to chill, breathe, stretch and find some calm, perhaps yin yoga or restorative is a better bet. I recommend doing some research, taking some time to think about what you want to get out of your practice, and then make an educated choice about which style you choose. And why not try a few different styles to see what works for you!

 

The teacher

Having completed many yoga classes with both fantastic teachers and those that made me go ‘meh’, I can say from experience that having an experienced teacher who is in it for more than the fitness aspect is a totally different experience than a class run by someone who is mostly about building muscles and improving flexibility. My favourite classes are always those that have some greater meaning or message built into them, whether that be in the form of a theme for the class, or just a few words that the teacher offers during savasana. Traditionally yoga is much more a spiritual practice than just physical poses, and teachers who offer a little bit of something for the psyche on top of teaching the physical movements are always my faves.

2309429837_376cf88225_oPhoto by MorkiRo

 

The time

I’ve done classes that go for 45-50 minutes, like group fitness classes in gyms, and I’ve always found they don’t really allow enough time to do a proper stillness practice. Some have written about savasana (the corpse pose) being the most important asana (pose) in yoga and it’s certainly important from my perspective. I love the practice of it in the studio, of taking a moment to let your body consolidate what you’ve just gone through in the last hour or so, and just focusing on breathing. I also love taking that concept into the rest of your life – allowing time for processing, resting, and taking a breath before moving on to the next thing. In shorter classes, there is usually only a couple of minutes of stillness, which I reckon isn’t enough. My fave classes go for 75 – 90 minutes.

 

The environment

I’ve done yoga in some pretty picturesque places. Like open, bamboo studios surrounded by papaya trees and jungle, or huge, converted warehouses with exposed wood beams and huge windows through which the afternoon sun streams in…And, while it’s not 100% a prerequisite for a good class, I reckon the additional calm and peace that comes from spending time inside a beautiful studio (as compared to a plain walled room with minimal natural light or air flow) is important.

photo-1429277096327-11ee3b761c93

 

That’s what I reckon has the most impact on what makes a good class. The other stuff, like the mat or the clothes: less important from my perspective. Although having a good mat is a nice luxury – I’m currently using a really ratty old mat that sheds little pieces of rubber every time I use it. It’s kinda annoying. (Recommendations for good brands of mat welcome!)

 

Did I miss any important considerations for a good class? Where’s the most beautiful studio you’ve practiced in? Let me know in the comments…

Why I’m grateful for the fire

 

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

 

Last night I went to a friends’ house for a dinner party.

It being Melbourne, and it being winter, it was cold. She has a wood fire, so someone went off to light it. Thirty minutes later there were calls of ‘does anyone know how to light a fire?’ and I went and took over tending the smouldering coals. I got that baby cranking in no time, with an adjustment of the air flow and adding some well-placed sticks.As I sat watching the mesmerizing flames take hold, I thought about how handy a skill it is to be able to light a fire.

grateful_fire

When I was growing up, my family home had wood fired hot water.

Even though we lived in rural Western Australia, it was still old-school. And yes, it meant that any time we wanted more than a kettle-full of hot water we had to light a fire and wait half an hour. And yes, this was very annoying. (It also meant I learned the handy skill of chopping wood with an axe, but that’s a different story).

 

 If they had tried to tell me at the time…

I was reflecting last night on how grateful I felt, that I had this skill of fire-lighting, and laughed to myself imagining how I would have reacted if, while grumbling about having to light the fire, my parents had said ‘you’ll be grateful for this one day!’ And, thinking back on it, I wouldn’t choose to do it again. It was annoying and time consuming, and I would prefer to be able to jump in the shower as soon as I arrive home from the beach freezing cold. But I can also see the benefit I got from the experience.

gratitude

Which I thought was a great example of what gratitude means (to me).

To express gratitude for something doesn’t need to mean that you would choose the same thing over, if you were given a choice. It doesn’t need to mean you’re stoked that what happened, happened. It just means that whether the experience was enjoyable or not, you can see that there was some outcome that was meaningful for you. Sometimes it’s really easy to find gratitude for things we perceive as pleasant experiences, and it can be harder to be grateful for things that are less pleasant.

Have you had a shitty (at the time) experience that you can look back on and be grateful for? Let me know in the comments

Five things I learned from running a mindfulness and communication retreat in Bali

 

I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

– Brene Brown

bali_retreatPhoto by McKay Savage

I recently co-facilitated a mindful communciation and movement retreat in Ubud, Bali, along with my Mum (Marg Pontin) who is a certified trainer in NVC (Non-Violent Communication). We delved into mindfulness practices, including sitting, moving and walking; mindful listening, to others and ourselves; and mindful communication, expressing ourselves to others and asking requests of others and of ourselves. We discussed shame, vulnerability, and self-compassion, and practiced prioritising self-care the whole time. All in all, it was a mind-blowing week of learning, growth and connection. Here’s a few gems that I took away from the retreat…

1) It really is “all about connection”

That was the name of our retreat: ‘it’s all about connection’ and wow, did it turn out to be true. Of all the learning exercises we did, all the group discussions, so many just came back to that single point. How important it is for us humans to be social, to have a tribe that we belong to – to be connected to others. It’s such a powerful thing.

2) Allowing yourself to be vulnerable can be excruciating – and can also lead to incredibly deep connection with others

Once you’ve agreed with number one, it begs the question – how to get connected? And wow, the connections that were forged in our 7 days together were incredible. It never ceases to amaze me that the sense of connection with others always comes after the tears, the talking about deep pain, or fear, or anxieties, all the uncomfortable places to go. There’s just something about someone seeing those tender parts of you and saying (not always in so many words) ‘I see you, I hear you, I’m with you’ – which is what we were practicing doing throughout the retreat (otherwise called ’empathy’).

mindfulness_retreat_baliPhoto by Hadi Zaher

3) You can still have crappy days and/or moments – even when you’re in a tropical paradise

It’s so easy to leave home for a holiday, leaving behind all your literal and metaphorical baggage, and then fall into that trap of ‘oh, life would be so much easier/happier/relaxing if I just upped and moved to Bali/Prague/Iceland…’ and I actually find it somewhat comforting to remember that life happens, wherever you are. Going on a holiday (even a working holiday!) can be a great break and a breather, but putting your ‘stuff’ on hold doesn’t get rid of it – and if you were to stay in your paradise, eventually you’d still have to deal with it. (And I did).

4) Dancing is the best

I rediscovered my love for salsa (LA style, in case you’re wondering!) and somehow found the time to go to three group lessons and three social dancing nights…and yes, an amazing 2:1 semi private salsa lesson held in the meditation bale of my accommodation – total bliss, it has to be said.

I also noted how many of our group lit up when we did the private lesson for our group of eight – I so love the beautiful way that moving our bodies, especially to music, can bring us joy. And the best part? When our salsa teacher explained to the group at the end of the lesson that in salsa, ‘it’s all about the connection’. It was like we paid him to say it! (We didn’t!)

bali_retreat_mindfulnessPhoto by Trent Strohm

5) How deep the sense of contentment and fulfillment is when you do what is really meaningful for you

All I have here is wow. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from the retreat just blew me away. I amazed myself with the energy I had for other people during the sessions – even on a busy day, when I sat down one-on-one with participants, I was so focused and in a state of ‘flow’ that the time flew by. To finish the day tired, but with a sense of ‘yep, I did something that is authentically me’ – and added a bit of value to someone else’s life in the process – is so immensely satisfying. I want more.

 

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