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.


Ever thought about going on retreat to Bali? Or learning more about mindfulness, communication and connection? Sign up to my email list at the top of the page to be in the loop for the next live event!


10 Replies to “Five things I learned from running a mindfulness and communication retreat in Bali”

  1. Sounds like an amazing retreat! I love all 5 but especially no. 5 we have to keep reminding ourselves throughout life how important it is to show up as our authentic self.

  2. Reading your words makes me so happy, and proud. This week fulfilled me with connection, understanding, peace, meaning and purpose. Please keep doing what you do.
    Thank you,

  3. It was amazing and I love what you have written! I can just give this to people when they ask what I was doing in Bali!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *