One of my goals for 2014 was to try new things, as many crazy, quirky, different things as possible. So when I found out about the Hippies in the City retreat run by certified health and wellness coach Rita Balshaw and Yoga teacher Jade Gluckman during my school holidays of all times, I knew that I had to attend. In fact, I booked my ticket without telling a single soul, or checking my diary or finances. A little reckless, I know but the spontaneity felt oh so exhilarating and liberating. Sometimes things come your way and you have a gut feeling that you must get involved.
Rita Balshaw is the author of ‘Hippies in the City: A guide to natural urban living’ and is a bit of a ‘spiritual and wellness gangster’ if I can call her that. She exudes an innate calm and tranquil energy that is palpable and contagious from the moment you meet her; she encourages you to stop, slow down and live in the moment with genuine intention.
Jade Gluckman is an intuitive healer and yoga teacher extraordinaire who lives and breathes what she preaches. Her yoga classes are not only about perfecting various asanas (poses) but about how to take the practice ‘off the mat’. “This is the real practice” she says; it is all about how to bring a sense of mindfulness and peace to every moment, no matter what form it takes.
The retreat was held in Bali’s yoga capital, Ubud at the Ubud Aura Hotel. The boutique hotel proved to be perfect for our purposes- inexpensive yet offering all that you could want from a retreat centre- yoga hall on the top floor, spa and pool facilities. An added bonus was the location; literally metres away from the world famous Yoga Barn offering a variety of different yoga classes on the hour. Something that I didn’t expect was that it turned out to be a little food safari also, as we were able to sample the healthy cafe scene of Ubud.
A day on retreat:
7am: Wake up to Yoga! Jade would guide us through a gentle yet energising yoga sequence to awaken the body from rest.
9am: Breakfast together beside the pool. Rita would often talk to us about nutritious Balinese foods e.g Noni fruit, dragon fruit and Mangosteen. Each day, Rita would make one of her recipes from her book ‘Hippies in the City’ such as a probiotic granola and wheat free, guilt free muffins.
10am: Nutritional meetings and workshops including stress management workshop.
12pm: Lunch excursions! (My favourite part) We visited so many different organic vegetarian restaurants and juiceries.
Some of the gastronomical eateries visited included: Sari Organik, Clear Cafe , Kafe, Alchemy, Bali Buda, and Yellow Flower cafe
5.30pm: Yoga Nidra: yoga and meditation for relaxation
7.3opm: Dinner: Another opportunity to sample more of Ubud’s culinary cuisine.
9pm: Snooze time (Being such a night owl, this was a little hard for me; I would often stay up late and write (eek!)
The rice paddyfields of Ubud, only a short walk away from the hotel.
The yoga hall where we practised every morning.
Vinyasa Flow class at the Yoga Barn
- African dance class led by Malaika Cheze Darville
- Kirtan at the Yoga Barn where we danced and sang in Sanskrit
- Two group discussion sessions that encouraged us to ‘open up’ and be vulnerable. I realised that some people go through their entire life without being vulnerable, or making the conscious or sub-conscious decision to avoid vulnerability and exposure at all costs. Discussions such at the ones we had on retreat reminded me of the importance of laying ourselves bare. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable but it is also what allows us to grow and connect with others. We see ourselves in others’ experiences and problems, and we are reminded that we are not alone in our struggles.
- Meeting so many wonderful people who were on their own wellness journeys. One such beautiful soul was Katy Tsai, a music teacher and musician from Sydney. Katy was such a ray of sunshine and her love of life and passion for music was evident from the moment I met her. Katy is interested in the healing power of music and how it can influence our overall wellbeing. She produces music for yoga, meditation and healing and creates wellness events that explore the fusion of music and wellness. Check out her website, Sound Oasis here.
- The food safari! Some of my favourite dishes included the dragon bowl and Chai iced dream from Clear Cafe (cashew milk, nutmeg and honey), Nasi Campur with marinated tempeh from Bali Buda, Gado Gado, raw burritos with sunflower mock beans and cashew cream, raw cheesecake, and Jamu juice (Balinese drink of tumeric, cayenne pepper and honey)
Nasi Campur from Bali Buda
Nasi Campur from Sari Organik ( can you tell I like my rice?!)
Dragon bowl from Clear Cafe
Raw burrito with daikon and cashew nut sour cream
- I became more aware of my ‘reactiveness’: what makes me react and what triggers me emotionally on a daily basis. I had to come back to something that I knew on a cognitive level but was forced to embrace on an emotional and practical level: that in each moment we have a choice as to how to react and love should dictate the decision as opposed to fear.
- I realised how much I value solitude. I need to honour and embrace the little introvert inside of me and allow myself alone time, be it to write and create or simply to reflect.
- During the first yoga session, Jade asked the question,’ What does it mean to be truthful?’ I found this particularly interesting as I had been meaning to write a blog post on authenticity and intuitive living. For me, to be truthful means to be authentic, to surrender to the reality of your situation and to accept yourself and those around you as they really are. It means to live with honest and genuine intention and to allow this to dictate how you interact with others. I have found this to be particularly liberating. If you are genuine, there is no need to be someone else, and the expectations fall by the wayside. You are free to be yourself in the moment. I have also found truthfulness to be a motivational force. Whenever I feel obligated to do something and I know my heart isn’t in it, I often find myself being disingenuous. If I clarify my purpose ahead of time and am honest about it, I find that I am more genuinely motivated to complete the task.
An antidote to the ‘TO DO’ list:
On retreat, I also assigned myself a ‘To Be’ list that focused on being rather than doing: Mine varied from day to day but a typical ‘To Be’ list looked like this:
‘To Be’ list:
- Grateful (This one was far too easy)
A little poem born of love, light and stillness:
Cocooned in this soft chair, I listen to the sound that water makes when it is unrestrained.
The screech of exotic birds infiltrates the moment as two lovers frolic in the pool in front of me.
Ripples of water dappled in sunlight merge and flow.
Devotees of stillness lay on sun beds in solemn introspection.
I am grateful for this solitude and so content in this moment.
Overall, it was such a heartwarming trip and I hope Rita and Jade present a similar offering in the future. I left Bali with a sense of contentment in my heart and a few words on my lips: thank you, thank you thank you.
Early morning sunlight illuminating the reading room.
With Rita and Jade on the last day