Working In On Retreat

11 October, 2015

Gaia Oasis retreat is situated on Bali’s northern coast.  Hundreds of miles away from the bustling, bogan and Bintang filled streets of Kuta, it is something to be experienced. A long azure coastline winds its way to the horizon. Gently lapping waves inviting you to come in and explore the treasure of coral beneath. Tropical gardens with florescent exotic flowers in coral, red, fuchsia trim the edges of neatly cobbled paths.  It is a quiet place for rest and solitude. 


I’m bunking with an old friend Sandra who I met during a yoga teacher training in Sydney.  Originally from Germany, she now lives permanently in Sydney and teaches yoga on the side of her corporate job.  She is a passionate photographer and is up early taking silhouette photos of yogis against the sunrise. 


Sandra and I share a room that is called ‘The Palace’. I later find out it’s one of the honeymoon suites. Score.  The view from our balcony looks out across the water.  The outdoor bathroom is divine - nothing like getting nude in nature.  I consider ways in which you could have an outdoor bathroom in New Zealand. Winter’s memory lingers. Difficult.   


The retreat is anointed ‘Journey to higher consciousness’ and was organised by my central teacher Mark Breadner. Mark is based in Sydney and has trained over 800 yoga teachers from around the world. A surfer, a bloke, with a true Australian edge, Mark has just one eye, the scar from a surfing accident years ago. Despite what you see on the surface, his heart is open and loving. Like no other I’ve meet he holds the space when people need to fall in and resurface. A practice that he himself admits has taken years to develop. 


Mark had invited his spiritual teacher to join us from India, ‘Babaji’, a living saint.  Although he has no birth certificate, Mark assumes conservatively that he is in his late 80s.  He is a master meditator and has spent not just hours and days, but months and years in meditation.  He is said to be the living embodiment of ‘Atma’ – which can be described as ‘love’, ‘the higher self’, ‘the universe’, ‘god consciousness’ and all things in between.


Unfortunately the day before our retreat started Babaji’s health had deteriorated and we were informed his Doctor had not given him permission to travel.  There was great disappointment amongst the retreat.  I quickly resolved I would not let the disappointment get in the way of making the most of my time and what Mark had to offer, which is also a great deal. We were told Babaji would communicate with us during the retreat, by email and skype, and also by meditation!  Some students who hold Babaji as their personal guru took the news harder. Imagine a child’s face after they’ve received the news their loved one wouldn’t be home for Christmas.  When I enquired more about this I was surprised to learn some had not even met Babaji in person.  How could someone living in a far off country, that you’d never met, have such a huge impact on your life?


The schedule was the same each day, 5.30am meditation, 6.30am asana, 9.30am meditation lecture, 11.30am meditation, 12.30 break, 4.30pm meditation, 6.30pm asana.  When you meditate like this, regularly and consistently for days, your body starts to release stress in huge quantities, like peeling off layers. This will feel different for different people.  Like most of you, I’m a busy person, and nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming and, at times, almost painful release of stress and toxicity from my body and mind.


The first few days for me were spent mostly horizontal in bed in a complete daze. Just being given permission to rest, truly rest, no distractions like the TV, internet or phone was empowering.  This was a huge relief to me.  As many of you know who are mothers, there are no sick days with that gig.  As I dissolved two ladies, along with Sandra, came forward to help me.  Helen, a Reiki healer and Hypno Birthing teacher, and Bronwyn, a Craniosacral therapist, both from Sydney, kindly provided me with their gentle energy healing.  In a state of deep, unadulterated relaxation, I felt the exhaustion dissipate from the body effortlessly.    


In our many meditation discussions with Mark his key message was crystal clear.  In life, we need to always remember to come back to our hearts. Come back to Atma.  Consistent, regular meditation is the best way to realise and create the life of your highest potential.  He got us to start this journey by asking ourselves a simple question – what do you really want?  Everyone had varying responses: to feel valuable, to be loved, to be consistently happy, to create something beautiful.  We then discussed how to make these values independent, so they aren’t conditional on other people or things to exist. This means, rather than saying I need ‘to feel valuable’, we could say ‘I’ll value myself’; or, instead of I need ‘to be loved’, I’m going ‘to be loving’.  For what we give, we always get back.


The other people on the retreat were from all walks of life.  Mostly they are Australians and many working in the wellbeing industry - mums, business owners, brothers, teachers, corporates, artists.  As the days rolled by, stories started to unfold.  Shitty partners, love at first sight, divorces, successes, health struggles, the teachings of parenthood, business challenges, re-births. When you start to rest down and get quiet, all the stuff we bury away and try and avoid will bubble up to the surface.  The students on the retreat became my sangha – good company – non judging, responding in loving kindness, like a good councillor always listening, never reacting.  Mark explains that the trick in our day to day life is to keep letting go of the under lying fear and pain while continuing with the stories of our lives.  The best solution for this? Day to day, consistent meditation practice.


All our lives we spend looking outward. We have made our ‘peace of mind’ and joy conditional on external factors. When I am successful at school/work, then I’ll feel I’ve achieved. When I find the right partner, then I’ll be happy. When I pay off the mortgage, then I’ll have freedom. When I buy the new summer wardrobe, then I’ll feel fresh.  When my children are successful, then I’ll be complete.  Very rarely are we taught in our society about looking inward, toward our own selves, rediscovering your inner guru, your own experience of Atma, and your own evaporation into silence.


However, as Babaji explained, this silence is the true purpose of life.  Connect with yourself at this place and your uniquely coded message that only you were designed for will be activated. This purpose could be for your family and children, or all the way up to a global action.  The regular practice of meditation – not just for a few months when it suits you, but years of attentive practice – will help you to clean up your obstacles and give you a laser like focus for what truly matters.  Your purpose will naturally rise up to the surface and it will be your job to take it in to action.


Unfortunately when this happens, our fears and aversions are also made clear.  This is where the essential practice of ‘letting go’ is useful.  The more you are able to let go, the more you step in to your own power.


The people you see in the world who are ‘lucky’ and seem naturally ‘talented’ are connected to this place in their hearts.  For example, the internationally renowned English chef Jamie Oliver – he’s totally authentic and totally ‘in the flow’. Creating, cooking, enjoying.  What is your message, as cooking has been for Jamie? Are you ready to step up and be responsible for your infinite potential? 


Please start by asking the question – what do you really want?


Even though I was sceptical about Babaji showing up in meditation, it was only a few days before he revealed himself.  Sitting peacefully in my heart with my son, the joy of my life, a deep sense of belonging and wholeness washed over me. I came to understand within myself this magical endearment Babaji offers his followers, a gentle, invisible thread of deep connection, like that of mother and child, completely loving, completely unconditional.


Of course, in your own meditation you don’t need to find Babaji, you can use any image that represents the higher self to you – Jesus, Buddha, someone you love dearly – everyone’s practice will be different. 


Leaving Tejakula and driving back in to the tourist filled chaos of Southern Bali my senses were assaulted by the disconnection between people.  When you get to that quiet, deep place, walking past someone in the street and not making eye contact for a quick ‘hello’ seems alien.  And yet here we are, bustling along through life with our ‘busy badge’, forgetting, pushing down and ignoring that deep calling in our hearts for something more, something authentic, something true. 


Will you heed the call before it’s too late?

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