A year full of planning, with endless decisions to be made and attention to detail interminable, the all-important content rehearsed and refined, time after time, between team-mates, Jo, myself and our Yogi, Peta Jolley came together beautifully.
We were ready.
On the ground our intentions for retreat matched seamlessly. Mine from the father of analytical psychology, Carl Jung - ‘I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.’ Peta’s ‘I am that which I choose to become.’ Unison so perfect even we didn’t realise its possibilities until we began, complimenting one another like Yin and Yang.
What could possibly go wrong?
The tribe began forming from the launch on August 1st. Seventeen retreaters prioritised themselves in the ultimate in self-care, but their names and faces changed over the months leaving thirteen to join us in the most rejuvenating of locations.
With her absent road rules and culture of unconditional respect and care for others, Bali and her people worked their magic in an instant. How could she not be female with her fertile earth, nurturing aura and nourishing food. Her heart green like the fourth chakra, often associated with calm, serenity and ‘sounds without violence.’
Desa Seni in the coastal village of Canggu, described as a state of mind rather than a destination, welcomed us into its open arms. A literal garden of tranquility, intimate, soothing, Desa Seni’s grounds are the perfect balance of privacy and meeting place. This tribe took no time to get to know one another. Even when having free time, we found each other, often in the pool, around food and drinks and spa treatments. There was no real need to leave in those first few days and so, the result was an accelerated connection between this retreat family.
But what were those words from my fellow Scotsman, Robert Burns? - The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. That they do dear sir, that they do.
Our welcome to Bali began with a plan. That’s me. The planner. Clear, specific ideas about how everything will work and the time in which it will happen. We wouldn’t have made it this far without planning, right? And so, I planned. I had planned everything so carefully, that in fact, I felt convinced that retreat would be the Golden Ticket. Just like it was for Charlie (and the Chocolate Factory – try to keep up.)
Nervous for months in the leadup, outwardly projecting my fears at every turn, in every direction, I felt proud to not freak out too much when there were people missing at the start of the Welcome Meeting. Nor did it phase me when I couldn’t locate the fresh fruit platter and people were missing their welcome drinks. I didn’t even really flinch when we were ushered out to the traditional Balinese cleansing ceremony right in the middle of my welcome speech.
Go with the flow, I told myself, after-all, wasn’t I there as a role model for all things self-care?
Introductions and intentions were shared eventually and then it was done, day one. Phew. We made it to dinner. A bunch of tired travellers eager for bed with readiness for the early morning yoga and meditation carefully designed to set the tone for the rest of their week.
I’d anticipated my biggest hurdle would be my first workshop. What I hadn’t considered was that my ginormous expectations would be my biggest challenge.
I had a plan. I determined to set the foundation for the remaining four workshops, to ensure the delivery of that Golden Ticket. I had so much work to do in that first workshop. Why did I do that to myself!
Determined to model my humanness, to connect – human-to-human as is so often my mantra on The Psychology of It, this workshop was the furthest thing from a performance as you could imagine.
Still, I hadn’t been prepared for the cracking of my voice during only my fourth sentence, nor for the tears that followed, my tears and the tears of our tribe, as I continued to share my story that led to that moment, in Bali. I needed to pause at times to compose myself, not completely, but enough. My gut told me this was important. To continue. To forget about my agenda and all the content we had to ‘get through.’
Peta’s comforting hand found my lower back as she joined me in silent support at the front of this group sitting in a semi-circle, all eyes on me.
What I realised only later were that these were tears of twelve months of very hard work and preparation. Tears of hearing my story out loud in such a safe and supportive environment. One created by this family. Created by Bali. Created by setting my agenda aside. The tears were also of pride. I had done it. I had listened to my body and made choices to change how I worked. How I managed stress. Here I was. Leading my first retreat, fully booked with others ready for their own version of self-reflection.
Let’s warm up our minds, I said. And we began. We moved through the motions of beginning the search for our compasses. What directed our choices? How we would like to direct our choices? What would be our north, south, east, and west? We began, but time wasn’t on our side. What had been missing became clear later in a poolside conversation.
Gutted that I hadn’t hit my mark, disappointed that I hadn’t delivered the Golden Ticket, my mind ruminated on what hadn’t been. Threatening to cloud the remainder of my retreat, I had a conscious choice to make.
Tomorrow we would begin again, in a different way. With more time. With more clarity and an adjusted plan. Go with the flow Jodie, I reminded myself when my mind told me to just quit, to run, that I wasn’t any good at this.
It took me until today, over one week later to realise that it wasn’t me that chose the focus of that first workshop. The one that I had agonised over. The one that held the Golden Ticket. No. I had no control over it, in fact.
In my willingness to share my vulnerability and to speak my truth, the tribe began taking something much more valuable than anything I could have ever prepared or delivered verbally. Something much more magical. Something Brene Brown would be proud of. The tone of the retreat had been set alright. Creation of a safe and sacred space. I didn’t even know it. I didn’t choose it.
The tribe chose. I see it clearly now. Instead of the content, the tribe chose emotion. And it seems, emotion chose me. Maybe a little too much. What I have had to accept is that all of it flowed, naturally and authentically. Would it have had the same impact if it went according to plan? I’ll never know.
I hadn’t realised the weight of that first workshop. Like Sisyphus’s rock, I had been pushing it uphill for an entire year. The relentless climb continued long after the workshop was long gone. Getting stuck with the unhelpful thoughts about how a couple of things had not gone according to plan. In all of my imperfection and my ongoing challenges to reflect, learn, take responsibility, seek forgiveness and grow, I certainly had enough material to practice what I had preached all week.
Connection. Serenity. Flourishing. Purpose.
The north, south, east and west of my compass. Every perfectionistic niggle my mind threw at me gave me opportunity to recalibrate and choose my direction. Ruminating on my past mistakes certainly did not help me feel serene nor connected.
It should’ve been no surprise, as our bonds grew, that we hit our stride right as we relocated from Canggu to the luscious Ubud – the heart of Bali. Back on track with setting our compasses, doing some mindful eating and raw food cooking, we prepared to move into committed action. The magic culminated here, and I learnt that even in imperfect moments, there can come perfect lessons.
Peta had taken us on a meditative journey through the seven terraces of our own mountain in our imagination over the duration of the week. Each terrace represented one of the seven chakras – these are focal points along our spines and are believed to be responsible for the freedom of our energy flow.
As her profound meditations saw us reach our pinnacle to meet our higher self, many of our tribe found themselves literally at the top of Mt Batur after a 2am start for their sunrise volcano walk. Perfectly timed, our tribe had summited their own mountains metaphorically within their week on retreat, spiritually within their meditations and then also in their bodies on that difficult yet inspiring hike.
You’d have thought by this stage of retreat that I would’ve come to realise that I could not control any part of how the workshops were received or what people were able to take from them. I could not have predicted what gold would be shared amongst our retreat family within those sessions.
That final workshop, I had assumed, would be a fairly black and white, goal-setting session. Even writing that now, I realise how silly that was of me. How could a session involving the culmination of a week of self-discovery and planning for the future not involve emotion and vulnerability?
My personal goals, shared with the group, are always to continue to journey towards serenity and connection and responding as opposed to reacting in stressful situations. I’d had cause to apologise for a misdirected reaction mid-way through retreat, which provided the perfect lesson in responsibility taking, forgiveness and growth. A perfection lesson grown out of imperfection.
The courage of one participant to workshop their goal of having more joy allowed others to open up about their own personal goals. Healing happened right in front of our eyes as people realised they no longer needed to hold onto past stories that no longer served them. The need to apologise for being themselves disappeared and the courage to ask for what they needed arose. Radical self-acceptance rippled throughout the room, held so gently yet securely by the safe, unconditional support created from the very first workshop.
Magic is the word spoken often about what happened in that room that day. Life-changing is a term used by many of our retreat family to describe their week.
I know that it is the perfect formula. Time away from the busyness of life, plus a unique, unconditionally supportive environment designed specifically for your safety and security to use in whichever way you see fit for you, creates a nourishing, flourishing environment. Daily yoga and meditation, transformative workshops and wellness right at the very heart of it all.
On our Conscious Living Retreat at least, everything really did happen for a reason.
(Just as an aside, I had a Chakra Therapy session with a Traditional Balinese Healer who told me that my Root Chakra was blocked. I think he was onto something!)
(And another aside, I use the word ‘perfect’ in this article a lot. Don’t worry, I know there is no such thing. Not all the time, anyway.)
Thank you to our Conscious Living Retreat family, especially to Peta for showing me the magic in working in perfect unison, and to Jo who provided us with the most amazing opportunities in such an incredible location. If you would like to join us on any future retreats, be sure to subscribe to this website. We’d love to share the magic with you.