The quest for peace, acceptance and happiness after losing my husband to depression has taken me to some unexpected places. It has lead me travelling (around Australia to meet with other widows and to the USA to connect with Soaring Spirits at Camp Widow), encouraged me to try new things, forced me to open myself up to ideas about life and spirituality and introduced me to some really wonderful and interesting people.
Recently, this quest took me on another unexpected adventure, to the Ocean Soul Retreat in Bali, Indonesia, where I undertook their holistic healing program.
Having never been on a retreat, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. As an introvert and self-declared control freak (not to mention, picky eater), I was a little apprehensive about the idea of spending a week in the company of strangers and relinquishing my comfortable, but not-so-healthy, lifestyle to embrace a program of healing treatments, daily yoga and a very different whole foods menu. However, I decided to go all in and embrace the program designed – kale and all!
An average day at the retreat saw us all sitting down to breakfast together around 7am before those who had chosen the ‘surfing and yoga’ package set off for the beach, to learn from talented Balinese locals. As I had opted to do the holistic healing package, I spent the mornings meeting with different therapists where I could chose between treatments like traditional Balinese healing (based on clearing energy fields in the body, through the chakra system), craniosacral therapy, reflexology, reiki, theta healing and acupuncture.
The treatment I enjoyed the most was the spiritual hypnotherapy, which involved regressing in to my sub-conscious to discover some of the feelings and emotions from my past – well before Dan’s death – and allowed for some resolution and healing of issues that my conscious maybe wasn’t so aware of. While this might sound a bit kooky or even intimidating, I found the two sessions I did to be really uplifting and both left me feeling lighter, more positive and motivated for what still lay ahead.
The group then joined up again for lunch before an afternoon of either relaxing by the villa pool, pampering treatments, going for a walk around the local area of beautiful Seminyak or extra holistic treatments. The afternoon was bought to a close with an hour and half of yoga, during sunset, and we then sat down to another healthy and delicious meal together for dinner.
When I signed up for the retreat I knew there would be the inevitable conversations about Dan’s death and the path my life had taken since that terrible day. Telling a new bunch of strangers my story always feels exhausting and makes me instantly vulnerable. But in doing so, I know I open myself up to the potential for further growth and also help others understand more about death and grief.
I went in to this week almost expecting that it would lovely to have some time off work, spend time at the beach and get to escape the cold weather of Brisbane for a spell. If I’m honest I really didn’t think I had too much ‘healing’ that I needed to do, not on the surface anyway. I don’t feel blocked or stuck, thanks to my ongoing counseling with a psychologist and regular check ins with my widow support network. Despite this, I’m always up for trying something if it might help me move forward.
I was happy to find that my week at the retreat gave me not only that coveted rest from day-to-day life, but extra confidence in knowing that I’m doing ok within myself and that I’m moving in the right direction
Things to consider if you’re wanting to visit a retreat
Have a think about the program and activities on offer. Will you get what you want out of the retreat? Some of the treatments I experienced, I’d never even heard of. However I was very open minded and really glad I tried new things. Located in a luxurious part of Seminyak, Bali, the program also incorporated massages. A lot of massages. Ok, we’re talking daily massages. I even got to try a ‘four hand massage’ where I had two therapists working on me at once. Oh. My. Goodness. Total bliss! This kind of pampering really helped give the week a holiday feel. Some people might be looking for more of a fitness-based boot-camp style retreat but the massages and five-star accommodation with staff taking care of our every whim was right up my ally.
Have a look into the size of the group. I spent the week with five other guests, which made for a very intimate group. A larger group may be more comfortable for some, as it allows more anonymity. Also, a bigger mix of personalities means there’s a greater chance you’ll find someone you click with.
How much you will want to interact with other attendees. Do you want to make new friends or do you own thing and spend time alone? While the other five guests completed the surfing program, involving approximately three hours of beach-time every morning, I was the only one doing the holistic healing program. I had no interest in surfing whatsoever and enjoyed the time apart from the group, however as the only non-surfer there were moments when I felt left out of the conversation and a bit isolated.
Know your budget Even though accommodation, the majority of meals and daily activities were included in the program, there was an opportunity to access extra services and treatments. These can ad up unexpectedly, so it's a good idea to watch your tab.
Don’t be afraid of going it alone While I had a friend with me on this trip, last year I travelled to San Diego, from Australia, on my own for Camp Widow. You can’t get much further out of your comfort zone than that! At the retreat, the other attendees came solo but were instantly made comfortable by the warm, supportive and welcoming group. Just like I was at Camp Widow . Going it alone also means you’ll be less inclined to stick to your buddy’s side and miss out on getting to know people you wouldn’t otherwise talk to. I am shy and was definitely nervous at Camp Widow but I made many new friends because there were so many of us in the same boat. Spending time alone isn’t something to fear, it can be a great way to get to your know yourself. If all else fails, pack a book and enjoy the peace and quiet!
Be open to everything – Just say yes! I mentioned earlier my apprehension about trying a new menu. I made a pledge to myself to try new dishes and am so glad I did. I was surprised at the number of ‘new’ experiences I enjoyed throughout the week and it really expanded my mind. I figure nothing can ever be as scary as what I’ve already been through. Dan often used to say ‘what are you going to regret more – the fact that you gave it a try and didn’t enjoy it? Or the fact that you didn’t go at all’. It was a great way of looking at life and has really helped me push myself.