Silent Retreat in Bali
Updated: Jul 25, 2020
OK so it wasn’t 10 days Vipassana, but it was 3 nights and 4 days of silence in what really felt like the heart of Bali … although technically it is just over an hour's drive from my house (if you don’t get lost).
Google maps is both a curse and a blessing. My intention to arrive at Bali Silent Retreat bang on check-in time at 1pm soon became a distant memory. I missed my first turn, then my second turn, and the third turn turned into a single lane motorbike track.
Eventually it did turn into a big road that brought me to a sign …. my Bahasa Indonesia is still not great but it read hati hati (be careful). I thought I’d chance it but 2 minutes up the road there was a giant truck, lots of gravel, and definitely no way to pass. I was 8 minutes to my destination with no way of getting through…. Damn!
So I had to turn back and consider my options - big road around 25 minutes or another "cross country" option at 18 mins. I took the latter and hoped that Google Maps wouldn’t take me too seriously "off-piste". But it did... single lane, very windy, bike track again. It twisted through rice paddies, tiny settlements, and remote jungles paths. As much as the view was amazing, I had a sinking feeling I was on a wild goose chase but I persevered as the minutes to destination did seem to be decreasing, and the alternative was a much longer detour that I didn’t trust either.
A few locals were alarmed to see me, maybe because with my mask and sunnies on I looked like something out of a really old 70’s sci-fi movie, or maybe they thought I’d be spreading Coronavirus from the big smoke of Canggu. Anyhow, I stuck with it and needless to say arrived just in time to miss the 3pm afternoon yoga session!
After an offer to watch a 10 minute video on the retreat I was about to stay at (which I kindly declined), I was given a tour and settled into my room to make my own bed! I immediately lay down and spent an hour of blissful self-Reiki.
Dinner started at 4.30pm, but knowing that breakfast wouldn’t be served until 8.30am I knew I had to hold out. So I settled into the bean bag on my veranda and watched the farmers working in the rice paddies. It is mesmerising watching them work, trying to understand their strategy. One lady seemed to spend so much time individually picking stems of rice (known as the haulm or the culmm) for what seemed like meager pickings. Her diligence and patience was impressive, and reminded me of how lucky I am to have this opportunity to slow down.
I took some time to walk around the grounds of the retreat, which were lush with the most incredible plants and flowers. Most of the food is grown on-site so there are fruit trees and veggie patches dotted all around. Everywhere I looked I saw butterflies, a new plant variety, or a beautiful flower, and as I slowed down from the noise of daily life I could see even more.
There were only 2 other guests staying at the retreat and when you can't speak to ask them the "ashram etiquette", then as the newbie you just have to follow (or make it up). On a silent retreat you definitely do not want to invade anyone's personal space.
I found my bowl and cutlery and helped myself to the most beautiful buffet of vegetarian dishes, with the only animal product being local duck eggs. Pumpkin soup, stir fried aubergines, crispy papaya leaf balls. There was also a fresh loaf of sourdough that looked and smelt irresistible, and a choc and carrot cake!
As always I start off with the best intentions and then end up eating too much. I know I am not going to go hungry, but I am definitely going to replenish my tummy with some seriously healthy food when given the opportunity. No refined sugar, and no caffeine!
I took my plate to the eating area upstairs and found a suitably distant spot from the other ladies. I look out at the jungle vista, watching nature as I eat as slowly and mindfully as possible.
After dinner I head to the tea station: there are lots of fresh herb from the garden and a little guide book of their medicinal qualities. I opted to boil lemongrass and betel leaf, adding a little palm nectar and it's delish!
Feeling very full, I go back to my veranda to watch the farmer until the sky closes in and the mosquitoes grow in numbers. At that point I retreat to my bed, and get settled listening to my guided meditations from Metatrons Muse unity codes transmission. I recommend you click the link to join Myra's amazing transmissions (after you finish reading this).
It wasn’t the best night's sleep. The bed was comfy and the pillow (surprisingly to my satisfaction), but it was just one of those nights where you are settling into a new environment.
At 5.45 I heard the security guard place some hot ginger tea on my deck, and not long after the first gong went off. Of course I hadn’t properly read my notes, so I drank my tea and raced to mediation, only to discover that I was 15 mins early as the next gong sounded and another lady turned up. So I was up for 60 mins (not 45) of silent meditation.
There was a 15 minute break and then a 1.5 hour Hatha yoga class. The class started off with Kundalini-like Krya and finished with a really short Savasana. It was a nice class, but you know the saying: once you know something you can’t unknow it! It's always good to try new things, but for me it comfortably reaffirmed that the traditional system of yoga that I’ve been taught really works for me.
Known as Vinyasa Krama (VK), meaning "wise progression". If you break down the words: Nyasa means "to skilfully place or arrange’" - Krama means "to progress". VK is at the core of putting together truly masterful Yoga classes, and by yoga I mean Asana, Pranayama, Savasana, Mediation, Bandha, Mudra, Mantra and Bhavana (attitude). They should be all interwoven incorporating an underlining theme or intention.
As my my yoga teacher Octavio says,
Vinyasa Krama reminds us that Yoga and Asana are not the same thing
This systematic, stage-by-stage progression is based on thoroughly tested and ancient knowledge aiming to guide us towards not only having a great yoga class (and by "great" I mean satisfying whatever you need right now), but also guiding us towards living an extraordinary life. I know it sounds deep, but it really is that profound if integrated into your life with daily practice.
My experience of doing meditation followed by yoga...
I found that going straight into meditation from sleep was ok, but without the set-up it was just kind of dark and dull; going from meditation to yoga was also ok, but it wasn’t the whole package for me. I really felt the missing components, as if the major building blocks weren't there.
I am definitely not knocking their programme, but it just wasn’t right for me. So the next two days I opted to practice on my own, asking the very helpful staff if there was a place I could do this and ended up with a little yoga shala all of my own. It was heaven!
After my personal practice I headed to breakfast, which was another tasty feast (which I again enjoyed too much) and then I spent the rest of my day exploring the grounds, going on a little hike and resting. Lunch was a light salad and at 3pm there was a very nice Yin Yoga class. I rested in Savasana for a long time after the class finished as I knew my body would need to settle since I hadn't done Yin in a long time.
I tried to hold out for dinner again, and after I went back to my room with the intention of going to sit around the bonfire. I must have fallen asleep around 7.30pm! Nourished and rested.
The next day was much the same: practicing on my own, taking time to do some writing, watching the farmers and enjoying the silence. I ventured down the jungle path to the crying bench: the only crying was at the mosquitoes... I didn’t stay long. I went down to the sacred water temple and let the very cold water pour onto my Crown chakra for as long as I could, and I enjoyed a walking meditation in the labyrinth.
At 3pm in the Yin yoga class it was just myself and the teacher. We went for the 5 minute holds and it reminded me I must do more Yin. The teacher was lovely, while she commented it would only take 2 days for my connective tissue to heal……
I am proud to say that I stayed awake for the bonfire that evening. Watching the flame and sparks dance in silence was a perfect way to end the evening. I managed to dodge the rain on my way home and that evening it really poured.
The last day came around so fast. Just time to practice, visit the water temple for a cool blast of holy water, and then warm my cockles and relax my muscles in the local hot spring just 10 minutes away.
Soaking in the warm water gave me time to reflect: the experience really took me back to my backpacking days (even though I didn’t think I was a spiritual person then). Having the time and space to look at nature, moments of lying in a wooden hut examining the ceiling, and eating on my own in silence, all brought back the very vivid memories I kept of travelling on my own and what a special time it was in my life. I recalled a time on Koh Lanta, Thailand, when all the backpackers headed to the eastern islands as the monsoon weather was coming. I opted to stay on my own, in my own little paradise. I had 10 days of bliss: watching the crabs make intricate patterns with their sand balls, hiking to waterfalls, and trying to evict giant toads from my wooden hut.
I’ll never forget those times of self isolation, and even though it was a long time ago, this retreat reminded me that I need more of it!
So why has it taken me so long to go on a silent retreat?
I always wanted to do the 10 day vipassana, but as a working mum with a husband that travels, family time is precious. I am going to speak generally here and mention the distinct difference between men and women: I know many other women that feel guilty about leaving their families, but in my experience men do not suffer from this affliction. I am not saying it's wrong - I am actually quite jealous. I know it shouldn’t be this way, especially now that my kids are pretty big and independent, and they have no problems leaving me for any period of time. I just think it's somewhat intrinsic to a mother's nature.
Now is the time to change that nature, and from now on I am going to make a commitment to take time out every three months to repeat this experience even just for a night, because after all, it's only an hour away (if you don’t follow Google Maps).
Accommodation - great
Food - amazing!
Grounds - fabulous
Yoga & Meditation - good, but not for me
Staff - very accommodating
My only complaint… I needed another 2-3 nights.
Please feel free to message me if you have any unanswered questions about the experience!