Om Mani Padme Hum. I am feeling very relaxed, and the relaxation has a reason – yoga- and meditation retreat on Gili Air, a small island near Lombok, Indonesia. The island is a little paradise: No cars, only horse carriages and bicycles, white sand, turquoise waters, coral reefs, colourful fish, palm trees, small bars and restaurants, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, a warm breeze – it can hardly get better. Jealous, anyone?
But I wasn’t (only) there for fun, bootcamp was calling.
Arrival of the health-hopefuls: A group of 20 women (not one man dares to mingle, other than the owner of the retreat, Bindu), age between 20 and mid 50s, comes together on Gili Air, to try out the healthy life, aided by Bindu, Sarah and Lena.
We are an international group, most coming from Australia, with others from Canada, the UK, Mexico, Finland, Switzerland, and 1 German. The retreat grounds are checked (beautiful), the attendees check each other out (as you do), the first mediation techniques are being explained and tried out, dinner is served – until the last dinner 6 nights later the only dinner during which we are allowed to speak. After night meditation including Tibetan singing bowls we retire to our silent bed rest – we are asked not to speak until after the morning meditation the next day. I sleep in a 6 person bedroom in one of the bungalows – I’d felt a bit concerned about this prior to the retreat, but it’s working out fine all week.
At 5 (that’s Five) o’clock the next morning the bells are chiming, and we silently march to the beach, for our morning meditation. I find out that my thoughts at that hour are extremely awake and active and are just jumping around, plus, the sunrise is so beautiful, no chance for meditation. I resolve to get up early more often (one of those resolutions one does to have something to give up again).
1.5 hours of yoga follow – somehow, I hadn’t realized the meaning of the word „yoga“ in yoga- and meditation retreat, it’s 1.5 hours of torment for me, but still fun, somehow. And then finally breakfast – as a committed breakfast enthusiast, I am dizzy from hunger 3.5 hours after getting up, and inhale muesli, bread and eggs.
And the next highlight: Neti poti, or „nasal douche“ – you pour salty water into one nostril and watch in fascination as it runs out of the other. Not pretty, but it is supposed to help against disease, wrinkles and grey hair (had I only known years earlier!).
After that, one hour group discussion about things such as water, air, fire, and earth, and then the next highlight: To get more in tune with nature again, we go snorkelling – a dream, turtles, corals, colourful fish – beautiful. Nature, I am in tune!
Then a few free hours, mostly spent eating lunch, snorkelling, general laziness. In the afternoon, one hour beach activity – yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, things like this; an hour of sunset meditation, silent dinner, night meditation, silent bedrest.
Well – Bootcamp.
The first participants have already given up and didn’t even make it to the morning meditation – appararently we weren’t to blame.
It’s Worldcup time – Germany v Argentinia, starting at 3am local time. I can hardly sleep for excitement and walk across the island at 3am to watch the game in a bar. Many people had the same idea and the bar is full, but I squeeze in and enjoy the game, and of course even more the result. I’d have loved to watch the Worldcup in Germany, but this is ok too.
At 5:45am local time the game is over and I join my colleagues on the beach for the morning meditation, although I am far away from a calm mind this morning, too many happy thoughts.
The rest of the day is similar to the day before. The free time I spend surfing the internet for reports and pictures from Germany.
Special today – a reiki session I booked for noon. I feel a bit sceptical towards Reiki, but Natalie, the local Reiki expert, seems a nice person, so I give it a try.
It’s about the 7 Chakras or energy centers in the body – blocked energy is being identified and released through laying on hands.
Natalie swings a cristal over my chacras – the good news, all 7 are unblocked, just two are less free-flowing than the others and need to be cleansed. Strangely, all the group seem to have problems with the same chacras, perhaps a Western problem? Anyhow.
I don’t feel any special flows of energy, other than a brief spasm of pain in my stomach, but feel very relaxed afterwards.
In the afternoon, we collectively burn our Egos (or pieces of paper with our thoughts) on the beach. In the course of the afternoon activities, I start feeling unwell, with an unquenchable thirst, strong headache, and in the evening, start throwing up or „feeding the chickens“, as one of our choaches says, as I don’t make it to the toilet on time. As the next day is a „silent day“, the owner requests me to stay for the instructions. With a little bout of self-pity, I reflect – this time bending over the toilet bowl – why it is that especially those „enlightened“ people who sprout wisdom and clever sayings about life all day are those who show least compassion when required? My team mates try to help with medicines and kind words, which are both appreciated. After the instructions are over, I make it to the bungalow, feeding the chickens on the way, involuntarily.
When the bells ring at 5am, I jump out of bed, feeling fabulous. All very strange. It can’t have been the food the day before. Apparently, Reiki can cause such a reaction as mine, but rarely, and not with cynical old me I would have thought. Be that as it may, with my sparkling clean energy centers the morning meditation is a breeze, and I’ve got a good excuse to drop out of the yoga class this morning (weak, I know).
Today is silent day – we are not allowed to speak, not to each other, but also not to shopkeepers, restaurant staff etc. Also, no listening to music or reading. Otherwise it’s the same program as for the other days, minus the group discussion, obviously. It’s a beautiful day, and I spend much time with snorkelling and just looking at the beautiful island. We are meant to spend the day to „find ourselves“. Travelling alone, the silence isn’t that special for me, with the exception that I need to convince the waiters to accept my desparate pointing when ordering the food.
In the afternoon, we do a silent „108 manifestation“ excercise to fix one goal or affirmation in our life – I resolve to eat less fries and crisps and cake and fried food etc, and give healthy food a chance for a change.
Every night before dinner, thanks is given in a different language; tonight, it’s given in sign language, which is very apt and beautiful at this moment.
The silence is lifted after the yoga session. I had expected (maybe feared) that now everybody will bombard everybody else with their experience and „find myself“ insights, but for most, silent time was normal, so the talks are also normal. Otherwise business as usual.
Friday – the last full day and much less strict. We are even allowed to speak during dinner, afterwards we all sit in a circle and sing, accompanied by a guitar. New friendships have blossomed during the week, and we all feel a sense of community spirit. It was a really good group that came together that week.
Leaving day. We are free to start the day as we wish, some even appear for morning meditation, including myself, but we mostly just take pictures. No yoga, and after breakfast the official part is over, some people leaving early. Together with some others I take the noon ferry back to Bali.
It was a happy week, a good experience. Besides the meditation – which became more and more easy as the week went on – yoga also felt good, and even after just one week, I could feel a bit of muscle where only wobble ruled before. New friendships were formed, experiences shared, tips were exchanged, and we laughed a lot and sometimes suffered a bit together. At some point in the future, I’ll certainly do something like this again, and I’ll try and make meditation part of my life from now on (yoga will have to wait a bit).