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What do you think of when you hear someone mention Bali?
For me, Bali conjures the feeling of an island oasis where tranquility, spiritual rejuvenation, and artistic expression are paramount. If you are looking for a place to reflect, recharge, meditate, and find inner peace, Bali should be at the top of your list.
I find Bali so enchanting that I’ve returned five times. Given that I can count places I’ve visited more than once on one hand, it’s very telling that Bali’s soul keeps drawing me back.
While the number of annual visitors and traffic has increased significantly as a result of road improvements and a larger airport, the island’s enchanting spirit, people, attention to detail and serenity have remained constant since my first visit in 1997.
Bali was the perfect place to start my career pivot. Given Bali’s reputation for spiritual healing, I could think of no better place to start the next chapter of my life, re-instill balance, stoke my creative fires, and reflect on priorities.
Relax and reflect at One World Retreats in Ubud, Bali
If you are seeking an all-inclusive experience that encompasses yoga & meditation, massage, Balinese culture, and culinary delights, I highly recommend One World Retreats Kumara. (Please note I found One World independently via online research and am not being compensated for this recommendation.)
They offer 52 retreats a year. Yes, you read that right – a different retreat each week. Capping retreats at 16 participants keeps the experience intimate.
Given my love of the Balinese culture, my friend and I opted for the Immerse Yourself in Bali retreat. The retreat includes:
- 6 nights/5 days accommodation (all rooms have a private balcony)
- 3 amazing meals per day (all recipes provided at the end of the program)
- 5 morning and 4 evening yoga/meditation sessions
- 2 massages (more on the AMAZING Chakra Dhara massage later)
- 1 day of silence
- Balinese cooking class
- Balinese offering class
- Bicycle ride through rice paddies
- Purification ritual at Tirta Empul (water temple)
The co-founders, Claude Chouinard and Iyan Yaspriyani, have been masterful in their design of both the resort and the program. As a result, relaxation is balanced with the optimal level of engagement throughout the week.
One World Retreats prides itself on healthy, organic meals. The chocolate avocado mousse, lemon honey mustard dressing, ginger lemon tea and the vegetarian curry were FANTASTIC crowd pleasers.
Small details such as personalizing the welcome booklet and water bottle with your name and leaving a daily quote to contemplate are a very nice touch.
Recharge your soul with twice daily yoga and meditation
One World Retreats is 1.5 miles from the center of Ubud, allowing you to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Ubud. A large gong serves as the focal point for the open-air yoga studio. Starting the practice with the gong’s reverberation stimulates the body and relaxes the mind.
The studio overlooks a beautiful jungle, allowing you to enjoy the sounds of rustling leaves and chirping birds and insects. A wonderfully tranquil setting for your morning and evening yoga/meditation sessions – offered twice daily for 90 minutes. The perfect way to start and end your day and “Immerse Yourself in Bali“.
Don’t fret if you aren’t a regular yogi or meditation practitioner
I hadn’t taken a yoga class in five years and had never before had success with meditation. Historically, I’ve found meditation extremely difficult. Being in the moment and focusing on my breath was definitely not my strong suit. Instead, I’d do the exact opposite – making to do lists in my head and worrying about what I should be doing.
Initiate a practice and flex your mindfulness muscles
Throughout the week, I rediscovered my flexibility, both physically and mentally. Ignoring my distracting monkey mind for a few minutes at a time allowed me to begin to understand the benefits of meditation and mindfulness.
I now understand why it’s referred to as a practice. Inhaling for 4 seconds, holding my breath for 2 seconds and exhaling for 4 seconds aided me with remaining in the moment.
Walking meditation was an interesting discovery for me
Surprisingly, I found it to be one of my favorite meditation styles. Do you enjoy nature and hikes? If so, walking meditation is something you might want to explore to cultivate mindfulness and presence.
While walking, it’s helpful to concentrate on the sensations as you slowly lift your heel and toe and place them back on the ground. It also causes you to walk more slowly than you might usually. Being a fast-paced walker myself, I found this to be very cathartic and relaxing.
During the week, I also determined the mantra that resonated with me.
“Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,” which translates to
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to the freedom and happiness for all.”
Given that my off-key singing can shatter glass, it was best for everyone that I preferred to revel in the amazing teachers’ and students’ voices surrounding me, rather than subject them to mine.
A day of silence is easier than you think
Prior to the retreat, I was honestly nervous about the Day of Silence. Sit in silence for a day? Seriously?! My only prior experience with 24 hours of silence was involuntary – a result of gum surgery. Being an extrovert, I thought it would be challenging to avoid speaking for 24 hours, especially since I was sharing a room.
However, I thoroughly enjoyed having a day to reflect and recharge, without any electronic or audio distractions. These days how often do we take the opportunity to be truly disconnected and be in the moment? If this extrovert can enjoy and relish a silent day, you can too!
Tap into your artistic side with adult coloring books
One of the women from Australia introduced everyone to adult coloring books (apparently all the rage -who knew?). She happily shared colored pencils, markers and pages with mandalas – beautiful circular designs representing the universe. Having not colored in years, it was fun to rediscover this creative outlet, focus my attention and lose myself for a few hours.
Make sure to indulge in the Chakra Dhara massage
Have you ever had a Balinese massage? I have one word for you – Heavenly. Although difficult to find outside of Asia, I indulge anytime it’s offered. It combines stretching, acupressure, reflexology and aromatherapy to stimulate blood and energy (qi) flow around the body. Listening to a trickling fountain, while the wind rustled the leaves outside my open-air treatment room, further enhanced my relaxation.
The 2.5 hour Chakra Dhara massage is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. One World describes it as spiritual and sensual, with which I wholeheartedly agree. The dripping of heated oil on chakra points on your back is sooooo soothing.
I’ll be honest, the Shirodara component – where heated oil is dripped onto your third eye (in the middle of your forehead) for 30 minutes – can be a little disconcerting for the first couple minutes. But, once you concentrate on the rhythmic sensation, let the relaxation begin. Despite suffering from insomnia for the few preceding months, I slept like a baby that night.
Learn about the significance and art of creating Balinese offerings
Everywhere you walk in Bali, you will see stunning offerings, called banten. I’ve always admired the beauty of these little works of art that can be found on the sidewalk every few feet – outside homes, temples and businesses. Given that these represent a self-sacrifice to the Hindu gods, I constantly remind my klutzy self to step over them as I walk along the sidewalk, feeling terribly whenever I disrupt one.
Learning to make these was both fascinating and frustrating. Given my inability to thread a needle, sewing the coconut leaves with thin, thread-like bamboo proved challenging.
After breaking three of my bamboo “threads” in quick succession, I wondered to myself how women make 100-150 of these baskets per day. Fortunately, my yoga instructor showed me some tricks to minimize thread breakage.
The activity gave me a whole new appreciation for the complexity of weaving the canang sari (baskets made from coconut leaves). After struggling through the basket weaving, I found choosing and arranging the fragrant flowers to be very meditative.
After making our banten, we burned individual pieces of paper where we had written things we would like to free ourselves from. Afterwards, we dropped our offerings and ashes into the creek behind the property. Watching them float down the river was a deeply personal and moving experience.
Spiritual awakening at Pura Tirta Empul
I consider myself spiritual and have always been drawn to Balinese temples.
I marvel at the elaborate split gates, made from stone and brick, which lead into the inner temple complex. I’m enamored by the intricacy of the carved doorways. And, I love running my hands along the statue’s various textures, knowing a labor of love by numerous artisans created these works of art.
My new favorite temple is Pura Tirta Empul, which means Holy Water Spring. The Balinese people have visited this temple since 926 AD, seeking out the sacred spring’s curative properties.
Arriving just after sunrise, I reveled at the peace and tranquility of the 13 inner temple fountains. The fountains are each meant to bestow different things – protection from evil, fertility, and wealth. A 13th fountain is only for priests or family members to collect holy water to be used for cremation ceremonies.
Given the beauty and significance of this temple, as well as my love of the sound of running water, it’s not surprising that it’s now a favorite of mine. After making our offerings, we entered the main temple pool, ducking under each of the 12 fountains three times, while koi fish swam around our feet.
I found the experience deeply spiritual. For me, it was a fitting complement to our banten and negative emotion release on the river the day before.
I highly recommend a week-long One World Retreat to find inner peace, tap into your creativity, and develop your mindfulness.
Additional tips for planning a Balinese yoga/meditation retreat:
- Best time to visit: April, May, and September.
- Benefits: less humid, dry season, discounted room rates
- Rainy season: October-March.
- Peak season: June-September, Christmas, New Year’s
- Temperature: 85°F (29°C) year-round
- Getting there: Fly to Denpasar (DPS) Bali. There are a variety of routing options. Connect via Singapore (SIN) or Hong Kong (HKG) from U.S. West Coast. Connect via Abu Dhabi (AUH), Doha (DOH) or Taipei (TPE) from U.S. East Coast.
- One World Retreats Pricing (as of April 2017)
- Single Room – 24,000,000 Rupiah
- Twin (shared) Room – 22,000,000 Rupiah
- Includes room, all meals and activities
- Each room has a private balcony overlooking the jungle & shared rooms are thoughtfully designed with 1.5 baths
- One World Retreats Calendar
- Currency: Indonesian Rupiah. 1 USD = 13,245 Rupiah (as of April 2017)