My last dish from the buffet (the rest I ate too quickly!)
See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskQTaGGi
Before heading out to my silent retreat, I had to try a yoga class at Ubud Yoga House. I had a wonderful time and it is now my favourite yoga studio in Ubud (out of the three that I tried)! Having the studio located in the middle of rice terraces definitely sets the atmosphere and mood for your practice. I loved that my instructor was Indonesia. Although he was casually dressed in a white tee-shirt and khaki shorts, he gave great instructions and moved around the class to correct poses. The instructor was also able to accommodate multiple skill levels. The class I went to was considered to be large (17 people) but I was happy to get a front row spot next to an older woman from Norway who had come to Bali for three months to practice yoga.
Although my morning was relaxing and very enjoyable, it quickly changed when I was trying to catch an Uber to the Bali Silent Retreat.
First of all, the price had increased three times the normal price so I had to wait over 30 minutes for them to drop to a reasonable rate. Once I confirmed my Uber and she came to pick me up, a taxi drivers from the street came over to harass her and wouldn’t let her drive me. So I got out and kept walking. My Uber driver circled a couple more times before I had to literally jump into her car and closed the door behind me. The retreat was about 2 hours away and we had to detour once because a bridge had been broken. I was so thankful when I finally arrived at the retreat!
I was warmly welcomed at the reception of Bali Silent Retreat (where you can talk) and was provided an overview of the rules, amenities, program schedule, etc. Next, I was given an in-person tour and shown where my dishes, lockbox, and dormitory was located. There is a bit of a misconception that you must be silent at all times during the retreat. That is true about 90% of the time. If you have a question, you are welcome to ask any staff member. During workshops you are also welcome to ask questions. Also, after meditation or yoga meditation many participants will say “Namastay”.
I had arrived just in time to catch the afternoon meditation class. I grabbed a yoga mat and cushion and joined about 6 other people. It was the first time I had ever meditated in my life and I found it difficult to concentrate. In the future, I think I may start with 3 minutes per day and work my way up. As I tried more meditation during my stay, I found the exercises quite interesting. For example, during one of them, you visualize looking at yourself from the front, back, and sides. Then look at yourself internally. Then listen to all of the sounds around you and let go of any thoughts.
I also attended a meditation workshop during my stay which was really thought-provoking. The speaker was originally from Sweden and coordinates yoga retreats all over the world. He believed that the definition of meditation for himself was “accepting life as it is”. I liked that he recommended siting in the most comfortable position when meditating and not in the traditional Instagram pose (cross legged with your hands on your knees). Meditation is different for everyone and I liked hearing about how meditation had helped balance out the high and low points in his high life. I also learned that you can meditate anywhere (bus, airport etc.)!
After having my first dinner, I realized that the food was absolutely incredible, and over the next couple days I sometimes felt uncomfortable meditating or doing yoga because I was so stuffed! Everything was inspired by “New Balance Earth” cooking. All the dishes were either vegetarian or vegan. The tea station was set up so that you take the leaves or cut the root of an edible plant that you want and then add it to boiling water. The salads at lunch included homemade dressing and again, you cut off the amount of foliage that you wanted from the table. Every meal was a buffet and you could go back as many times as you liked.
During my stay there, my body would rise and set with the sun, waking me up around 6:00am and going to sleep around 8:00pm. The retreat is off the grid so most areas do not have light after the sun goes down. I was impressed by some of the sustainability solutions they had implemented. For example:
- Bathroom lights in the main building have timers
- Tea and salad options are literally leaves that you tear from a larger part of the plant
- Cows for composting food
- Banana leaf cups in the yoga studio
- Bags made of recycled newspaper
- Retreat participants wash their own plates and cutlery and keep the same set for the duration of their stay
Overall, I loved my experience! During a silent retreat, there is no pressure to meet people or make new friends. The property was large enough that I could be alone almost anywhere (ex: the jungle walk, labyrinth wall activity, etc), but was close enough to others that I didn’t feel isolated. I enjoyed being able to participate in group activities or having the option to do whatever I wanted. My favourite place was the water temple where you sit on a stone while cool water pours over your head. It is a great place to ponder. Ultimately, the best part of the retreat includes discovering more about yourself. I loved that I got to disconnect from my electrical devices. No beeps of notifications or nagging emails. Just being ever-present felt very freeing.