I AM stuck in second gear…quite literally. I am on my way up an incredibly steep driveway of the destination I am visiting when my car conks out. I have no choice but to roll my little black beast down the hill, slip it into first gear and rev the engine until I can smell burning rubber. My stay at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat on the Gold Coast on the weekend starts in a less-than-auspicious way and I try not to take this as an omen. I also chew gum, lest the retreat staff detect the scent of the triple chocolate Cornetto ice cream I scoffed in a panic just before entering the retreat.
Later that night, in her induction to the retreat, Gwinganna Program Manager Kay says we should view the steep driveway as a training tool.
“Imagine the driveway is the buffer zone to the outside world. Imagine leaving at the bottom of the driveway everything in your life that causes stress,” Kay says.
“We invite you to visualise that and what’s left of you drives up here and has a weekend at Gwinganna.” Unfortunately, for me, Kay never does say what we should do when we exit, and all I can picture is all of my stress waiting for me at the bottom of the driveway, waiting to leap back into my car, when I depart.
Kay says the five major health concerns: cancer, heart disease, degenerative disease, depression and diabetes, all have stress as a common denominator and underlying factor.
“There is a flip side of the coin to stress. Can you remember the last time you felt so good in your life that you woke up a little bit early because you couldn’t wait to get the day started? You had that sense of joy and you carried that throughout your day, that buoyance of spirit and resilience to life?” she says.
“That very feeling is what we are aiming to create here at Gwinganna.
“We’ve created a program that invites you to focus on the one thing that impacts on everything in your life and that is your relationship with your body, your health and wellbeing.”
At this point in proceedings I should point out I spent a good three weeks in Indonesia in December drinking copious cheap cocktails and Bintang and when I returned, spent January making up for the lack of good wine in Indonesia, if you get my drift. So there’s a little bit of work to do. On the up side, I have been in 2km daily swimming training for a story on which I depart next week, attending yoga twice a week, and meditation class once a week. So there has been some balance between my binges. But my active wear rudely suggests not nearly enough. Never fear, because Gwinganna is part lifestyle retreat, part Biggest Loser reality TV program with Kay talking about how bad it would be to smuggle Kit Kats into the retreat and eat them in the privacy of your room. On my first night after dinner, all I can think about is how I wish I’d been clever enough to think to bring Kit Kats. The best I can find is an old throat lozenge in my handbag with some hair stuck to it.
I spend my first afternoon enjoying the retreat’s Dreamtime hours where most people go to a massage or rest and my treatment is a Maya Maya where I am smothered in mud and salt and wrapped in a sheet. During my treatment, a ferocious summer storm hits, the building shakes, the power goes off, and all I can imagine is the roof lifting and my masseuse fleeing the building, leaving me stuck in my mud and salt cocoon. I devise a plan in case of the worst scenario and decide if I gather enough momentum I can probably drop and roll my way off the massage table, and dash naked into the rainforest, leaving a trail of mud and salt in my wake. I regale my new friends at dinner that night with my plan, right before I spill oyster juice all over them. I’d blame the alcohol, but we’re only allowed one 100ml glass of organic wine each (I try to cut a deal with those who aren’t drinking to give me their allowance). We’re also discouraged from drinking water half an hour before or after our meal to aid our digestion.
I go to bed sad, sober and starving but vow tomorrow will be a better day. Staff member Karl Ostrowski is giving a seminar on the Pillars of Wellness where I learn that only about 20 per cent of our woes can be traced back to our genetics which means about 80 percent is up to me. We learn that it’s important to chew our food about twice as slowly as we currently do. It’s Day Two and I’m feeling virtuous and much better. I partake in a variety of activities, rising at 5.30am for the 6am Qi Gong class. By 6.45am I’m in the pool partaking in a water running class and at 9am I’m doing a stretch class, followed by a pilates class at 9.30am. I spend my Dreamtime hours in another treatment, and dreaming about dinner. My body has never consumed so few calories while doing so much exercise and I fear I may go into cardiac arrest.
By Sunday morning my new friends and me are talking about all the great wine specials we discovered over Christmas. We possess all the fervour of a bunch of 16-year-old boys looking at porn. One girl admits she can live without wine, but could murder a latte right about now, despite the fact we are allowed organic coffee up until 11am each day. I’m thinking about the half bottle of New Zealand Sav Blanc I have waiting in the fridge at home. But most of all, I’m learning to breathe again so that when those problems do leap into my car when I roll back down the hill, I’ll be ready for them.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat – http://www.gwinganna.com
Cheer up, sleepy jean
Oh, what can it mean
To a daydream believer
And a homecoming queen (Daydream Believer, The Monkees, 1967)
I HAVE a confession. I am a daydreamer. If I could, I would spend all day in my head, conjuring up salacious stories about the world around me. But in a bid to take a break and get out of my head for a bit over the Christmas period, I embraced Instagram with gusto. Just a few months ago, when I joined Instagram, I had a total of 13 followers, which was pretty remarkable, given I never posted anything. Yes, somewhere out there on the planet there were 13 insanely optimistic people, just waiting with baited breath for me to post something…anything. Quite the enigma was I. But things have changed, I’ve attracted a stack of new followers, and I’m now looking through the world through my eyes as well as my head – and most importantly my heart. And so, I thought I’d share a few images of what I’ve been up to this summer. If you’d like to follow me on Instagram, you’ll find me @aglobalgoddess
Possibly my favourite pic all summer was of the University of Queensland pool on a hot summer day. Few things excite me more than a cool body of water when the mercury is sky high. I got lucky and the water seemed to dance for me as I snapped this photo, while picking up the shadows on the bottom of the pool, and framed by the lane ropes.
Someone told me that people like food pics. Personally, I think they can be a bit indulgent. It seems strange to me that a bunch of overweight white people take photos of their food while half the world is starving, but I gave it a shot and received a ravenous response.
This melting moment presented itself as I was leaving a pub on a hot summer night. I love the way the wax formed these patterns and it seemed to sum up the scorching day.
From candles to cushions and cars, I fell in love with colour and so have been searching for as much of it as I can find in everyday items.
I reminded myself to look up, as this photo of the Brisbane Powerhouse on a later summer afternoon attests…
And look down. I took this sneaky pic of this woman’s feet sitting opposite to me in the hairdresser. And I also experimented with black and white.
Never forget your own backyard for beauty, as my perfect bunch of frangipani flowers proves.
And some days, even the subjects will pose for you, as Tilly proved up at Tamborine Mountain.
Which was your favourite pic from my summer collection? What would you like to see more of? I’d love your feedback. And please remember to follow me @aglobalgoddess
THE seductive scent of clove cigarettes hangs in the air like an unfinished sentence on this heady evening, which is already punctuated with sweat and music. It’s all Japanese and jazz at Bali’s Ryoshi bar on this mellifluous Monday and Rio Sidik is one cool cat with his trumpet and a voice which is part Dean Martin, part Louis Armstrong. Randomly, Rio’s sister Marina joins The Rio Sidik Quartet up on stage and unleashes Indonesia’s own Tina Turner with a pinch of Pink tossed in for good measure. I’m in Bali on an Eat Pray Live tour and this part is definitely what I’d call living.
Sydney’s Nicole Long, who runs Eat Pray Live, advises her guests to “be careful what you wish for” because in Bali, it might just come true. That is certainly the case for this 41-year-old former Brit who moved to Australia after a neglectful upbringing and has had quite the ride since. In the past six years she divorced her husband, started her Bali business, and in an incredible twist, celebrated the resurrection of her marriage with which she credits Eat Pray Live.
As part of this bespoke Balinese experience, Eat Pray Live guests partake in a cleansing ceremony and visit with a respected healer, which proved to be the pivotal moment for Nicole, who escaped to Bali for a holiday in 2011 when she thought she had run out of options back in Australia.
“I had this moment in the water and I thought ‘I can do this business’. If only I had somewhere to go after I got divorced. Where do you go when you just want to be blah?” she says.
“I went for a session with a reputed medicine man and at the end of my session he took my hand and said ‘you are going to use your experience to help many women.’
“There is no way he could have known what I was planning to do with Eat Pray Live. I went back to Australia and said to myself ‘Ok, it’s now or never’. I didn’t have any money to do this but I just had this fire.”
While it would be tempting to describe Eat Pray Live as a Balinese retreat and focus on the spirituality the Indonesian Island of the Gods exudes, this experience is so much more than that. Nicole has designed a bespoke holiday which focuses on all aspects of eating, praying and living in her villa she describes as a “home away from home” for guests. The concept eschews the typical tourist traps and takes guests to local and new restaurants such as Warung Talun for a delicious Indonesian feast overlooking the rice paddies, or to the hip and happening Potato Head to lounge and drink cocktails at this cool beach club. There’s plenty of pampering and even in-villa spa treatments, shopping in local markets and high-end stores and lots of secrets and surprises all designed to connected like-minded women who are drawn to this escape.
Despite numerous obstacles since her day of revelation, Nicole persevered and welcomed her first client in October 2012, initially operating Eat Pray Live from a hotel in Seminyak. Mid last year she stumbled across Villa Griya Asih in charming Canggu while taking her first horse ride since her Australian horse and soul mate Surge died. Eat Pray Live now operates from this beautiful Balinese villa which comes complete with six bedrooms and copious living spaces around which to lounge including a gorgeous day bed around the private pool. There’s a lovely third floor meditation deck overlooking typical Balinese fields and even a resident dog Blackie – a stray who wandered into Nicole’s life not long after Surge died. Curiously, Blackie even has a print of a white horse on his coat, which might seem pure coincidence in Australia, but in Bali, Nicole believes anything can happen.
Incredibly, Nicole reunited with her husband David after they reconnected for the first time in six years, following the suicide of his best friend.
“He came over for dinner and as I opened the door I thought ‘this is my man’ and everything, all the past evaporated and he was standing in front of me and I didn’t know what to think or feel,” Nicole says.
“He said, ‘I love you Nic’ and I realised I was home.
“Throughout this whole journey I’ve found my truth and Eat Pray Live has led me back to my love.”
For more information on Eat Pray Live or to book an escape, go to http://www.eatpraylive.com.au
FIRST come the books. I can’t help myself, I’ve packed two juicy travel bios into my bulging suitcase. I draw the line at actual guidebooks, but only just. You see, last week I went where few travel writers dare to go. I took a holiday. A plain, old-fashioned, crunchy-sand-between-the-white-cotton-sheets beach holiday. The type of thing that we lonely travel writers dream about all year, often discuss late at night in empty airports when we’re away from family and friends, but rarely have the time, the will, or the money, when we’re at home. Which is what makes the concept all the more appealing. One whole week of doing nothing but getting up, having a cuppa while staring at the ocean, lazing around in my pj’s, and planning a day which consists of nothing more than alternating between the beach and the pool.
In old-fashioned beach holiday style I am away with one of my three older sisters – an early partner in crime when it came to this kind of thing. After 40 odd years, my sister and I know each other’s rhythms. It’s as predictable as the low and high tides at our Sunshine Coast destination. And predictable is what we want this week. It’s her turn for the room with the double bed, and so I cram myself into the room with two singles, one for my books and baggage, the other for my adult self, who lays awake each night wondering how on earth I did this as a kid. The bed springs creak and ping, and I hit my knees on the wall well into the dawn. I wake messy haired and bleary eyed. Yep, a typical beach holiday.
The hours are long and languid. These are fresh prawn sandwiches on wicked white bread type days. We drink crisp white wine with lunch. Chat about our childhood. People we’ve forgotten, forgiven and forbidden from our lives. Snatch lazy afternoon naps to the sound of the ocean curling outside. Take the odd walk but we don’t venture far. That’s not the point of this week. Late afternoon it’s olives, cheese, smoky sausage and sparkly Pimms on the deck. In between I dive into my books and delve into other people’s lives. For one whole week I put my life on hold. Try not to answer emails. Stay off Facebook as much as is humanly possible. Take late night dips in the heated spa under a Turkish moon which creeps behind the building. One night I look up and wave at my sister dimly lit and standing on the balcony looking down on me in the spa. Too late I realise it’s not her but the 20 year old male occupant of the unit below. Soon not one, but two of his mates also wave at me. Exposed, I have no where to hide in the spa, and just pray to the spa Gods it keeps bubbling away as I slink as low as possible. Upstairs, my sister laughs outrageously when I recount this tale.
When we do venture outside we attract unusual attention. “Are you two sisters?” complete strangers stop us all week in our tracks. We laugh to ourselves and think, if only our other two sisters were here. Worse, our Doppelgangers are somewhere on our beach holiday but we remain frustratingly one pace behind them. The night we get takeaway Thai, the operator welcomes us with open arms: “you’re back again!” he exclaims to our surprised bemusement. “Oh, two sisters who look just like you were in here last night,” he says as we clutch our curry, chuckle and shuffle into the night. The next evening, at the surf club, we are welcomed again: “Oh, you were here last night!” the waitress explains. No, but our Doppelgangers were. We never meet our Doppelgangers but by the end of the week every pair of women look like sisters to us. “Do you think it’s them?” we whisper in conspiratorial tones to each other over dinner. We wonder whether they are better versions of us than we are. We decide that’s impossible. It becomes our holiday joke. Every holiday needs a joke, that’s what makes families tick.
And our family has had its moments. Nine years ago, When my sister’s marriage collapsed suddenly, I was among the first people she called. “You need to sit down,” she said down the phone line. Little did I realise that a few years later I’d be having that very same conversation with her. Years later, she confessed to me that my weekly phone calls were all that got her through each miserable week. I think back to the season of my discontent, that winter that seemed so bitterly cold where I sat in her old country Queenslander and cried and shook while she just sat patiently with me. Not so long ago her two daughters – my feisty, fabulous nieces – were having a rip-roaring fight, the type that only adolescent siblings can. My sister turned to them and in the quiet way she has said to them: “You’re going to need her one day”. How right she was.
WIN A LIFE OF SUNDAYS!
In conjunction with one of my Lifestyle and Travel Partners, The Global Goddess is offering one lucky follower the chance to win a life of Sundays! Kayleen Allen, Director of Life of Sundays, uses the teachings of self-development guru Louise Hay, to offer a range of programs and retreats where you will learn to feel valued and appreciated for you are, loved, nurtured and safe to explore your story, past beliefs and to unlock your true potential. Her next “Heal Your Life, Achieve Your Dreams” workshop will be held in Brisbane on December 7 and 8.
To win a spot at this two-day workshop, valued at $850, simply go to http://www.theglobalgoddess.com and, make sure you’re a follower by clicking on the FOLLOW button in the bottom right hand corner. Go to this post, and in the comments section, simply tell us what your Life of Sundays would look like. The competition closes at 5pm on Wednesday, November 13. The winner will be announced in The Goddess’ Briefs on Friday, November 15. For more information or to book the workshop, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
WITH just one week remaining to enter the Gaia Goddess competition, I wanted to remind Global Goddess readers of what they could win. Yes, you could win two nights valued at $1585 at Olivia Newton-John’s Gaia Retreat in the Byron Bay Hinterland. Imagine…
…lazing on this plump day bed…
…washing away your worries in this cool pool…
…or a hot spa bath…
…refuelling on only the freshest food…
…drinking exotic teas from this magical tin…
…booking a health consult with a true professional…
…saluting the setting sun over this rolling hills…
…for the keys to the competition, go to http://www.gaiaretreat.com.au/enquire-now/newsletters
and sign up to receive Gaia Retreat newsletters. The competition will close at 5pm Australian Eastern Standard Time on Monday, September 9, 2013. Gaia will draw the lucky winner, who will be announced on The Global Goddess blog on Tuesday, September 10, 2013.
This lovely prize package includes two nights accommodation staying in the Layana Room double/twin; all gourmet meals and snacks; spa gift on arrival; daily yoga and all retreat activities; and use of all the facilities.