Goodbye to Gaia

She woke up feeling refreshed. She wasn’t tired, she wasn’t restless, she wasn’t anything – just plain refreshed.

She’d thought about doing yoga that morning but decided to get on the road and back to her life, her loving family, her little world outside of Gaia.

She did take a little walk across the grass to look at that view one last time. She had breakfast with Shana, a new found friend, then she said her farewells and left.

“Goodbye Gaia…” she whispered to the trees as her car turned off the driveway and back on the road to reality.

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……..

I really hope you have enjoyed reading these posts as much as I have enjoyed reminiscing as I posted them.

We all have those thoughts; you know the ones that sound like ‘gee I wish I could just stop time for a day, catch up on life, and take a breath!’ Well Gaia for me was like stopping time. It was about switching off from the outside world and diving deep into myself for a change. Life is so busy, so hectic at times that we forget about ourselves. I know it sounds weird, but, we do! We stop listening to our bodies, our hearts, our minds. We get up, get dressed, go to work, tend to the kids, do the chores, the shopping, the cooking, go to bed, get up the next day and do it all again! Rarely do we stop to enjoy the little things in life; rarely do we give in to what we really want. Maybe it’s mid-week, the house is a mess but all you really want to do is have a hot bath and read a good book.  Gaia was about learning to say yes to the bath and book. It was about learning to enjoy life, every precious moment and it was about living in the present moment too. We rush and we live in the future and sometimes the past. We don’t just be, in whatever moment we are in. This is what Gaia taught me.

I went to Gaia because I wanted to centre myself, calm my thoughts and learn to harness my emotions and energy. You see, I live in the future A LOT. I’m always thinking about what will come next – when will we get to travel again, where will we buy a house, when will we have kids, what job will I go for next, what is my destiny in life. I have these questions swirling around my head all the time and not being able to answer them drives me crazy! It’s like I need to know the answers, like my entire life depends on it. It was this attitude, this strange obsession with the future that was holding me back from living my life right now. I was missing things because I wasn’t even aware they were happening around me. Then there were those rare moments when I would ‘snap back’ to the present and be startled by its beauty. One day, for example, I was out in my backyard and realised there were the most beautiful white flowers growing next to my fence. There were just a few, a handful of tall stems shooting up from the soil. It was impressive. I couldn’t believe I’d never noticed them before!

flowers

Gaia taught me not to worry about the future. In fact, now I don’t even dwell on it. I have a book and every time I think about what I want in my future, I write it down in detail, and then I close my book and leave it. In June, I will go through the pages and see what themes reoccur. Then, when I’m ready, I will know which path I’m supposed to take.

By the time I left Gaia, my heart was open, I was letting life in, feeling positive, and I was physically rejuvenated too. The organic, healthy meals and the massages were divine and certainly helped regulate the internal creaks and cracks. All wrapped up, Gaia was like a warm blanket, a soothing touch on the body and soul. Gaia brings you back to where you want to be, where you should be. But only if you let it. It would be easy to go to Gaia for the massages alone. But if you open your heart and your mind, Gaia will fill you with love and wisdom…

Namaste

namaste

http://www.gaiaretreat.com.au/

An inner peace – Day 5 at Gaia

She awoke before her alarm sounded at 6.45am and prepared for her first yoga session. Obviously her body had gotten the rest it needed and was ready to face an earlier day. And she was so glad it had. Yoga was blissful – breathing, stretching, flowing through the poses for 90 minutes, lengthening her sore muscles, strengthening her limbs, by the end she was awake and buzzing with a happy, healthy glow that she was sure shone from the inside out.

Breakfast that morning was also a new experience, it was the first time she had sat at the communal table. Her and three other ladies enjoyed breakfast over chit chat and friendly conversation.

In fact, her day continued this way with a cooking class taken with new found friends by the head chef. There wasn’t much taste testing, but the learning was fun and everyone had a laugh and took home a little information they didn’t have before.

Before lunch the girl decided to take a walk. She had already ran around the property but this time she wanted to savour it. She wanted to look at the trees, feel the wind and take it all in because after all, this was her last day here.

Soaking in the sunshine and the view

Soaking in the sunshine and the view

The walk turned out to be even better than she had hoped. She wandered through nature, smile on her face and found the labyrinth; a section perched high on the property, in fact, at the highest point in the Ballina Shire. At its center was a Buddha statue. She bowed her head, put her hands to her heart in prayer and took the first step. She knew about the labyrinth, knew it was a section of the property that had a vortex of positive energy around it and she felt it straight away. Inside this labyrinth you are supposed to work out the meaning of your life. Ask and answer questions of yourself and the girl knew exactly what to ask. And, strangely enough, after all she had learned this week, she also now knew the answers. So instead of trying to work her way around the maze she just put one foot in front of another and trusted that she would get to the end. And she did. That’s what she had learned about life. You have to look up, trust in yourself and enjoy the journey.

Let your heart guide you through life

Let your heart guide you through life

She said another prayer and kissed the Buddha’s head before letting the paths lead her back out again, her heart bursting with love. She had opened up that space inside her chest and was able to let life in. Everything around her sang and life seemed to dance in the wind; she was at one with nature, and she loved it.

She touched the trees as she wandered along the rest of the walkway; she smiled, inhaled deeply, listened to the insects, the birds and heard them a little differently. It was as though their song was in time with her own breath. It felt surreal.

That afternoon she made her way back to the spa for a lymphatic drainage massage with Angelique. It was soothing, it was strong, lively and the chimes that centered her at the end left her buzzing. Everything about this day felt heightened and she knew she was ready to go home.

At dinner she sat with her new friends, enjoyed a glass of organic wine, another delicious meal and great company. It was her last night and she enjoyed every moment. Tomorrow she would see her amazing husband. She couldn’t wait to share this experience with him and cuddle up to her pup Sookie. She went to be that night feeling very content.

http://www.gaiaretreat.com.au/gaia-experience

Run in the sun – Gaia day 4

She slept until 9am. This was becoming a bad habit, but she took the advice of both her practitioners from the previous day; the acupuncturist who said she may feel overly tired, and if so, to rest, and the astrologist who said to listen to her heart not her head when making decisions. This morning’s decision was ‘get up for yoga or go back to sleep’. Sleep won.

After a quick shower she went over to breakfast and found one of her favourite workers, Josh, was there. He was a young guy, always happy and always helpful. He served her corn and ricotta fritters and a lemongrass tea to go with the porridge she poured out for herself.

She felt great today. The acupuncture had definitely done something because she had energy, and she wanted to get out and see some things down this end of the world. So running gear on, she packed some bathers and a towel and drove the half hour to beautiful Byron Bay. It’s funny because although she had been here before, she didn’t remember it at all. The beaches were stunning – blue and silver hues with crashing white waves and azure patches of green. The streets were filled with hippies and holiday makers walking, riding bikes and driving their cars in search of the best car park. She found her park just a block from the main beach, paid the $12 to park there and set off on a 7km run to the lighthouse and back.

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In the hot sun she ran along the beach track, up steps and steep winding pathways, down similar tracks and back up again to Palm Valley. From there, she had 1.7km to go to the lighthouse and with determination, sore legs and a lot of sweat she pushed on up even steeper paths and slimmer tracks until she reached the top. It was a great accomplishment and she felt a sense of pride. It was getting even hotter so she had a sip of water and carried on back to the starting point, this time stopping here and there for a photo and to take in the breathtaking views out over the rocks, the ocean, the beach, the trees – it was magnificent and in that moment she felt totally content just being who she was, where she was.

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Back at the main beach she ran onto the sand, stripped down to shorts and a sports bra and dived in to the powerful swell. The cool water hit her skin and she inhaled the smell of the salt, licked it off her lips and dived under the waves one by one until she felt ready to get out and walk back to her car barefoot.

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Back at Gaia a smoked trout salad was awaiting and she ate it all before meeting with the retreats owner Gregg for a chat about how this amazing place all came to be. He was an interesting man, wearing a suit with thongs, she felt envious of this amazing life he has made for himself out here. She really enjoyed their chat; he was easy to be around.

That afternoon she was treated to an hour of luxurious bliss at the spa which presented itself in the form of a steam room body scrub and facial mask. Wow. 20 minutes in a spectacular steam room, complete with twinkling lights on the roof, she lay there almost naked and let the steam engulf her from head to toe until the therapist returned and lathered the most deliciously scented lemon myrtle and wattle seed salt scrub on her body. Starting with the legs, the feet, the back, the arms, the chest and stomach and then finally the face. A mask and cucumber on the eyes then soothed the face and she was left once again to absorb this into her skin while the steam took her into a warm cloud once again. By the end her skin felt crazily soft as the therapist showered her right there on the bed.

She floated back to her room and there she stayed lost in thought for a few hours until it was time again for dinner. She stared blankly out the window, something that felt natural to her from the day she arrived, but something she didn’t feel at ease doing until now. It’s funny how society tells you something is normal and something else isn’t, she thought. People don’t just sit and ponder these days. Now she was.

Dinner was fantastic as always – beetroot and ricotta arancini balls, Cajun chicken breast and black bean salsa finished with mango and peach crumble. Another day in paradise she thought as she made her way to bed, but that niggling headache that had found her every night since the massage found her again. She took it as a good sign though, if not an annoying one, but to her it meant there was change inside her body, things were moving and energy was flowing. It was a sign of re balance so she sucked it up and tried to fall to sleep.

If you let beauty in, you will feel more beautiful – Day 2 at Gaia

Her alarm went off at 6am but a need to keep sleeping stopped her from rising and attending the yoga class that morning. Instead she shut her eyes and drifted back off to her dreams tangled in the cushions and sheets. When she did wake at 8am she felt better, ready to face the day and her morning run.

The track that led around the property was 1.5km but traversed steep grassy slopes, winding rocky paths and rain forest. It was beautiful. Her lungs hurt pretty quickly with the higher altitude but she pushed on and took in her surroundings trying not to stop as she caught her breath. She remembered a passage from the book she was reading, The Alchemist, that said ‘the secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never forget the drops of oil on the spoon’. The girl wanted to drink in the beauty of this place but needed to remember her own goals and ambitions outside of this week too. Her promise to herself to run 3.2km every day for a year. If she let altitude and sore limbs stop her from doing something as simple as a run, how would she be able to face the real obstacles in life? And what was the point of running with your head down missing the stunning scenery?

Time to run

Time to run

Feeling proud, and very sweaty, she wiped down and went for breakfast where she joined another guest who was checking out that day. They spoke about their reasons for coming to Gaia, the treatments they had or were having, and the girl began to feel quite comfortable with this stranger whose skin glowed and eyes sparkled, she had been there 10 days! ‘That’s what I want to feel when I’m ready to leave’ she thought.

Instead of joining the 10.30am nature walk she stayed in her room, book once again in hand, determined to uncover the truths of life and the answers to her internal questions. As she flicked through the pages the rain poured down on the roof, the battering of the elements going on above her head was strangely peaceful.

At 11.30 she made her way to Kukura House to give clay sculpting a go. An idea that turned out to be immensely satisfying. Over the next two hours she turned a square lump of brown clay into a voluptuous woman. Who would have thought this exercise in patience could be so rewarding. Using her fingers she smoothed the clay woman’s shape, rounded her breasts and carved out blossoming buttock cheeks with her hands. She gave the sculptured woman a neck, a waist, shoulders – life. It was highly therapeutic and the two hours flew past with a focus on nothing more than molding something boring into something of beauty.

Lunch went by; alone she sat enjoying a vegetarian extravaganza on her plate while looking out through the glass windows across the fields. It was almost time for her first treatment in the spa and she was eager to get there.

On a stroll to the spa

On a stroll to the spa

Robe and slippers on, she meandered through the gardens; hedges flanking brick pavers, towering palms and trees the colour of spun gold. When Dan, her therapist, greeted her in the waiting room she followed him through the corridor to the third room, de-robed and placed herself on the bed.

The warm oil seeped into her skin as his strong arms kneaded her tension away, stroke by glorious stroke she felt muscles unclench, bones crack lightly and the energy realign inside her. His breath showed hers the way as the massage continued on, pushing, pulling, stoking, guiding and nurturing her body and soul to a place of joy and sheer relaxation. It was one of the best massages she had ever had.

In the waiting room he gave her fruit and water spiked with citrus so her fluids would replenish, then she made her way back to the room.

http://www.gaiaretreat.com.au/day-spa

It was almost cruel and unusual punishment after such relaxation to have to climb the hill back to her room. Small steps got her there uneasily as she floated on pampered feet. A bath called to her, as did a relaxation tea, and the warm water washed away whatever small bit of stress was left in her body. She smiled, a deep hazily fulfilled smile and soaked.

That afternoon as the sun shone through grey clouds she took a walk around the property again, this time to the lookout. An energized scattering of rocks and ethereal white womanly statue mark the lookout and the view was breathtaking.

lookout large lr

Gazing out over pastures, trees and rolling countryside, orchards to the right and forest to the left, it was almost too perfect, like someone had painted this on the horizon. She thought to herself ‘I suppose that’s what nature is, its perfect in its imperfections and it’s the embodiment of beauty’. She stayed there a while, perched on a rock first taking some time to meditate, then she laid back on a sunbed and watched the clouds float by, the chirping of insects the only sound. As if on a search for thriving life she then wandered to the veggie garden, a square fenced section of beauty, sprinkled with herbs, veggies, citrus fruits, and all the colours of the rainbow. She stopped to inhale the fresh scent of vine ripening tomatoes – one of her favourite smells – and sat watching the bugs for a while before heading back to her room to change, ready for another scrumptious dinner.

Bursting with life and colour

Bursting with life and colour

Something about the way she felt tonight made her choose to sit alone again. She wanted to really take it all in. She noticed the green grey gum standing proud directly in front of the pavilion. It was so still you could make out the tiny black ants traversing the branches. All you could really see were tree tops on the horizon and when the sun peaked through the grey clouds it sent slivers of light to illuminate the leaves. Inside, the cane chairs contrasted with crisp white linen on the tables and the copper glow from the candles matched the burnt orange hue coming from the lamps, each uniquely and intricately designed in unusual shapes and sizes scattered throughout the room.

During dinner she read a little, wrote a little and ate a lot – tonight’s menu was Harvey Bay scallops, baked chicken and veg and panacotta with lime and dragon fruit. The thing about food here was that it was always healthy, fresh, bursting with flavours and so vibrant on the plate. Perhaps the best part was that it was designed to your dietary requirements and simply placed before you. No choices, no hassles, just there ready when you were.

When she had finished it was back to her room, another glorious sun shower (at 8pm) sprinkled down on her skin during the walk, then she drew the curtains and snuggled up in bed to watch a movie.

To be empowered is to be happy – Day 1 at Gaia

She indicated right and with that single motion turned off the busy highway and pulled on to a rougher road with no markings. Another few kilometers and she would reach her destination, Gaia.

As she drove around the first bend, the most magnificent trees towered over her pearl coloured car to the right. An antique shop appeared seemingly from nowhere to her left on the edge of a tiny town that almost looked out of place; like time had forgotten it. Considering Newrybar was founded in 1881, I suppose in ways it had been. As she continued on, the fauna became more diverse – fig trees, palms, gums –a few scattered frangipanis lined the old wooden fences by the roadside boasting bursts of pink from their creamy centers. Then she was there.

Gaia Retreat and Spa is perched beautifully on the edge of what seems like a hundred rolling hills in all directions flanked by a myriad of plant life, some native, others there for effect. She could smell the change in the air, literally, the scent from the trees was strong and with a deep breath she filled her nose with it. Ahhh, she exhaled. This was the smell of peace.

Tyres squelched on a rocky ground at the top of the steep driveway. She parked the car and took another breath. This was home for the next five nights.

Welcome to Gaia

Welcome to Gaia

A man named Tim dressed in what looked like the most comfortable brown pants and olive shirt she had ever seen greeted her as she entered the Kukura House. He offered her a seat, some delicious chicken kofta’s and salad with a lemongrass iced tea. It felt good if not a little odd sitting in the dining area at a table by herself looking around at the décor, so perfectly suited for where she was. Natural hues of brown and green made up the bulk of the design with muted whites and black stripes here and there. There were peach coloured curtains adorning the wooden beams and bamboo standing tall in the centre of the space. The restaurant was at the far end of the room, the library, a gift shop and Indian inspired nook closer to the entrance. It was really quite beautiful, like a very fancy version of someone’s expensive home.

At the heart of Gaia - a meeting place

At the heart of Gaia – a meeting place

It was Tim who showed her to her room when her plate was cleared and check-in process completed. Lucky number 13, a Sura Terrace room entered through a big brown wooden door with intricate detailing. The room was complete with day bed, beautifully striped in the most calming yet energizing colours of maroon, lime green, lemon yellow, black and watermelon.

Outdoor reading and relaxation

Outdoor reading and relaxation

Next to the daybed was a wrought iron table with two chairs. A hedge and other green plants offered privacy. The bed inside the room was large, perfect for spreading out head to toe and adorned with squishy pillows. Hidden inside the wardrobe was the ‘restore’ section of the room, a little fridge and herbal tea station complimented with a plate of fruit. The bathroom boasted a sunken tub and a view to an outside reading table. There were plenty of options inside the room for reading too; a chair here, one there with a foot rest. She was glad because reading was something she had come here to do.

A place to rest

A place to rest

She had also came here to find herself again. To reconnect to that deep spiritual center of herself and ease the stresses of modern day life. She had come to learn how to enjoy her own company, revel in doing things only for herself and to simply sit back, shut out the outside world and breathe again. The anxiety that had crept up on her like a disease was lurking behind her forehead, her heart and she wanted to push it out. So what better place to come than here?

A few hours, a brief run and bath later she ventured to the Gaia Day Spa for a wellness consultation; a half hour meeting with Naturopath Grace to chat about her goals and treatments for the week. When Grace asked her what she hoped to achieve in these five days the girl had to choke back tears. An overwhelming sense of purpose hit her hard. The walk back to her room was one of raw beauty, an unusual and rare experience in a life as busy as hers. She saw the same palms again that towered over her on the way to the spa, but this time their fronds danced in the breeze, the grass was a little greener and at the exact moment she smiled the heavens opened and sent down the most beautiful sun shower. The cool water on her cheeks, her lips made her smile even harder.

By the time the clocked clicked over to 5pm she had herself a berry and green tea, pen and paper in hand awaiting the talk by Naturopath Grace on stress and nutrition. One and a half hours of realisations as she scribbled notes and drank in the information that seemed so simple. She learned how the digestive and endocrine system is intertwined and connected with the immune system as well. All these questions about her own inner workings seemed to be answered in some small way. Gratitude was what she felt toward the woman with a glowing smile, long slim legs and a mess of beautiful brown hair wearing the female version of Tim’s comfy attire.

At dinner that night she sat by herself at a beautifully set table with three candles and a single white lily. It was a strange feeling sitting down to a three course meal by herself, but at the same time it didn’t feel wrong. Like most other women in the room she grabbed a magazine and flicked through its glossy pages in between the courses – asparagus salad, swordfish, poached peach in jelly – but just sitting staring at the surroundings almost felt more natural.

She put into practice what she had learned that afternoon, chewing 20 times for protein, 10 for carbs and sipped slowly on a glass of bubbles as the sun sank out of sight and the candles flickered brighter.

After dinner and a short wander back to her room dodging cane toads that had positioned themselves on the red brick path, she sunk deep in a warm tub, book in hand and sprinkled the sea salts and rose petals around her. Dark had arrived but instead of feeling homesick she felt empowered.She heard her husband’s words in her head ‘you deserve it, make the most of it’ and so she did.

sunset1 lr

(chapter 1 in a 6 part series – my time at Gaia by Lahnee Pavlovich)

http://www.gaiaretreat.com.au/

Body 1, Lahnee 0

So it seems as though my willpower is not as brilliant as I thought it was. Not that I ever really thought it was that good, but I’m learning now more than ever that our bodies are sneaky little buggers. They are tricksters!

When your body gets addicted to something, like sugar, or carbs or whatever it might be, you start to crave it. So the more you have eaten of it over your lifetime, the more your body starts to expect it. When you simply take this particular thing away, your body has withdrawals, your brain has withdrawals, and you start to crave it. Now here is where the willpower and discipline is supposed to kick in and say “NO Lahnee, you don’t NEED that piece of chocolate, you just THINK you do!” I’ve come to the conclusion that my willpower is broken; because that didn’t happen. Now I’m all ‘oh no, I’ve wrecked my nutrition plan, Jess is going to kill me,  how am I going to fix my body and make it healthy if I can’t say no to a bloody piece of white chocolate!’

Vicious cycle.

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After the craziness of feeling naughty, like I’ve cheated, or like I’ve done something really wrong calmed down, I realised that all I did was be human. If I have spent 26 years eating chocolate, of course my body doesn’t understand why I’ve suddenly stopped eating it. It takes time, and there’s no point in beating myself up about it. Jess is not really going to kill me (I hope!) and all I need to do is get back on track and keep on pushing forward. This is a journey after all and its one I will be on for a long time. So stuff ups are going to happen.

On a good note, I’m learning what my body craves when, like savoury stuff in the am and sweets in the afternoon. I’m also learning what foods make me feel good and satisfied, and which ones leave me groggy and bloated. I’m learning to look more closely at labels and to be aware of what I put in my mouth. Despite a few setbacks, I am learning, and this is the important thing.

So, til next time – eat well!

Mindfull or mindless?

It doesn’t take very long to establish a bad habit. In fact, probably only 2 to 3 days.

For example, if on your way to work you drop in at your local coffee haunt on Monday, then again on Tuesday; chances are you are going to instinctively drop in again on Wednesday. (Typing this while sipping on said coffee from said haunt!!!!).

Unfortunately bad habits are easy to establish. Good habits, not so much.

In fact, some say on average it takes 28 days to change a habit. This of course is not a number set in stone, but the time frame it takes people to generally notice change in their habits.

When it comes to working out and seeing change in your body, well, this takes even longer!

After about 3-4 weeks you have developed the habit of training and eating well (if you stick it out that long) and this is when you get emotional results. The physical stuff doesn’t really show until about week 6. After 8 weeks your energy is up and then by 12 weeks your body has started to change.

I suppose my point is that shit tends to take its time! And we live in a world of impatience. We want everything NOW.

I’m a perfect example of this. The minute an idea pops into my head, I don’t want to wait a few weeks to carry it out, I must do it immediately.

Very bad habit.

So, now I get to the point of the post. I am going to take on a new approach to changing habits. Not just ones related to my fitness and health but to my life in general because I think that’s where we go wrong in this whole process.

We want to look like the perfect specimen (think Candice Swanepoel) but we want to look like that now! Reality check… that aint going to happen!

We want to feel good, fit, healthy, want our skin to glow, our hair to shine today… but we chowed down on nachos last night and our tummies are bloated as hell. So once again, not happening.

We need to first learn patience, mindfulness and find peace in our thoughts before we can translate this into actions. We need to learn that its ok to take time, we can reach our goals, 12 weeks isn’t such a long time in the big scheme of things and patience will allow us to push through and not give up so quickly.

In order to do this, I’m going to find my inner peace and learn how to be mindful.

mindfulness

So begins the ‘10 days for 10 minutes’ challenge. For 10 days I will incorporate one 10 minute activity into my daily schedule that will bring me a sense of mindfulness. Something that will force me to stop, breathe, and just be. I feel this will help me discover the importance of mindfulness and I will eventually have the ability to transfer this skill into other aspects of my life, ie. health and fitness.

After the 10 days are up, I will carry on the original activity and add another activity to the schedule. This challenge will go on for 30 days; about the time it takes to change a habit!

Check back in tomorrow to find out about challenge 1, and in the meantime, think about this…

Why is it important to be mindful? Well, what’s the alternative? Mindlessness?

I know which I prefer.

Peace out!

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