In June 2016, my best friend Richelle and I joined Bianca & Jose at their Art of Living retreat on Bowen Island.
We had been looking for an experience to share together that was beyond our usual repertoire, but that wasn’t a full blown trip/vacation. We literally googled on the phone together “Retreats in British Columbia” or something similar, and came across Art of Living, which was being held at Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island, and it was 3 1/2 days long! We were stoked to have found something close by, that felt like we would have an authentic experience with ourselves and each other. We both wanted time to connect inwards, and to also strengthen our friendship. Life gets “busy”, and it’s easy to find yourself doing the same things over and over with your friends – playing catch-up, instead of creating new memories and experiencing life, and growing together. We also had new physical space between us, as my #BetterHalfBestie had recently moved from Vancouver to Squamish, so proximity was not longer doing us any favours.
We signed up whole-heartedly for our mini-retreat on Bowen, that would include Inner Dance, Yoga, Meditation, Journaling, Raw Vegan Food, Self Care practices and lots of Mother Nature. My bestie is a yoga teacher, and I have worked in the holistic health industry for over 8 years, so these practices were often part of our daily routines, but there is always something new to learn, a different lens to look through, a unique story to be shared. We were open, excited, and ready to learn, experience, and share together.
We met up in Horseshoe Bay on a Thursday morning, and took the 10:00 am ferry over to Bowen (a whopping 20 minute ferry ride, that was about $11 a person walk-on). By 10:45 we were at the Snug Cafe catching up over breakfast and coffee before our raw vegan, and primarily fruitarian diets would begin. We are both 80/20 eaters – 80% Clean, 20% Party – so we were not too worried about the change in diet, I would say mostly excited to be off the hook from feeding ourselves for a few days (now that’s bliss)!
“Self Care is not about Self Indulgence. It is about Self-Preservation” – Audrey Lorde
We spent the rest of the afternoon perusing Bowen – we wanted time to chill together before the official retreat started later in the afternoon, around 4:00 pm. We were picked up by Bianca in an SUV LOADED with watermelons. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much fruit in one place than I did on this Art of Living Retreat!
We arrived at Nectar Yoga BnB, which is just breathtaking and serene, smack in the middle of a nature oasis, quaint and hip at the same time, folksy and trendy, quiet and invigorating. We explored all of the gorgeous little cabins and poked our heads into every nook and cranny, gasped with awe at the mystical yurt-yoga-dome in the woods, and drooled over a dining room table laden with fruits of all colours and Leafy Greens. We were staying in the main house and sharing a queen bed with a loft above, where another retreatie would be. They knew from our application that we would happily share our room/bed, and we were all left with sparkly, watermelon themed welcome cards (which I still have cause it’s so adorable – and it reminds me of our time there). By 5:30 pm, we were sitting with tea in the “backyard” perusing books, but mostly just staring off into the wilderness, absolutely captivated by a deer among the wildflowers, taking pictures, and smiling hard.
“It’s Impossible” said Pride; “It’s Risky” said Experience; “It’s Pointless” said Reason; “Give It A Try” whispered Heart
There were 7 retreaties in total, plus our wonderful hosts Bianca, Jose, and Sergio. We all varied in age, from our mid-twenties to sixties, and where we were from – Vancouver, to Toronto, to California! There is never a bad time to try something new, to have an experience, to seek answers to a question, and to explore. We were all strangers coming together to be open, honest, vulnerable, kind, compassionate, and more. Holding space for another isn’t always easy, let alone someone you just met, in a new place, and without much knowledge of how you will all be feeling. It’s pretty easy to be trusting in these scenarios though –
everyone had to apply and wanted to come on this retreat for a reason. And most humans really just need someone to lend an authentic ear, listening without judgement.
We spent our days eating amazing meals (yes, a lot of watermelon), doing a daily yoga practice (about 90 minutes, including meditation/breath work such as Pranayama), doing Inner Dance ( a very unique meditation practice that I quite enjoy), doing introspective journaling, participating in heartfelt workshops (such as The Hero’s Journey, and doing an improv session), spending time in nature, drinking a lot of tea and smoothies/juices, doing a cleansing routine each morning and more. I want you to have some surprises, so I’ll withhold any more details. We all got to know each other, and bits of our stories were shared. We had lots of hugs, laughs, and moments of truth and tenderness. And there is nothing like the deep sleep you get in the pitch black and silence of nature, away from the busy city.
I highly recommend attending a retreat with Bianca & Jose. Their eyes are full of kindness, their hearts full of love, and they genuinely care about getting to know you, and how they can support you in whatever phase of life you are in. In our ever busy and over-scheduled lives, it is so important to make room to rest and reset.
Burnout happens faster than we think, and our bodies are amazingly resilient, resisting giving in until it really hits its breaking point, and your body says “no” in some form. Illness, pain, chronic conditions, weak immune systems, anxiety, depression, mental health, fatigue, hormone imbalances, weight gain and more can all be linked to living in a chronic state of shock and trauma. The North American way of living equals a perpetual overload of the senses. It builds up, until it bursts. No matter who you are, what you do, or what your age is, if you are subjected to chronic levels of stress and stimuli (even “low” doses), you will benefit from taking a breather and focusing inward. Disconnecting from society, technology, and the needs of others, the pollution, lights, and noise, to allow space for yourself to slow it all down, to put it on pause. Don’t fret – it’ll all still be there when you get back (booooo). You’ll just have more tools in your kit to handle it. Self Love & Care are acts of rebellion these days, so may you find your inner radical, and rebel for the sake of self preservation and joy.
Use code “Big City Hippies” to get 10% off your retreat experience with Art of Living retreats!
Enter the code in the “How did you hear about us” field at http://www.artoflivingretreats.org
I wish you a restorative and transformative experience – and maybe I’ll see you there (Mexico please)!
xx Big City Hippie Maddy