The beginning of 2019 led me halfway around the world, to a land I thought I would never go to, to people I never dreamed of meeting, and places I thought I'd never see. For two weeks, I found myself in Bali with Shakti Sanctuary, a women's empowerment retreat. I was there to photograph this event, one of which I was also participating in, and I was equally excited about both of those things.
Shakti Sanctuary is based out of Northern, Vermont, and run by Kali Bgrant and Alexandra Martin, an amazing team of strong warrior princesses. The way they co-facilitate is amazing; they just seem to compliment each other perfectly, without missing a beat. The experience they hosted was amazing; totally inviting, non-discriminating, open, and safe. There were no assumptions had; we were all there to better ourselves in order to better the world around us. There wasn't any of that catty bullshit that you usually hear about with women (although I do a pretty good job of avoiding those kinds anyways). Everyone was totally supportive of one another, had beautiful gifts to bring to the table, and was there to grow, learn, listen, and tune in.
The retreat almost felt like a family effort, with many participants bringing their talents to the group by teaching yoga classes, dance classes, workshops, morning meditation, and offering massages and reiki treatments. It was a retreat of love, of generosity, of openness and kindness.
Days were filled with ocean side sunrises, fresh fruit before morning meditations and daily yoga practice, delicious homemade meals made each day by the amazing and incredible staff at Villa Boreh. Although we had classes and workshops every day, we were given generous free time to swim in the ocean or pool, connect with others, read, dance, etc. There were excursions such as snorkeling, hot spring adventures, a waterfall offering trip, a trip to the local market, and an ecstatic dance party (even the staff joined in!). Oh, and did I mention we received a massage, as well?!
Usually when I go on vacation (although technically this was a work trip) I can never really relax. I want to make the most of time, eating and seeing everything, going places, exploring the land. But I felt that I was able to truly relax and rejuvenate; I didn't feel the need to be doing everything and anything. I did what I pleased and listened to my mind, my body, my heart. I was able to let go of a bunch of bullshit by just being present and reflecting on how that made me feel and what that means to me. My mind was opened up chatting with others, hearing their stories, drinking in their knowledge. I was in need of some strong female camaraderie, since I don't find myself having that much. But I think that we are in a shift of this; females are coming together to stand up and fight for what we need. We are supporting each other instead of competing and putting each other down; we are being genuine to ourselves which leads to genuinity all around. The last and final activity, the Angel Walk, is what I mean by this.
Ah, the Angel Walk. I had never done this or heard of this before, and it was one of the most amazing and emotional experiences I have ever hard. We formed two lines facing each other, a small walkway in between. One woman stands at the end, eyes closed. Then that woman slowly walks through the line, being guided by her sisters. As she is guided, everyone in the line takes a turn and whispers something to the person as she walks down the line. They whisper the most amazing, beautiful, kind, authentic words. The kind of words that we sometimes tell ourselves and then immediately shrug off before affirming to ourselves how horrible we really are (boo to toxic thinking). I felt like I connected with a bunch of people, but since there were 25 of us, I didn't get to connect with some as much as others. Hearing words coming from those I feel I didn't spend a whole lot of time with really made an impact to me; that these people saw these things in me by just being around me and watching me interact with others. It was so emotionally powerful; there were tears streaming from me, for sure (and I did try to hold back some of my emotions back; I would have been a bawling mess!). In a nutshell, it was people showering you with love by telling you how amazing and awesome you are, and really meaning it. It was an exercise in kindness, and how being kind to others makes you a kinder person. It made me realize how mean I am to myself, how negatively I can talk to myself sometimes. We need to be gentler to ourselves, and to love ourselves before we can love other people. But being kind to others helps to fill your cup right up. And Shakti definitely fills yours until it's overflowing.
I would go back in a heartbeat. And in fact, I will be attending one of two Shakti retreats next year. If you are ever on the fence about a transformative retreat, I say go for it (you can visit Shakti Sanctuary for more info and booking). You won't remember the time you didn't go. I promise you will gain so much. And even if you're scared, who gives a shit. Being scared only holds you back and helps you make all the excuses why you shouldn't do something. Sure, I was scared to fly halfway around the world by myself, not knowing a soul when I got to Bali. I was scared that I would mess up the job, that my equipment could be ruined or stolen, that no one would like me, that I would fail. But none of that happened. 80% of the things we worry about, never even happen. We fill our heads with stories we tell ourselves, so let's try to make those inspiring and positive stories. Namaste!