Billabong Retreat – tranquil bush haven
Many women pride themselves on being consummate multitaskers. We juggle multiple to-do lists for the home, kids, and work. By the time we’ve paid the bills, cleaned our homes, finished the laundry, chauffeured the kids to play dates, sports, and birthday parties, there is hardly any time left for us.
I was one of those women until I developed Chronic Fatigue at the age of 38. It was only then that I started to re-evaluate my life and learned how to slow down.
My “a-ha” moment came while working with a healer who asked me what I thought my greatest strengths were. When I listed, “a great multitasker,” she asked, “Are you sure that's a strength?”
It's essential that we, as women, put our oxygen masks on first so that we can breathe in the event of an in-flight emergency. We need to slow down, reconnect to our centres, listen to our bodies, and get in tune with what's going on in our lives.
I believe, that being mindful of how you choose to spend your time and energy is essential for emotional balance and staying centred. And I was recently reminded of this when I spent 2 days taking stock at the Billabong Retreat.
My friend Kylie (Mummy Mojo contributor, Inspired Careers Coaching) invited me, along with her Sister Mignon, and I decided to take my Mum to spend some quality time with her. We drove in her new car and despite going the wrong way once (the turn off to the M2 is so confusing – well that’s my excuse!) we got there in around an hour from Sydney.
Even though it was so close to Sydney, the Billabong Retreat was tucked away in a lush bush setting, and it felt like a millions miles away from home. I could feel myself start to decompress as soon as we arrived.
Once we unloaded, a friendly staff member took us to our tree house accommodation. There were a lot of stairs but it was worth it!
It was looking down on a billabong (yes, there really was one!) surrounded by native bush bursting with birds and butterflies. Just the noise of the birds was enough to calm my frazzled mind.
Our cabin was eco-friendly, cozy, and with heavenly billabong views. The room was fitted out with Ecodownunder Organic Linen, spacious, and had a stunning outdoor bath. Next time I think I'll indulge myself even more and try the luxury queen cabin.
After settling in we went upstairs to commence our first yoga class and meet the other retreaters.
There weren't many of us – 18 is the maximum number the yoga retreat has at any time. There were a few of us with our mothers, some with friends, and some first timers to yoga and meditation - one lady had never tried either before.
I have been practising yoga since my early 20's and have studied with a yogi in Northern India. I have meditated even longer, although very sporadically over the years.
Kylie and Mignon have yoga and meditation experience and Mum is more of a Pilates girl – although she does own a meditation stool and has been known to get it out every now and then!
Fortunately the yoga we practiced was gentle and relaxing – and suitable for all of us.
We went through a gentle yoga series that could be modified for all levels, and ended each class (asana practice) with Savasana (or corpse pose, where you lie down like a dead person on your back, in case you need clarification). The perfect preparation for a meditation on the mat.
The yoga teachers were experienced and managed to provide enough challenge for experienced practitioners while still catering for newbies.
The yoga room was huge with a bliss-inducing view across the tree tops. All equipment was provided.
Mum and I did a few sessions of yoga and meditation each day. This included a gentle yoga flow class; breathing session; meditation session, and a workshop to develop our own yoga routine to take home with us.
Getting back into an easy, daily meditation was just what I needed.
It helped me to slow down and just appreciate the moment.
It allowed me to let go of the sense of “urgency”. I once again had awareness of patterns that don’t serve me.
Mum and I have been known to argue at times – a bit too similar – however we were zen the entire time, and it was wonderful for our mother-daughter relationship.
What I totally loved about this place is that it is not pretentious. There is no pressure and no judgment. The yoga and meditation sessions on offer are all optional; guests can do as much or little as they like, with the emphasis on relaxation and de-stressing rather than boot-camp discipline.
If you have a friend or a partner that doesn't care for yoga this is still a great place to unwind. There's an onsite day spa for a massage, bikes for riding or several trails for bushwalking. You can also spend your time by the fire unwinding with a good book. In summer there is a magnesium pool and I will definitely be back for that one!
We did a variety of everything, without pressure, just going with what felt good and easy.
We also spent a lot of time eating delicious all organic, dairy, gluten and sugar free, vegetarian meals - all included in the price!
The menu is based on SLOW – seasonal, locally sourced, organic, wholefoods. The chef's delectable recipes are provided on the retreat's blog as inspiration for budding vegetarian chefs. Sitting down for each meal, reminded me to chew more slowly, savor each morsel, and consciously eat – something I am going to take back with me.
The vegetarian curry on the first day was to die for. And the tasty chia seed porridge and berry compote for breakfast was the best I've ever had.
There's plenty to eat and you're encouraged to go back for seconds to reduce waste. There's also fresh fruit available and bliss balls for afternoon tea.
The staff were very friendly and accommodating to our needs – they even gave us ear plugs on the second night due to some loud snoring – I won't say who... Might be related to me?!
Mum and I bonded with the others snuggling up by the fire in the open-air relaxation area. The dining room, yoga room and indoor relaxation area were all well heated, and I would definitely recommend it for a winter escape.
At the end of our time at Billabong, I was sad to leave the circular yoga room, which I’d grown to enjoy and appreciate so much. I was apprehensive to leave my ‘safe sanctuary’ and go back to hectic city life; my head was already whirling with how much I needed to get done once home.
At the same time, I had managed to de-stress.
I’d found my happy.
I'd gained some useful techniques to use in my everyday life. I was invigorated and inspired to take back what I had learned.
Mid-week stays at the Billabong Retreat are between $400 and $750 for two nights. Add approximately $50 for weekend rates. All meals, snacks, drinks, a few hours of classes of meditation and yoga, and even train station pick-ups (if requested) are included.