“What does your life look like?” Asked no one. I’ll tell you anyway: an average minute in my life consists in checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, my personal email, my work email, LinkedIn, my uni email, Slack and Snapchat hoping that answers – coming from God, Kermit The Frog or, most likely, Deliveroo – will be delivered to me straight through my iPhone. Spoiler alert: they still haven’t arrived, although I have wasted about 16,000 hours looking at Idris Elba gifs. Social media are my job, my hobby and part of my master thesis. So it’s only natural that even my friend Emma, whom I went to Bali with, sounded a bit sceptical when I said I was going to do a digital detox and put my phone on airplane mode for five days. Well people, more than a week later, I can honestly say I spent five full days without the internet and it ain’t no lie. It all started in that dreamy place that is Sukhavati Bali. Here’s what it was all about.
In Sanskrit, Sukhavati means “Abode of Peace”. Only forty-five minutes drive from Bali’s Denpasar airport, Sukhavati was my Bali baptism – and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We got there at about 11 PM, after a painful flight I spent watching old Luther episodes through my WD My Passport (no obsession there, hey), losing my voice thanks to the air con. Thankfully upon arrival, we received fresh coconut water, yoga robes and flower garlands as a welcome gift.
For someone who’s generally awake by 9 (at the latest) and in bed by one am thanks to Netflix binges on shows that give me nightmares, Sukhavati’s strict and busy timetable with a 6 am start and a 9:30 pm bedtime sure seemed daunting at first. Yet, we adapted to it immediately thanks to a mix of #Balibliss (or white girl fascination with the exotic surroundings), to friendly staff looking after our every need and general burnout and exhaustion given by crazy Sydney freelancer lifestyles.
Our first day started with a walk along the nearby Bebengan village village at sunrise, my first deep dive into the Balinese way of life. Walking through narrow streets passing temples, community centres, houses and the inevitable Bali scooters, we eventually reached the rice fields where mothers and children were already running around and locals were working hard, a picturesque introduction to the real Bali.
Shortly after our walk we got to the river-facing Yoga terrace, where even a yoga sceptic like me managed to be blown away by Sukhavati’s way of practicing. Starting at 7 am, the one-hour intermediate yoga morning session was taught according to traditional Balinese practice. Although it was a private session for the centre’s guests, the vibe I got from Sukhavati’s yoga classes was miles away from the show-offy, hipster type yoga where I basically felt like the Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall as opposed to the Russell Brands and Kristen Bells of this world. So forget about holding the hardest poses ’til you die: Sukhavati’s yoga was all about going at your own pace for a journey that was about as spiritual as it was physical. Starting slow with simple floor poses, the class then moved onto the more challenging stuff, explaining how certain moves could aid your physical and mental health in moments of stress.
But Sukhavati is an Ayurvedic retreat more than anything. As a traditional white girl with 0.5 background in woke stuff, I knew nothing about Ayurveda before this trip so here’s a short blurb about it cause I assume you are the same. Ayurveda means “the mother of all healing” and it’s a discipline that encompasses yoga, psychology, healing and herbal sciences. It’s meant to provide treatment that integrates mind and body through the identification of the three doshas, or components of our being: Vata (air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water).
Ayurveda was at the heart of our stay in Sukhavati, so much that our meals, treatments and activities were determined by a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor we had on Day One. The doctor identified our doshas and prescribed mind and body treatments accordingly: I was apparently Pitta and Vata, fire and water. The doctor told me I need to meditate to reduce stress (I’ve been trying for the past two years, and hopefully the Sukhavati techniques will now help); to stop eating chocolate like a crazy person when I am sad (my mum said that too); and to go to bed early and stop watching Twin Peaks at midnight by myself in the dark like a crazy bitch (he didn’t say “crazy bitch”).
I did meditate an awful lot at Sukhavati and, as an absolute first for someone as anxious as I am, I stopped going through my to-do list in my head and I actually started visualising the sun, the moon, the five elements and relaxing shit which may or may not have included unicorns as I closed my eyes. Maybe it’s the magic of the place.
Other treatments prescribed by the doctor included my personal favourites, Abhyannga and Shirodhara. Imagine receiving a head to toe massage with essential oil by two people looking after each side of your body, in a treatment room strategically positioned right in front of the flowing Penet river and a tropical forest, with birds and geckos singing just outside your windows. But that’s not all: imagine lying there, in a trance, as the Spa professionals slowly drip warm oil on your forehead and hair while massaging you, literally melting your tensions and worries away. I’ve always sneered at people who said something was better than sex. “HA! You loser,” I thought. Well, the Abhyannga and Shirodhara treatments at Sukhavati were officially better than sex. Soz guys. Only issue with the oil thing? I am now so oily I’ll probs never be able to climb up a pole ever again. But hey, my skin and hair are SMOOOOTH.
I got to Sukhavati stressed, burnt out by a year working part time, studying full time and doing pretty much everything. I also had a cold and no voice, but thanks to the Abhyannga and Shirodhara treatments, together with aromatic scents inhaled through the Nasya treatment and a bunch of yoga classes, healthy meals, sun, heat and loads of sleep, I feel more relaxed than ever.
All my meals were included in Sukhavati’s plan and approved by the doctor. Needless to say, I could eat no chocolate. I wasn’t as upset as another guest we had dinner with, who was told by the doctor she should eat no nuts and got told: “Sorry, no nuts for you miss,” at every meal, to which she responded with a pout – and rightfully so. Meals where however delicious and generally included veggies cooked in delicious spices, tropical fruit, fresh smoothies, veggie mains and low-carb pancakes.
But how about our room? Let’s just say some serious queening was done in Sukhavati. We stayed in the two-bedroom Saraswati villa, which had an outdoor bathroom where I managed not to be paralised by my moth phobia (#lifegoals) and a private pool where I took an embarrassing amount of shots that will be inflicted upon all of you on my Instagram.
Oh, talking about Instagram, check out the cute Tanah Lot Temple we visited while at Sukhavati:
Anyway back to our stay. My room featured Queen a canopy bed in an indulgent nod to my megalomaniac child fantasies of being a royal. Those beds, firm and comfy, as well as the busy timetable of relaxing tasks carried out during my stay, are to blame for my 8 pm bed time and the over 10 hours of sleep which have been unheard of for the past year.
Carolina 1 Internet 0. Mostly thanks to Sukhavati’s introduction to the real Bali bliss.
Pictures: Carolina Are