... a dreamer, freelance writer, naturopath, mother & former social work student based in the Blue Mountains. Continue the journey with me- Soul Home: https://www.instagram.com/the_soul_home/thewildemoon: https://www.instagram.com/thewildemoon/
I'm sitting by the pool. Birds caw, chuckle, coo and whistle in the surrounding bush, and the hens cluck pleasantly in an area that includes a chicken coop, compost and small herb and veggie garden.
It's a small moment of downtime at the butt-kicking, boundary-pushing Set Your World On Fire Retreat.
Run by Jessica Goh, a Sydney-based life coach, the 3.5 day schedule runs at a fast pace and offers time for you to release yourself of the childhood trauma that's holding your life back. Other activities including yoga, meditation, sound therapy and regular mealtimes, are sprinkled into the days. However, the retreat essentially revolves around what Jessica calls 'trauma release'.
Upon arrival, she shows me around the candle-scented building. I'm introduced to the four others attending, including my female room-mate. As we share a first dinner, there's the awkwardness of meeting strangers, but by the end of the retreat, the soul-baring activities create a sense of genuine connection and compassion.
The retreat, which is held at The Happy Buddha Centre in Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains, includes accommodation and healthy vegan and gluten-free meals.
Khanh, our cook (who doubles as a yoga instructor and excels in both) introduces each dish. "It's important to know everything we do here so we can do it with right intention," she explains. Our first dinner includes a tomato-based lentil dish, roast vegetables and a fennel and orange salad with pappadums.
"I like to start with something Indian first," Khanh says. "It's like a hug from the inside." Everything is also sugar-free, naturally sweet, and low-allergy, she advises.
Delicious healthy, gluten-free, vegan fare: luncheon of vegan fritter, roast veg, cucumber salsa and quinoa roasted beetroot salad.
After dinner, we retreat to the Zen Den to give a three-minute speech about why we're here to claim ourselves. Feedback is given by all members of the group, including Jessica and her partner, who participates and assists.
We're rated on all aspects of our talk, including how real it was, our public speaking prowess, and the content of what we shared.
We're also required to 'fall back' into a blanket held by other members after naming the things holding us back in life – a symbol of relinquishing their hold over us.
Finally, after a sound-bath of meditation music and healing instruments, it's bed-time. With activities going from 8 to 11pm, and requiring us to do things out of our comfort zone, I'm exhausted.
The following day, after yoga, and a breakfast of gluten-free porridge, stewed apples, pears and dates, and golden granola, there's another eight gruelling hours of trauma release and grounding. Fortunately, this is interspersed with lunch, a break for a walk or rest and dinner.
On Sunday there's more of the same, but with a greater emphasis on lighter work, like meditation.
According to Jessica, her work is based on the concepts of 'core energetics' and 'constellations'. Core energetics is about owning your lower self and discharging its energy so it's not controlling your life. "The more we own it, the more we feel ourselves," she says. Constellation work involves getting other people to role-play different aspects of yourself, which helps you see blind spots in your self-talk and behaviour.
Her tough-love approach, which can include scolding, berating, swearing, and forcing people out of their comfort zone, isn't for everyone. Once you're in the circle, non-participation isn't optional, so don't sign up if you're not prepared to follow through.
According to Jessica, this is needed to make sure people contribute. The idea here is that holding back can mean others are unwilling to share their deepest thoughts. The benefits of group work are that you get to receive the energy and healing of the group, Jessica says.
However, if beating a cushioned surface with a stick while screaming at others pretending to be your parents isn't your cup of tea, this probably isn't for you.
On the other hand, if you like pushing the boundaries and are willing to do so in a group, go right ahead. If anything, it's a great way to practice being open with a bunch of strangers. What you'll find is we all have the same fears of not being good enough. Being accepted for who we really are is strangely healing.