It’s true that by March of each year, I tend to forget that I ever were pacing towards a set of hand-picked resolutions. A once fore-fronting endeavour towards selflessness — one that I was certain would lead me down a path of righteousness all year — somewhere and somehow, is entirely forgotten. Picture: the moment you take a bite of a warmed blueberry muffin after committing to a diet just hours before. It’s as if the conversation was never had.
That the prevalence of my resolutions tends to noticeably die throughout the year [you should know] says nothing for the way I do consistently commit on January 1st. To say I share an affinity for the concept of “New Year, New Me” would be so much as blindly understated. The idea of turning over a new leaf [in as many ways as necessary] is both hopeful and endearing. And so regardless of my history with commitment, come this month every year, I play into the game of curating resolutions.
Let me take you back, to just before I flew home for Christmas in New Zealand. A.J. had raised the subject of resolutions, pondering if I’d made headway with my own. I told him it was too soon — that I’d hardly had a chance to evaluate the things I’d nailed and those I’d colossally fucked up in 2018 — to be able to direct change in the next year. One thing that did come to mind, however, was the need to actively make time for self-care.
In the past year especially, I’ve learnt an important lesson about myself: it’s that sitting in front of the TV or chilling on the couch — more or less, taking part in ‘effortless’ relax routines — isn’t by definition ‘relaxing’ for me. Counterproductive as it may sound, I have to work hard; even, assert great deals of effort in order to feel truly relaxed or replenished.
My problem is, I always find the excuse to multitask [for those who don’t relate, welcome to the woes of being both impatient and addicted to productivity]. Even in the case I do sit idle, watching a series or rather, my brain doesn’t switch off — and thus, neither do I. It’s as if I need to be removed from absolutely everything, before my body and my mind will willingly succumb to a much-needed wind-down.
In many ways, the above is a conclusion I no more than stumbled across in 2018, by virtue of several seemingly insignificant things I did. I got my eyebrows done multiple times; an appointment that lasted approximately two hours, granting no time or ability for perusing on my phone — or, well, doing anything. This is the kind of absolute isolation [from DOING things] that I need. I also treated myself to several a massage and I found this worked wonders. Again, I had no choice but to sit there. To let my mind wander off — even if the destination were, into a light sleep.
Another thing I was lucky enough to do, was to visit Willow Urban Retreat; a well-being, fitness and food haven, located in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Malvern. Now, there were several things that brought me here. Firstly, the location was convenient: truth be told, there are few other retreat-like destinations that aren’t located outside the city and don’t require several available days [though, of course, I hope to trial this sort of getaway at some point too].
In addition, it’s been a recently realised dream of mine to open a retreat myself. I had an epiphany earlier last year about creating a destination, called “Currently Loving Retreats”. Here we’d experience programs that’d teach us how to better ourselves based on our own personalities, goals and ambitions. We’d learn our own optimum process for productivity, for health and well-being; for fitness, for confidence and for, well, life.
On that note, I thought I better try this whole retreat thing out. That is, before I consider building an entire career path in its direction. What if it still didn’t work for me, I thought? Were retreats overrated? Or would they actually shut off the single girl who never can? One Saturday morning, A.J. and I decided to put it to the test.
Our morning would consist of three parts — one could say, a holistic approach to rejuvenation. We’d attend first what’s referred to as a Rebounding class. That’s right, a class where you get to jump on trampolines, work up your heart rate and get a bit giggly all at once. We’d follow this up with an hour-long infrared sauna, and finally, lunch at Willow’s health-focused cafe. That Saturday morning was sure to be a taste for a week-long escape; an out-of-city experience situated in its very heart.
So let’s begin with what I thought about the Rebounding class. I’ll be honest: for the first five minutes, I’m wondering if this is really exercise at all. I’m rethinking everything I read online about the way it activates the core and sculpts your calf muscles. Instead, I feel much the way I did when a friend informed me at twelve that she competed at trampolining: it was like I was being forced to take something seriously that quite literally, didn’t have a single non-funny bone.
Ten minutes in and my thoughts have taken a 180 [mind the pun… or you know, indulge in it]. I’m still laughing, mostly because A.J. has lost his balance multiple times and near flung to the other side of the room. But now, I’m also feeling the burn. This hurts. Especially when she tells us to run really quickly. My legs sink into the floor, and it bloody takes the earth to move them up again. This is hard — and yet, I can’t for the life of me wipe this darn smile off my face.
They offer a range of different classes at Willow — dance, yoga and a martial arts practice, referred to as Qi Gong. It’s everything you picture of an ideal Sunday morning. And yet, with a furthered focus on restoration of energy and the calmness of the mind, it’s that pleasant bit more. Freeing beyond a typical Saturday exercise class. It’s an even starker contrast to the way you sink your coffee on a Tuesday and rush to work.
Next up: the infrared sauna. In truth, I was quite apprehensive about this element of the morning. I don’t cope well with intense heat, and my usual staying period in a sauna maxes at about ten minutes. So the thought of waiting out an hour in an infrared one was daunting, to say the least.
With that said, it’s a rare occasion when I’m forced to do nothing for an hour — even more rare when I put myself [at least somewhat] willingly in the position. Fortunately, the hour passed quickly. Light conversation faded into a pleasant and peaceful silence. I found myself enjoying the heat and the way it felt on my skin. If you’ve ever experienced the physical feeling of detoxifying — like when you’re hungover and you exercise — you’ll know exactly I mean.
In the shower afterwards, my muscles felt like absolute jelly. I was desperate to do one of two things: either take a nap [unsurprisingly, given the session is supposed to aid with sleep], or, to indulge in a sizeable breakfast. At the hands of Willow, a delicious breakfast it would be.
For a vegan especially, Willow’s cafe is sensational. Whilst the menu itself isn’t entirely vegan, there’s a plethora of options that are, and they’re far from unexciting. Pancakes are typically a no-go when it comes to brunching out, however, at Willow, a decadent rice pancake is a dairy-free norm. It satisfies the perfect level of sweet, much like its sister, the açai bowl. Tip: go on, add the spoonful of almond butter. You’ll absolutely love yourself for it.
Details of the granola aside, did the local retreat actually succeed in switching me off? Even if it were for the mere hours of the morning? For the most part, it did. At the end of the day, it took my eyes away from a screen for not just 50 minutes, much the way a yoga class might. It managed to do so for several hours at once — not an easy task when you’re dealing with a full-time social media manager and blogger. Had I not been actively taking photos and mental notes for this very review, I imagine the effect would have been even greater.
The best part was, I didn’t actually feel like I was doing nothing. This avoided my own all-too-common internal debate — whether I truly warranted the opportunity to do shit-all in order to relax. Of course, truth has it that we’re all deserving. With that said, it’s much easier admitting it in writing. Much harder, or so I find, to walk my own talk.
Having several hours to do just that — the walking part, I mean — left me with little to no ability to escape from the commitment. Since my visit to Willow Urban Retreat, I’ve accepted the way my self-care journey will presumably continue for 2019. It’s going to take work. Potentially a bit of force. And it will feel unnatural at first.
It’ll feel odd to vacate for hours at a time — but as this morning retreat has taught me, that is the very minimum amount of time I need to experience impact. Indeed, a yoga or pilates class is great for staying centred on an average day in the life. But when it comes to truly resetting your mind and your state of being, it’s going to take a bit more than that.
It’s going to take activities that completely remove the ability to debate “what next”. When and only when, I’m left purely with what I’m doing right now, shall I likely find it in me to reset and retreat. I’ve heard it starts with commitment though, and I’m glad. Thus far, that’s about the extent I have to offer. I’ll be sure to keep you updated when this changes.
Notice I said “when” and not “if”. I did tell ya I’m on a good path.
A righteous path.
Here’s to it, 2019.
Here’s to it.