Peacocking

Meet Pete, the resident peacock and all-round show off. He blew in one day and never left – he enjoys all the attention too much to think about relocating! Pete walks right up to you and spreads his feathers, sometimes even brushing them against your face of you crouch down. Never seen anything like it. This guy epitomises the term ‘peacocking’.

As well as my rendezvous with Pete, I also had a few friends help me with my 5am wake up calls – two wallabies hopped beside me for a good seconds seconds or so and I also saw my first wild koala! It was way bigger than I had thought and teetering so precariously in this gum tree I was worried it would fall out. Pretty awesome experience though, to be out in nature, alone, so early in the morning seeing these animals just doing their thing 🦘🐨 πŸ™Œ

Other exciting news for the day was we had a crazy storm blow through. Insanely loud thunder and lots of lightning, followed by a good hour of rain – wooooo! Hasn’t rained properly in months here and with all the bush fires at the moment it was a very welcomed downpour.

Us vollies (volunteers) spent the down time playing a hilarious game : the one Ross made up in Friends in the episode where the girls lose their apartment. It’s a bit like playing ‘truth’ only you have to guess whether your partner has done the things or not. Would be one thing to play it with a group of friends (as the name entails), bit playing it with people you’ve only just met made it even funnier. I’d bought a few treats when in Burleigh over the weekend, so we shared some sgar free chocolate (mock-late, for Freinds lovers out there πŸ˜‰) and entertained ourselves for a few hours with this trivia!

Today’s top tip : theres a such thing as an Australian native stingless bee. They look like a cross between a fly and a bee and absolutely LOVE aloe vera plants, as it turns out. I stood amidst swarms of them this afternoon when helping in the garden 🐝

Bruises and snoozes

One of the classes that’s run here is ‘roll and release’ – a stretch class that utilises foam rollers to loosen your muscles. I did it the other day and, while I know my muscles get tight and that my IT band is always super tight, I wasn’t expecting these results. Bruises. Really big and deep, going up either side of my IT band. It’s a great look ✌. Shows how much I was in need of the class though, and how important it is that we incorporate stretching in to our daily routines! Strongly strongly busting out the ol foam roller too and remember, the more it hurts the more in need of it you are!

Today I went along to a talk on sleep which was run by one of the registered nurses and naturopath. Did you know that by the time we are 75 the average person will have spent 26 years sleeping?! Not in my case of course, but crazy to think! Shannon, the speaker, was really entertaining but the content of the seminar was largly running through what we already know:

  • Deep and REM sleep are the most important cycles of sleep
  • During sleep we detox, renew tissue, bones and organs, regulate our sex hormones, happy hormones, cortisol, thyroid etc
  • Try to avoid blue light (tv, phone screens, bright LED type lights) and increase exposure to red lights after dark (candles, fire, salt lamps, soft lighting) to help regulate your circadian rhythm (idea that white/blue light signals start of day and time to be alert while red light signals night time and body naturally winds down)
  • Eat 2-3 hours before sleep so our bodies arent still digesting when in bed, alcohol disrupts our deep sleep etc

Even though much of the lecture was on content I’m well across, I always enjoy hearing about little tips and tricks because each time I take something slightly different away. There were two quotes mentioned today that really struck a chord – ‘time and health are two precious things we often don’t appreciate until they are depleted’ and ‘what you tolerate becomes your normal’. Well, I’ve spent the last 9 years in bad health where nights of 3 hours sleep became my norm. But I’m coming out the other side now and living in constant sleep debt and pain are not going to be my reality moving forward. How empowering to be able to say that with confidence πŸ™Œ.

Today’s top tip: Grounding (literally putting your bare feet to the natural ground) helps reset your body clock. Taking your shoes off and looking at the sun is a great way to reduce jetlag/adjust your body clock to the relevant time zone.

Big day out

First proper day off since starting and with it falling on a Saturday, Jamie and Mads came to get me and we headed to the beach. Has been so nice to have today on the horizon this week, knowing I would have some time out of the retreat and a bit of space- as well as seeing the girls. Was quite a weird feeling actually, to be back in the ‘real world’. Really emphasised how Gwinganna operates like it’s own little universe – totally removed from the outside world, with it’s own rules and way of life. After only six days it was a bit of a shock to the system to be back in some bustle, imagine how it’s going to feel in another six weeks!

The girls picked me up about 8:30am and we headed down to Burleigh Heads, then walked the coast around to Tallebudgera Creek to sunbathe and swim. Such a nice wee walk and loved how many people were already out enjoying the day so early in the morning. Even saw some girls parked up drinking coffee and playing guitar. At 9am. On the beach. Not a bad lifestyle.

Have to laugh, Jamie and Mads filmed them arriving at the Gwinganna gates to pick me up – check it out below. How VIP am I? Hahahah

By lunch time we were back in Burleigh and went to Rick Shores, this great restaurant right on the beach overlooking the water. Admit I had a glass of wine and delicious karage chicken with some vege dishes, and followed it up with some epic gelato too….a week in to the retreat and already broke the ‘no alcohol, all organic, all gluten free, non dairy diet’ hahah – but had to make the most of my day out with the girls, right?!

Got back to Gwinganna with enough time to do a sunset walk with some of the other volunteers and go for a steam before dinner too. Has been a really lovely day off – perfect balance of all my favourite things πŸ™ŒπŸ§œβ€β™€οΈπŸ§˜β€β™€οΈ

Successful sleeping

I have to start this post with an exciting announcement : last night I slept from 10pm til 3:30am, then went back to sleep til 6am. Didn’t take any pills to help, only the catnip tea. Hoping this is a turning point! My body is definitely starting to get in to the rhythm of Gwinganna life – up early, full day of physical activity- largely outdoors, early to bed. Wooohooo πŸ™ŒπŸŒŸπŸ€Έβ€β™€οΈ

Have witnessed the most incredible sunrises and sunsets these last couple of days as well. They have been blood orange and red – assume due to the fires (?) and the moon is full and super orange as well. They’ve been so intense everyone just stops what they’re doing to enjoy it. Feels pretty magical πŸ™Œ

Today’s top tip: jin shin jyutsu meditation is a winner. Learning this practice has been my key takeaway for the week. So great for relaxing and an easy way to meditate because you focus your attention on counting as you do it.

Start seated or lying down. Hold your left thumb with your right hand, breathe for 9 breaths. Then move on to your ring finger and do the same. Then middle finger. Then pointer finger. Then little finger. Finally, stick your right thumb in to the palm of your left hand and breathe for 9 breaths.

Now repeat on your right hand.

Should result in approx a 20min meditation practice that balances your chi/prana energy while also being super relaxing. No worries if your thoughts wander, just bring them back to the counting.

20mins of meditation is as good as an hour of sleep – so even if you wake up in the night rather than stressay about not sleeping, do this mmeditation and at least you can make up for some of the sleep lost!

A day in the life

After feeling super uncertain my first couple of days here, I’m now getting in to the swing of things and it’s less daunting – as expected πŸ™Œ

After orientation yesterday me and two of the other volunteers went on a (really steep) walk further up and around the property where we saw another echidna, before doing a yoga session, having my first steam room and hot to cold shower experience followed by a meditation class. Busy but fabulous afternoon of self love and care. The perfect line up of activities for me – if only every day could go that way!

Today’s schedule has been a bit different: my first day shadowing another volunteer to learn the ropes. Up at 5 to wake up guests then on to set up activities and the gym, assisted on a walk around the property including a visit to the rock labyrinth where there we had a releasing ceremony, then to breakfast. All by 8am.

After breakfast was clearing and re-setting the guest dining room including scouring the grounds for flowers to redo the table centre pieces (easier said than done since it’s so dry up here – everything is pretty barren right now) and shining cutlery. Have discovered I quite enjoy this task, something cathartic yet mindless about it πŸ˜‚

Then rolled tahini bliss balls for 90 minutes in the kitchen before having a break for an hour til lunch at 1:30. Following lunch I was back in the dining room clearing and polishing before then cleaning and restocking the volunteer dining area. Finished up at 3. All the tasks were fine and everyone is easy to work with and learn from, but has felt like a pretty long day! Going to wrap it up with a meditation class before dinner and hope tonight will be a breakthrough sleep night (the three hours I had last night weren’t quite enough hahah). Sadly the cat nip sleep aide didn’t do the trick for me last night but it has done wonders for others, so still worth trying!

I’ll be up at 5 again tomorrow shadowing another volunteer but completing different activities. Really great that there is this shadowing processs coz there is so much so take in there’s no way you would remember it all just through orientation. Reckon by Sunday – a week in to my stay – I’ll be on top of it all πŸ‘

Today’s top tip: white vinegar polishes cutlery.

Squirt some white vinegar in to boiling water and chuck your cutlery in to soak for a minute. Grab a clean cloth and give the cutlery a quick wipe down. Voila. All polished!

Eucalyptus is also great for mopping floors – add pure to boiling water. Makes the room smell amazing!

So, I live at a retreat

The next step of my journey has officially begun. I arrived yesterday afternoon and Gwinganna is my home for the next seven weeks.

When I started this blog I said it would be like a diary and that I would be honest. With that in mind – anyone that knows me (and my tendency toward anxiety, over analysing and the need to forward plan) will know what a big moment this is. I have taken a leap in to the unknown and have no choice but to sink or swim. Okay, probably a bit dramatic given the actual situation – volunteering at a luxury holistic health and wellness retreat in the glorious Gold Coast – but for the first time in my life I’m living with people I dont know, completing activities I’ve never done on constantly changing shifts that start as early as 5:15am – and haven’t got a ticket home. This is my life now and it’s all completely out of my control – I’ve handed over the reigns. Eeeeek.

That said I know it’s actually totally fine and an incredible opportunity that I’m going to get a lot out of, so I am working on being mindful and compassionate toward myself until I get to that reality. So, when I’m having moments of ‘holy shit I am so out of my comfort zone – I’ve made a mistake, am lonely and want to leave’ (two or three times already) – rather than get annoyed at myself for these thoughts, I’m working on acknowledging that most of the other volunteers felt this way on their first days, not to mention even guests having doubts and moments of panic – and focussing on the fact that this freak out will pass. I know I’m going to have a wonderful experience here, that it’s going to be good for me in pretty much every way – I just need to sit back and let it all unfold around me, without the need to interfere.

Funnily enough, I receive those Mindful Moments through the Headspace app, and yesterday’s was this: ‘Change can be scary but it can also be liberating. Resisting change, we hold on. Accepting change, we let go’.

So that’s what I am practising. Letting go πŸ™ŒπŸ™Œ

With all that doubt now identified and on the table for all to see, I do need to call out some pretty incredible moments I’ve experienced in the last 24 hours:

  • Did a walk further in to the mountains at sunset which was an insane red due to the bushfires. We could see the actual rise of smoke from a particular fire which was pretty amazing (and sobering)
  • Saw an echidna
  • Seen dozens of wallabies (some whlist do chi gong at dawn this morning, which is like tai chi)
  • Already taken part in chi gong, stretch, mobility and yoga classes and have been to two seminars – one on nutrition and one on…poo. Yes, a whole talk about poo and defecation in all its glory. Quite interesting actually and the speaker was hilarious, we laughed the whole way through. Turns out colonics are a popular spa treatment following her talk πŸ˜…

I will try to load some pictures soon, but with not being able to have phones in public places it’s going to be a bit of a stealth mission to get anything worth sharing! One thing I am going to do though, is share a top tip, learning or experience with you each time I post – afterall one of the key reasons for being here is to learn, and where is the fun in keeping any newfound knowledge to myself?

So, today’s top tip: cat nip helps toward a good nights sleep.

Pick a handful of fresh cat nip, crush it up in your fist. Rip and put in a mug of boiling water. Put a saucer or similar on top of cup to keep oils in. Steep for 5mins then scrape any oil on saucer back in to mug. Drink (and see if it works – I’m testing it out tonight!)

Third times a charm

I’ve been to Brisbane twice before and enjoyed exploring with Jamie and Mads; have appreciated the cityscape and thought the river running through it was pretty, been to some great food markets and eateries – but admit this time, with not quite being on holiday, I’ve looked at it differently.

I love the juxtaposition between the really old churches and spanking new apartment buildings, the city itself is quite spread out with dozens of pocket of eateries and bars (kinda reminds me of the boroughs in London – very unlike Auckland), traffic isnt an issue (unlike Auckland), you’re near the Gold Coast and great beaches, nine months of the year the weather is perfect clear skies and 25Β° (very unlike Auckland) and theres a ready made group of friends waiting – courtesy of the girls, and many of whom I’ve met.

Jamie and Mads have been trying to convince me to move for years and for the first time it doesn’t seem absolutely ridiculous πŸ˜‚πŸ˜³πŸ˜…

Have really enjoyed my couple of days with them.

It’s easy to overlook how much people mean to you and how easy friendships can be when you haven’t seen someone in a while. Of course, you know they’re important to you and that you love them, but being reunited with some of your core people brings it all to the surface. I’ve missed Jamie and Mads so much and it’s so great to be staying with them for these few days. Instantly feel comfortable and at home at their place and in their company.

Plus, Jamie finished painting my denim jacket and its bloody awesome. Big purple peonies with gold streaked through them – I’m in love with it and so stoked to have one of her pieces. She’s going to start building up her business and, being the artistic genius she is, can paint anything – so really suggest getting in touch with her if you want one of your own (or want to make someone’s life by gifting them one!).

Contact her on: jm.coutanceau@gmail.com – you won’t be disappointed!!! ❀

Whirlwind

I’m writing this from the airport. Again. Feels a bit like I live in them these days!

Always knew it was going to be a quick turnaround between getting home from our trip and setting off again, but man it really has gone fast.

Had the fam over on Saturday so Loren and I got to see the kids and whanau before she moved to Wellington on Sunday. Had some super special play time with BG in the garden. He’s old enough to really get behind playing with a ball and loved kicking it in to Mum’s flowers then trampling through them to collect the ball (really fun, though Mum’s flowers definitely paid the price).

Kinda bizarre to go from every moment for the last few weeks being with my lil sis to suddenly nada, but so excited for Loren to experience Welly life and do her thing πŸ€Έβ€β™€οΈπŸ€Έβ€β™€οΈ

Sadly one of the things she did leave behind for me was her cold, so I’ve spent the last 6 days triple dosing on vitamin c and echinacea to try and get over it (that’s legit right?), downing cough syrup and smothering Vics Vapour Rub like it’s going out of fashion. Add to this glorious mix the ever reliable jetlag – it’s been a treat πŸ˜… all the dosing seems to have worked though, I’m over the worst of it thank God. Nothing more awkward than turning up to a health retreat on Death’s door!

Though only home for a few days I’ve managed to fit in a lot – whanau night, coffee with Mel, catch ups with Dad, Lou, Ash and Fran, hair cut, massage, multiple walks and some really lovely time with Mum – including the most insane pancake brunch at Kind cafe this morning in Kingsland. Get yourself there if you haven’t yet πŸ™Œ

These days have again reminded me how lucky I am to have such a great support system around me, everyone really does have my back and I’m feeling super positive and lucky to be embarking on this next adventure.

First stop is Brisbane to spend some time with Jamie and Mads (absolutely cannot wait), then Gwinganna in the Gold Coast on Sunday! Bring it on!

Homeward Bound

Like that kids movie only completely different. No talking animals. Just hours and hours of crazy chat and hysterical chuckling.

Some of the highlights of this particular journey:

  1. The boat journey from our atoll to the airport was the roughest imaginable. Huge swells, jolting left right and centre, water spraying up either side of the boat… Loren gripping her seat and giving me her filthiest death stare. For someone that hates boats at the best of times, this was her worst nightmare. And to think it was just the first step on our long trudge home πŸ˜…πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ
  2. There were two flights leaving Male for Colombo, same airline, same departure time, gates positioned right beside each other. Flights numbers UL1104 and UL104. Then to confuse the sitch even more, they swapped the gates. By god the chaos. Loren and I sat back and watched people scurrying back and forth. Cheap thrills.
  3. When we got to our seats the gap between us and the row ahead was the smallest I’ve ever encountered. Neither of us fit. My knees were so jammed against the front seat I had to sit on an angle for the whole flight.
  4. Our flight was delayed 45mins on the runway so when we arrived in Colombo we had to rub to our next gate for the connection to Melbourne – the flight was at final call for boarding 😡
  5. Colombo flight nothing of particular interest happened, slept a little but then on our Melbourne stopover we had the best most satisfying hot chocolate in the transit lounge. What a treat. Almost hoooooome

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