Mahatma Gandhi once said, “In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, an what is elusive and deceptive resolved itself into crystal clearness.” While the wise words certainly ring true, in this day and age, we rarely find ourselves in silent contemplation.
Bali Silent Retreat provides a space for those wishing to get back to basics and reconnect with their true selves in an environment where gadgets, Wi-Fi and noise have been replaced with lush nature and a host of activities including mediation and yoga.
A world away from daily routine, the retreat is nestled among verdant rice paddies and jungle thriving with animal life, with the majestic Mount Batu Karu, an extinct volcano in the background. The property’s co-founders, Patricia Miklautsch and Sang Ketut Rai Wibawa (Sangtu) immediately knew that there was something very special about the area near the quaint village of Mongan near the village of Penatahan, their chosen location for the project. In fact, after 18 months of construction they discovered that an ashram existed in the same location almost 600 years ago. Five foundation stones of the original ashram have been uncovered in the retreat’s garden. “This made us realize that the magic and destiny is in the land. We are just the tools that have allowed all of this to happen in a loving, responsible way,” Patricia says.
The retreat’s non-denominational, non-religious, philosophy focuses on self-growth through walking, sitting, eating and conducting all other activities with conscious intention. While two-and-a-half hour morning and evening sessions of yoga Asana – a relatively gentle and reflective practice and meditation are offered daily in the Meditation Octagon, an open-air divine space, all the activities are optional. If guests simply want to “eat, sleep and repeat,” they are free to do so, so long as they remain silent (there is a designated Chat Zone near the reception if guests need to communicate or make phone calls). “Here people can be alone in silence but also be a part of a community. There is no juggling for ego position, bragging rights, or pretending to be anybody or anything,” Patricia says.
On the other hand, those wishing to get involved in what the retreat has to offer have plenty to choose from, some of the pursuits guests can easily undertake on their own include walks in the jungle, labyrinth walking meditation, expressing their gratitude at the crystal circle, star gazing from one of the special benches spread across the property or releasing their emotions on the “crying bench” at the bottom of the 107 steps that lead to the nearby river. There is also a library with books on various religions, spirituality as well as fiction. From Monday to Friday, the retreat offers free transport and entry to the nearby mineral-rich hot springs.
Besides yoga and meditation, other guided activities are on offer including weekly lectures about New Earth Cooking, the Future of Food and tours of the retreat’s vegetable and medicine gardens. The retreat’s Head Chef holds a tea circle, where participants learn about Balinese culture; two or three hour rice terrace and village walks, and meditation workshops with a Q & A session. A healing Agnihotra fire ceremony is also held each new moon and full moon. Visits to the Batu Karu Temple (by donation), Balinese massage and healing sessions (additional cost) can also be arranged.
The retreat’s atmospheric ironwood bungalows are peppered throughout the property, giving each visitor plenty of space for personal contemplation. Follow the winding path to reach private bungalows for one, two or three people that feature either porches or balconies with scenic views of the rice paddies and Mount Batu Karu, single rooms that are either semi-open (upstairs) or enclosed (downstairs) and two eight bed women’s dorms. All accommodation types come with mosquito nets, hot water and electricity generated by solar power.
Food is a huge part of the Bali Silent Retreat experience. Guests can nourish their bodies three times per day with a vegetarian buffet and an all-day grazing table. “We don’t just grow, cook, and serve fresh organic vegetarian food, but embrace the entire cycle from soil to stomach, creating a conscious relationship with ourselves and the planet. Healthy soil and healthy people go hand in hand,” says Chef Simon Jongenotter, who has been preparing meals at the retreat for the past four years. “The flavors and textures are married in delicious and unusual combinations carrying a life force of health and wholeness. Guests are encouraged to take their time and really taste their meals, which are served in bowls made from natural materials.
Bali Silent Retreat embraces the Bumi Baru or New Earth food philosophy which highlights food sustainability, taking into account both the environmental and social effects of our daily eating habits. Some of the flavorsome garden-to-table treats on offer include salads with a choice of dressing; eggplant chips with babaganoush dip, Moroccan tomato and pumpkin swirls and beetroot and turmeric sorbet slice. Protein options include pulled young jackfruit, duck eggs and mung beans. All-day teas and snacks include fresh fruit, cookies, and health tonics that guests can make themselves from large variety of herbs such as turmeric, lemongrass and ginger. There are also three types of water: reverse osmosis, solar distilled and charcoal filtered deep well water.
The resort’s not-for-profit model allows an ashram-like atmosphere, where guests wash their own dishes and make their own beds but also receive small treats such as kimonos, lap desks for writing and a complimentary notebook and pen so they can keep track of their spiritual journey. The not-for-profit model also allows the retreat to provide support to the local community. Most of the retreat’s staff come from nearby villages, and a university education fund has been set up to ensure that their children receive a good start in life. In addition, ten big bins have been placed in the area with signs in Indonesian explaining the hazards of burning plastics and the benefits of disposing of garbage in an appropriate manner, as a part of the retreat’s recycling program. The retreat’s staff regularly transports the deposited garbage to a recycling facility.
Patricia says that while her and Sangtu are happy to be able to provide a simple space where people can awaken to the divine source within themselves, a large part of the magic that is felt at the sanctuary is due to the guests who come and open their hearts to truth and love. “The land absorbs it and then shares it with the next newcomers. These people then go back to their home countries and share the magic. The result is an exponential opening of the heart to truth.”