(This post is sponsored by the care factor who invited me to the retreat for the purpose of the review).
Life can be pretty hectic as a new mum. You’re trying to adjust to this new chapter in your life, where you are (almost) solely responsible for this new tiny person. They become your whole world, and minimal exists outside of this. When you do take a step back to reevaluate your surroundings, you’re confronted with dirty laundry and dishes, a messy house, and something referred to as a “shower”. This monotonous routine – while being the best time of my life – has also been the most challenging and draining as well.
Add to this starting a blog and a small business (what on earth was I thinking?!) and life has become pretty stressful and tiring. I was in need of a break – many people saw it, perhaps just not me.
Something can be said for the awesome mum friends we meet along the way (in fact, I’ve said it before HERE and HERE). I was very fortunate to meet Shannon from the care factor through business mum (‘social’) circles, and she has been an amazing source of encouragement for my blogging journey. When she asked if I would like to attend the Balanced Babe Retreat she was running, I was blown away by the offer (although I think we both knew I needed some time away to regroup after all the hectic-ness around the blog lately!). My impulsive brain jumped into hyper drive as I checked that hubby would be happy to look after our son for the whole weekend (‘do we have any plans?’, ‘do you think he’ll take the bottle for the whole weekend?’, ‘don’t forget his swimming lessons!’) and I leapt in head-first to say yes.
Preparing to be a Balanced Babe
As I agreed to the retreat a couple of months in advance, I was permanently set on ‘excitement’ mode for about a month and a half. But, like how all my new ventures go, as the time grew closer, my anxiety grew larger. What was I thinking? I would say to myself. I always get separation anxiety from my husband – AND MY SON – over a couple of hours, let alone TWO DAYS. I knew the anxiety was growing slowly over the weeks prior to the retreat, but I tried my best to ignore them.
Prior to attending the retreat, Shannon contacted us with all the last minute details, and more importantly, a SURVEY to fill out. Well – that certainly wasn’t what I was expecting! I knew there was a program Shannon had set and we were going to talk about being a balanced babe, but wasn’t it just going to be a time to go away for some yoga, meditation and a sweet massage?
No. No it wasn’t.
More than Yoga and Meditation
While the retreat certainly included these things they weren’t the crux of the time away. As I completed the survey a couple of weeks out, it was asking me questions about me. I’m AWFUL when it comes to those self-reflective questions – I even asked hubby if he would help me out with them! (I’m usually on the self-degrading side, unfortunately). However, it was a GOOD THING I did it myself, because those answers were crucial to unlocking some of the weekend’s biggest key points.
DAY 1 – Arriving at the Retreat
Okay, so I may have actually had a big cry as I pulled out of the driveway from my baby (and my hubby, I’d miss him too). I had some severe anxiety happening as I drove away, but knew that I needed to make the most of the weekend. Equipped with all my essential items – breast pump filled with batteries (because yes, I’m still breastfeeding!) – I ventured off with my slightly-tattered bravado. I headed to the Billabong Retreat, north of Sydney (approximately 1.5 hrs drive for me), and even though I was unsure of where I was going (driving to unfamiliar places also ups my anxiety) and the GPS took me a different route to the one hubby and I discussed, I managed to arrive in the pouring rain by mid afternoon.
I was quickly shepherded into a Yoga class – which solidified my initial expectations of the yoga/meditation retreat – but was pleasantly surprised by the ease of the poses and the relaxation I felt. It immediately removed some of my anxiety from leaving my family.
Shortly after the class, I headed off to find our lodge where I was warmly welcomed by Shannon and the other women attending the retreat (with some Kombuccas too!). We had our own gorgeous little lodge that was removed from the rest of Billabong retreat, which added to feeling of remoteness from our day-to-day lives (which ended up being an amazing thing, but took some easing in to for this worried little mumma!).
The reality of what the Balanced Babe retreat was really all about hit me that afternoon when Shannon ran our first group session. Instead of the (dare I say it?) hippie/fluffy stuff I might have anticipated, Shannon dove straight into the specifics of how our minds work and some research behind how our brains operate. WOW! I remember thinking, This weekend is going to be amazing! We received a gorgeous goodie bag for coming along on the retreat, including a wonderful notebook to write all the snippets I would learn along the way!
What immediately impacted me was Shannon’s wealth of knowledge across many areas, and her understanding not only of research but how it fits into practice. Shannon used many analogies to explain her teachings that helped to inspire our thinking.
After that mind blowing first session, we had dinner which was an amazing organic/natural curry with rice and salad (served in the main retreat area), and then we headed back for an evening session about the importance of sleep. Another one of the main things I loved about the retreat was that it was constantly an open dialogue between Shannon and us. There was room for us to ask questions and share our own knowledge and experiences (well, to be honest, I sat a lot of the time being the youngest mum and feeling a bit out of my depth).
Around 9, each woman went off to do her own thing – I went off to pump some milk that would be wasted (as I didn’t know we had a fridge available for me to store it!).
DAY 2 – Settling into the Retreat
We had an early start on Day 2 (6.30am – lucky I’m used to it with a young bub at home!) and started with some meditation. It was rather relaxing having the meditation early in the morning – for only 3 minutes – to really start the day in a positive light. I noticed it changed my perspective from being grouchy (I am NOT a morning person) to enthusiastic about what the day would bring. There was a morning yoga class back up at the main retreat from 7am, however I decided to pump (again) and then go for a walk with one of the other mums.
After breakfast, we headed back to the lodge where I pumped AGAIN (because I usually need at least an hour of solid pumping time, whereas I was only getting short intervals by this stage – my boobs were starting to get painful!). We also prepared for our morning session at a gorgeous little shala (hut) overlooking the billabong. THIS is where the retreat really went up a notch.
During this morning session, Shannon talked about the survey we completed pre-retreat. She went into specific details about what the results meant and, more importantly, how they applied TO US. This was one of the key elements of the Balanced Babe Retreat that really made it stand out. The survey, called the “Life Styles Inventory”, looks at an individual’s thinking styles and how they respond (naturally/instinctively) to any given stimuli. These results were then followed up with an individual 30 minute coaching session with Shannon after lunch to talk through how we could work towards developing constructive thinking styles.
Besides the individual sessions, the afternoon also gave us time to relax (“ME” time!) and have a lovely massage from the retreat’s day spa. I also fit in a bit more pumping (because my boobs were KILLING me!) and we fit in an afternoon group session as well. This session talked about neuroplasticity – how we can “work out” our brain in order to change our thinking style. Shannon gave us some brilliant, practical steps that we could do at home to work on this (which I am still doing!), as well as lots of resources to help reinforce this learning at home.
After dinner, we watched a movie/documentary run by the retreat in their yoga room about the Mind-Body connection. While informative, I was extremely keen to get back to the lodge and express because I thought I was dying.
Day 2 was amazing, life-changing, and finished.
DAY 3 – Departing the Retreat
Unfortunately day 3 started a bit early for me – being sick for a couple of hours in the middle of the night (OF COURSE – one of the ONLY nights I have the chance to sleep through because I’m not at home with my son). I missed the 6.30 start and the morning yoga class to try and catch up on some sleep. I also did another morning pumping session because now my boobs were in absolute agony – at least, on the plus side, we had found a bucket I could store the milk I had pumped into so it wasn’t wasted from the weekend.
We had a morning session on the balcony of our lodge, discussing how we were going to take our new found knowledge back into our daily lives, because as inspiring as these retreats and getaways are at the time, how do we put it into practice when we return to our stressful environments?. I had to pump DURING this session because the pain had become unbearable.
The retreat had almost come to a close, and we finished off back at the little shala. We did some visualisation, and then really looked at the nitty-gritty, practical steps of changing our thinking in our daily lives. I was inspired, motivated and encouraged to get back home to start a new level of thinking in my life.
While the other ladies went off to finish the retreat with lunch, I decided to head home (due to still feeling sick, missing my baby, and really needing to do something about my boobs!) so I bid all the ladies and Shannon farewell, and headed home. While it was so nice to be back at home with my boys, I’ll never forget what I learnt on that weekend away and I’m keen to see the continual progress in becoming a “Balanced Babe”.
What I got out of the Retreat
- Relaxation and PEACE – not only from the yoga and meditation that I was able to be involved in, but just being away from
the busyness of day-to-day life was relaxing enough for me!
- Individualised results – What sets this retreat apart from anything else I’ve seen is the individualised results of the LSI we completed. It gave me a clear insight into how my mind works, and particularly areas that I need to improve in to be more effective in all facets of my life.
- Support from Shannon – this incorporated both the one-on-one coaching session, and the informal conversations we had during the weekend. Shannon is humble, big-hearted and encouraging, and every conversation you have with her will leave you feeling inspired and motivated in your everyday endeavours.
Accountability – after the retreat, Shannon set up a “What’s App?” group conversation where we still send each other inspiring quotes, messages and questions about our transition back to daily life. We have been supporting each other in changing our thinking styles now that we are back in the thick of things, and I’ve found it an invaluable support from the retreat.
The Stamp of Approval – Highly Recommended
So if you’re thinking that you need a weekend away to relax and unwind, why not go a step further and attend the Balanced Babe Retreat? Not only does it give you the rest and peace that you crave, but it will inspire and motivate you to go back to your day-to-day life with purpose and enthusiasm!
I have given out the Stamp of Approval to many products I’ve reviewed (because they are all amazing), however the Balanced Babe Retreat is a standout for me, so I’m giving it my FIRST OFFICIAL “HIGHLY RECOMMENDED” Stamp of Approval. I really recommend all mums consider (AND GO) on the Balanced Babe Retreat – it will completely change your mindset!
“We need to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be to be the best mums we can be” – Shannon, the care factor