28 days. A world class mentor. 13 women on a mission. 13 first drafts completed. Forever Friendships.
I'm back from Bali, and I want to tell you all about it, because I have a feeling that there's something within you that wants to get away, pitch a proverbial tent, and immerse yourself in something. Whether it's a creative project, or yoga, or healing, or simply your journal. For me, Bali was an immersion of all four, and as I write you these words I feel a little closer to myself, a little more connected to my source, and with the bones of something (my book) that will be the catalyst for great change in the lives of many. If you're keen to hear how it went down, read on.
Where we stayed
Many people have asked me where I stayed in Ubud. Seeing as I was there for 28 days, I thought it a little inappropriate to share with the Whole Entire Internet, but now that I'm back on the beaches at Burleigh, let's have at it and let rip!
Ubud Aura was our home; the place where we worked, ate, played, learnt. Mastin and the team chose it specially as it's sandwiched between Zen Bali Spa and the world famous Yoga Barn, which also hosts the highly addictive Garden Kafe (a place I frequented multiple times, daily); home to wheatgrass shots and raw vegan delights and the best damn oatmeal I've ever eaten.
The staff at Ubud Aura are divine, the pool's amazing, they give a mean massage, and the laundry service? Pressed underwear?! Don't mind if I do!
The only time I left the 'compound' was on group outings and for the occasional shop and change of location, and the freedom-loving-traveller in me battled with this. I'm in Bali! I need to see BALI!
No, Tara. You came to Bali to write a book. Sit your ass down, and write.
Yoga Barn hosts some of the most incredible teachers I've had the privilege of practicing with. One month at The Barn has deepened my commitment to yoga, and has reminded me of why yoga found me - to remind me to embody love.
Gypsy was a stand out teacher for me - her Hatha Flow class is friggen sensational; intentional, energising, giggly and feminine. She encourages joy through movement and her personality is almost as addictive as the yoga she teaches. On Halloween, she came dressed as a pirate, and remained in character from start to finish, without skipping a beat - moustache and all. I almost wet myself, holding in laughter that wanted to explode out of me while trying to find balance in tree pose.
Morning Flow with Tanya was also amazing. Such integrity, and attention to detail. And sweat. And verbal Hah!'s.
Every Friday night and Sunday lunch time, the Yoga Barn transforms into a stage of self-expressive freakiness. Back in January, I wrote about my Sober Big Day Out. Well, ecstatic dance was that experience, but on organic 'roids. Yogis unit to stomp and twist and twirl and sway to electro beats, chilled beats, house beats. The rules? No talking. Be the music. And it was ecstacy. As the sweat poured, egos dissolved and the smiles became bigger. More than just a sober rave, this is a place where people come to feel closer to God. I know I certainly did.
"To sweat is to pray, to make an offering of your innermost self. Sweat is holy water, prayer beads, pearls of liquid that release your past. Sweat is an ancient and universal form of self healing, whether done in the gym, the sauna, or the sweat lodge. I do it on the dance floor. The more you dance, the more you sweat. The more you sweat, the more you pray. The more you pray, the closer you come to ecstasy". - Gabrielle Roth
Soooooooooo who's up for some sweaty, praying, ecstatic dancing with me tonight???
This was a Facebook comment in our retreat thread, posted by one of our girls, Kate. It got a Hells yes from me. Next time you go to Ubud, go to Ecstatic Dance, leave any judgement of yourself downstairs (with your shoes) and allow the music to pick you up and do with you what it pleases. I dare you not to leave a changed person.
On non-writing days...
We purified our souls in holy water...
We climbed rice terraces...
We ate at Sari Organik, Clear Cafe and Alchemy (for juice and raw chocolate)...
We made the trip to White Sands Beach near Candidasa...
We watched the sun rise up over the volcanoes...
We were treated to cultural delights in the home of our guide, Agung...
... where we made Balinese offerings, ate authentic local cuisine, prayed in the family's temple, and sat in awe as his 12 year old twin daughters danced for us. It was beautiful.
... and I got a tattoo...
... one dot at a time...
So, what's this Mastin dude like anyway?
As someone who shows up online and shoots straight from the heart, one of the biggest compliments to receive is: You're exactly how you seem on your blog in real life. Authenticity is a beautiful thing to have affirmed back at you. And this is exactly what I'd say about Mastin, although, what I was surprised by, was his tenderness.
I've followed The Daily Love for years, applauding him for blazing trails and taking to an online space which is filled with a generation of women. What I want to acknowledge him for here, is his heart. His presence. His ability to hold such potent, sacred space for us. The man's a pro - no doubt about it - but he's also refreshingly human. Imperfect. He's still learning, but he's choosing to carry people with him as he does, which I adore.
Our twice weekly sessions with Mastin were outstanding, emotional and super-insightful. He instigated breakthroughs and A-ha!'s like there were going out of fashion, but mostly – and I think I can speak for all of the girls here – in him, we found a mate. And he was right there along with us for the journey; writing the third draft of his book while we all chipped away at our first. We inspired him with our commitment to 'finish' just as much as he did, us.
I want to take a little moment to virtual hug Jenna, Mastin's girlfriend. So humble. So lovely. SO HILARIOUS. you are a Goddess, lady and you literally lit up the room.
And my writing coach, Kelly (although it would probably be more fitting to call her my therapist) was a force to be reckoned with in my 28 day bubble, in ways I don't think I can articulate.
Kelly's in the pink pants. This is Team: Prescriptive Non Fiction
The woman is inimitable, with laser sharp intuition and a presence that shakes the earth. Her knowledge of words, story flow and the publishing biz (she's a Hay House editor) was invaluable to us freshman, and I've left the retreat confident in the future of my book, thanks to her.
I'm truly having trouble finding the words here. How can you translate the soul connections, and belly laughs and ugly cries and frustrations and sheer determinations of women that were simply meant to enter into one another's lives with the written word?
As if I didn't already feel utterly blessed enough by my tribe here at home, I'm now thrilled to report that my tribe's gone global: Edmonton, Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas, the Mid-West; the list goes on. We all knew we'd signed up for something gigantic when we said yes to Bali - what I don't think any of us expected was that the goodbyes would be so painful.
On the final night as we sat in our closing circle, watching a montage of images captured from the previous month on an overhead projector, I sobbed. Tears uncontrollably creeped out of both corners of my eyes in a constant flow, which - now that I'm writing this - reminds me of something a friend told me recently, regarding tears:
Love is washing you with love.
And I believe it - that's what is was. Deep love for a dozen women who I'll hold in my heart, forever.
I learnt what it feels like to love a group of women, without judgement, or comparison, or hierarchy
Those are the words I found coming out of my mouth when it was my turn to share my lessons from the retreat. Kamina reached for my hand and I held on tight; more tears coming when I realised that after today, I won't be seeing her beaming, beautiful face everyday.
I came away with a bulging first draft of about 68 000 words, but the book is secondary to the angels that I sat in a circle with; around the dinner table with; bared my soul with.
What my days looked like
Very different to everyone else's, that's for sure. The whole month was an experiment in How Does Tara Work Best? The answer?
A 4am alarm.
2 hours of writing in the dark before a 20 minute 6:30am meditation with a few of the girls.
A 7 or 8am yoga class.
Another few hours writing.
Lunch at 1pm.
And after lunch, I was quite literally spent. Exhausted. And sweaty.
This wasn't easy for me. A lot of the other writers were just hitting their stride at lunch time, and I found that I had to constantly remind myself that it was quite alright to retire after lunch, seeing as I had already written for six hours, and more than exceeded my daily word count. Comparison's a bitch.
Afternoons were spent swimming in the pool, strolling the markets, and eating raw brownies. On the days that I did manage to write after lunch, I deemed myself worthy of a medal. In fact, I 'finished' my draft after 10pm at the restaurant next door, and when I did, I guzzled the rest of my mineral water and packed my notebook away. I was done, with five days to spare. Again, it was hard not to jump back in and start restructuring, perfecting, editing.
I came to write a first draft. I did. My work was done.
Oh yeah. The book.
My book's working title is The Party Girls Guide to Peace, and it's entirely different from the online program; with more of a memoir angle. Lessons, unlike the program, are explored through my own experiences; using reflections and contemplations as the change catalyst for the reader.
I'd be lying if I said that writing this draft was easy. It was certainly no Spirited feat. Almost every word felt like a grind to tap out - which was a constant reminder of how important the message is, despite it requiring me to open up about periods in my life I thought I'd rather keep to myself.
You thought I was open and transparent already? Oh dear.
Some days, I woke up grumpy. Often, I'd dream about what I was to write about, and I'd awaken with a petulant No! I don't want to write about him today! But I'd find myself opening my notebook and scribbling nonetheless. (The hard parts were always handwritten) Fuck! was a mantra of mine; this draft was born of blood, sweat and tears.
I should say here that I'm new to this whole process of writing a book, and I don't know how much is an appropriate amount to share about this piece of work that is still quite honestly riding around on training wheels (and there's a long stretch of road ahead yet), but what I learnt about the book as I continued writing, is that the Party Girl archetype, and my experience with her in my late teens and early twenties, is a vessel for me to teach what it means to wear a badge of self-respect. The book is about seeking, and about testing the ominous waters of authenticity. And being more loving.
Yep. The Party Girls Guide to Peace is a love story.
Phew! Props to your for making it this far! I hope you found this post useful - I'd love you to share it with your peeps; I have a feeling there's a few of us out there who daydream about running away to Creative Utopia to birth projects :)
It's good to be back. I missed you. I love you.
Beaming you bliss.
PS - I want to chat more about the actual writing process. What do you think?
PSS - Things are changing a little 'round here. Think: more videos. Better. Brighter. Focused on YOU.
PSSS - Holy smokes! From where I sit, the next 6-9 months already look huge, and when that happens, it's a divine reminder to sit in stillness - for longer , and more often - despite how busy our minds tell us we are, or need to be.
Everything comes from the void. Let's access the everything by committing to doing nothing every so often.
You with me?