A Bali Retreat; A Reunion with Myself.

A Bali Retreat; A Reunion with Myself.

When my work took me to Bali to film a Women’s Retreat, I was unaware of how life changing the experience would be beyond the film and photography job I’d been commissioned to do.

A lot can happen in 10 years. Like so many women, I’ve been through significant life experiences that made me the person I am today both physically and mentally. I was made redundant from a successful career in the NHS after nearly 15 years, I moved house 3 times in 4 years including a move out of London, became a wife and a mother of two.

The first event confronted me with a situation I hadn’t anticipated. I had wrongly made the naive assumption that the NHS wasn’t going to fall victim of the recession and  that my position was somehow protected. Yet I was faced with redundancy whilst on maternity leave along with all my fellow NHS general managers in the trust I was working for. Both my pride and self esteem were tested as well as my self belief of being a valuable and productive person.

The second, my move out of London, gave me the chance to fulfil my sense of need for life outside of the city I’d grown up in and spent most of my adult life. The third, becoming a wife and mother, brought me discoveries of unknown relationships and experiences which I’d had only dreamt of having one day. These  events were just normal I told myself. Not unusual for any woman to have experienced by the age of 48.

During the 10 years there was a shift in focus. Prior to becoming a wife and a mother, I had the luxury of being able to give to myself what I needed. My attention could be totally directed to myself. Whether it was at work, at home, how much sleep I had, who I saw or when I chose to spend time just being with myself. The decision was mine.

Marriage and motherhood brought with them a shift in my attention. I thrived. These were the roles in life I’d so longed for. Giving my attention not to me, but to those around me. A new baby, a husband who needed me as much as I needed him. I was sure that I would find happiness in giving my attention to what was around me. And I did. With 2 beautiful children and a loving husband, life was good. I felt needed and I was grateful for all that I had. I now had the roles I’d so hoped for in life: wife and mother.

 

What I hadn’t anticipated, that whilst my attentions were focused on my family and their needs, was that I was loosing touch with myself. The accumulation of 10 years of focus on others had resulted in my emotional journey taking a back seat and I was setting goals for me to be happy on others. This were unrealistic. To rely on others for happiness was unrealistic.

I realised that I was relying on others to make me happy because I’d lost touch with who I was. I didn’t recognise myself. I could feel deep-seated emotions that I’d parked away and given no priority to were going to catch up with me. I felt hollow and lost. When I did try to give myself some time, either it would be interrupted by life or the distraction of chores. I had feelings of guilt that I hadn’t earned the time to myself. I sensed I was just existing in life.  Who was I now and where was the person I’d seemingly left behind 10 years ago?

black and white photo

As I was calling my self-worth into question I was also growing my photography business. This may resonate with  you, but I felt what I was showing to the world through my business and social media was not the person I felt I was inside. My business was doing well. I was networking, my client list was growing. Business was good. I put my best smile on and presented myself as the confident business woman I believed I should be. But my lack of self identity was apparent. At the age of 48, I had achieved but I realised I needed to reunite with myself and be introduced to the woman I had become. How I was going to do this? I wasn’t sure. I knew that I needed to open the door to meet myself again.

It was September 2019. I’d had one of those difficult days. Arguments with my husband and children brought on by PMT and suffering from a bad case of comparisonitis. The latter, although not officially recognised and is discussed with a hint of flippancy can be all consuming. Particularly if you run your own business in a creative industry such as photography. It can have serious affects on your ability to even look at a screen when all you’re faced with is messages of others business triumphs.

Ellie Cotton https://www.dandelionphotography.co.uk/ has written an interesting blog on this  following an inspirational talk from Lucy  Sheridan http://www.proofcoaching.com/ at Vicki Knights https://vickiknights.co.uk/ and Eddie Judds https://eddiejuddphotography.com/SHOOT EDIT CHAT REPEAT live podcast https://shooteditchatrepeat.com/.

Ellies blog: https://www.dandelionphotography.co.uk/blog/comparisonitis-7-tips-to-make-you-less-miserable?fbclid=IwAR0cFK2ICfUAb-f0_myegjbKeMYIuI0ylFFH4HB2X0yo_GN_nMEAZTO7DXQ

I realised that I was guilty of taking out my own frustrations and feelings of lack of self worth out on my family. My behaviour and mood just wasn’t who I thought I was. I’d changed and didn’t feel I knew myself. I was telling myself that I was ‘OK’ and all that was happening was normal. I should just ‘get on with it’. I had a realisation that I wasn’t the most authentic version of myself. How could I be myself, if I didn’t know who I was?

That evening a friend tagged me in a Facebook post. Lynette Allen from a Woman’s Blessing https://www.awomansblessing.com/, was looking for a photographer to create both films and photographs for her business. The job involved flying out to Bali to film her  ‘A Woman’s Blessing’ retreat. Here she would be guiding women through ceremony and meditation.  So I threw my hat in the ring as I felt this was such a different and interesting opportunity for my business. I watched the Facebook post comments flow.

With over a dozen offers to work with Lynette, I knew I needed to show her something different. So as well as sending her my film portfolio, I decided to open up. This was the first time I’d been tendering for work just via Facebook and with an 8 hour time difference! So in an e-mail I gave Lynette a little bit about me and my life. This clearly resonated with her and soon we were in regular contact via Whatsapp. I’d wake up in the morning to find she’d contacted me with all the exciting plans of me going to Bali to work with her.

Belinda Grant Leaving for Bali

Three weeks later and with my husbands blessing as he and his mother stepped in to my shoes at home, I was on a plane to Ubud in Bali.

At first, I felt huge emotions. My backpack seemed full of nerves, fears and anxiety. I was desperately home sick as soon as the plane left the ground and spent the first 2 hours of the flight in tears. Every mile of the 15,000 mile journey just felt too far from my children and husband. It was the first time I’d been so far from them.

I wondered if I’d taken on too much. I was on my way to Bali. I went with the idea of learning more about my photography and film work and welcomed the challenge it brought. Lynette had discussed with me that she felt it was important for me to participate in the retreat as much as possible to give me insight into her work and allow me to create photographs and films that would be truly reflective of the retreat.

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If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting what happened during that week that followed as I touched down in Ubud. Who would I meet? What was the retreat going to be like? I’d never considered meditation or spirituality but having made a decision earlier in the year that the church just wasn’t for me, I was willing to open up my mind and heart to new ideas.

Early next morning, I met Lynette for the first time. She was beautiful and gentle, both inside and out. We had breakfast together at the amazing Clear Cafe, Ubud.

We chatted about the film and photography work I would create for her. I created a storyboard in my mind and made mental notes of how I was going to capture the week ahead. We had a connection and I listened intently as she talked passionately about her work with women across the world. Helping them to connect and nourish their own femininity and how she was growing a community of like-minded women. All the while we were talking, I felt the woman I used to be 10 years ago, calling out from inside me. Our conversation soon drifted and we found ourselves sharing and connecting on a much deeper level. I knew then that being part of Lynette’s retreat, both as a photographer and participant, was my first step to re-discovering myself and there was a reason I was here other than for work.

This was my re-union with myself. Stripped of all that defined me in the last 10 years, my family, friends, business and material things that I surround myself with, I felt more vulnerable and transparent than I had in a long time. I must confess, I cried a lot. My emotions were at times overwhelming. I realised that this re-union and the emotion that came with it were powerful and gave me clarity as I surrendered to the inner journey I was going through.

My hope was that I’d reach a place where I could understand what makes me happy. Not only that, but I wanted to learn what exactly makes me angry and give my emotions the time they needed for me to fully process them. I took the time to acknowledge my body was 10 years older and showed the scars of life. My body confidence was never that good but after having 2 children, it dropped significantly.  I’d not faced up to the changes my body had gone through.

This photo still makes me feel uncomfortable. This wasn’t part of the retreat, but I  felt I I needed to be brave and look at myself. So I set up my camera and got this image. It’s totally raw and unedited. I didn’t want to fake a smile, just wanted to look at who I really was physically. I  needed to understand that my physical self wasn’t something to be ashamed of. My body tells my story.

woman in black and white

During the 5 days that were to follow, I met the most incredible and diverse group of women. Our life journeys had all been so different. All filled with achievements and happiness but none without difficulty or pain. Between filming and photographing the retreat, I joined the women in daily cacao ceremonies and meditation at the retreat and the beautiful pyramids of Chi https://pyramidsofchi.com/ .Giving each other time, space and respect to share experiences and be silent when we needed to.Smudging in bBelinda Grant Photography

colour bali retreat

Colour bali meditationcolour bali ceremony belinda grant photography

Within a week, there’d been tears; lots of tears from all of us.  Opening up about so much, including the complexities of families, our sexuality and our mental health.  We also celebrated! Taking time to laugh and have space for personal reflection.

As much as I was home-sick for the entire 9 days I was away, the retreat in Bali with Lynette and the other women was life changing. I’d been using others around me as a shield from truly knowing myself. I’d buried myself in the depths of all that I was. Wife, mother, business owner, friend, kids taxi and and looking after the house. I hadn’t realised how tired I was. Tired of being so busy and worrying about those around me. My heart had been heavy with guilt of being the person I wanted to be.

In the midst of all this, I’d not really known who I’d become in the last 10 years because I’d never spent time with myself other than on a daily dog walk. I realised that you’re not born knowing yourself. As you go through life both your mental and physical being are shaped by the world around you and the choices you make. Things you can control and those which you cannot. You need to ‘get to know’ your personality, your core values, your body, your dreams, your likes and your dislikes. And re-unite with yourself as your journey through life.  As Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

I now  know that if I generate well-being for myself, it will certainly generate the same for those around me. This reunion with myself was undoubtedly a journey of bravery and gave a voice to my inner self. I was able to re-connect with the woman I’ve become in the last 10 years. Recognising my value and not allowing those around me to define me. I realised the need to be myself – not the idea of what I thought somebody else’s idea of me should be.  I’m able to be the authentic me and I know I may think differently to others and that’s OK. I’d re-united with myself after 10 years. I knew I didn’t need to apologise or feel guilty for the girl I used to be or the woman that I had become.

woman kneeling black and white I have a new found respect for myself as I accept all that I am at 48 years old.  I’m still learning to listen to my internal guidance and give myself the time to connect with myself. Self appreciation rather than self sacrifice. Nurturing myself, both inside and out.  The re-union with myself  introduced me to someone I actually really quite like! I’m not sure what my next step will be but I’m give thanks  for the woman I am today.

Lynette Allen and Belinda Grant

A Woman’s Blessing Retreat is full of openness, and expansion that will, at times, take you outside of your emotional comfort zone. But Lynette and her retreat offers a space for reflection. For re-union with yourself. The 5 day retreat culminates in a ceremony of celebration. Giving thanks ‘To the girl you used to be, to the woman you are now and to the woman you’re yet to become’. I hold this and all the beautiful women I met in Bali, deep in my heart.

Bali Girls Belinda Grant photography

If you’d like me to help you and your business with photography and film, please take a look at my film page https://www.belindagrantphotography.co.uk/film/ or you can contact me for a chat https://www.belindagrantphotography.co.uk/contact/

Here are the films that I created from my time in Bali on ‘A Woman’s Blessing Retreat’ with Lynnette Allen and her testimonial of my work with her.

 

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Lynette Allen has also published a beautiful book of guidance which I can thoroughly recommend. You can get your copy at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Womans-Blessing-Nourishment-rise-feminine/dp/1093325348/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1O5JW6VRWAABB&keywords=a+womans+blessing+lynette+allen&qid=1583344628&sprefix=a+womans+blessing%2Caps%2C174&sr=8-1

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