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Billabong Retreat Sydney: My ups and downs during a meditation stay

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Billabong Retreat Sydney: My ups and downs during a meditation stay.

Before this retreat, my ideal weekend consisted of one of two scenarios. Partying with the girls, or a luxury weekend with my husband, devouring pastries at the hotel buffet breakfast. So, on my way to my first real retreat, I sit on the train with my sister, thinking about all the other productive things I could have achieved with this spare weekend. It is a celebration, I’ve just turned forty and my sister thirty. We both sit staring at our phones for the short forty minute trip to Vineyard station from Sydney’s central. A ten-minute cab ride later, we arrive at Billabong Retreat. 

Billabong Retreat Meditation Sydney

As the receptionist walks us to our deluxe cottage, the birds tweet louder than they do at home and the air smells like fresh pine as the earth crunches underneath my trainers. Our room has a billabong view, complete with a bathtub on the balcony. The fresh waffle sheets on the king single beds promise me a good sleep and the room has all the mod cons you expect in a plush eco-hotel room. The enchanting bush sprawls across the timber dwellings at the retreat, hugging them effortlessly. The different shades of green exude natural magnificence and patches of blood-red in the gum trees manage to evoke nostalgia for my childhood. I simply start breathing deeper from that first encounter. 

Billabong Retreat: My ups and downs during a recent meditation stay
enjoying some quality me-time

The Meditation Retreat

Billabong Retreat features different styled weekends, from Yoga to Mindfulness (and all things in between). We happen to have booked the Meditation one. Attendance is optional on all activities, but we decide to dive straight into a yoga class. In keeping with the natural timber and bush theme, the large yoga room is quite possibly the most beautiful space I have been in. If I am honest though, I am thinking about the bath on the balcony the whole time. Whilst we are definitely more relaxed, I am still quite busy in my mind as we head down to dinner. How is this going to work I contemplate as we sit by the open fire on soft cosy lounges. Around 30 other guests sit quietly and then, in what feels like a school camp, we line up for dinner. 

A proud chef talks us through the array of fresh local vegetarian produce that has been whipped up in impressive combinations. Safe to say, I came back heavier than I arrived, after indulging in the best soul food you can picture. The food at Billabong Retreat needs its own story. 

After dinner, and as the sun is winding down through the trees, my sister and I take a stroll around the retreat. We discover the waterside pavilion and sit on some bean bags next to a wooden chess set. A small cloth sign hanging to my left is confronting to read “You are your thoughts”; and then my phone dies.

My usual day is one of yang, I manoeuvre through noisy traffic and walk past crashing surf. A billabong, though, is still and as I sit, I ponder how it is a metaphor for how I am feeling. My sister still has her phone charged, so I smile peacefully but also awkwardly into the gum trees. 

I miss my children immensely. It’s easy to do a traditional girls’ weekend, I am distracted by drinking, dancing, eating cheese, and chocolate! Here, I sit, without any of my usual vices. I’m glad I’m here, but I’m not so sure what I’m to do now.

Billabong Retreat Sydney

It didn’t take me too long to unwind though. My sister and I bonded as she put down her phone and taught me to play chess. Our conversations in the infrared sauna over the weekend were deeper than any we had experienced in years. I am truly thankful for that and I gained a perspective on a few things from our chats that otherwise would not have been possible. I binged on a movie and a book, uninterrupted and in my own time over the weekend.

The meditation courses were a mixture of different techniques and practices. I was pleased to get insight into them all and discover which type suited me personally (moving and mantra meditation in case you are interested). My favourite moment was when I resonated with the teacher’s explanation of attachment and how it can hook us into worrying about things we have no control over. I knew of this concept, but something about having the time away from my routine and exploring the idea in a truly relaxed state gave it more weight. I reflected on my interaction with others. Initially, I avoided other guests. However, as the weekend continued, it was a beautiful experience to share and connect with each other through human stories in a conscious state.

Whilst it was initially hard for this busy city soccer mum to give herself permission to relax, I now lust for another weekend of connection, peace, and natural beauty at Billabong Retreat.

Sally Matheson


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