Joel Steggall Landscape

Coming to Kailash for a Retreat Part 1: Surely I couldn’t be ‘fixed’ that easily?

If you haven’t read them yet, here are Part 1 and Part 2 of Joel’s journey.

At the start of 2021 I had such an overwhelming feeling that I needed to get away and I genuinely kept thinking about the Grampians as the thought of vast open space, trees that are hundreds of years old and being surrounded by nature just felt like exactly where I needed to be. Whilst trying to see what friends would be interested in booking somewhere for a weekend away, my friend sent me a link to Kailash’s Airbnb page where he had booked for his birthday before and whilst scrolling that I saw a link to their website, and from there realised they had a meditation gathering happening in 2-3 weeks I think it was.

For me it was a no brainer, go away by myself, meet new people, meditate, do yoga, eat healthily, visit waterfalls, be surrounded by nature and take the time to think about my life and what I wanted to do with it. I booked there and then without thinking twice…

The magic of Kailash happened before even arriving when the group WhatsApp was formed and I reached out for a ride share from Melbourne to Wartook and was immediately offered a ride from a lovely soul named April.

Joel and April at the February Meditation Gathering

From the moment she picked me up we didn’t stop talking for the entire 3–4 hour journey. I would say we had different back stories, interests, knowledge, life experience and purpose for visiting Kailash that the conversation was so interesting and for me, it was like a purging of my mind whilst filling it with new information from hers about anything and everything.

As the roads turned from fully finished to rough around the edges (this signifies to me that you’re in the bush and away from the big City) that’s when I feel the first sigh of relief coming over from me making me more relaxed mentally and physically. That feeling of leaving the city behind and taking a breath of fresh air is like no other.

Turning into the gravel driveway of Kailash we arrived ahead of schedule around midday and that February sun was shining, the birds were chirping and although the trees and grass were brown from the summer heat, the place still felt very much alive to me. Walking to the lodge from the car we were greeted by David whose big heart felt smile warmed my soul immediately.

The first time stepping into the lodge I looked around and the place felt so cosy and of heritage construction, so in touch with the surrounds. Effortlessly beautiful. It took a little while for my busy city speed of mind to slow down but not too long, the conversations soon started whilst settling into the space which started the grounding process for me. The conversations were not just surface level, they felt much deeper yet not intrusive at all. The feeling of talking and listening to someone with nothing else going on was just magnificent, the art of a good conversation is so lost in today’s society and something I enjoy so much. Feeling connected to another human in the moment of conversation as opposed to someone being on their phone or their mind so clearly elsewhere are two completely different scenarios.

David took us for a tour of the land and I was in complete awe when we got out the back and saw the tipi and the vast open space with the beautiful mountain in the background. I couldn’t believe this view existed and I felt myself falling for this place just a little more. Stepping into the yurt on the little tour I immediately noticed the mesa and was curious to ask David about it due to my previous experience with plant medicine in Peru. It turns out Rudolpho who’s a great friend of Kailash would be holding sacred plant medicine ceremonies here with huachuma and he learnt under Don Howard at SpiritQuest Sanctuary where I had previously been. To turn up to Kailash, the very next place I had come to do some soul searching and find a direct connection back to Peru was mind blowing and also the first sign of many that I’m right where I need to be!

Joel’s photo of the Tipi

I ask myself, how many times in life has there been little signs like this that I’ve completely missed? When do we know what’s the right path and what’s not? Things can make sense when you look back, but how can we notice ‘coincidences’ in the moment and better yet, take action on them when we do?

I took a bit of time to see the rest of the land by myself and went to meditate on a big rock when I felt a stick land on my foot, my first encounter with Kali one of the beautiful dogs who lives here. Little did I know her passion for fetch and especially with sticks, I threw it once and the game was on. This brought me such joy and then later on when the group was told a few housekeeping things for the land, one of those included only throwing tennis balls for the dogs and no sticks for their own safety – luckily no harm was done in my stick throwing and their appetite for balls was just as strong, everyone’s a winner!

The first evening we had a fire ceremony in the tipi where we were welcomed to the land and the rough schedule for the weekend was set out. As David and Rajni went round the circle singing a mantra presenting fire to everyone and placing a tilak on our third eyes, I remember feeling entranced by Rajni’s angelic voice and aura she had about her. Sitting on a mat for a few hours was certainly difficult for someone like me who’s physical endeavours involved minimal stretching over the years but I got through it. People shared instruments and played music until we retreated for the night back to our rooms ready for some rest.

An early rise the next morning saw an introduction to meditation and also to yoga before breakfast. My busy mind was still in play slightly here and I woke up early still feeling like I had somewhere to be or something to do. Stepping into the yurt where both introductions were carried out, I found the structure and energy of it beautiful. Again, sitting cross legged for meditation for half an hour was difficult for me physically but also mentally. I had only ever done guided meditations up to this point and here I was sat in silence for half an hour with my own thoughts. Where was the secret sauce, the hot tips to become a Zen meditator overnight I thought haha?

Joel Meditating during Mountain Yoga to Fish Falls

A delicious and nutritious breakfast was prepared for us by the residents before heading to do some Mountain Yoga and visit a waterfall. I was very intrigued by this and we did a mindful walk for roughly 25 minutes where we simply did nasal breathing and tried to time our breath to the rough count of however many steps worked for us. As any thoughts arise, just surrender them with love and return your light focus to your breath or the present moment. How hard could it be?

Well for me it was one of the ‘best’ meditations I had done. For the first time as thoughts arose, I could watch them come in and gently let them go. Walking in nature with no headphones, no conversation, just me in the present moment with time to ‘stop and smell the roses’ felt like utter bliss and a million miles from where I’d just came from the day before. We meditated by a stream after the walk which felt much more difficult for me as my mind started to race again with questions like how long will we be doing this for, am I doing it right, I’m uncomfortable on this rock, should I try to sit cross legged, I wonder if the photos David’s going around taking will look good etc etc.

Part 4 is out -> read on here!

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