Asia Spa review of Samadhi Retreat

Finding Inner Strength at Samadhi Retreat

Article written by Sheriden Rhodes for Asia Spa magazine January/February edition 2013

Sometimes the opportunity to make signicant changes in your life comes at the most inconvenient times, and that's how it felt when the chance to do a ve-day wellness retreat with Samadhi in Victoria, Australia, came my way. With things hectic at both home and at work, and a husband and three-year-old to consider, I wondered how I could possibly afford to go. Yet something inside me - call it instinct or intuition - told me to grab the opportunity. Which is how I found myself enjoying a slice of holistic heaven, and learning how to respond differently to life's challenges.


10am Monday morning seems an absurd time to have an encounter with God. But there's no denying I'm having one, and it sure beats the typical start to the week: racing to get to work, fuelled on caffeine and facing a day of deadlines. "So what are you sensing?" Wayne Mirananda asks. "What's going on?" I laugh as I tell him, not quite believing that God can transcend my boundaries, my expectations and my cynicism. It's such an exquisite moment, and I'm bathed in such an overwhelming feeling of warmth and grace that I want to sit and never leave the overwhelming sense of love, which has pervaded every corner of the room. When I open my eyes, Mirananda is nodding enthusiastically. "It doesn't have to stop," he says. "You can take it with you, or ask for it as you do your emails, as you walk down the street.

Even when you're in conflict with someone." Now there's an idea, I think to myself. It's an incredible start to my five day retreat at Samadhi, located at Glenlyon, a cute one-shop town just outside of Daylesford in northwest Victoria, the spa and mineral springs' capital of Australia. I'd almost picked up the phone the day prior and cancelled. My husband was under the pump and I was anxious about how he'd cope looking after our then three-year-old daughter while I was gone, while also juggling a full time job, a side venture in property development and any number of other things he manages in a typical week. The day before I was due to leave for the airport no later than 4:30pm. At 4:15pm I sat staring at my packed suitcase wondering how on earth I could go. In retrospect, this is the very time you should go. Eventually my husband urged me to get going, and as we raced to the airport I finally let go and embraced what was to come.

Wayne and Annah Mirananda who run Samadhi (meaning "heaven") Retreat have, combined, over 50 plus years in professional and personal experience in the field of health and healing. The East meets West retreat is intimate, only caters to one person or a group of up to six at a time. After the drive from Melbourne Airport, on a wet and cold winter's night, it was like arriving into the warmth of a beautiful cocoon. The stylish, self-contained boutique retreat, tted out with heated polished concrete floors,an open fire,neutral calming decor and Alpaca rugs oozed comfort, safety and welcome. Annah inuenced by her background in nutrition and interest in food as a source of vitality and medicine, delivered up the firstof many wholesome and artistically striking meals. It was the precise food that the moment called for: a rich, celeriac soup, hot and full of flvour; decorative smoked salmon rolls stuffed with Holy Goat feta; and a glass of local Hepburn mineral water. Sighing, I think to myself, "I'm so glad I came."


After a good night's sleep (a rare thing since becoming a mum), a breakfast of toasted muesli packed with over 20 ingredients and another session with Wayne under my belt, we chat about Samadhi's approach. "LifeShaping is essentially heart-centred wellness, and our retreat programmes and the LifeShaping day retreat experience form the foundation of our work. Our mission is to inspire people to findout how to live a balanced lifestyle by connecting to the intelligence and guidance of their own hearts and individual uniqueness," Wayne explains.

In sessions with Wayne guests explore the realm of their emotional and psychological experience in a proprioceptionary sense. "The problem is that the mind can only work with the data you give it. We take all the complexity out of it, and hook onto the physical metaphors for all this stuff that goes on within someone." Wayne explained that when I returned home, and I was facing an uncomfortable or stressful situation, I could draw on the skills he'd helped me access at Samadhi to more positively cope with whatever is going on.

Sessions are balanced with good food and body treatments in the sweet, peaceful spa with its beautiful Chinese doors, which connect the retreat and the spa via a covered walkway. The spa takes just one guest booking at a time to provide the ultimate in privacy. Annah started in the spa industry and previously worked in the entertainment industry for high prole entertainer Kylie Minogue. She has worked with everyone from royalty, to celebrities, to aged people in nursing homes, and her approach is professional but extremely down-to-earth. "My strength is assisting people to find themselves and become heart-centred, which starts with awareness practices. I draw from many modalities, including meditation, counselling and Qigong to assist a person to recognise more of who they are, not just what they see."


My treatment today with Annah is the Himalayan Rejuvenation body treatment, involving a mineral Crystal Salt Scrub, containing 89 essential colloidal minerals used for centuries by doctors for healing, combined with a blend of warm detoxing oils, including herbs, such as lime and ginger. The best part is being wrapped in a soporificcocoon of thermal vitamin rich mud, minerals and sea extracts, designed to enhance circulation and draw out impurities. Annah then massages my scalp with a mint elixir, before handing me over to Wayne for a full body massage. He uses a cream Annah customises that is rich with magnesium, vitamins, botanical extracts and mineral crystal ion, an Australian precious stone, naturally charged with detoxifying negative ions that will cleanse and detox the skin on a cellular level.

Annah trained extensively in therapeutic skin and body treatment modalities, which culminated in her taking the Cidesco examination for international recognition in the eld. With her background in clinical skincare, she has also been involved with post surgical and clinical applications supporting wound healing, and conducted wound-healing trials using herbal remedies with great success. In 1997, she enrolled in naturopathy to study herbal medicine, and to this day continues to develop clinical skincare formulations. Annah's education in product formulation using organic and plant derived ingredients culminated in her own range of divine products, which are used at the retreat.Needless to say, I floatto my room in a semi-coma state, eat another wonderful wholesome meal and sleep like there's no tomorrow.


Breakfast the next morning is another revelation. Annah serves me a superfood smoothie, which she says helps with detoxication, balancing hormones, boosting the immune system, improving mood and aiding recovery from infections. "Our Samadhi Great Start Breakfast Smoothie has over 25 ingredients in it, including liquorice oot, nettle, adzuki beans, seaweed, ginger, mung beans, molasses, blueberry powder, broccoli sprouts and whey minerals," she explains as she personally lays the table. Sometimes little printed cards are presented with the meal or drink to describe their contents and nutritional benets, as well as beautiful or quirky napkins. Every meal, drink and herbal tea tastes exquisite and I can feel my body celebrating as every molecule is nourished.

Annah explains that all meals have a strong nutritional focus. "With our health retreat programmes, we incorporate a wellness consultation where we establish more detail regarding an individual's overall state of health, and can thereby tailor the meals to suit their needs." Some people, she clarifies,need foods that support gentle cleansing, others require more frequency of meals, or more protein to assist their healing process. The dishes are creatively constructed with local, organic and seasonal produce, which exists in abundance in the Daylesford-Hepburn region and the organic vegetable and herb garden on-site. "I love exploring food creatively like a piece of art," says Annah. "From the beauty, uniqueness and life-giving elements it embodies, to how it is delivered on the plate - it has to look good, smell good, taste good, be fresh and alive, and essentially touch the senses." Annah's background is in aromatherapy and herbs, so she uses a lot of them in the food. Lots of heirloom varieties of vegetables are used, which some people have never tasted, such as flavoursome tomatoes and lettuces. "A favourite salad typically has freshly picked lemon verbena, lemon-infused olive oil from Kyneton, a pomegranate vinaigrette, and lots of seeds and sprouts, as well as our home-grown varieties of colourful organic lettuces.

"Even after decades in the healing arts, Annah's enthusiasm is infectious and her incredible creativity is played out in a variety of modalities within the retreat environment: whether it is through the nourishing food, the therapies, the healing creams and herbal remedies mixed freshly for each treatment, or in the guided meditation sessions, sound healing, or the decor in the retreat itself. "I enjoy inspiring others to explore their creativity by the example of living it, and that is what I try to do - to bring a loving compassionate approach and creativity to both the treatment process, and the entire retreat experience", Annah says. The best thing about it is it's authentic and genuine, and you sense that.


The next day after another powerful session with Wayne where I really get to grips with a relationship issue I'd been struggling with, I submit myself again to Annah, who also happens to play the harp alongside her other many talents, for a sound therapy session. I slip under an Alpaca blanket, close my eyes and slip into a deep state of relaxation guided by Annah's gentle words and beautiful sounds. It reminds me of being rocked to sleep by my mother singing a gentle lullaby, and dutifully I fall asleep. Later I take a walk in the cool crisp air of Victoria's northwest region to the local general store with its roaring open fire,and I kick back a gear or two, refreshed by my time at Samadhi.

Before opening Samadhi, Wayne and Annah had a day spa business in Daylesford but couldn't bear the thought of sending people back out into the cold harsh world, just when they'd nally got to a point of letting go; being vulnerable. They originally came to build a home in Glenlyon, but the idea for the retreat unfolded.

Much of what they do is based on intuition and inspiration. Annah felt a strong connection to the land they'd bought. It turned out later that the cottage on the corner was owned by her nana and there were other coincidences too. "This place is unique and special, there's a history of healing here," Annah explains. Many people that come to Samadhi are facing huge emotional or physical hurdles in their life - such as cancer, divorce and even recurring thoughts of suicide.

Each person is treated, rightly, as an individual and no two retreats are the same. Best of all there's a feeling of complete safety. "Health retreats are our main focus but we customise them for each person. We do detox retreats but we refineit. Optimal health is not just the physicality," Annah explains.


Today, sadly, I have my last session with Wayne. While Annah's approach is very hands-on, Wayne's laid-back style is complementary, drawing on his own incredible life experience as a meditation instructor, healer and practitioner of therapeutic guided imagery and healing. "I've got a lot to draw from as I've been doing this for 28 years," he tells me. His approach has themes of psychotherapy, psychodrama and narrative therapy - big words yes, but the sessions are very relaxed and intuitive. "What I'm trying to do is enable a person to reposition themselves and their thinking, giving them a sense of freedom. I let the conversation evolve, but I usually start by asking, ‘What's brought you here?' or alternatively, 'What do you use to get you through hard times?' which starts from a position of strength rather than weakness."

They're good questions, and I think about that as I pack my bag and wander over to the paddock to say goodbye to Annah's ‘boys' - her gorgeous male alpacas. I realise the same things that brought me to Samadhi will be there when I go home, but my response to them will have shifted signicantly. We all have amazing resources within us to get us through, and that's the biggest thing I take away from my time at Samadhi - a renewed ability to see and access that, aside from getting to know two amazingly gifted and generous people that is.