humanity unified bali

Why Big City Dwellers Need Bali


Christa Russo is on a mission: to reset, rejuvenate, bliss-out, and find holistic wellness in Bali. She goes beyond the legendary spas and fabled beaches (although, she’ll certainly squeeze in some of this as well!) to meet with traditional healers, learn to eat raw, and practice living at a slower pace. Follow her journey as she checks-in here about what it’s like to unwind from her big city life for two weeks in paradise. 

Because sometimes we just need to meditate with stingrays


I’ve chowed down on raw pancakes, received a jolt to my internal energy, and sipped healing water. Now what? I am off to meditate with stingrays, learn to surf with a four-time Olympian, and hopefully cross paths with a shark! For the final leg of my trip, I am hugging the coastline and filling my days with beach and ocean.

First up: a three-day diving course where I learn to breathe underwater, conquer my fear of the vast shores, swim like a fish, and meditate beneath the surface. I become so relaxed and attune to being beneath the surface that by my third day stingrays swim past me like friendly neighbors and I begin to crave a shark sighting—something I never thought I would say. My world has instantly doubled in size to include lands above and below the surface.


Next, I meet my surf instructor. He is a four-time Olympic windsurfing medalist. Unlike me, he grew up in the waves. Throughout the day he teaches me how to read the waves and how to keep them from conquering me. Intuition is everything. Soon I am flowing with the waves and feeling less and less like a tourist on and off the water in Bali.

What does water have to do with it?


A lot. For the Balinese, water is both a spiritual and functional element. The Pura Tirta, water temples, fulfill both of these roles: they are a place of daily worship, and also act as part of the Subak irrigation system. The priests in these temples care for the sacred water and offer blessings but they are also responsible for allocating water allowances to the rice paddies and villages that surround the temple.


Dressed in a traditional sarong and sash, I go to the temple for my first water blessing. It is a holiday, and I join the many Balinese who have come for the same purpose, flower and incense offerings in their hands. Together, we pray five times bowing with prayer hands at our foreheads before we drink sacred water to clear our chakras.


Back at COMO Shambhala, a stunning wellness retreat tucked into the pristine jungle, I learn about approaching wellness in a holistic way. There are resident experts including a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic doctor, dietician, massage and beauty therapists, acupuncturist, and meditation guides. I am practicing my daily meditation as prescribed by the healer. Poolside and surrounded by gargantuan ferns and birdsong, peacefulness arrives quickly and I wonder what it will be like to integrate these practices into my city life?

Energy Healing 101

Om Swastiatsu, “wishing you well,” is the traditional Balinese greeting, typically performed silently with prayer hands and a bow. This gentle greeting epitomizes the Balinese approach to life: slowing down, showing appreciation and kindness, and forgoing unnecessary words and negative interactions to make space for nourishing the soul. These are the values I hope to embrace during my two-week wellness journey through Bali. These well wishes feel like they hang in the air in Bali.


My first stop is the stunning Fivelements wellness retreat. I am immediately won over by this sanctuary. When designing Fivelements in 2010, founders Chicco and Lahra envisioned a place where guests could find clarity both physical and mental, large-scale and small-scale. Success! I am convinced everyone who visits leaves with more good in them.


My first real push toward seeking clarity comes in the form of my breakfast: green juice and buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup, cashew butter, and strawberries. Sounds good? It was. And, it was entirely raw. For some, this is a frightening prospect, but believe it when I say my meals at Fivelements feel indulgent and decadent, yet I have never felt lighter or better nourished.


I venture beyond the walls of Fivelements and am struck by the sheer beauty of the landscape. It is lush, dramatic, colorful, and very worthy of a sweaty, two-hour bike ride complete with an impromptu rice harvesting session!


My day closes with a PancaMahabuta energy healing ritual back at Fivelements. I sit across from the healer and slowly ease into a meditative state. I quickly feel a sense of peace, and energy rushing through my body and radiating outwards. Every now and then my arm or leg involuntarily jumps. I learn this occurs when the healer locates a circulation block and sends energy to the region to renew blood flow. When the session ends, I feel mindful and vibrant. I can even hear and see more intensely. The healer leaves me with these thoughts, which I now share with you: take time to meditate each day by picturing sunshine radiating through your body from head to toe; if you quiet the noise in your mind (which easily builds-up with city living!), you will notice that exhaustion and negative thoughts are also quieted. “A clean mind leads to a clean body and spirit which leads to clean actions.”

Get in touch to learn more about a custom wellness journey in Bali.

This article was originally published on the Absolute Travel blog

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