From burnout to Shanti Som and back: lessons from a wellbeing retreat

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One of the Buddhas at Shanti Som in Spain

In the end we’re all the same – this was my biggest realization recuperating from burnout as a guest at Shanti Som, a Balinese-style wellbeing retreat in Spain’s serene and unspoiled Sierra de las Nieves . We’re all stressed to some degree from modern life, we all want to feel healthy and energetic, we all need love; and we all find comfort and joy in food don’t we?

The food at Shanti Som is the decadent side of healthy which means it’s light, with plenty of protein and vegetables, lots of flavour from fresh herbs, good portions, desserts and organic local wine. Initially I was disappointed this wasn’t going to be the full on Spanish foodie experience, as the cuisine is a mix of Far Eastern and Mediterranean; I’m not mad about Asian flavours and I adore Spanish dishes. But I let go of expectation and enjoyed the experience.

The women who were here to lose weight didn’t mind so much that they were missing out on the dishes like prawns in spicy coconut sauce and fish tempura because they felt good and supported by the staff. When they left they took fruit and spelt bread for their journeys home to keep up the good habits.

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The Tao symbol – one of so many beautiful reminders of inner peace and balance at Shanti Som

Listening in to their conversations I was curious as to how they were able to feel so positive about continuing with good intentions when they returned home.  This was more than the 3 kilos they lost in a week; it was about the confidence to continue.  Then I met Javier, part of the team here advising on weight loss and teaching Pilates. Javier told me he asks people if they really want to lose weight. If they really do then he says they are 51% there. But the way he said one sounded like won. He held out his chest as if WON was projected to the universe.  Most of all he tells them to love themselves.

We get sidetracked by life’s challenges, whether it’s working long hours, looking after others, dealing with the impact of the financial crisis. Recently I’m coming to terms with pushing myself hard and that’s punishing me not loving me. As Javier (who is also one of the massage therapists) pounded and blasted my muscles, unlocking deep physical and emotional blockages, I knew my body was telling me to stop, to rest-and to love and look after myself.

I was touched to hear that Javier, an actor originally, left Madrid to be with his 80something mother. I was touched too by his zest and joy to be working at Shanti Som. In fact every member of the team radiates gratitude and joy to be here and to be looking after the guests.

After a few months of no time (or even inclination) to spend hours cooking slowly and creatively I began to do exactly that again before the next round of intensive work strikes. A long Sunday lunch into the evening with my beloved friend Anita included watching an unexpected firework display from my window.

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My ‘Youvarlakia’ (Greek meatballs) with salad photographed by Anita Chaudhuri

When I sense myself getting hyped up again now I say Shanti Som to myself.  Shanti means I am peace and Som is a mantra. I wish you all peaceful times enjoying food.

With thanks to Wellbeing Escapes for arranging my trip.

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