Q: Before moving to Bali you lived in Singapore for over a decade. Tell us about your transition from urban metropolis to tropical island.
A: My whole life I’ve lived in big cities and never imagined I’d be living in the country and could be happy, yet I’ve found it really life enhancing. Everything has it’s own time, place and schedule. At this time in my life, I’m feeling so blessed and honored to be sitting in such beautiful, rich, verdant, fertile, Shakti-filled energy here in Bali and its perfect for the energy of the retreat center. It keeps me feeling really creative and lush in my attitudes. I still travel back to the cities sometimes and I love it but I almost can’t imagine living in them anymore.
Q: What originally drew you to Bali?
A: I’ve been coming to Bali for 14 years. I originally came because I was living in Singapore and had heard there was some amazing yoga in Bali. I had 4 little boys at the time and thought it would be an amazing place to do a family holiday and very quickly fell in love with the place. The first time I came to Bali I was struck by the beauty of the island. But I don’t just mean the physical beauty – I mean the energetic and spiritual beauty that is here. Which is why I think this is such a vortex for yogis, healers and people who want to feel inspired or shift something in their lives. There is definitely something going on here. It’s real. It’s tangible.
Q: Have you always wanted to open a retreat?
A: Unconsciously probably yes, I’ve wanted to my whole life. I’ve travelled a lot, I have four sons, I’ve always opened my home to friends by hosting endless lunches, dinners and yoga workshops. I’ve always loved doing that and it comes very naturally to me, so in a certain way Naya is just a bigger space for that. When my youngest son graduated I asked myself the question “ok so what’s next?” I’d been coming to Bali for more than a dozen years and already had friends and community here, so started looking for a property here. It’s a way for me to continue mothering people outside of my biological family.
On a practical level, I’ve been preparing for this for years. I’ve lived in so many different places and am comfortable with people from all parts of the planet. I’ve lived in Asia for more than 30 years and have been exposed to so many different cultures so setting up a retreat in a foreign country wasn’t daunting to me. I’ve also always juggled lots of balls. Even when my sons were young, I was training to become a teacher and launched a jewelry business, so multitasking doesn’t phase me.
Q: When and how did you find the Naya property?
A: Originally I tried to purchase a different property. Then at the last minute the woman who was selling it pulled out. What was interesting was that I didn’t get that upset when it fell through. That night I was looking at other properties on a few real estate sites and I saw Naya, which was odd because I’d never seen it before and had been looking at properties for months. That was February 13. On February 14th (Valentines Day!), I came to see the property and as soon as I walked in I thought, “Yes, this is it!” I just knew. It became mine July 3rd and I moved here August 12.
Q: How did you make your dream a reality so quickly?
A: It happened so quickly and has taught me a lot about never questioning the ‘how’ and focusing instead on the ‘what’, since the how always takes care of itself. I could never have imagined or believed that what has happened here over the last 14 months could have transpired in such a short time. It’s miraculous! It’s real, practical magic. And while I can’t take credit for the how, I can say that I just focused on what I wanted and believed it could happen and that it had to happen.
I believe that when we choose to embark on something that serves others, not just ourselves, we are supported. A magical wind comes beneath our wings and helps us fly. Truth be told, I didn’t have a business plan – other than to create a sacred space where people feel supported and empowered – and have no experience in running a hotel or resort, but I took the leap of faith and knew the net was going to appear. I didn’t doubt for a minute that it wouldn’t work.
Q: So do you believe this was always in your destiny? Are you a fatalist?
A: There are two answers to that. One part of me says “yes”; the other part says, “just because it’s in your ‘stars’ doesn’t mean you don’t have to take action and work hard for it”. Some people say, “well if it’s meant to happen it will, then sit around waiting for it to fall in their lap”, whereas I think we’re expected to roll our sleeves up, get our fingernails dirty and do the work – to meet the challenge and to co-create your dream. I believe there is a lot of potential for things to happen in life, but if you don’t step up to meet it, nothing will happen.
Q: Why did you decide to call the retreat ‘Naya’?
A: She was already that when I bought her. Naya means ‘God answered’ in Hebrew and ‘new beginning; in Sanskrit, and ‘dolphin’ in Hawaiian.
Q: What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome in the past year?
A: Overall I’ve been really fortunate. My transition hasn’t been too challenging but I’d say one of the biggest challenges is that the locals will often shake their heads yes when actually they can’t deliver on what you’re asking. The speed of things is also much slower here than in the west and it can get very chaotic here at times. That said, my staff at Naya have been amazing and are extremely dedicated. I also find great creativity and freedom in the chaos and make a point of always focusing on the many benefits and blessings of living here, rather than the few inconveniences.
Q: What are some of the biggest highlights/milestones you’ve experienced in the past year?
A: There’s been many! One example was when we finished building the yoga shala. The Balinese have a tradition of bringing the spirit into any new dwelling. I wasn’t aware of this practice, so the staff organized it for me. I walked down to the shala on the day of the ceremony and my whole staff had transformed into gods and goddesses, priests and priestesses! They had their ceremonial garb and had hired a local priest to come in and the space was laden with flowers and incense, jugs and bowls of water, and beautiful fabrics. The ceremony started and they all started chanting and dancing around the shala, then walked around the property to all four temples. I was just trailing behind them trying to keep up and was so moved by the ease and grace with which they shifted into that mode.
My other standout moment was my birthday. The staff made me the world’s biggest birthday card! I was standing in the main joglo then all of a sudden I turn around and see 10 people carrying a huge card heart-shaped card that was about 4x4 meters that was painted and decorated with flowers with a big message that said ‘Happy Birthday Ibu Rebecca’. They also made a huge sign on a stand with my name on a stand saying congratulations. I felt like I was running for president! They’d been working on it for about 4 days. I was so touched.
A number of retreats and special events stand out for me too. Our very first yoga retreat was a Kundalini yoga retreat with a group from Finland. It put a big smile on my face when I saw all the gorgeous ladies walking through the rice fields wearing their colorful, chakra-inspired robes. They had such a great experience and booked in for another retreat with us immediately, so it was a great success! Another notable retreat was when a group of ladies came from Japan and transformed the yoga shala into a massage school for the Esalen Massage Certification program. It was our first long-term retreat and they turned Naya into their home for 3 weeks, which was a special experience for everyone. And finally, I think my fondest memory was the night we invited Kevin James to lead a kirtan session at Naya in April. Over 150 turned up to sing beautiful heart songs and ancient mantras in the yoga shala and I was blown away by the sacred energy and sense of oneness that filled the space. It was such an ecstatic, joyful and truly divine evening!
Q: Your son Nathan works as the resort’s manager. Did you always intend for Naya to become a family business?
A: When I first bought Naya I didn’t intent to get my family involved, but I’ve got to admit nothing makes me happier than working with one of my sons and having him by my side to watch and help Naya grow. It takes things to the next level for me. When I’m dealing with something that’s so crucial to who I am and what I do, it’s so wonderful to have my flesh and blood so enthusiastically involved and helping me add to the vision and purpose of what I’m creating.
Q: If you had to sum up 2014 in one word what would it be?
A: Practical magic! Because that’s exactly what I’ve experienced here. It’s been very real in terms of what has physically manifested, but the graceful unfolding has been truly magical.
Q: What is your ultimate vision for Naya?
A: To create a community and a place where people can come and remember what their gift and talent is. Because everyone has one and we can experience such a sense of freedom and expansiveness when you remember why you’re here (on earth). To create a place and ‘safe space’ that feels like home – ultimately that you can feel at home with yourself, but that begins with your surroundings. A place where you feel nurtured and loved unconditionally because it’s easier to open your heart up when you feel safe and loved. A few guests have told me “Naya doesn’t look like my home but it feels like my home.” That makes me so happy!
Ultimately I want to share with others what has enhanced my life so that they can share what has enhanced their life with more people. I believe its really important that when we’ve been gifted with something that makes our life better we have a responsibility to share that wisdom, energy and toolbox with others.
Q: If you had to sum up your intention for 2015 in one word what would it be?
A: Expansion. But not in a physical sense. The more people are touched, the more they can touch others. So my goal is to expand the awareness of what is possible to others.