Inside The Garden Gathering, Hong Kong's Spiritual Retreat For The Soul
It’s Friday night and rather than sitting in the back of an uber en route to dinner and drinks with friends somewhere in Central, I’ve found myself sitting in the back of an almost pitch-black sampan in Cheung Chau with a toothless sampan driver yelling things that I can’t understand—and I speak fluent Cantonese.
One of Hong Kong’s most underrated bi-annual events, The Garden Gathering, awaits on the other side of this ride.
Founded by May Nogoy and Resham Daswani, The Garden Gathering is a three-day women and children only event that nurtures our connection with ourselves, with others and with nature through a series of two-hour workshops led by local and international teachers or “gardeners”.
Beyonce's former guitarist Bibi McGill, who blends her musical talents with her love of yoga, led workshops such as NAAD Yoga, African Ancestry in China and Ecstatic Victory Dance, where she encouraged Garden Goers to let go, lose all inhibition and dance.
The first order of business when I arrive at Sai Yuen Farm is to sign up for the workshops I want to take part in over the weekend. Labelled “Skillshare”, wisdom sessions that weave together categories such as ancestry, healing, empowerment, earth medicine and more. Tea ceremonies, forest walks, yoga and guided meditation sessions were held throughout the weekend in beautiful settings outside in nature or in cosy geodomes.
I finally managed to narrow it down to Flourishing in Your Genius, Running With the Wolves, Power of Sound, a Cha Dao tea ceremony and finally, Clothes Free Yoga—when in Rome!
“Any woman or child who wants to retreat in nature, who wants to learn natural ways of living in harmony with our earth should attend,” says Daswani. “Women interested in wellness, mothers with daughters, yoginis, singers, artists, dancers, plant-powered goddesses, earth lovers, or the curious should all join.”
At the crack of dawn on Saturday morning, Yoga BamBam owner Melanie B led the clothes-free yoga session held on a grassy cliffside overlooking the water, and you can't get much closer to nature than that.
See also: 5 Unique Yoga Classes In Hong Kong
After that, acai bowls from BeJuiced were served for breakfast. Over the course of the weekend, five plant-based chefs prepared nourishing vegetarian meals served for breakfast, lunch and dinner including homemade Turkish food and delicious salads and stews for dinner—I was apprehensive about eating vegetarian all weekend, but to be honest, it wouldn't be hard to convert if I could eat like this all the time.
Flourishing in Your Genius, an intimate and interactive workshop led by business coach Willo O'Brien, focused on nurturing creativity, bringing ideas to fruition and painting a larger vision for your personal and professional growth.
A weekend-long celebration of sisterhood, Running With the Wolves was one of many workshops at The Garden Gathering designed to help Garden Goers connect with and honour the divine feminine. Inspired by Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ underground classic novel Women Who Run With The Wolves, the workshop helped us connect with our primitive selves while workshops like Women's Temple encouraged bonding and connecting between women.
Much of the weekend was about letting go, surrendering yourself to nature and shedding layers of conditioning, stress and tension that we unconsciously build upon ourselves.
When so many of our daily interactions are business-related ones or done over the phone or via text and email, we don't realise how disconnected we've become from one another. It was incredible to experience how welcoming, compassionate and supportive the eclectic collective of Gardeners and Garden Goers were, and how open being in that environment allowed us all to be.
The next Garden Gathering will be held in Spring 2018. Stay tuned for details or get in touch on thegardengathering.com