Rest – Reconnect – Release – Renew
Two days in the the beautiful Blue Mountains to reconnect with your heart and inner voice.
Warm soup, serenity and space to drop your amour and step deeply into your needs and desires.

With guided meditation, time in nature, nourishing food, company and surroundings, you will learn a variety of tools to gently feel into your life, release what is no longer needed and renew your sense of direction and focus to move forward.

Chandu has been hosting groups in Australia and around the world for almost twenty years.
Lean into the gentle, supportive space she creates and take home new techniques to explore and enjoy your intuitive life.
Limited places available.
Bookings through the link below

Autumn equinox retreat

~ the unknown ~


The moon is bright and the night is still.
A gentle quiet creeps in and covers the land.
I stop and breathe in her silence.
I wait for it to penetrate, to pierce the pulsing bubble of my brain.

Lately, it is only when there is space outside and around me that I can really begin to feel the fullness of my inner congestion.
It is only at the end of the day, against the vast emptiness of night, that I can truly admit and feel the clutter of my own chaotic interior.

There are many times, in the many phases of our life, that we sense change coming.
We can feel it in the air, smell it on the breeze – it whispers of the coming of distant rain after a long, dry spell.
We know that with the change, an ending is inevitable.
We know that what has been, will not continue to be.

I often sense this more keenly in the winter months, when the branches are bare and the skies swept clean of clouds, reveal the chilly truth of long dark nights, when they invite, invoke, the uncomfortable unknown.

As I look up into this night, so close to our longest, I suddenly sense the seriousness of the distance between us. I feel the depth of my longing to bridge this chasm, for an ancient part of my nature, my core, to become reacquainted, to reconnect and come home.

Our ancestors hosted rituals and revered the changing of the seasons. They knew we were not separate, that we needed to remember, recognise and mark our personal subtle shifts.
They knew that we could feel comforted in the knowledge that change was normal, that as our outer world changed, so too did we.

Throughout our lives there are our obvious transitions – from infancy to adolescence, the onset of menstruation, pregnancy, the birth of a child, menopause, death – all clear signs of the end of one time and the beginning of another.
But there are many others.
The start and end of our school life, our first love, leaving home, heartbreak, illness, the changing of jobs, the loss of loved ones and travel.
And then there are the times of our spiritual or integrative transitions – phases that mark the growth of our ideas, practices, values and beliefs.
So many beginnings and endings.
So much change.

But in our busy world, we are often unaware, not only of the seasons, but of our own internal shifts – the subtle sliding between here and there, the slow migration between then and now.

In some Buddhist traditions, it is taught that there is a space after death where our spirit or consciousness resides before returning for rebirth. This space is known as ‘bardo’ or ‘the in between’.
The term bardo has more recently been used to describe the space or time that sits after an ending and before something new begins.
The time of transition, of change, of reckoning and truth.

It is a space that I sit in with my clients.
Holding them, helping them find the courage to navigate the immensity of their deep inner shifts.
It is space I am sitting in now.
A quiet corner, a gentle gap, a window of wondering, unknowing.

It doesn’t tell me what is ahead.
It doesn’t wish to revisit the past.
It just wants me to be here, in the present.
To honour, to revere, to trust.

Like the vast blackness outside my bedroom window, it offers me no answers, but with its great big silence it beckons me, calls me home.

It is not easy to sit in space of unknowing.
There is temptation in its emptiness – to try to fill it up.
There is tension in its emptiness – to try to push into it or to pull away.
There is terror in its emptiness – all our unspoken fears – what if this nothingness goes on, what if this is all that is ahead for me?

We all face these in-between spaces.
We all bump up against the bardo.

The void is calling to me now.
Not with words, but with subtle endings and sweet open skies that speak no sense to my ever curious mind.

So I stop questioning.
I am listening with my heart.
Turning towards the transition with all its temptation and tension and terror.

I could turn away, but I am tuning in.
I am trusting.
My intuitive voice guides me, it whispers encouragement,
‘Honey, you have done this before.’

There is a quickening as I stand in this space, palms facing upward, eyes to the sky, drawing in a slow, deep breath.
And I feel it begin,
a deep, slow,

Alone and on the edge of something I cannot name, I release my need for comfort and control.
I step into and allow, the unknown.


(C) Chandu Bickford

~ what remains ~

Who am I when it all falls apart?

When the solidity of my structures begin to fold?

When the ground opens up beneath my feet and swallows me and my reality whole?


Who am I when I stand without title or role? Without their adoration or limits, their names or control?

Gone the robes of academic achievements, my bio and CV. No colours of my national flag to adorn or protect me.


Who am I without my family – no lover, parents, children, friends – to mark my place?

Without their reference in time and memory, do I, do we, disappear without a trace?


Who am I without my story, my hurtful experiences, my life of joy and pain?

The measuring of highs and lows, of happiness, of loss and gain?

What have I left to offer to myself or to you, without these tales, these historical myths, made true?


Who am I when I am crumpled, down upon my knees?

Blindly flailing, searching through the fallout, the debris. 

Lost, confused and all alone, bereft of all I thought I was, I had, I owned.


Who am I buried beneath the weight of expectation – both yours and mine? Grasping at the remains of a hope-filled time. 

Terrified of reprisal, rejection and rebuke, drowning in compromise, avoidance and disputes.


Who am I stripped and naked, standing bare, upright, alone?  Your gaze unflinching, silent, meeting mine, my soul exposed.

Witnessing what remains of me, the scraps that are left behind, 

as I shiver and I bleed, I have nothing left to hide.


I don’t know who I am 






But I do know I am here.

Learning. Humble. Open.

Live, I will.


And though darkness enfolds and shatters me with pain.

My heart knows that endings are not the end

that my spirit will, remain. 



(C) Chandu Bickford

Artist Credit – Seth Havercamp 

~ completion ~

At the start of something we rarely consider its end.
Our hearts are filled with flutters and excitement. The uncertainty of our path and it’s unknown outcome ignite a fire in our nervous systems. Our senses are heightened, we sit on the sharp edge of expectation.

Beginnings often come after periods of deep longing, after times of loss, loneliness or lack.
They can find us taking shaky first steps or making fear-filled leaps of faith into uncharted futures.
The shakti that sits behind our beginnings fuels our ride, and soon we find we are crawling out of our predictable pasts and are being catapulted our towards a new job, a new lover, city or state of being.

Our tender first kisses can produce a passion previously unmatched. Our new city streets seem to sing as we walk by. Our new job evokes and embraces our creativity in ways that make going to work an absolute joy.

These feelings of freshness and freedom help us establish new patterns on our life. They create new habits, rhythms and behaviours, until, over time, they become our new normal.

Our shaky false starts are all but forgotten.
Our initial uncertainty is left behind as we integrate and function fully in our new roles.
The new streets become familiar, our lovers lips become a comfort, our job simply pays the bills.

But over time, things can begin go awry. We can, for a variety of reasons, become stale or bored. We can be betrayed, broken by circumstances or just lose our belief in the truth of a situation, the truth that situation holds for ourselves.
And whether it is hours, weeks, months or years later, we find ourselves at its end.

Here, we might realise we have become tired. We might be disillusioned by our once darling date, discover those city streets no longer sing to us, or perhaps we’ve burnt ourselves out doing the job of our dreams.

Whatever the reason, whatever the ending, however it looks, feels or tastes, it is as important to commemorate its passing as it was to celebrate its commencement.
We need to draw in close and sit with our dashed hopes and disconnected dreams.
To stay and honour the discomfort of our loss, our longing and love as it passes out of us and away.

Our endings may not even be brutal or sad – we may simply be finishing our studies, completing a group or course, moving out of home or leaving to travel abroad – it all involves a mix of excitement, change and sorrow.

It is important to recognise the rise of our emotions as life’s moments end.
To relax into and realise the fullness of the time that begins also means another time ends.

We may be racing forward, heading toward a change and future bright.
But just take a moment to pause before it’s all over.
Allow some rest and space for release before you go.

The art of completing well is so valuable as we commence each new stage.
You may not ever feel satisfied or get closure from the others involved, but you can choose to close the case for yourself.

Sign it off, tie it up and send it off with love, whatever it is.
Create a ceremony, a ritual, some special space to mark the ending, to set it free.

Then step forward, knowing your heart has come full circle.
That the cycle has been honoured, that is complete and done.

(C) Chandu Bickford

~ moving on ~

Hard times occur.
Difficulties present themselves.
Obstacles appear on our path.

New tough situations are always on the horizon, but old issues cycle around every so often and bring their pain and hurt back into our lives.

They seem to reappear out of nowhere.
They can arrive like phantoms, unwelcome guests at our door.
We feel their intensity, the fresh burn of their bitterness and bite as they push past us with their suitcases of old suffering and settle back into our lives.

After our initial shock, we find a moment to call our friends, our opening line,
‘You’re not going to believe….’
Is quickly followed by a slump of our shoulders and our hearts into
‘Oh…I thought I was done with this?!’

Our patient, loving friends remember all the details – the excruciating breakup, the overbearing employer, the abusive parent, the deep sadness we felt when our dear friend passed. They have sat with us long and deep as we’ve worked our way through the hurt, the endless and sometimes dramatic unpacking and recalling of events, the hours of uncertainty, suffering and pain.

They’ve passed us tissues and given advice, they’ve celebrated our slow healing or danced with us the day we sent eviction notices to the hardship, they’ve smoothed our hair or helped us sweep away the debris in the aftermath.

And then they have rested with us, in the relative calm that followed. Maybe weeks, maybe months or years.

But seasons change, and somehow that old situation has arisen in our heart, mind or life again, and we are left feeling sidelined, smothered by its intensity or made small with a rekindled sense of shame.

There is a desire in all of us to move away from things that are painful and hurt. It is a protective mechanism, a natural reflex.
We can try to ignore or distract ourselves – modern life offers many options for this.
We can become angry, resentful or bitter. We can become self-absorbed, overwhelmed and filled with despair.

We may do or feel all of these in our initial reactions.

But as the first waves of shock pass over us, as we begin to cycle more deeply through the situation, we can reassess and recycle our thoughts and feelings.

Yes, we are being presented again with an old painful situation – but the difference is now, that we are new.

We have learned new ways to respond.
We can see with new eyes, understand with fresh awareness, feel into the situation with the new strength of our wise and open heart.

We can still want to slam the door in the face of old wounds. We can still wish to pull the blinds and block the past from bringing pain into our present.
We can wallow in the perceived hopelessness of never moving on.

Or we can look out with honesty and see that situation or memory standing at the gate. We can fold our arms across our chests, size them up and say to ourselves,
‘Ahh. I know you.’

But instead of rushing into reaction – of running towards it in a rage or running away – we can stand and observe them a little longer.
We can allow ourselves to see them differently, and thinking out loud, may hear our ourselves say…

‘Well, I used to know you.
But let me look more closely, maybe you have changed?’

And inevitably they have.
Because time has passed.
Because, regardless of the situation, we have lived through it, we have survived.

And as a result, we know more than we did back then, we are stronger, we may have more clarity and time has given us the great gift of perspective and distance from it all.

As we stand and look at the situation anew, we can pause and take time to notice it’s subtleties – it’s cracks, it’s weaknesses, it’s old stories, it’s truths or lies.

And when we do, we can see the situation has changed.
And that more importantly, that so have we.

We may not welcome that person or situation back into our lives again, but we don’t have to feel afraid of facing their memory.

Feelings will continue to revisit us.
Painful memories may never fully fade.

But with time, and with gentle, continued practice, we can recognise that we have learned and grown and changed.

And if we choose, we can find great peace in that.

(C) Chandu Bickford

Artist credit Meinrad Craighead

~ temporary ~


When things are tough it is hard to see an end to our suffering.

When illness, hardship, loneliness and heartbreak visit our lives, they can create a sense of darkness and fog that cloud our minds and make it tough to see a future beyond.

The storms they create, and our subsequent reactions, can magnify or multiply the initial issue, and suddenly we can find ourselves completely overwhelmed.

Whether it’s losing our job, a series of unexpected expenses, a romantic betrayal or serious illness, the fact that it is unwanted and unwelcome, can trigger fear, old wounds and a sense of dogged, deep resistance. 

Further reactions can then arise  – from rage, to rebellion, from drama to depression, from feeling distracted to deep and lasting despair.

We cannot close our eyes and pretend these things don’t happen.

We cannot avoid life and it’s subsequent suffering.

For just as light has its shadow, health, abundance, love and trust are always accompanied by their opposites.

But we can try to remember, even in our bleakest moments, that hardship is not permanent, that it will end.

When we take the time and look from the outside at another’s life, we can see without the blinkers, be objective and supportive. We can bring a little light and perspective to their situation, to help them through.

For ourselves, when caught in its clutches, it can be much harder to rise above the situation, to see its transience, it’s temporary nature. 

We can feel that things will never end, change or pass us by.

Life’s situations and our feelings, just like the weather, are always changing.

Honour them – their variety and vicissitudes.

Don’t block or ignore them. 

But don’t let temporary feelings take up permanent residency in your mind and in your heart. 

Remember, everything is temporary.

Everything comes and goes.


(C) Chandu Bickford

~ gently ~


Life is hard.

Sure, there are joyful times, magical moments and happy, fun, carefree phases to enjoy.

But no amount of new-age positive-thinking can outshine the grit that lies just below the surface.

The grit, the pain, the grief, death, learning and loss that accompany the highlights of love, tenderness and togetherness are all natural, expected and normal.

Our media tries to tell us otherwise.

The ‘happily ever after’ is sold with every home loan, haircut and hamburger. Our fears of loss, pain and death are raised and quickly quelled by insurance promises and their accompanying premiums. Our boredom and dissatisfaction with our own life is fed, fuelled and refocused on ‘reality’ TV shows, incessant info-mercials and addiction to improvement – to buying more, doing more, having more, being more.

The voices around us are harsh and critical.

They tell us we are not enough, that we need to be better, do better. And whether we listen actively or not, their pervasiveness becomes a soundtrack, a consistent inner conversation of constant critiquing and cruel comparison.

Competitiveness arises, then hyper-vigilance, stress, more criticism, more trying, exhaustion and at times, resultant despair.

These are sadly becoming natural by-products of our life.

Especially as we look out at our world and see the destruction of our beautiful planet, the imbalance and insensitivity of our ‘leaders’ and the disparity between those who continue to have and those who have not.

We are bombarded with opinions and reasons not to believe in or listen to ourselves.
We are so easily offended by others that our angry responses continue the chain reaction of retaliation and polarisation.
We forget we have a choice to turn it off, walk away and turn with tenderness, within.

When we reach our limit of outer chaos we also reach the threshold of our inner quiet – the safe and sacred space we all have and hold within our hearts.

We can choose to leave our worldly shoes and coats at the door. We can drop the daily amour and the weapons that we wield and return to the sanctuary of own sweet selves.

We can pause. We can breathe.

We can move with reverence and tenderness towards our hearts.

We can step gently away from the fray and listen for our own wisdom, knowledge and truth.

Our turning away becomes a deep tuning in.

Here we can listen and be lead by our intuition.
Here we can again find inspiration, ideas and the beauty of our imagination.
Here we can find a pace that is true for us and some peace to carry back out into the world to share with others.

We cannot escape life’s hardships and pain, but we can find ways to live with them, to accept them and ourselves.

We can do so, gently….

she touches the wound
becomes friends with the scars
accepts the pain of her past

she learns to forgive herself
for what she didn’t know
for all the things she did
and did not do

she comes home
re-members her heart and soul
her body
are hers
are sacred

(C) Chandu Bickford

Artist credit – Tomasz Alen Kopera

~finding our feet ~


Finding our feet can be tough.
Working out how to use them, how to become stable, strong and able to stand, takes time.

We watch our little children, the children of others.
Their first attempts, their struggles, wobbles and falls.
How they pull themselves up – again and again.
And how they go down just as often – plop.

After that initial getting upright, we are off.
Exploring and advancing through each day with curiosity, wonder and great enthusiasm.

We walk, we skip, hop and run. We are not worried about our feet, or our path – our main attention is outward, on the colourful flower, the waddling ducks, the airborne stream of rainbow-tinged bubbles our big sister is blowing for us.

It is only as we get older we are taught to ‘Pay attention to the path’, to ‘Watch where you put your feet’, ‘Look where you are going’.

The advice is helpful, it teaches us focus, it keeps us safe.

As we grow, we also learn other new skills – how to kick a ball, how to climb, how to dance – these become new structures to follow, different ways to use our feet and bodies with awareness, thought and confidence.

By the time we are adults, we’ve fallen down a lot – at the ice rink, outside the bar, down the steps.
But for grown-ups, falling down is not seen as normal, it’s an embarrassment, an error, something shameful.
We hope no one saw us, we get up quickly, dust ourselves off and move on as fast as we can.

But by adulthood, it’s not only physical falls we have taken, there have been many other tumbles – disappointments, betrayals, let downs and heartbreaks.

Our recovery is not always quick or easy. It can take time, and unlike the toddler who might cry in shock but then pull himself up on the coffee table and begin again, we can find we have lost not only our footing, but our confidence too.

Instead of looking out at life with curiosity, wonder and intrigue, we begin to doubt our strength, our feet, our purpose and path.

After a fall, we feel uncertain, second guess ourselves and are reticent to start again. After several setbacks we wonder why we should even bother at all.

We lose faith in our feet. We forget all our previous years of stability and ability to move forward. We lose hope and so hold ourselves in the same spot, sometimes for a very long time.

The toddler doesn’t know where the path leads. It doesn’t have to. The child doesn’t think about how to use her feet, she just does.
Little children have not developed their skills for reasoning and safety, but there is still much to learn from them.

Children keep getting up.
They don’t give in. They try again.
They don’t worry about the path ahead – is it right for me? Does it have a purpose?

They explore, with their eyes, their hands and hearts wide open. They learn through experience and through trying, failing and having another go.

As adults we have critical thinking skills. We have the benefits of hindsight and careful observation to guide us.
It is helpful. But it can also hinder us, hold us back.

Next time your are feeling scared to take a step, try not to worry so much about the path ahead – is it taking me where I need to go?
Is it part of my true soul purpose?

Drop the seriousness and intent for just a little while.

Look down, see your feet.
Feel them, the solidity of your experience, the stability of the ground beneath you, the fact that you’ve made it this far through your life already.

Maybe even feel some gratitude for them?

Sure, you’ve had some tumbles.
Maybe you even have wounds or scars that remain.

But you are here, and so are your feet.
Have faith in them, in yourself.
Step forward, take one tiny step.

Do it with courage, with the curiosity of a child.
And with a little bit of confidence, remembering what you’ve done, how far you have already come.

As we age we become very destination driven.
Forget the path for a while.
Get up, go out and feel the earth beneath you.

Find your feet, your faith and sense of child-like fun.
They’ve all been waiting for you.
It’s time to explore again.


(C) Chandu Bickford

Artist credit – Lucy Hardie

~ the in-between spaces ~



And in the aftermath, when the drama has ended, when the stage lights go down and the crowds of onlookers move away, we are left on on our own, in the quiet.

Whether illness or argument, business deal or break up, there comes a time, a necessary time, when all others disappear and we are left alone, to sit in the sombre space of quiet and reflection.

For a while our minds race.
We roll over events again and again and wonder, could I have done this differently? Have I done too much or not enough?

When adrenalin is pumping through our veins we are unstoppable, unparalleled in our capacity to solve, produce or pounce into action.

But once the action ends and our pulses return to their pre-stress state, we begin to notice the tender ache in our limbs and temples, the fatigue in our shoulders and the tension in our jaw.
And we may also begin the gentle wonderings and questions of ‘what’s it’s all been for?’

Just as the storm blows in and rages through the night, just as we are terrified of its might, when we are caught in its claws we fear it may never end.
But it does.
Inevitably it passes, and we, maybe damp and disheartened, maybe shell shocked or soggy, remain.

At these times and all others, it is so important to rest.
To allow the in-between spaces.
To honour the mess, the madness and the magical moments of our lives.

It is vital to give time for integration, to give pause and protect the quiet spaces before and after our big and small events. Even the ones that we have carefully planned – the weddings, the house moves and career leaps. But we also and especially, need a break between the unexpected and unplanned events – our times of illness, accidents, grief, loss and big love.

Life invites us to move gently beyond the mania.
To land softly after the exultation and bliss.
To listen, learn and lean in to the space that sits between all things – silent and often unseen, it offers us grace and wisdom as we reflect on where we are now and what has been.

It can be tempting to jump from one course to the next, one lover to another.
But let us observe the seasons – the gentle slide, the holding, the gradual loosening of the grip before letting go.

The call to distraction will always be there.
The push and pull between past and future will, like fingers, try to pry us from the present.

Protect the poetry of the pause.
Allow it.

Let us be like the bulb who lies dormant, then must pierce the earth with its soft green tip long before it flowers.
Let us be like the full green leaf that slowly turns to red and gold before it withers and falls.

Let us be true to our nature, to our natural need to rest between activity.

And may we, in the moments of our gentle pause, find experience, learning and wisdom in it all.



(c) Chandu Bickford


~ unravelling ~


We can’t help but be touched by it.
The information finds us, seems to seek us out.
It seeps into our homes and conversations, becomes part of our bloodstream, just like every other particle of air and food we absorb throughout the day.

We often don’t choose this – to know grief and suffering – to feel it rise and thicken in our throats.
But as shocking events in our greater world unfold around us, as our intimate relationships disclose their frailty and failings, as our bodies age and those of our loved ones become ill, inept and old, we are forced to face it.
Our fragility.

For all our achievements and successes, for all our struggles and wins, for all our times of overcoming and the relief we feel as we reach the end of that particular place of strain, we are always aware that there is more to come.

Many times we can manage these these feelings and events.
Often we can find ways and resources to move on and through.
Our friends, particularly our female friends, can be great sources of sustenance, they can keep our spirits buoyed throughout these times.

But in so many conversations – with clients, colleagues and friends – I am hearing more and more stories of Great Fatigue. Unending Exhaustion.
And words, spoken through tears like,
‘I just want to rest’.

No day spa visit will rectify this.
No regular coffee with friends will help.
This feeling is beyond tired.
It feels terminal.

It presents like spiritual flu – all energy is sucked out and leaves us lying sapped and flat on the sofa bereft of our deep inner life and true work.
It removes motivation, moment by moment, and mirrors to us an appalling apathy that is unrecognisable as our own.
It haunts our dreams and long term visions, our longed for accomplishments and achievements, and moves the goalposts so far away that we don’t even see the point in playing the game anymore.

Our nervous systems are in overdrive, our minds are hyper-vigilant, but our spirit and souls are left straggling behind in the desert of our deeply neglected self care.

This tiredness in itself feels lethal.
But beneath the fatigue sits an even greater threat.


Fear that if we don’t continue to push, achieve and manage everything, our life will fall apart.
Fear that if we admit to our fatigue, we have failed ourselves, our families and the greater expectations of society.
Fear that if we stop and really rest, we may completely unravel and never return again.

Let me repeat that.
We fear that if we stop and allow ourselves to really rest, we may completely unravel and never return again.

This is the big fear.
And it’s constancy, it’s unspoken power, creates such incredible tension in the quiet recesses of our minds, that it alone becomes exhausting.

There is no quick fix for this – the fear or the fatigue.
There is no simple remedy to find new ways to rest or recover.
We can try to push over the top.
We can resist our inner voice and the warning signs our bodies give that tell us we are at capacity.
We can continue to play out the pretence that we are unstoppable and carry on.

Until we can’t.

Enter accident, illness, breakdown.

Let’s not wait for that.

Let us find ways to be kind to ourselves.

In a culture obsessed with achievements and in giving accolades for outstanding competitiveness, let us gift ourselves with time off that treadmill.
Let us pause and listen to our inner needs. Heed the small voice we don’t have time for, the one breathless and buried beneath,
“Oh, I’m exhausted, but I can’t stop now because…”

The demands of our life will not cease.
The news and suffering of others will continue to reach our ears and into our hearts.
We know this because as women, as humans, our responsibilities are endless and great.

Let us acknowledge the fear, our fear, that sits under the surface and stops us from resting into the space of our unravelling.
For hidden beneath the habits of a lifetime of pushing hard (either in our outside worldly need to achieve, or on the inside, by criticising ourself and others), are new soft ways to live and to be.

We can learn to listen – to our intuition and our hearts.
We can unlearn the habits of avoiding our truth and create new ways to interact with our lives and meet our needs.
We can soften. We can slowly surrender to a place of faith and trust that allows us to rest and yet not seem to fail at everything else.

It can be messy and painful.
It takes time.
It takes love and compassion.
It takes commitment – to honour daily our deepest needs.

We are rewriting our stories, we are re-wiring our systems.
Let’s us go gently.

And in the same way a nurse or parent gingerly removes a bandage from a healing wound, let us unravel our old ways with the gift of tenderness.
Let us tend ourselves and each other with great love, attention and care.

(C) Chandu Bickford 2019

Beautiful art by Sarah Naqvi