Guest Interview with Mark Ford

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It was an honour to host Mark as a guest at the Sanctuary in April. He has kindly offered to share his reflections with us in the first of our new Guest Interview series.

 

Why did you decide to come on retreat at Sen Wellness Sanctuary when you did?
I needed a break, and some friends who know me well suggested that this type of retreat might be just what I need. Had it not been for the pandemic, I may have opted to travel somewhere else. Thank heavens for COVID!

How did you find the wellness programme, including yoga classes and Ayurvedic treatments?
I was a tad hesitant at first. As a yoga newbie, I felt a little daunted coming into this experience, not knowing what to do or how to do it. The yoga teacher was excellent; she has this sunny manner that was infectious. You settle into the yoga bit by bit, day by day, and before you know it, it all becomes second nature. Each day the boundaries of what you can do increase further, and without realising, you improve.

The herbal medicine became a ritual that we’d laugh about over breakfast and dinner. We always made sure we left something sweet to balance the sharpness.

Balance and sharpness is a relevant metaphor for my overall experience. Other than balance, one of the other benefits of the wellness programme was increased sharpness. Rising early, more focused, a better mood in general and more energy to do whatever I needed to do, whether reading a book or my own workout session.

The biggest hurdle was the detox day, designed to clear the system. I put this off for a day or two, although it was much easier than I thought it would be. After the cleanse, my system felt much more efficient at processing everything I put into my body.

How did the food at the Sanctuary differ from your usual diet back home? And how did you feel after detoxing?
Ordinarily, I’d eat meat four or five times a week and have two to three cups of coffee and black tea a day, with biscuits. I rarely paid attention to whether what I was eating contained wheat, yeast, sugar, gluten, MSG, or other preservatives. Along with 20-40 units of alcohol a week, these habits meant that my stomach was almost always bloated.

It took me a few days to adjust to the food at the Sanctuary. I couldn’t taste much at first due to the amount of salt and pepper I usually add to my food sometimes without even trying what was in front of me. However, the effect on my system was almost immediate. The bloating subsided, and going to the bathroom was an easier and more pleasant experience.

What were the major shifts you experienced on retreat – on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels?
The physical changes were both internal and external. Internally my body functioned noticeably better. It also said, “thank you”. At bedtime, I especially noticed the absence of that uncomfortable feeling usually present before sleep.

Mentally, I noticed a new ability to calm my usually erratic thought patterns. At home, night time was the worst for me; problem-solving in bed was the norm, and sleep was broken and restless. At the Sanctuary, I read and had a sound, calm sleep. This may have been in part due to the lack of phone use in the bedroom, but I think it’s the complete package at Sen.

On the emotional and spiritual levels, I was much calmer whilst I was at the Sanctuary. I felt an almost immediate shift after walking into the retreat centre. I have retained some of this sense of peace since returning to the UK. It helps when I practice yoga.

Was there anything unexpected about your time at the Sanctuary?
I think that the warmth, kindness, and openness of the people – staff and guests – was unexpected for me at the Sanctuary.

Will you be making any changes to your lifestyle or self-care routine now that you are back home?
I hope to keep some of the changes in my day-to-day life, having returned from the Sanctuary. I know that this may be challenging at times, but it is worth persisting. I have one good week behind me, last week was less good, but this week will be better.

What are the stand out memories or impressions from your time with us?
The Sanctuary and the people that I met while I was there encouraged me to be aware. Aware of how I may be feeling. Of how the food, liquid and medicines that I put into my body affected me. Of how my surroundings infiltrated my senses. The sound of the sea, nature.

Without the constant distraction of gadgets distracting me, I could feel, see and be more me; a child-like me, more engaged and curious. From this place of heightened awareness, I was more tuned in to others and more connected.

What would you say to anyone who feels unsure about whether this is the right experience for them?
To anyone considering a trip to Sen Wellness Sanctuary, my advice is don’t give it a second thought! Something is drawing your eyes this way, so take the time to follow them.

Leave home without any expectations. Allow your mind to be empty as soon as you book your trip. Know that when you arrive that you will be made to feel comfortable and welcome. Soon you will start to feel better, very much better.

You have nothing to lose by trying something new. I had no idea what I was going to find when I left the UK. I trusted my friends’ judgement and that I would enjoy the experience and feel renewed by it. And that’s what transpired to be true.

 

Get in touch with our enquiries team today to book your transformational retreat at the Sanctuary. 

Sam Kankanamge

Sam Kankanamge BSc (Hons) Osteo, DPO, Dip.Acu is an exceptional, world renowned healthcare professional, with over 25 years-experience transforming patients’ health, and has been called ‘the best back specialist in the country’ by The Times (2014).

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Sonia M
Sonia M
18:02 20 Jun 22
Everything at the highest level.A unique, authentic place at the highest level.Atmosphere, ambience, food, treatments, doctors, yoga, accommodation - ideal place for retreat for body, soul and mind.5 nights there is an absolute minimum:)Thank you Sen Wellness Sanctuary and see you soon
Grant Munro
Grant Munro
00:09 19 Jun 22
Sam and the team and SEN Wellness have done a fantastic job of creating a space for healing, rejuvenation and connecting to natureI spent 10 days at the sanctuary in April and to this day I am still struggling to put the experience in to words that could do it justice..!The whole experience there was truly magical - from the location and immersion in nature, the daily structure, community with other guests, the food, yoga and cacao ceremony. Not only was there opportunities to experience and heal during the stay but I also felt there was so much I was able to learn and take away / take back in to 'normal' life to continue the process.Litsa - the yoga teacher during our stay - was incredible at holding space and taking the group where they needed to go as a collective and really opened my eyes to another depth of yoga that I didn't know existed.I'd recommend SEN Wellness Sanctuary in a heartbeat and felt privileged to witness and be a small part of the the transformations I saw in people through their stay. Thank you!
Thanu Yakupitiyage
Thanu Yakupitiyage
16:48 18 May 22
Sen Wellness Sanctuary was exactly what I needed to start my healing journey with myself. I did the 7 day package (and honestly kind of wish I had done the 10 day instead.) I came to Sen feeling the stress and trauma of the last 3 years of the pandemic and working long hours at a remote job for an international NGO. I came with the intention to focus on my health issues, recommit to a yoga and meditation practice, and explore with ayurvedic practitioners some of my health issues that had developed due to stress. I am happy to say I got what I came for.The staff of the sanctuary - from the front desk coordinators and managers to the ayurvedic doctor to the ayurvedic practitioners, and service staff and cooks were so kind and helpful, attending to any issue that might arise. In particular I'd like to thank Dr. Harnika (the doctor), Madhu & Neeranjana (front desk coordinators), Prema (who served tea every morning), Rupika (my ayurvedic practitioner), and all the other ayurvedic practitioners and wait staff boys who helped serve food, clean rooms, etc.I also had consultations with Sam Kankanamge, the founder, at my request ahead of booking to discuss some of my needs, as well as with Davia, an international coordinator. I found everyone to be very responsive, which I appreciated.The yoga instructor, Litsa, who led the morning and evening yoga classes and meditation during my stay was incredible and I learnt a lot from her practice and really appreciated my one-on-one with her. The use of sound meditation/healing via the use of a gong was really amazing as well. Litsa really helped to focus those of us at the retreat on our healing journey. She was a real rock. Her yoga practice is really spiritual, nurturing, and also high intensity, which I really enjoyed. (Note that the yoga practitioners rotate, so I'm speaking towards the person who was there during my stay.)The ayurvedic treatments and acupuncture were divine and a lot of care was taken to do them well. I felt relaxed and refreshed after all of them.As someone of Sri Lankan descent who now lives in the United States, it was really healing for me to get the kind of care I wanted in my mother country. I felt really taken care of and respected, and I'm glad I invested in myself by coming to this retreat.I also appreciated the international nature of the retreat - and made many lovely friendships through the experience with other guests who were there at the same time. There's a special kind of bonding and relationship building that happens from eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner together with all the guests at one long table, which I appreciated.The food served at the retreat is super healthy - a lot of typical Sri Lankan dishes, primarily vegan. I enjoyed the variety in the menus. I even enjoyed the juice cleanses I partook in.If you're looking for a typical "holiday" that's not what you're going to get here. This felt like a very spiritual and intentional sanctuary, particularly for people who are trying to heal themselves and take care of themselves. Having done the research before heading to Sen, I got exactly what I was hoping for and more -- be prepared to put in work and to be committed to the journey.In addition, Rekawa Beach, which is a few minutes walk from the Sanctuary is one of the most stunning and tranquil beaches I have ever seen. While it isn't necessarily safe to swim, it was really healing to go there early morning and evening to watch sunrises and sunsets. This is a turtle nesting beach and it was truly a joy to watch massive turtles lay their eggs on the beach, a once in a lifetime opportunity.I also really enjoyed a boat ride through Rekawa Lagoon, the sounds of the mangroves, and the sweet monkeys who watch you from the trees when you do yoga in the shalet.While it's a difficult time for Sri Lanka, I highly encourage people to support the economy, invest in your own well-being and healing, and experience this very intentional and caring retreat.
Zulkatro Duque
Zulkatro Duque
09:16 12 May 22
I’ve never felt so alive for such a long time! All thanks to my decision to visit Sen Wellness Sanctuary. I have been on autopilot with my daily life, work & even breathing for the longest time I could remember!Sen Wellness had helped me appreciate having a healthy routine, learn to love Yoga and understand the importance of breathing.The sanctuary is a real epitome of inner peace! All the staff both from London office & in Sri Lanka were oh so lovely! And the guests I was with during my stay were all so awesome! The country itself is gorgeous! All these helped make my stay all worth the while..Because of my experience, I can say that I will definitely do this again! I highly recommend that you try this out :)
Tatjana Winter
Tatjana Winter
07:35 26 Apr 22
Ich war im März dort und habe das 10 Tages Spring Awakening Retreat mitgemacht. Alles in allem war es großartig. Ich habe einen sehr stressigen Alltag und das Retreat hat mir sehr geholfen mich wieder auf mich zu besinnen, abzuschalten und vor allem auch nachhaltig neue Routinen mit in meinen Alltag zu nehmen. Das Team ist großartig - super kompetent, super freundlich und super hilfsbereit. Es gibt nichts, das nicht möglich gemacht wird. Die Ausstattung ist hell und freundlich, Betten super gemütlich, das Essen ist phantastisch, die Ayurveda Ärztinnen super kompetent und ich hatte noch nie bessere Massagen als dort. Ich bin wirklich rund um begeistert und werde definitiv noch einmal wiederkommen. Die Lage ist abseits vom Trubel an einem naturbelassenen und geschützten, kilometerlangen Strand (an den sich kaum Menschen verirren). Morgens sieht man sogar Schildkröten ins Meer wandern. Also, top!
Zine Jemmali
Zine Jemmali
16:49 23 Apr 22
Most special and magical place !!The sanctuary is totally immersed in Nature in between a stunning wild beach hosting sea turtles and a large lagoon.The entire team is really amazing, extremely kind and super talented. The food is healthy, delicious and all meals are prepared with local products.The cabanas are super confortable, peaceful and perfectly neat.Had the most amazing experience I highly recommend ✨
Hoori J.
Hoori J.
12:52 07 Apr 22
I am a Holistic Health Practitioner, and I also work in the HR department of a not-for-profit institution. I found out about Sen Wellness Center through AFAR. I decided to fly to Sri Lanka from Washington D C to visit this Sanctuary. Upon my arrival at 11:30 p.m. I was received with a warm and kind smile from Maduro. From the moment you step into this Sanctuary you are treated with compassion and kindness. The manager and his entire staff are always attentive and caring, making sure all of our need were met. The food is nutritious and wholesome made by a chef who is always smiling. The Ayurveda Doctor, and the healing hands of the staff during the Ayurveda treatments, and last but not least the kind voice of an elderly lady who would wake us up at 5:30 with a warm cup of tea.All of the three yoga teachers were good. In particular, Flame! She is extraordinary, knowledgeable, and inspiring... During a meditation around a fire, she was able to open the hearts of nine strangers so that they were able to see the beauty and strength within each other and complement each other. This was an amazing attribute to everyone who came to this Sanctuary to get closer to their inner Self.My experience from this visit is that this is truly a Sanctuary, and I am grateful to everyone from the staff in the office in London, UK, to everyone in Sri Lanka.I was fare welled at 4:30 a.m., again, with a kind and warm smile from Maduro.Thank you!
Manuela
Manuela
11:09 30 Mar 22
People from all over the world who are looking for peace and relaxation meet here, together with monkeys ;-), turtles, peacocks ..... and a fantastic, huge sea with a deserted beach.Everyone will find what they are looking for: a wonderfully designed retreat, dreamlike nature, soothing treatments, very well guided asanas and pranayamas, relaxation .... and fine food!We enjoyed it very much! Thank you!
Silvana Kopani
Silvana Kopani
08:02 23 Mar 22
Must visit this amazing place, a great yoga 🧘🏾‍♀️ healing & spiritual also a delicious vegan food. Thank you Sen Wellness team 🤍🙏🤍
Nadia Mathew
Nadia Mathew
16:30 10 Mar 22
A magical gem set amongst the Rekewa lagoon and the Indian Ocean. Sen Wellness has been an extraordinary experience that I will cherish.I reached out to Sen Wellness when I was going through a pit in my life and was in search of self-direction and self-love. I was beyond grateful for the opportunity and collaboration that Sam, Davia and Camilla had offered me in order for me to visit the sanctuary and make this trip possible. They didn’t have to do that but they did and they are incredibly generous for it ♥️I was looking forward to visiting the sanctuary for the weeks before and all that I had hoped for had exceeded all my expectations! From their very kind staff, the lovingly prepared meals, the in-depth Ayurvedic treatments, the relaxing nature and the luxury accommodation. This really is the place to be if you need reawaken yourself or find yourself.I felt welcomed right away and the team is very inclusive of the guests with it’s family-type of community. My first friend in the sanctuary was Fiametta who is an amazing yoga instructor and retreat host. She really made my stay exceptional and she picked me up even when I was mentally down at times and always gave me the reassurance to uplift me. What a star she is! ⭐️If you are in search of something, or if you feel lost or need a break from the stresses of reality. Sen Wellness Sanctuary is the place with all the tools to help you put yourself back together. You have the amazing staff to help you, the Ayurvedic treatments to heal you, the other like-minded guests to support you and the perfect location to build you.I’m ever so blessed to have come here. Every sunset was golden by sea. Every smile was beautiful to see. I left the Sanctuary feeling the best version of myself. Thank you for this great experience and I am very lucky to have come ♥️
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