I first saw the name Happy Buddha Yoga Retreat on a job listing many moons ago. The words sparkled, spurring my curiosity, so I lent in.
Four years of writing, two retreats, five months of volunteering and one fiancé later… I can certainly say Happy Buddha is not just any retreat. It’s a mini cosmos in itself; a place where worlds merge – resulting in chaos, creativity and connection; a sanctuary of support, learning and stretching beyond who you already are.
It’s a rest stop, and safe space for those seeking something – even if they can’t yet name what that is.
As you walk through the stained glass doors, you’ll notice this is yoga retreat that fast feels like home. But don’t take my word for it! I reached out to some past visitors, volunteers and members of the HB family for reflections on what Happy Buddha means to them.
A retreat with heart and soul
Claire (our glorious marketing manager) first visited Happy Buddha in 2018. In her own words “it felt like home then and 5 years later it still does.”
She’d met Athil (founder) at another retreat;
“I remember him telling me about the new venue they had just leased in the mountains – and just assumed it was a small space. Little did I know that the venue is like a small hotel, plus a communal house. It’s evolved so much but the HEART of it remains the same.”
One of Claire’s favourite things about the retreat is its grounded simplicity. As she describes, “it doesn’t pretend to be anything it is not. It’s simply a retreat away from daily life. Many people view retreats as ‘wellness spas’ but we actually are proud to say Happy Buddha is not 5 star. It’s simple, hearty, genuine, welcoming for everyday people, from all walks of life.”
Slowness and (natural) sanctuary
Nestled on a property backing into gorgeous bushland (including a waterfall), the retreat really is a haven.
Claire explains this perfectly:
“[The yoga retreat] gives me space away. Space to reconnect back to me, away from the city and family. It’s like my refuge. I love the fact that on retreat I’m cooked for and essentially feel cared for. I SLOW down as soon as I walk into the foyer, and I instantly shrug off stress with less things to do.”
Oh, and then there’s the nature.
“The view is my favourite thing. I can’t get enough of it. No matter if it’s overcast, raining or seasonally sunny. It’s what I look forward to when I wake up. I have maybe 50 photos of the view over the years. It changes with the weather, the season, but it remains to be stunning to me.”
Monica, a volunteer who found this sanctuary over a year ago, agrees. Her favourite things about Happy Buddha are the “yoga and nature” – though the retreat has given her “many gifts; community, yoga, healthy food and beautiful nature surroundings.”
International volunteer-turned facilitator Maren, adds that her favourite spot is “the meditation hut – a tiny private cabin with big windows looking out into the bushland, where guests and volunteers can spend time in solitude.” Definitely a space to check out!
Community and connection
When Maren first discovered HB five years ago, she “immediately felt welcomed into the community and stayed for several months.”
When I asked her about the experience, here’s what she had to say.
“Living at a Yoga Retreat Centre is so beautiful and unique. Work, fun and community life are deeply intertwined and I’m constantly finding a balance between connecting to others and finding time and space to myself.”
Happy Buddha ended up playing quite a huge role in her life, as “the wonderful teachers here inspired and encouraged me to do a yoga training when I first came here. So my yoga teaching journey started here. Now, as I have much more experience in my teaching, I get the chance to step up into the role of a facilitator… Facilitating retreats and holding space for guests to relax and reconnect to their bodies, nature and community, feels like the most meaningful work that I could be doing.”
And her favourite things? The international group of wonderful volunteers, and of course: the fantastic vegetarian food.
More on those wonderful volunteers, from Nilu – who first visited Happy Buddha in December of 2019. Her favourite things?
“Where should I start? Living in a community, which means taking responsibility, communication skills, organising myself and surroundings, but also such skills as empathy. I think these have always been there for me but got deeper in happy Buddha. Something HB gave to me was the ability to slow down and go inwards, be comfortable with discomfort, and to sit with it. Also, I tried a bunch of new things.
Ultimately, the retreat holds a special place in her heart. She knows she “could always come back, and it will be different every time.”
Space and self-discovery
There’s a sense of timelessness at Happy Buddha, which means that while very community oriented, it’s equally a place of self-exploration. It gifts you moments of deep presence, quiet, and reflection.
Past international volunteer-turned facilitator, Debbie, had more on this.
“Happy Buddha was an opening doorway to spirituality and into understanding and discovering things on a soul level for me. It gave me the space and opportunity to really start to look within and unravel some parts of myself. It also gave me an opportunity to bring to life certain aspects of myself that I had buried or forgotten such as a deep desire to create. Some of my closest friends and treasured memories also came from Happy Buddha.
[The retreat] was a platform, springboard & catalyst for me to explore and to bring to life some of my passions and visions. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to grow within myself and the reciprocity of giving back to fellow volunteers, staff and retreaters.”
And the top perk for her?
“The nature. You are nestled away within the mountains and there is a calming and peaceful energy surrounding you. There are countless opportunities to find stillness and presence.“
Happy Buddha is not just any yoga retreat centre. This treasured nest is a home, centre of connection, play and creativity. If that all sounds good, we would love to have you!
Nisha is a freelance writer and Vedic astrologer, based in the magical Byron Hinterlands. As well as running her candle business, her life and loves involve: yoga, gardening and all things esoteric. You’ll find her out in nature, or curled up at home with a good book. Happy Buddha is one of her most treasured places on earth (and indeed where she met her fiancé!).