Stephantsminda, Georgia

My Week of Zen on Kazbegi Mountain

Caroline Lewis

Life was a bit chaotic. Simultaneously changing jobs, moving to another country, dealing with the emotional ravages of an ended relationship and relocating my family was stressful – there’s no doubt about it! Sorting out the next phase of life back in the UK seemed doable, but I had no idea where to begin. I had all the ducks, so to speak, but getting them into a workable row – well, from where I was standing, that was near impossible!

A Zen Retreat

Though I was eager to attend, I didn’t quite know what to expect as I left for the Emotional Healing and Relationship Retreat in Georgia. Whilst I practice a few types of Yoga on a regular basis, I had only ever been on a short retreat many years back whilst living in Dubai. This basically included a 10-day programme of yoga, pranayama, and a raw food diet; an enjoyable and different experience.

The idea of ‘Zen Travel’ intrigued me. Shades of Robert M. Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” came to mind along with famous quotes such as – “Life’s about the journey, not the destination.” I considered how unhealthy life is when you obsess solely on your long-term goals without ever pausing to enjoy things in the present. This can only result in a fruitless journey with many missed chances and regrets. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I needed a bit of Zen.

Suddenly, it feels as if this former Soviet Republic is on every traveller’s radar. And is there any wonder with its ideal location situated between Europe, Russia and the Middle East? Known for its top-notch distinguishing qualities of wine, Georgia also offers adrenaline-seeking, outdoor adventures for the sun-sea-ski, seekers. And now, the stunning Caucasus Mountains are the perfect backdrop to some of the world’s best yoga and meditation gurus. This country has it all and the Georgian government certainly takes its tourism seriously with an impressive growth from 2.8 million visitors in 2011 to eight million in 2018.

Zen Travel is the first and only travel company in the Caucasus region offering themed retreat holidays, specialising in yoga; meditation and coaching; spa treatments; culture and nature tours. They are aimed at inspiring and educating their customers to make lifestyle changes. Each retreat, I discovered, is dedicated to one specialty such as mind detox, relationships, and emotional healing and each has complementary healing programmes carefully structured to achieve success.

Tamar Jakonia
and Tamar Giorgadze
Owners of Zen Travel

I arrived at Iveria café on one of the most popular meeting points in Tbilisi, Rustaveli Street. I was met by Tamar and Tamar and then after meeting all the other participants, the life coach, the yoga instructor, and our driver whisked us away on a 3-hour drive to Stepantsminda. Along the way, we had the opportunity to visit some of Georgia’s most beautiful attractions, including the Ananuri Fortress, Jinvali Dam and the Gudauri Monument.

When we reached our hotel in Stepantsminda, the magnificent view of Mount Kazbegi hit me like a private revelation of the Elysian Fields. If I had to imagine paradise, this could be it. A world of natural splendour, peace, and infinite possibility. I simply couldn’t break the spell by doing anything but gasp. The sheer green and blue beauty of the mountain scenery, vast plains dominated by majestic mountains, and a hypnotizing azure sky. This was bucolic splendour at its finest, as well as a beautiful augury of the next few days in Georgia. At that moment, I knew I had made the right decision in coming here. With an open heart, I was ready to let the new journey begin.

Week of Zen on Kazbegi Mountain, Georgia
Kazbegi Mountain, Georgia

To get the most out of being a stranger in a strange land, one needs empathetic guides. Eka (our life coach) and Temo (yoga instructor) were to be mine. We slipped into a daily routine of yoga, meditation, and exercise. We began with a session of Hatha yoga and then transitioned into yoga and meditation practices that were new to me – such as practising blindfolded for enhanced concentration. It brings much greater awareness and mindfulness to your practice whilst you tune into instructions on a deeper level without distraction. In other sessions, we danced. This enabled me to remove any restrictions I had built that blocked my flow of energy. I was able to unleash my creative spirit and replenish that energy. We also participated in group massage, and this is where I made the conscious decision to open up to and trust the process. I can’t imagine how much this would have cost me at the local spa back in the UK.

Morning Hatha Yoga on the lawn at The Rooms Hotel

On day one, Eka asked us to focus on and share our goals and ambitions for the three upcoming days of life coaching. Though everyone in the group had different personal reasons for coming, we all had something in common; similar emotional and relationship issues. Knowing how to create freedom and work the right resolution for yourself is tricky but is one of the main objectives of this retreat. To give yourself a work-in (exercising your heart, mind, and spirituality) as opposed to working-out the façade.

Life Coaching Sessions with Zen Travel
Team life-coaching session outdoors with nature

Temo led us into the grand finale on the last day where I experienced what I can only describe as a colourful, energetic meditation. Through this practice, we rid ourselves of negative past remnants by choosing to move forward and not live in the past. This is one of the healthiest mindsets and gifts you can ever give to yourself.

Call it reignited chemistry, or intuition, the blocks and negative thoughts have started to fall away. I’m heading into a brand-new horizon that’s untested but I’m feeling more confident about making life decisions, and those negative thought demons that say “you can’t do that,” and the ones that make me procrastinate, have all been silenced.

The biggest lesson learned from the retreat was to space things out. Don’t try to do everything all at once. This had been my typical approach to things which usually resulted in burn-out. Focus on one task at a time. Complete each task yet stay conscious of the tasks ahead. And most importantly, designate some time for yourself. As Temo says, take time to “just do nothing” – and that literally means, do nothing.

Just like the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, my week of Zen on Kazbegi Mountain has focussed me on the right path to make the lifestyle changes that are personal to me. Mine is a story of love, fear, growth, discovery, and acceptance.

Disclaimer: My Week of Zen on Kazbegi Mountain, was a sponsored trip by Zen Travel, Tbilisi, Georgia.

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