I feel, that like everyone else on this planet, over the last few days my mind has been occupied with not much else but Corona. How we will manage this? What will play out? Trying to create a strategy that we can daily edit as the situation unfolds.
In my meditation this morning I prayed to god to keep my staff, guests and me safe from the implications of this crisis and she/he laughed. ‘Why on Earth would you ask me to do that?’ You are on this planet to experience as many different states as possible. Your practice is to learn to develop skill in action no matter what waves swell out from life. Ask me to help you skillfully surf all life waves, so you can grow into a masterful surfer, don’t ask me to diminish your life experience like this’ One day, one of those waves will take me out for sure, but until then I am trying to cultivate gratitude for the opportunity to hone the craft of living.
So our new social media strategy is this. For the next little while, we will cut back promotional posts and instead, cognizant of the fact that many of you our followers may be stuck at home and bored, try to create interesting, entertaining and inspiring content. Practices and re frames that maybe can offer something for your minds and hearts to chew on during these times. This next post was actually scheduled for today anyway so hopefully it’s an interesting read!
It is a humbling feeling I get every time someone wants to interview me so I can share my journey with the world.
exclusive interview with spiritual entrepreneur, emily christian
by Sophie Parienti
Reviews | About Town | Other Cities
Off the coast of Lombok are three small islands lovingly referred to as The Gilis. They are home to clean beaches, turquoise water, and quiet surroundings. In other words? Pure paradise. No motorized vehicles, no wild energy– just the simplicity of nature and friendly locals. On the largest island of Gili Air, passionate yogi Emily Christian opened her very own community space dedicated to Yoga and wellness, Flowers and Fire Yoga Garden.
After learning about this spiritual retreat center in one of our all favorite time spots, we just couldn’t wait to hear more and sat down with Emily Christian for an exclusive interview.
YOGI TIMES: Gili Air is best known as a total paradise tourist destination. How did you come to find yourself on this remote, tropical island?
Emily Christian: I first came here for a yoga retreat while I was still living and working in Sydney. I remember stepping off the boat and instantly falling in love with the softness of the place, it’s prettiness and the fact that it was so little and intimate like a mini magic world. I came back home so calm and centered and knew the island held some magic to bring me into this state, so I came back to stay a couple of months later.
Another few months later, I was back again, this time having packed up my life in Sydney, intending to work here for a short yoga teaching gig on the way to India, but the island had other ideas!! I felt like every time I tried to leave, something would draw me back, and a year after my ‘short stint’ teaching here, I had signed a lease on an empty plot of land that later became the center.
YT: What inspired you to open a resort and retreat center focused on Yoga and wellness?
Emily Christian: I have always had an interest in consciousness and how it manifests in the mind/ body. Also, I love understanding what this universe is about. This crazy, wild world we have somehow landed on, inside our incredible human packet.
How we can affect states in our field of awareness, emotionally, mentally, and physically, as well as how we can maximize particular states and reduce the experience of compression brought about by others, are some of my favorite subjects to speak about. I explored many paths over the years; nutrition (I think I have experimented with every dietary paradigm out there), Chinese therapeutic practices and movement arts, Western remedial bodywork, energy healing, Martial Arts.
I have also studied psychic mediumship and get fascinated by popular modern scientific ideas about cosmology and physics, myth, and storytelling. Along the way, dance, art, singing, weight lifting, running, boot camps, and of course, years and years of Yoga and meditation have been my outlet for a healthy lifestyle.
My parents were both students of Iyengar yoga, so Yoga was always my entry point and consistent point of return in all my explorations of the human body, psyche, and the reality matrix. I think, on a deeper level, it was my curiosity and passion for all this that drove and inspired my interest to open Flowers and Fire. Still, on a surface level, it was a spontaneous and impulsive idea that kind of went rogue. Before I knew it, I was caught in this process of creation without any idea really what I was doing!!
YT: Who has had the most significant impact on your personal and spiritual journey?
Emily Christian: I would have to say first and foremost, my parents. My father is the historian David Christian who has a passion for gaining an understanding of the history of reality. He created an incredible course called Big History (see his Ted Talk- google Big History)- An account of the world from the Big Bang up till now, as an attempt to construct a creation story for Western Secular culture. His big picture questions and insatiable curiosity, as well as his rigorous approach, have always informed the queries driving my journey.
My Mum is a shamanic artist and storyteller who has been doing divine feminine and creativity workshops with women since I was a young girl. Her work is inspired by Jungian archetypal theories and emphasizes the importance of story, ritual, creativity, and community. She has also been inspired by her Serbian Matrilineal lineage of storytellers, healers, and mediums, and she taught me to read the tarot, a practice her mother taught her and her mother before her. I would say she has been my biggest teacher, especially about the creative process, integrated spirituality, kindness, and the importance of generosity.
I have had many other inspiring teachers on my journey. Probably the most influential being Tara Judelle and her work with Embodiment practices. She brought me into a lineage of Yoga informed by Shaiva Tantra, and her intelligent and creative facilitation just blows my mind. I will drop everything to study with her. Pema Chodron’s intelligently articulated teachings on being present with all that arises have also been very influential on my journey. It has been an excellent early entry point to nondual thought (though I didn’t have the conceptual framework to identify it like that when I first started avidly reading her about ten years ago).
I am a yogic philosophy, and popular science nerd and an eternal student, so many teachers have influenced my path but too many to name here. I must say though I am loving Edwin Bryant at the moment for his clarity of mind and am currently studying his Bhakti course as well as his translation of Patanjali’s Sutras.
There is so much Fascinating scholarship and ideas out there, and I am quite greedy for it all! But always this heady study must be balanced with the direct experience of practice. I find that my relationship with divine consciousness and my creative muses, accessed through my meditation, pranayama, asana, and movement practices, has had the most consistent impact on my personal and spiritual journey.
YT: Was the vision of owning a place like Flowers and Fire always in your consciousness?
Emily Christian: Yes and No. I think it was always a kind of light fantasy, definitely in terms of the food side. In my late 20s, when I worked as a remedial massage therapist and energy healer and was continually experimenting with mostly raw, plant-based food inventions, I dreamed of opening a wholefoods cafe or healing center. But it was over ten years after that time that I decided to commit more deeply to the siren calls of my spiritual practice.
I packed up all to pilgrimage (to India initially, but Indonesia kind of caught me). Out of that first step, the path that led to the formation of Flowers and Fire emerged, BUT when I left Australia on this journey, this was not my ultimate intention. It just happened. Funny things do happen when you commit wholeheartedly to a spiritual path and follow the bread-crumb trail of mystery unraveling!!!
YT: What were the key elements that were most important to you when you were designing and creating Flowers and Fire?
Emily Christian: Love, Integrity, kindness, courage, beauty, and magic are values that are very important to me. It was, therefore, important that all aspects of the business were in alignment with these values. The well-being of our staff team, the quality of the facilities, the facilitation, and the experience of our guests from the moment they walk through the gates to the moment they leave is my highest priority.
I am quite particular and have an evident sense of every single aspect of the business. I keep a close eye on the content of our marketing platforms (I write it all) to how we communicate with guests, to the approach of the teachers we work with, to every single item in our rooms, studio, and kitchen. I have a background in design and agonized over every detail when building Flowers and Fire.
Ultimately, I wanted to create a welcoming home space, where people walked in and immediately felt like they belonged as they could just relax and unwind. My staff team is incredible, amusing, quirky, and genuinely hospitable, so they make this happen. Their happiness is of paramount importance to me. This space is home for everyone we welcome here but equally for the guys that run it. Design-wise I am very inspired by folk art and fairy tales, so I wanted the space to reflect that, a kind of slightly enchanted, rustic/folk, home away from home where people could soften enough to open to the magic of the yogic journey.
YT: What are some of the challenges you face running a retreat center on a small, remote island?
Emily Christian: On a logistical level, it can be challenging to get things over to the island. I am fussy about specialty ingredients in our cafe, so I have spent a lot of time researching suppliers and ways of bringing things over here. If something breaks and unique parts are needed, the process of repair can be complicated. Everything takes longer here; cycles of action get caught in a time warp, so sometimes it can feel like we are working in double gravity. Power can go off and everything stops (we do have a generator), technology is not as straight forward as in much of the modern world. It can be beneficial for guests who aren’t trying to act much at all, as the invitation in this climate is definitely to slow down, chill out, shift down a gear. Surrender and patience are skills I am always learning.
It can also feel a little isolated. I am, however, caught up with running the business, but I sometimes miss the richness of the spiritual community and all its offerings that you can get in yoga hubs like Ubud and even Canggu. It is shifting, though, as Gili becomes a little island yoga destination. I am happy to be part of this shift.
Work-life balance is always a challenge, but I think this is typical of many solos, small business owners. As my team gets more and more competent, I can step back from the operations and can trust that I don’t need to oversee everything to get excellent outcomes.
YT: Describe your style of teaching yoga and tell us a little bit about that evolution.
Emily Christian: I am influenced by embodied movement practices and also inclusive approaches to somatic, emotional, and physical experiences. Where all experiences arising in our field of awareness, can ultimately bring us closer to the realized state. Or, according to Shaiva Tantra, can unravel back to the divine essence, to Spanda, the sacred tremor of divine consciousness. Within this framework, everything is potentially sacred; there is no high or low vibe. When I facilitate classes exploring asana, meditation, or any yogic practice, I am trying to use the teachings from these spiritual and movement lineages to support the dropping down into the somatic landscape.
I hope that students can use the practices as a vehicle to drive their awareness inwards and notice all that is happening under the skin (I include thoughts and emotions as under the skin). I rarely teach just straight asana as a bunch of physical cues to give students a work out on the mat. My vinyasa classes can be very dynamic and sweaty but always embedded in some aspect of yogic philosophy, so a big emphasis on the breath, dropping into a flow state, and expanding somatic awareness around various themes.
YT: When people visit your center, what are the most important things you hope they leave with?
Emily Christian: A sense of having touched a field in the outer space, that felt welcoming and nurturing, and also in the inner that returns them to a feeling of coming home to themselves. I believe that the vibrational flavor of the fiber and the weave that threads all form together is love. When we go in, accept, and lean into all that is arising in our field of awareness, to things we notice appearing outside and inside ourselves, we can unravel the forms of our perceptions back to this essence.
I hope that when people stay with us, they have the space to look in a little and explore the majestic landscapes that sit under the surface of their habitual perceptions, and in doing so, enter a kind of enchanted world. A world they can take with them as they realize that the capacity to create and spin a magical quality into their experiences is theirs alone and does not belong to external circumstances. Or at the very least to feel rested, inspired, creative ad rejuvenated!! Haha!!
YT: Can you tell us about some of the local organizations you work with?
Emily Christian: I am a proud member of Bgreener a business group for positive impact business operating mostly in Bali but with a few members on the Gilis and Lombok. Committed to sustainability and positive action, the members meet monthly for professional development conferences with topics ranging from staff welfare, giving back to the community, implementing sustainable solutions, how to be more green, zero waste, etc. The membership fees of this group have funded incredible initiatives such as the ‘Refill my Bottle’ campaign and app. The members model positive impact through tangible action rather than just ideals, with many inspiring eco-resorts and leading innovators in sustainable action as members.
We have worked in the past with a fabulous local foundation called Endri Foundation, led by Endri, a compassionate visionary who provides medical care and access to medical facilities for people in Lombok. We currently donate the proceeds from our weekly Anahata class to this foundation.
Another great organization taking substantive action is Pelita based in South Lombok. They set up schools in the local communities down there as well as projects supporting skills development in those communities. I am hoping to collaborate with their women’s sewing group soon to create yoga mat and tote bags, with all proceeds going back into the community.
YT: You have a retreat coming up in June– what does that entail, and who is it for?
Emily Christian: I am running a ‘Retrieving the Divine Feminine Retreat’ in June, which explores processes of creative manifestation using Divine Feminine energy. These processes cultivate a magnetic mindset that is less about structuring, planning, and knowing what is going to happen; instead, it is one which ducks under the restricting self-concepts of your limited mind to access the vast potential and mystery that is sitting beyond the surface. Even for women who feel they are not creative, these processes are influential in allowing them to access inner impulses and bring these into the world with often astonishing results.
These are the creative processes that allowed me to create Flowers and Fire Yoga, despite not having a clue of what I was doing, no business or construction experience, limited finances, in a foreign land. So I can say that they work and they are powerful! This creation was not only the most beautiful gift for myself, allowing me to participate in an extraordinary life, but also for all those who work, stay at, and experience the space. I will be sharing the ways I interpreted these processes to create the center.
In this retreat we will explore the different ‘Shakti’ energies of Hindu Goddess archetypes. We will explore how we can activate, embody, and express their potency through asana, meditation, breathwork, dance, visualization, mantra chanting, art-making, ritual, and storytelling processes within an archetypal framework relating to the myths and Goddesses of ancient Europe.
This retreat is designed for all women, whether they perceive themselves to be creative or not. I want to surprise them on how they can reach their potential and the richness of their inner world as they find ways of unwinding and following the mystery within.
YT: Thank you, Emily, we will see you at Flowers and Fire again soon.
, Gili Air, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Indonesia
Find full interview: here