Posts Tagged "seeking"


Seeking Bali bliss

by admin

In Bali beauty and blessings are an industry. Hotels advertise “meditation area” on road signs, shoppers visit Reborn Gifts, graffiti is simply “KARMA” spray-painted in capitals. Its allure is obvious and since 2006’s book Eat, Pray Love, the island’s come under increasing pressure from tourism: international visitors rose from 4.8 million in 2006 to 6.5 million in 2018. But if Bali’s on your bucket list, there’s beauty to behold and sustainable ways to see it.

I’m about to share a bath with a hundred people, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

The Pura Tirta Empul is one of the most popular water temples, and it’s colourful chaos – like most things in Bali – crowded with supplicants heaving armfuls of offerings for purifications. This ornate 960 AD temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, the protector, and he’s overseen centuries of devotees washing karmas clean.

Pura Tirta Empul is a 960 AD temple. It’s stone petirtaan pool is used for purifications.

Elaine O’Connor

Swathed in a sarong, I lower myself into the icy water of an ancient stone petirtaan pool to be purified in the holy spring with scores of soaking strangers.I bow repeatedly, splashing water over my head. As I emerge from my melukat (water blessing), it seems like something’s washed away.

If you’re interested in wellness and spirituality, you know Bali, jewel of the Indonesian islands, where orchids grow like weeds by the road and hydrangea and chrysanthemum fields colour the countryside.


We begin at Puri Bagus Jati Resort and Spa, near the heart of the island’s wellness centre, Ubud, but worlds away in a deep bamboo-forested valley. Our guide, Hesti Rialita Elvandari, joins us for morning hatha yoga followed by dragonfruit juice and homemade yogurt with coconut muesli. The five-hectare grounds invite strolls to temples, koi ponds, organic gardens, exotic orchid, Balinese statuary and even a waterfall. Being in this valley feels like resting in the curve of a lush, green palm.

The Puri Bagus Jati Resort and Spa, offers a complete health and wellness centre as well as a temple.

Elaine O’Connor

Rest is only one route to wellness. With instructor Buda Siwantara Ida Bagus Gede we make palm basket offerings called canang, pile them with petals, burn incense and are blessed with rice pressed to foreheads and a gentle, “Om Swastiastu.” (May god give every kindness.) 

I’m here with G Adventures, a Canadian small-group-adventure company offering 700 trips in 100+ countries. Among them, ten new Wellness tours to that feature a slower pace, daily yoga, meditation, visits to Balian healers and temples, cultural immersion, outdoor exercise and healthy food to restore and renew. Travellers support charity projects, eat at family restaurants, hire area guides and stay at locally-owned hotels to grow the economy: wellness abroad includes travelling ethically.

Come afternoon at Puri Bagus Jati, there’s lounging by the infinity pool post frangipani oil massage listening to monkeys, then a garden tour – the resort grows avocados, mangos, jackfruit and more – and an outdoor cooking class. We pound spicy sambal with mortar and pestles, chop fiddleheads for lawar pakis, make chicken satays and dadar gulung, pandan-leaf pancakes with palm-sugared bananas.

Puri Bagus Jati offers an outdoor cooking class.

Elaine O’Connor

Then it’s time to explore; head into Ubud to visit the Monkey Forest, shop the Gianyar night market, join a vinyasa session at Yoga Barn, or pay $35 USD for a “Bali swing” Instagram photo op.

“When I came in 2009, there weren’t so many hotels, no traffic, no swings, no Instagram,” Elvandari says of development. “You can’t stop it. But Balinese are still doing rituals and offerings. That is the best thing, to respect the culture, tradition and local people, especially if they’re performing ceremonies. It may be unusual, but this is what Bali is.”

Next, we head through highlands, stopping at spectacular scenery: the 15-metre Munduk waterfall, spring green rice terraces, sparkling Twin Lakes – to explore the northwest coast in Permuteran and relax at Taman Sari Resort.

The twin Lakes Tamblingan and Buyan Lakeare surrounded by lush vegetation.

Elaine O’Connor

Here, fruit drips off trees and staff sweep frangipani blooms at sunrise like floral snow. Follow a morning “smiling yoga” session by basking on the beach. The underwater views are even better.

Nearby Menjangan Island, one of 17,508 in the Indonesian archipelago – many disappearing with tides – is home to Hindu monks and some of Bali’s best coral reefs. We take a traditional boat over the swells and float weightless in the warm sea, swimming with unicornfish.

Come evening, I watch sunset and dine on king prawns with my toes in the sand.

I’m at ease knowing my vacation matches my values: protecting the marine environment from over-tourism and fishing is a community priority, with plastic bag bans, bamboo straws and reusable water bottles on offer on the island. Taman Sari supports a biorock project to restore reefs and guests can visit an adjacent baby turtle sanctuary.

There are three waterfalls in the area around Munduk.

Elaine O’Connor


We finish in Sanur, a former fishing village, stopping to marvel at UNESCO-protected Jatiluwih rice terraces, then settle into Puri Santrian Resort and Spa.

In the morning, we stroll the beach to The Power of Now for anti-gravity yoga – upside down in swings! Afternoons, visit the Bali Orchid Garden, try Balinese dance or introductory massage. Sanur’s a parasailing paradise, so get air on your own or watch from a beach cabana, gorging on seafood from beach warungs (food stalls).

There are lovely shops – Daun for Balinese sarongs and wood toys – and fun food – Soul in a Bowl delivers opur ayam (chicken coconut curry) and duck laksa (curried noodles) and Gaya Gelato serves lemongrass, mangosteen, and ginger gelato. Evenings, find serenity in a spa, join a beach bonfire or stargaze under the eye of a giant stone Buddha with a wise smile.

Before I leave, I savour a treatment in town at charming Chantara Spa, known for boreh body wraps and eastern massage. I’m soothed with a scented foot bath, slathered in ylang ylang oils and soaked in a candlelit bath of rose petals, orchids and marigolds.

It occurs to me, with a considerably less-wise smile, that I’m now the offering, and blessed.

I leave knowing I supported a company that travels sustainably, preserves the environment and empowers women. After all, a wellness journey is incomplete unless it’s an inner journey too – one everyone’s invited to pursue.

Elaine O’Connor travelled as a guest of G Adventures, which did not review this article.

Ethical travel empowers people. Our guide, Hesti Rialto Elvandari, says it changed her life.

G Adventures guide and trainer Hesti Rialita Elvandari

Elaine O’Connor

Her conservative family wished she’d become a teacher close to home. Longing to travel, she studied German, using it to lead Germans around Java during breaks in university. In 2014, she joined G Adventures – their first female guide in Indonesia.
She removed her hijab – her father didn’t speak to her for a month – and went to build her career and see the world. She’s spent 13 years in tourism, training in Thailand, Europe, India and the UK and was promoted to regional G Wellness Guru and trainer.

“I was with others from Southeast Asia and their stories are amazing,” Elvandari said. “Some used to be street children or drivers, now they’re tour leaders. G is really open to help people work in tourism. They treat people equally and use locals. That’s important for us to know who will represent our country to travellers.”

Meanwhile, she’s helped pay for three siblings to earn university degrees and a new house in West Java – one that doesn’t leak. “In the new house,” she says, “everyone fits and we must not worry. I’m thankful after years working I have something to give for my family. Everything I dreamed slowly came to reality.”

From daily yoga practices to traditional Balinese healing ceremonies to stops at serene beaches G Adventures Bali Wellness tour offers 9 days of nine days of rejuvenating activities.


It’s a steamy Indonesian afternoon and I’m sipping a mango smoothie listening to Balinese songs and lunching on spicy mie goreng noodles. It’s idyllic, but no regular roadside stop – it’s a meal with a side of meaningful – every employee has a disability.

Disabilities are seen as bad karma and kids are often kept hidden. Bali’s Senang Hati Foundation is changing that. It educates disabled young adults in hospitality and arts and with Planeterra’s support, they run a restaurant and handicraft shop.

G Adventures founded Planeterra as a registered charity in 2003 to give back to countries they visited. There are now 75 projects in 45 countries, from Antarctica to Zimbabwe, benefitting 50,000 locals – often women, vulnerable youth and people with disabilities – and attracting 500,000 travellers each year.

In Vietnam, G supports Oodles of Noodles, where former street children are trained in restaurant service. In Peru, a woman’s weaving collective built new markets in the Sacred Valley. In Cambodia, New Hope restaurant provides youth chef training, scholarships and medical care. In Tanzania, Planeterra funds a women-only business school; in Belize, a youth-run bicycle outfit provides tuition.

“It’s amazing to create opportunity,” Elvandari says. “In India, we support female taxi drivers in New Delhi with Women on Wheels. Some were abused, but got driver’s licenses and now practice English with travellers. How impactful is that to come to a country but also help people?”


Taman Sari Resort and Spa

Puri Santrian Resort and Spa




Police seeking driver in hit-and-run that killed Abbotsford senior

by admin

An Abbotsford senior has died after being struck by a vehicle, and police are now seeking to identify the driver.


An Abbotsford senior has died after being struck by a vehicle, and police are now seeking to identify the driver.

The fatal collision occurred Tuesday evening at 8:30 p.m. in the 32600 block of Marshall Road, police said in a news release.

A 77-year-old South Asian man, who has not been identified, was walking on the roadway when he was hit by what police describe as a newer model, SUV-type vehicle.

He was transported to hospital by air ambulance, but died of his injuries Wednesday morning.

The driver of the vehicle, meanwhile, fled the scene, and investigators are now working to identify the individual.

“The Abbotsford Police Department are asking for the driver of the vehicle to do the right thing and come forward to speak with investigators,” police said in the release.

Detectives are also looking to speak to witnesses who stopped to help and act as interpreters at the scene, and are appealing to the public for CCTV and dash-cam footage that could help with the investigation.

Anyone with information pertinent to the incident is asked to call the Abbotsford Police Department.

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Surrey Mounties seeking suspect in attempted Newton-area robbery

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Mounties in Surrey are searching for the suspect in an armed robbery that occurred Tuesday night in the Newton area.

Jason Payne / PNG

Mounties in Surrey are searching for the suspect in an armed robbery that occurred Tuesday night in the Newton area.

According to Surrey RCMP, police were alerted just after 10 p.m. to an attempted robbery in progress outside a residence in the 6800 block of 148 Street.

According to reports, a young man “was in possession of a possible firearm, and demanding personal items from an adult victim,” police said in a news release.

The suspect, described as a thin, white male between 20-25 years old with brown hair, fled the scene prior to Mounties’ arrival.

Police may have arrived at the scene sooner but in responding to the incident, two police vehicles were involved in a collision at the intersection of 72 Avenue and 140 Street. The drivers of both vehicles were taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries.

Surrey RCMP are investigating the robbery as well as the ensuing crash, and are appealing to the public for witnesses who may have useful information or video footage.

Anyone with further information about the attempted robbery, or that may have CCTV footage of the suspect, is asked to contact the Surrey RCMP.


Employers seeking more ways to take on costly challenge of mental health | CBC News

by admin

Online tools for mental health are becoming increasingly mainstream as employers seek more options to support the well-being of their staff.  

In recent years experts say business leaders have shown an increasing interest in mental health issues and their impact on people and performance.

“I think there is broader, much broader recognition that this is an issue that corporate Canada needs to be paying attention to,” said Jordan Friesen, the national director for workplace mental health at the Canadian Mental Health Association.  

Jordan Friesen of the CMHA says his organization’s mental health program is increasingly popular with companies (CMHA)

While entrepreneurs have launched a number of online mental health tools for the corporate world, Friesen’s view is also rooted in subscriptions for his charitable organization’s workplace program, Not Myself Today.

“We’ve actually seen pretty remarkable growth curve for Not Myself Today, both in terms of companies that use the program as well as the growth we’ve seen in sustainable revenue as a charity,” aid Friesen.

Companies that sign up for the program receive a combination of posters, fact sheets and conversation cards on mental health, as well as access to a series of mental videos online for workers and their families.

At a cost of four dollars per year per employee, more than 450 Canadian companies are enrolled in the program.

In addition, local CMHA offices can provide things like risk assessments, referrals, and experts to lead workshops, which the organization encourages each year as part of its Mental Health Week, May 6 to 12.

Marking Mental Health Week

One business marking mental health week is LifeSpeak,a wellness company that provides an online library for its clients’ employees, including hundreds of videos featuring experts talking about a range of topics in health, family, financial and professional development. 

Danny Weill, vice-president of the 15-year-old Toronto based company, said “25 per cent of LifeSpeak’s total content would be considered core mental health programming.”

Danny Weill is with LifeSpeak, a Toronto company that has made hundreds of online wellness videos, including many on mental health. LifeSpeak is hosting a ‘mental health marathon’ for clients. (Karin Culliton/LifeSpeak)

This week its offering clients an online “mental health marathon.” The two-day event has psychologists hosting back-to-back 90-minute question-and-answer sessions, taking live questions on things like anxiety, mood disorders and supporting someone living with mental illness.

LifeSpeak has 550 clients representing seven million workers across North America, ranging from Bell Canada to the Royal Canadian Mint to Save on Foods. Weill says mental health topics always score among their clients’ most-watched videos.     

Like all of LifeSpeak’s content, the marathon can be accessed by employees anonymously through a computer or handheld device.

Kimberly Allen of Ernst and Young Canada says 45 per cent of the company’s employees are under age 30 and interested in online resources for everything, including mental health. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Ernst and Young Canada uses LifeSpeak. Kimberly Allen is in charge of benefits at the company and said she is excited about the marathon.

In addition to confidentiality, she said convenience is another big factor in making sure employees can get help: “45 per cent of our employees are under age 30, and they are interested in doing things efficiently and using technology as much as possible.”

Getting help and gamification

A recent trend in mental health support is the creation of mental health apps.   

American companies loom large in that mobile world. Talkspace claims to be the global leader in online therapy with a network of more than 3,000 therapists to help individual users and corporate client employees through online messaging.

A company called 7 Cups of Tea boasts of having helped more than 39 million people through its platform for individuals and businesses. On it users access help from “120,000 trained active listeners and therapists,” try therapeutic exercises, or play games related to life challenges. Another newer app called Sibly offers 24/7 “mental wellness coaching” through text-style messaging.  

Given the costs associated with mental health issues, there’s a financial dimension to helping people that is driving innovation.

Canadians companies are also planning to launch mental health apps, with one called Hugr scheduled for release late this year, and LifeSpeak to launch one even sooner.       

Weill said its app will have many of the engagement tools unique to the digital world, such as badges and other reward activities, but noted “there are no bells and whistles to replace an individual getting the appropriate support that they need.”

Experts agree the “gamification” of mental health does pose potential concerns.  

Dr. Nik Grujich, a psychiatrist with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto believes that in the absence of easily accessible therapy online tools and apps have a place in mental health. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

“I know that a lot of creative people are coming up with interesting tools,” said Dr. Nik Grujich, a staff psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, and a featured expert in LifeSpeak videos. 

While Grujich said he broadly supports innovation in health care and psychiatry, he’d like to see clinical research on whether these new apps and games are effective.  

Nevertheless “in the absence of easily accessible therapy, I think all other tools are better than nothing.”

Businesses backing traditional therapy  

Some businesses are backing traditional therapy to support their employees.

In January, Ernst and Young Canada announced a new benefit for its 6,000 employees and their dependents in the form of $5,000 in annual coverage for counselling or therapy. 

Allen says her company “really felt we needed to support our people by removing the financial barrier to accessing mental health services.” Starbucks also covers its employees for $5,000 in therapy each year, while Manulife offers $10,000.

At the CMHA, Friesen says the investments in mental health make sense as the barriers between work and life become more blurry. “If companies firmly believe that it is the people within the organization that drive the success of their business, then there is a natural connection to wanting to make sure those people are as healthy as they can be, both physically and mentally.”

One study even suggests companies that invest in the well-being of their workers demonstrate a higher market valuation than those that don’t.

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B.C. Ferries building more boats and seeking input on how to improve the service on them

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BC Ferries is replacing some of its aging vessels — and it’s asking for ideas to help improve the customer experience on the new ferries.

Customers have a month until April 12 to submit their suggestions online at  bcferries.com/about/nextgen or take part in the pop-up sessions on board the vessels themselves on some of the Metro Vancouver – Vancouver Island routes.

“There is still a lot to be decided as we work to keep fares affordable, reduce our environmental impact, plan for future flexibility and enhance the onboard experience for customers” said a statement from Mark Collins, BC Ferries’s president and CEO.

The Queen of New Westminster, Queen of Alberni, Queen of Coquitlam and Queen of Cowichan, serving Metro Vancouver – Vancouver Island routes are all being replaced.

“We want to hear your thoughts on the project, and your ideas about how we can improve your experience when travelling with BC Ferries,” said Collins.

The ferry operator is interested in hearing from customers about how to make improvements to

  • Accessibility.
  • Food and beverage options.
  • Family and pet areas.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Deck spaces.

BC Ferries says it is also interested in hearing about any new or innovative ideas that would enhance the public’s experience.

The new vessels are expected to set sail by the mid 2020s and will service Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen, Departure Bay-Horsheshoe Bay and Duke Point-Tsawwassen.

A contract to build the new vessels is expected to be issued next year.

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Abbotsford police seeking witnesses to home invasion

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Abbotsford police are looking for anyone with information about four men they say forced their way into a home in the city’s central neighbourhood and fled in a stolen car after robbing the residents at gunpoint.

According to a statement from police, the suspects, all wearing hoodies, entered the home in the area of Maclure Road and Horn Street Saturday at 4:30 p.m. They confronted a male and female resident, both aged 54, with a firearm and demanded money and drugs.

Police say the suspects ransacked the house and left the home with a duffel bag containing unknown items, including the keys to a black BMW parked in the driveway.

The male resident confronted the suspects in the driveway, say police, and a shot was then fired from inside the vehicle, breaking the driver’s side window.

The suspects fled in the stolen car and a white sedan was seen following behind. Police say the stolen BMW was found abandoned a short distance away.

The residents weren’t injured, but police believe this was a targeted incident.

Police are now seeking witnesses, CCTV and dashcam footage to help identify the suspects.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Abbotsford Police Department at 604-859-5225, text the department at 22973 (abbypd) or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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Victoria police seeking thief who stole senior’s electric-assist bike

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Victoria police are looking for a thief who was captured by CCTV cameras stealing a senior’s brand-new electric-assist bike.

The theft happened Tuesday, police said, at an apartment complex in the 600 block of Toronto Street.

The victim, an elderly male, said he had purchased the electric-assist bike only a day prior, and that it was essential to his ability to get around the city.

The stolen bicycle is a black Raleigh Sprite IE Electric, similar to the one pictured below.

The stolen bicycle is a black Raleigh Sprite IE Electric, similar to the one pictured here.

Handout /

Victoria PD

CCTV footage shows the suspect entering a locked bike area via the building’s parking area and making off with the bike.

The suspect is described as a white male in his mid-40s, approximately six feet tall with a slim to medium build. At the time of the theft, he was wearing a blue parka-style jacket, blue jeans, hiking shoes, and a shiny black helmet on top of a dark baseball cap. He was also wearing a large backpack.

Images from the footage have been provided in the hopes that someone might recognize the thief. Anyone who does, or has seen the bike, is asked to contact Victoria police.

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