meditating at the edge of the ocean

Maintaining self care in challenging times

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Things are tough right now and we are all feeling it. This quick blog post is a gentle reminder to take care of yourself along with a few tips for maintaining your own self care in challenging times.

1. Mindfulness

The pressures of our world are part of our human existence, and a consistent mindfulness meditation practice will help you face the stressors in your life, while taking a step back from any negativity and drama.

Mindfulness is about focusing your attention on the here and now, regulating your breathing, observing your feelings and the sensations in your body without judgment. Rather than responding or reacting to negative thoughts or feelings, you merely note them and let them go. The object is to create awareness and take it into our daily lives, appreciating the remarkable gifts that life provides throughout each day

mindfulness written on a note in the window

2. Hydration

When bills and financial stressors are coming at you, don’t forget to keep up your hydration levels. And if you find yourself drinking more coffee and alcohol than usual, make sure you balance this out with clean water, fresh juices, green tea, and herbal infusions.

man on beach with stainless steel water bottle

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

3. Movement

It’s great to keep your body mobile and moving. Apart from the proven benefits to cardio-respiratory health and fitness, exercise improves the quality of your sleep while decreasing the symptoms of depression and anxiety. With age our bodies loose flexibility and strength so yoga, walking and regular gym work can all make a huge difference to our mobility and daily wellbeing.

Julie Heskins from Cairns teaches Yoga Classes
Julie recommends gentle stretching and yoga to keep your body active and supple.

4. Nutrition

A balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables can increase your energy levels and and improve your focus throughout the day. Try to avoid processed foods and anything that makes you feel heavy and tired. Your body knows best, just ask before you eat.

raw food prepared by Julie Heskins
Julie was once a big fan of pasta and pastries but began slowly eating raw vegan food and fruit-based treats instead of biscuits and cakes. She even learned to make them herself and now includes these delicious meals and desserts at her meditation retreats and reiki courses.

5. Retreat

If you can, take some time out for retreat. If you don’t have the time or resources for a lengthy detox or getaway, you could try a meditation retreat day, an overnight staycation somewhere close to home, or just taking a weekly mindfulness class.

bench seat with a painted sign behind that says 'self love'
Your spiritual practice is the ultimate act of self-love. Rather than letting it fall away when things get tough, lean into your practice.

Reiki Practice in Daily Life

The wonderful thing about the system of reiki is how much it supports us through each day. When we are in a good state of mind, not overwhelmed, anxious or afraid, then we can support others in a loving, kind and positive way.
I moved to Australia 30 years ago. My parents initially had reservations about me travelling the world. They changed their minds when they visited me to celebrate my 21st birthday. As they enjoyed the warm climate, the beautiful vistas of Kakadu and the Whitsunday islands, they understood why their only daughter had fallen in love with this incredible country!
Travel and adventure they realised was fun. After that initial taste of what travelling offered they met me in New Zealand, Thailand and other far flung places.

I settled in Cairns eventually and they came to visit a number of times. They loved it. Gorgeous places to visit like Cape Tribulation, the Tablelands, the reef and Fitzroy Island. Staying at Rainforest Reiki was a treat too and they came to a reiki share night and mum had treatments.

As they got older I asked them if they’d like to move to Australia. They always had great friends in UK and they didn’t want to. When dads health deteriorated and they could no longer travel I visited them in UK once a year.
At times when they were ill I facilitated distant reiki sessions. This is done by setting intent that the person receives whatever healing they need in that moment and then you sit in meditation holding that loving intent free of expectations and judgement. This can last 20-30 minutes.
On some level you always know when you live far from loved ones that eventually one parent will face a serious health issue. It’s how you deal with the challenges that arise that counts. The only certainty is that there’s always change in our lives.
The precepts of reiki are the backbone of the whole system. Students are taught different meditation techniques to work with these.
The precepts, or principles of Reiki are:
For Today Only:
Do not anger
Dot not worry
Be grateful
Practice diligently
To show compassion to yourself and others
By working with the meditations and other practices students create awareness. The goal is to take these practices into daily life and live from this place.
Of course it doesn’t mean we never get angry or worried! That would be in a perfect world ❤️. These precepts are the goal of the system to be less worried, less angry, more grateful and be kind and compassionate to ourselves and others. To rediscover our inner light which is always within us – we’ve just forgotten it.
Aged 87 and 85 my parents have maintained good health. Two months ago my dad rang with the news mum had had an a severe stroke and was in hospital. My reiki practice has always given me so much support with challenges and this time was no different . Taking one day at a time I’ve been able to get clear, be there for both mum and dad and support them both energetically and practically with phone calls and, more recently, visiting them in UK.
My dad has stayed positive throughout and feels loved and supported by friends and family.  He knows mum is in the best place and getting the care she needs.  Practicing reiki gives me trust that there is a flow to life and the object is to let go of outcomes and be as present as possible to what is each day.
Initially mum was unconscious and dad visited.  After 63 years of marriage they had never been apart except for a few days.
Six weeks into mum’s recovery it was clear to me I needed to go back and assess things and be there for them both.  I already had another trip planned to do Raw Chef training in Bali (creating delicious raw food for retreat days and courses is something I enjoy) and continued onto UK.   It was so good to see them both.  The staff at the hospital were lovely but mum was finding being in hospital challenging – the noise, lights and constant movement are hard on anyone, let along an old lady whose used to a peaceful life.  Facilitating reiki on the ward calmed mum and one of the nurses was enthralled!  She asked about having a session and learning – maybe in the future…
My dad has been doing well on his own. He appreciates the support he gets from friends and the retirement village community. He can cook, do laundry and manages with little help.  Mum will hopefully be able to keep improving and return home so they can be together again.  I am now back in Cairns and will continue to do distant reiki for us all.
The intent for the best possible outcome for them both is paramount. ❤️❤️🙏😀.

Reiki for Pets

Getting close to animals with reiki and meditation
Reiki with pets. The joys of petsitting

I love animals and am also a passionate traveller.  Pet sitting offers the opportunity to do both.
It’s a win win situation helping owners and having quality time with their pets.  It’s fun and has its challenges.  Pets have minds of their own and aren’t shy to show their true colours sometimes!
One of my favourite pet sits was for a white feisty terrier called Blossom (pictured above). On our first meeting Blossom growled and barked and her devoted mum and dad explained that she had a strong personality.  Her name, ‘Blossom’ suited her perfectly.  It’s always good to be direct with owners to see whether you’re going to be the right fit for their precious pet.
‘How did Blossom go with the previous pet sitter’ I asked.  They admitted Blossom barked aggressively at the poor woman for the first week!
Reiki has many benefits and I felt certain that Blossom would respond well to it.
Just as humans experience anxiety and stress when situations change so do sensitive animals.
The owners went off on a cruise and I moved in.   On arrival Blossom complained noisily that I was not her family.  I promptly sat on the sofa in meditation, set an intent she received whatever she needed at that moment and did a 20 minute reiki meditation session with her.  The barking quickly abated, Blossom calmed down and peace was restored.
I continued including Blossom in my meditation practice each day and Blossom accepted me, wagging her tail enthusiastically whenever I arrived home.  She was a special girl and I’d take her back to Rainforest Reiki some days.  She greeted clients with a few barks and then would quietly settle under the reiki table enjoying being in the reiki space.
Do pets reflect their owners?  I think they do.  Another of my favourite pets is Pappi.  Pappi is a medium sized dog of mixed lineage who was very well trained and super intelligent. Similar to her quiet, smart mum who also has a playful sense of humour :).
It’s always a gift to care for a well trained dog.  Walking her on the beach without a lead was a joy.  Trust is so important and, with Pappi, she would come to me to have her lead put on if she perceived a threat from another dog.  Intuition and wisdom is something, for most of us, that needs to be developed whereas Pappi knew who she could trust.  We can learn so much from our pets, even when they are in our care for a short time.
Cats are also a favourite of mine.  Especially Missy who lives on property in the Tablelands.  Cats are independent creatures and remind me of myself!  Missy was a bit stand offish initially but over time she has grown into a sweet and affectionate companion.  On my last visit she jumped through the bedroom window every morning for meditation, curling up contentedly in my lap.
Even the sweetest cat will show their true nature of course.  I awoke early with plans to join an online retreat with my reiki teacher.  In the dark I heard the crunch crunch of a small animal being munched.  Discovering bits of it spread across the room, a gift for me I presumed, reminded me of the reasons I don’t need a pet of my own!! Needless to say, I watched a recording of the class later in the day 😀🙏.
Life is about learning and experience and as animals shine their light on us we can learn from them.  Yin yoga came about from the founder, Paulie Zinks’ study of animals and the way they move.  Animals innately stretch, move and rest to conserve energy and remain flexible and strong.
I’m grateful to all the pets and their owners who have trusted me to look after them.
group of ladies on retreat wtih julie heskins Cairns

The Importance of going on Retreat

As twenty-first century life becomes more complex, stressful, and challenging many people are allowing themselves time out for retreat. A retreat is an opportunity to get away from the stress and demands of our everyday lives and do something positive for ourselves.

In this short blog I’ll be unpacking some of the key benefits of retreat and a few guidelines to help you find a suitable retreat in your area. I run regular retreats here in Cairns and Far-north Queensland but you might need something a little closer to home.


Studies show that meditating even for as little as 10 minutes increases the brain’s alpha waves (associated with relaxation) and decreases anxiety and depression.

Psychology Today

Often retreats offer a chance to practice new things like yoga, meditation and Reiki.  It’s fun to try new things and also build or reconnect to existing knowledge.

Go on retreat with an open mind and be willing to try meditation and other spiritual practices. You will be amazed at how peaceful and rejuvenated you will feel by the end.

Even better, you might learn new meditation practices which you can bring into your daily life once you get back home.


Social engagement is associated with a stronger immune system, especially for older adults. This means that you are better able to fight off colds, the flu, and even some types of cancer.

Psychology Today

A retreat should be a good balance of personal time, exercise, doing practices which focus on your wellbeing and a chance to socialise with others.

Connecting with like minded people is also something that’s very beneficial.  We can all learn from each other.

group of ladies on retreat wtih julie heskins Cairns
Connecting with like-minded people is one of the best things about retreat.

Great Food

Nutrient deficiencies are implicated in many mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Psychology Today

A lot of people think that retreat is about extreme dieting and denial, but this isn’t true. Retreat is always about wellbeing and should include good healthy food options that inspire you.

Ask your retreat host when booking about the type of foods you’ll be eating and the availability of different dietary options.

2021 meditation retreat with julie heskins
A retreat is never about denial, it’s about experiencing new and delicious foods that promote good health and long-term wellbeing.


Scientists are finding exercise boosts neuron development and reduces anxiety.

Psychology Today

Exercise is great tonic for mental health and a well-run retreat will include a nice selection of physical activities. Gentle yoga, tai-chi, Reiki, swimming, and walks in nature are all lovely on retreat.

It’s wonderful to try new exercises that improve your strength and flexibility. And in a group setting under the guidance of an experienced teacher you just might surprise yourself.

Practicing yoga and other physical activities in a group is a joyful experience.


Being in nature lowers cortisol, reduces heart rate, bolsters immunity, improves mood, among other gains.

Psychology Today

Look for a retreat that is set in nature where you can experience grounding and find peace and quiet.

On retreat it’s important to minimise distractions.  Leave the phone in your room during sessions or even for the whole retreat!  

yoga student meditating at Rainforest Reiki in Cairns QLD
Meditating in nature has so many benefits like lowering cortisol and reducing heart rate.

Final thoughts

Odd as it may seem, taking real, quality time to “escape” from your everyday routine and reflect on your own life is actually one of the best things you can do for the people who matter in your life.

Psychology Today

I hope I’ve been able to convince you that Retreat is a healthy act of self-care that can have a big impact on your overall wellbeing. Programming regular time out for yourself, learning meditation and other spiritual practices, will not only reduce your stress levels but better enable you to support the people in your life.

Of course I’d love to see you at one of my retreats in the tropical rainforest of Far-north Queensland, but no matter where you are in world do take some time to experience the benefits of a meditation retreat in the place that’s best for you.

Upcoming Retreats in Far-north Queensland

Julie hosts regular retreats in Cairns, Mission Beach and the Atherton Tablelands. For more information call +61 438 537365 or email Cairns has daily flights from all major cities in Australia.

lady on meditation stool in a quiet garden

5 Ways to Avoid Distractions While You Meditate

Home » Blog » Meditation

The quickest way to end a beautiful meditation 3 minutes in, is to a hungry kid, stressed housemate, or boisterous pet. It’s hard to build a regular meditation practice when you are constantly getting interrupted, so here’s a few tips for enjoying the whole experience.

Continue reading “5 Ways to Avoid Distractions While You Meditate”
yoga student meditating at Rainforest Reiki in Cairns QLD

Why Learn to Meditate?

Home » Blog » Meditation

Good question!  In my backpacker days I’d seen Tibetan monks chant as I travelled through China.  It left me with a sense of awe and inner peace.  Earlier during the same trip we had visited a monastery where monks kindly invited us to join them for yak butter tea (definitely an acquired taste!).  We spoke no Tibetan & they spoke no English.  It didn’t matter, we laughed together & they were warm & welcoming hosts.  Their natural joy seemed misplaced as their native homeland was being invaded by the Chinese.

Time passed, I emigrated to Australia & friends who were travelling around the world arrived in Cairns & shared their experiences of a Vipassana meditation retreat in New Zealand.

For 10 days they had done seated meditations which seemed very brave considering they had never meditated before.  It was physically challenging for them but they came away feeling a deep sense of connection.
They inspired me to book a 10 day silent retreat in Thailand. A mixture of walking, working & seated meditation.

An Initial Experience

I realised how busy and distracted my mind was. As I practiced being present everything became clear. Meals were simple but when you ate mindfully you were aware of flavours, texture, & colours. A feeling of gratitude & appreciation for the food, the nuns preparing it and our hosts naturally arose.
After lunch we would walk up a hill in the grounds that overlooked Koh Phangan. I noticed the lizards would come and sit with us.  In my garden at home now I appreciate that when we slow down, listen & focus you see the beauty of what’s around you & the wildlife comes closer.

What Meditation Gives You

We are not our thoughts, our emotions or our fantasies and when you meditate regularly you realise this. Instead of clinging & identifying with them you recognise them for what they are, events that are passing through our minds. We remember the past & get anxious about the future but that is not our truth.  As we become more present, letting go of our worries and anger, we also have more energy.
Living so externally in this material world you realise that when you go within so much is revealed. Life becomes happier when you are calm and balanced.

Coming Home

After the retreat I returned home, life got busy and my intentions of having a regular meditation practice disappeared! Determined to reconnect to meditation I went to the local Buddhist Centre & started practicing once more.
Learning traditional Japanese Reiki in 2010 I discovered a system of Reiki that included a variety of different meditations & techniques. Practicing these over the years has deepened my practice considerably.

Why learn to meditate?

When you practice daily you see the benefits. It effects everyone around you – your kids, family & work colleagues.  You become calmer & more patient and this state of mind is reflected back to you.

The other wonderful thing about meditation is you can do it anywhere, on a chair, a cushion or even seated on a bed, whatever is comfortable for you.  Of course it’s wonderful to do it at retreat, but really all you need is you.

My goal is to inspire others to find their light within & for me, meditation is the key that unlocks that door.