There’s quite a bit to fill you in on since my volcano hike, but I’ll have to backtrack in a future post, because I absolutely must tell you about my day yesterday.
Well, I’ll backtrack here a little bit too.
On Friday night I was having a lot of trouble staying asleep. I woke up at one point, around 4:00 a.m. and found myself in the midst of a little mini anxiety attack.
The fears that I arrived here with have greatly dissipated in the last couple of weeks. I have been slowly feeling myself soften and open. So to seemingly out of nowhere get struck with that level of anxiety was jarring. Like I said, it wasn’t an extreme situation. I managed to calm down and fall back asleep relatively quickly, but when I woke up the next morning, I was feeling tight, tense, foggy, and groggy.
I did my usual light stretching then headed to my favorite café for coffee and breakfast. As I journaled, and lingered, and thought about what I wanted to do with myself for the day, I decided that it’d be good for me to just have a mellow day. Just hang by the pool at the house, maybe even watch a movie on my computer. But as things work here in Bali, plans can change very quickly. So by the time I was walking home from the café I decided to stop by to see my “glam squad” and hopefully get a nice deep tissue massage. I planned to get one after the volcano trek, but I never got around to it and I could definitely feel that my body needed to work out some tension.
I walked in and they greeted me cheerfully, as usual. I asked Koma if she could do a deep tissue massage. She said, “yes, my friend here can do it.” There were only two of them there, so I think she needed to remain in the front. I hoped her friend had as strong hands as she did. Ketut was her friend’s name, and I was not disappointed. Ketut was wonderful and it was a really amazing massage. Just what I needed to let go of some of the tension.
When I left, I realized that the timing was just perfect for me to catch a meditation at Yoga Barn. I had been hearing about Yoga Barn from many people for months before I arrived. And I guess all the hype (and the exorbitant prices) turned me off, because every time I thought about going to check the place out, I felt an aversion to it. Plus, since I have my own yoga studio/meditation hall literally right outside my bedroom door, why go elsewhere? But the elements aligned this time and I felt I could really use the collective meditative energy, so I headed there to check it out.
It really was a beautiful spot. When I walked into the main hall (a bit early) the most gorgeous specimen of a human man was walking around. He was obviously one of the teachers. He looked like he was maybe Brazilian or something similar. I could then see the popularity of the place. I hoped that he wouldn’t be leading the meditation because it would’ve been way too distracting for me. I was lucky, it was some white guy, who was obviously a lovely, gentle soul, but he did not have the stupefying beauty of the other guy.
As we began the hour and a half session, he explained that there would be some gentle yoga moves to prepare our bodies for the sitting meditation. I was not planning on body movement, and not happy about it. I just wanted to sit. But the yoga was very gentle, a little yin and a little kundalini. It was actually just what my body needed on the especially hot day.
During the sit I actually had some nice moments of clarity come to me, and I really focused on letting go more and opening myself up further. I had a visual pop into my mind that was similar to parting curtains, only it took a lot of gentle, yet tough, work to get them open.
The meditation was wonderful and I was starting to feel much better. When I left the meditation hall I saw that I had missed a call and had a voicemail from one of my house mates. I’ve been getting to know the Brit and her mini Brit pretty well, and I really adore them both. Like me, they are temporary residents at the house as well. The message was from the mini Brit. How sweet it was to walk out of a meditation to hear the sound of an eight year old British boy, on my voicemail, asking me to join them for frozen yogurt. After a bit of phone tag, we managed to catch each other on the line and planned to meet up on a street corner a couple blocks away.
As I exited the Yoga Barn property, and got to the road, I walked straight into a crowded street- full of people. There was a huge procession to celebrate the Full Moon (Purnama, or Bulan Purnama). I love full moon rituals and celebrations.
In high school there used to be huge full moon drum circles around a big bonfire at the beach, all the time. I loved those parties. I’d go there and see everyone I knew from all the other high schools in the area. I think it was the only occasion to run into all my different friends from different parts of my life. I miss those parties. I wish there were more celebratory occasions like that in the States.
So, it was really wonderful to stumble upon this procession. Everyone was dressed up, in all white. Drums and music were being played in the distance. I could see people up ahead carrying big, colorful, decorative umbrellas. The energy was festive and happy. My heart was so incredibly happy, I started crying.
I was especially happy because a few days earlier I had really been starting to feel the magic of this place, but then I felt like it kind of left me.
Earlier in the week I met up with some friends of a friend who were in town. It was nice to get to hang out and be social after spending so much time alone with my thoughts. And even better that it was with some other Americans who know someone who I know. But they found Ubud a little too hustley-bustley after spending time in some serene beach towns, so they got out of Ubud and headed back to the beach. I can’t say I blame them, I’d probably feel the same had I gotten to experience that level of serenity first. It was definitely a lot for me when I got here, but I’ve settled in nicely at this point.
They were only here for about three days or so. But I guess my focus had shifted to being socially engaged, so when they left, I was surprised what an adjustment it was for me to get used to being on my own again. I think that adjustment may have partially had something to do with the anxiety.
I was worried that the magic of this place that I had settled into had gone on without me. So, walking amongst these truly beautiful humans, to honor the glorious full moon, I was so overcome with gratitude and joy. My heart was on fire!
The procession led to one of the temples where everyone either went inside or dispersed. So I just kept walking to meet the Brits.
I finally reached them and we wandered around for a little bit then headed towards the frozen yogurt shop. We got our treats then headed to the soccer field across the street so the mini Brit could kick the ball around and hopefully get a chance to play with some other kids. There were a couple of Japanese looking men throwing a really cool looking natural fiber, woven Frisbee around. Soon, some of the Balinese kids joined them. One of the men was especially silly and jovial and really fun to watch. Next thing you know, the Brits and I are in a giant circle with the two men and the Balinese children, tossing that Frisbee around to each other, as well as a second Frisbee the Brits brought. It was a really simple pleasure, but it made me so happy.
Dusk began to fall, the game started to die down and the children began dispersing. So we went and got some food at a restaurant right next door. The Brit had mentioned earlier the possibility of going to a full moon ceremony at the holy water temple and invited me along. I was very excited to be a part of any full moon ceremony, but the way plans change from moment to moment here, I wasn’t sure what would happen. She ended up making plans to go to a ceremony at an ashram near her friend’s house, and since the Brit and mini Brit were on a motorbike, she got her friend (another Brit) to zip over on her motorbike to pick me up.
This was my first time ever on a motorbike. I was scared. Especially since there wasn’t an extra helmet. But tons of people go without helmets here, and this trip is all about facing my fears. It was definitely a “let go, let God” moment for me.
I have to say, for my first time on a motorbike, it doesn’t really get much better than riding through rice fields, under a big, bright, full moon, with the silhouette of palm trees tracing the nearby horizon, and the warm Balinese wind in my hair. (Especially since the feeling of warm wind on my skin and in my hair is one of my all-time favorite sensations). My fears dissipated, my grip on the sweet girl driving loosened, and I was able to take it all in. My heart was filled with gratitude.
We arrived at the ashram and were greeted by a very happy black and white dog. I told you about the dogs here. They are scrappy. Even the dogs people have for pets don’t really seem to give a shit, and the lines can be blurred between which ones are pets and which ones are street dogs. So I generally move to the other side of the road when I see any dog here. But this dog seemed just like any other dog we’d have in the States. It was jumpy and happy. I still kind of kept my distance though. Just in case.
We wandered past the entrance, which was under construction, and entered the grounds, where we removed our shoes and were greeted by two women who were renting sarongs. Everyone had to wear all white. But I only had a white top, so I rented a white sarong for about $1.50 USD.
The friend who gave me the motorbike ride had been to these ceremonies before, so we followed her lead.
As we got inside the grounds we were greeted by a different dog. A young, soft, clean, yellow lab looking dog. With everyone dressed in white, the dog seemed to fit right in. The mini Brit loved the dog, of course, as did I. This one I couldn’t resist. It had a magical presence. And this dog accompanied us through the grounds, like a gentle spirit animal guiding us.
We walked down a cement walkway, over a bridge that crossed a creek, and our first stop was at this fountain of holy water. Each person, one after the other did the ritual of filling the cup that was there with water from the fountain, dipping one of the fragrant flowers at the water’s edge into it, using the flower to splash the water onto the top of the head (doing that three times). Then with the left hand we poured the water into the cupped right hand and were supposed to drink the water (three times). Supposedly it was totally safe to drink, but I only put my mouth to it, without really drinking. Then the head splashing again, then the feet.
As we stood in the short line (maybe just a couple of people before us) and waited for each person to do their ritual, a group of what I thought at first were monks, dressed in all white with sarongs wrapped around their heads, arrived at the scene. Later I realized that I think they might have actually just been regular guys, because everyone was dressed like that. We stood in the warm night air watching each person bow to the waters, doing their ritual, and the men started singing and chanting. We were surrounded by this beautiful chanting, all of us in white, the gentle souled dog at the side of the mini Brit. I had a hard time containing myself. I didn’t know if I wanted to cry, exclaim with glee, howl at the moon, squeal and jump up and down, or what, but again, overwhelmed with gratitude.
After that, we followed the walkway around to various other statues of deities, stopping at each one to bow and pray, one person at a time. There was an offering at each statue with various things like incense, flowers, rice, and candies, even a little box of milk at one. As we stopped at each statue to pray, the dog snatched up whatever offering was edible and would munch while we prayed. At one point the mini Brit pulled me aside to show me that the dog had even nabbed the little box of milk. I told him that in my opinion dogs are gods, just misspelled, and as far as I’m concerned the offerings went to the right place.
We continued the pathway of the gods, and at one point the stepping stones had- not quite jagged, but certainly protruding pebbles jabbing out of them. As you progressed down that part of the pathway, the pebbles on the stepping stones protruded less and became not as painful to walk on. This was supposed to represent the process of enlightenment.
Eventually we got to a little cave that you had to bend down a little to enter. Inside was a statue of Shiva on the right, and a beautiful “jewel” encrusted Ganesh on the left. We bowed and prayed to each one, then followed the narrow cave hallway back outside.
The final prayer stop was in a courtyard next to the open air meditation “hall”. There was a huge stone raised up on stairs, so I didn’t see what all was up there, but it looked like more offerings. It was centered in front of a giant gold OM and some other beautiful writing that I couldn’t read. There was a fire on a platform next to it, and some men sitting in the courtyard meditating to the sounds of the singing and chanting that was happening in the big meditation hall/hut. We walked across the small courtyard and into the meditation hall/hut and sat down with everyone else, letting the sounds sink into our souls.
I perched myself in the back with the two Brits, and the mini Brit sat front and center where the dog laid down in front of him and went to sleep. Every now and then they’d do a chant that I could join in on, like “Om nama shiviya shiviya” But most of it sounded like devotional songs, that many of the Balinese people knew the words to and sang along with, but no way I could figure any of those songs out.
At one point, the people stood up and did some traditional dancing. I watched what others were doing and followed as best I could, sometimes I was right in the flow with everyone, and other times I felt like I was just flailing my hands around, but it was such a beautiful experience to participate in. The whole time there was a little bat that kept fluttering around above our heads, like it was rejoicing in the music (although realistically just probably finding a lot of good bugs for dinner)
It was getting late so the Brit and the mini Brit headed home. The other Brit lived right next to the ashram so she was not going back to Ubud, but an Irish friend of theirs was also there and heading back to Ubud, so I shared a taxi with her and headed home.
Every moment of the day and evening yesterday felt like a gift. When I got home, I thought to myself, this night can’t be over quite yet! So I went up to my room, threw my swimsuit on, and ended my night floating in the perfect temperature saltwater pool, with the warm night air and full moon glow all around me, savoring every second, and repeating in my head, over and over, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
I was planning just a mellow day at home. And lamenting over feeling disconnected from the magic I had started to feel here. I let Bali have Its way with me last night, and It took me on a beautiful journey that only Bali could.
Have I mentioned that I love it here?