Wonderland

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Nyoman carries me on the back of a motor bike to the hotel where I wait for the charming Aussie couple. In the adjoining snazzy restaurant overlooking a flower strewn pond and lush fruit trees I sip fresh lemon tea drizzled with the most delectable honey. The bees in Bali must be blessed for the honey here is beyond amazing; the bees are adept tantrikas. We are joined by another goddess from Australia, a petite beauty dressed in the most adorable magenta yogi wear and all hop into a car.

The driver zooms on the left side of the road to Canggu, an hour long ride passing through many villages, rice fields, volcanoes, magic, where we enter the gate of a resort villa called Desa Seni and are greeted by a throng of smiling staff.

I am in a fairytale, down the rabbit hole I go! The grounds are colorfully decorated with fresh flowers and incense, kind employees at a moment’s call. There are two large open-aired studios as well as space near the pool for workshops. The festival is in preparation for the upcoming Bali Spirit Festival, to bring together the local kula (community) of Bali in addition to being a fundraiser for HIV. Donations are compassionately requested; the program is a twelve hour yoga/music/dance-a-thon as a form of energetic seva (selfless service).

The entire day is filled with high vibe communal bliss. Workshops one hour in length and cover all forms of yoga, dance, hooping, sound, meditation. I begin my day with an hour long class by John; he is a brilliant teacher, offering three different variations for each posture. His thirty years of experience shine as he instructs through various asanas, which literally translates to “comfortable seat”. Truth. All are at ease.

The time does not allow for pranayama practice and a final meditation so we imagine, quickly, doing so, another distinctive technique that I will too share when classes are short.  AwaHoshi presents next. She is a goddess in her element, sharing wisdom from all realms of consciousness. Her bright blue eyes sparkle familiarly and as she begins to speak enthusiastically I recall that I was graced by her presence two months ago in a small café in Abadiania, Brazil. The circle comes around.  Plant-based nutrition, living passionately, fearlessly, putting no limits on ones dreams…she spreads her wealth of knowledge. AwaHoshi is a beam of light. We all lay on thick sticky black yoga mats with our heads to the semi-circle of white crystal bowls, closing our eyes and melting into floor as the vibrations of sound fill the space. The acoustics are a pure source of sound and a complete octave. We drift into a profound level of consciousness, receiving deep healing and personal expansion. Total body relaxation.

I introduce myself and embrace AwaHoshi, thanking her for being the divine spirit that she is and more. We all head to enjoy a vegan buffet lunch, prepared with organic produce grown on the villa land. Purple basil, lemongrass, cilantro, and avocado are some of the delectable ingredients of the spread that includes vegetarian versions of local dishes. Fresh ginger tea, coconut and purified water for hydration.

Some are nourishing their bellies as classes continue; others are lounging in or by the pool which is surrounded by chaises and bamboo gazebos for shading from the midday heat.

A perky petite girl approaches me shortly after lunch, we have met in other lives many times before. She is a yoga teacher for children in Ubud and originally from northern NJ.  I feel the fairies that surround her. She advises me about visa extensions, finding a sponsor, the holistic community of Ubud, life in Bali. It seems as if I am being guided to set up a less than temporary life here in Ubud; I have been introduced to so many of the leaders of the tribe, the studios to teach in, meditation centers, kirtan nights, who to call for immigration assistance or for a fair priced taxi ride, where are the best places to sip a green juice or to purchase a kilo of flax seeds, the days and times of the organic produce markets, the best beaches, the one family in Indonesia that holds a weekly Shabbat dinner.

It is a blessing to be part of a clan here in Ubud, a feeling just yesterday that sensed so perfect, yet today I am feeling a bit confused in whether this is a location I should plant more permanent seeds (despite signs encouraging me to stay). Which direction, which path to choose?

I must also admit I was a bit annoyed by an incident earlier in the morning, my issue to munch through but will share anyway…before I started the workshops I was sitting in a communal area enjoying a cup of tea with two other teachers in fashionable yoga garb with sparkly bindis in the center of their foreheads, discussing the bliss of it all…yogi this and yogi that, and was kindly asked to be joined by another goddess (who jokingly stated how she felt honored to be sitting with teachers for she defined herself as a long-term student) and clearly traveled alone to the event. This goddess continued to share, about living in Bali for two months, her hippy childhood, the death of her mother, perhaps a bit much for an introductory conversation but also a clear sign she needed support. Both teachers excused themselves within a few moments of her speaking, not lending a hand to the sister in turmoil. My stomach churned as they walked off.

I am of the opinion that one should assist selflessly and as a teacher, especially one who defines themselves as a yogi, one should lend a hand even more eagerly when another brother or sister is in a state of hardship. Yes, this solo sister was a holy wreck, energetically draining in all forms, but unmistakably needing an ear, a friend, some love. Ten minutes or so of time passed and I suggested she follow me to John’s class and the crystal bowl session.

I am sensitive and am learning how to not to absorb other people’s energies, a skill that takes practice. I feel this sad sister’s shit, all of it, sensing her dramas intuitively before she even speaks and can understand why one who is too sensitive may choose to not engage, honoring oneself, but when one approaches with such fervent craving for some love, it seems unkind to turn away. All is perfect.

The last class I attend is a basic Hatha yoga class, one that is amazingly slow and restorative. As I deepen my own practice I find a genuine appreciation for gentle movement where one can become more aligned with one’s breath and feel each and every intricate crevice of one’s body. Sometimes there is no need to stand on one’s head or to put one’s ankle behind one’s neck. Simplicity and grace.

There is need to leave my couch space in the villa in Ubud and organically, without any search of the streets needed, I am passed a card of a homestay by the Aussie sister on the ride back from Canggu. The price is affordable, hot water included. I am excited to dorm with a Balinese family.

The driver assists me in transferring my gear from the villa to the new location giving us a bunch of time to chat about how the Balinese are sincerely devout, brimming with love, and about the sacred energy that pours out of all corners of the island. We will meet on the following Wednesday for a tour of some of the holy locations. He kindly bargains a fair exchange, imparting wisdom: “When you plant rice, you get rice. If you plant rice, you will never get corn….If you do good karma, you will receive good karma”. He understands my backpacker budget and will aid me in exploring Bali regardless. Gratitude.

The homestay location is a pleasant twenty minutes from the center of town but closer than the villa, away from the bustle of the motorbikes that line the streets, and only a couple doors away from Alchemy (a raw vegan juice and dessert bar). Nyoman and Bubu insist on helping me with anything I may need, transportation, tours, bottles of water, etc., also encouraging me to dine in the attached restaurant if hungry. I have heard through the grapevine that Bubu’s Warung (restaurant) makes the best sambal* in Bali and am excited to sample her creations.

Shower and a short walk across the road leads me into a meditation center where members are dressed in all white with silver pins reading Om Shanti over their left breast. At the front of the tiny temple room is a large rust colored image with white orbs and a single bright light shining through the center. It looks like a representation of the cosmos. A few flower displays corner the celestial picture as well as a picture of an Indian teacher. I inquire about the center and am invited to come to the Monday night beginning session, a free five day evening course of Raja yoga study. Led out the door by a calm sister who demands I take a piece of homemade spice cake, “I must leave with sweetness” she says. Awesome.

Dream time.

*Sambal is Indonesian salsa or chutney and is made in various forms, the most common being a raw version of red chills ground in a mortar and pestle with tamarind sugar, lemongrass, shallots, lime, salt. Sometimes fish pastes are added, sometimes tomato, garlic, or ginger, sometimes it is cooked, depending on the dish in which it is served alongside.

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