Leaving India, flying out of Bangalore I was a full 20 kilos over the apparently unevenly enforced luggage weight limit. The creative counter agents began negotiations at $18 per kilo, for an opening bid of $360. I raised my voice, pierced them with my blue eyes, and the negotiations continued... I offered to remove all liquids from my bags, to start adding layers to my modest travel outfit and finally after about 45 minutes I gave them all I had, 1200 rupees, $24. The agents were disgusted with my measly 'offering'.
They asked for credit cards or if I had any US dollars. I explained that this was all I was giving up and that thanks to them now I had no money for dinner and would surely starve. After a brief conference involving every counter agent in Bangalore, they decided I wasn’t worth their time, threw my 1200 back at me and sent me on my way with no fee and all my bags checked. As I left the manager said, and I quote... “next time lady, you bring us money!”
The rest of my journey was blissfully uneventful, I did a somewhat expedited Ashtanga practice in the business lounge of the Bangkok airport and made it Denpasar in time for lunch.
Coming back to Bali really did feel like a homecoming in many ways. It’s easy, comfortable and settling.
Upon arriving I was greeted by my friend Pande’s beaming smile. He brought me to his house and I took up residence in his guest room, which months before I attended the blessing ceremony for. Pande said then that he knew I would end up being his first guest and indeed I was. His wife Kadek, daughters Putu and Kadek made me feel welcome, stuffed me with sambal and rice and the girls kept me entertained with their Balinese dancing.
Bali has a seemingly endless stream of holy days, festivals and national holidays to celebrate. Twice a year Gulangan is celebrated to honor their perseverance over the bad spirits. The last Gulangan took place the day I graduated from Yoga school, and now six months later I feel that cycle completing for me as I return to host my first retreat.
Pande’s family invited me to join them in their small mountain village for the celebration. It was an all-day affair filled with food, ceremonies and lots of sitting around waiting for the next ritual to commence. I was once again the only Westerner and much like I had been on the third class Indian train … I was like TV to them, something strange and different to be openly gawked at, smiled at and ultimately accepted into the fold.
Unless you have really been the center of prolonged, unwanted attention you can’t really grasp how truly uncomfortable it is. Most of the time I sat cross-legged on the ground and just smiled, what else is there to do when dozens of people are staring at you?
During the day of celebration I was force fed non-stop by the local villagers. It is a holiday steeped in ritual eating. Offerings are meticulously crafted, taken to temple, blessed and then doled out for all to enjoy. As we sat out front, after making our own offerings, a steady stream of devotees came, prayed and left us fruit, rice crackers, sates, you name it. Early on I tried to explain my preference for vegetables, and my aversion to unidentifiable pork products, but it was for not. Language and cultural barriers left me unequipped to refuse the offerings and so I ate, and ate, and ate.
The next day, I settled back in the apartment I lived in this past fall, right across from the resort where I did my training. It feels homey and easy, a nice combo for a weary world traveler.
I came back to Bali a bit earlier than originally planned to attend a training/retreat with Shiva Rea, the pioneer of Vinyasa Flow Yoga. She is beautiful and powerful and so free in her movements. As we practiced that first day I felt like the stiff Ashtangi in the room. Everyone else is flowing, they are so organic and unrestrained, then there is me who is like... but wait, that wasn’t five breathes, hey we skipped Chaturanga, and what do you mean move however your body tells you to?
Vinyasa Flow is the practice that first brought me to yoga. It is where the seed of yoga was first planted in me and it too feels like a homecoming. It only took me a day to get into the flow for myself again. I look forward to returning to my personal Ashtanga practice next week and am equally as excited for this opportunity to refocus on my original practice and the kind of yoga that I teach. I feel well-rounded and balanced through both practices.
The first night of the retreat, as we lay down in Shivasana, Shiva turned the recorded music off and this guitar player, who snuck in while our eyes were closed, began playing live in the room. He was AMAZING!!! His name is Steven Gold and he was accompanied by his lovely wife Anne Emily. The music was infectiously inspiring and as he played and sang Om Nama Shivaya, my mantra, the dam on my tears broke and I just started weeping. The fact that we are practicing in the same shala that I did my teacher training in, and the culmintaion of all the experiences I have had since I was here six months ago combined to overwhelm me in one steady stream of tears. It was a beautiful.
Only taking every single step along this path could have led me to be in that place at that moment and to experience it in such a powerful way. It was one of the most affirming moments I have ever known.
I tell you, the universe is kicking my ass with all these gifts. I am humbled and awakened and most of all, filled with unending love.
Begin at the Beginning
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