For the last week I have been blessed with the company of two of my dearest friends. Getting to see Bali through their eyes has been like experiencing everything again for the first time. It fills me with such joy that they love this island as I do and it has been my sincere pleasure to play tour guide to them. I love the challenge of fulfilling their vacation wishes, Angie requested diving and the beach, Beth requested monkeys, fine dining and getting to see Michael Franti. I aim to please.
Along with my Julie McCoy, Cruise Director duties I am leading a retreat for 13 people from around the world. In the morning I teach a two-hour asana class, each focusing on a different type of yoga, Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga ... giving the students a taste of the various paths and hoping they will discover their kind of yoga along the way. Our evenings are filled with a restorative or Yin Yoga practice and meditation.
While I may be the one sitting up front, I feel as though I am the star pupil in the classes. My primary teachers are my mat and my students. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to share yoga with so many this month.
Beth and Angie arrived the same night the retreat began and they have covered a ton of ground in their first week here.
Our first outing was to the Sacred Monkey Forest Temple in Ubud. I am not new to the Monkey Forest, I have been terrorized, pick pocketed and generally molested by the monkeys many times now. My first visit there I bought bananas and made it about 15’ before I abandoned the fruit to a flock of too-friendly juveniles. Now I am an old hand at the art of monkey coaxing, one bunch of bananas can last me hours, each piece a photo op or a hands-on encounter for my companions.
While Beth and Angie wore out the memory cards on their cameras, I took inspiration from the inhabitants to practice Hanumonasana, the monkey god pose.
Tick monkeys off the list.
The next day we met for coffee, a trip through the local market and then a walk through the rice fields to my favorite lunch spot, Sari Organic. The girls marveled at the aquaculture, the various stages of the rice and the overall slow pace of life here. Each comment they made reflected a thought I have had, or a question I asked during my first trip to Bali and I was honored to be able to be a resource for them as their wide eyes soaked it all in.
That evening I went with the retreat students to the Tirta Empul, Holy Water Temple. As each student bathed in the sacred waters, purifying whatever they were prepared to rid themselves of I reflected on my last time there, the day my divorce was official. I feel so far away from that now, so clean, so centered, so peaceful and sure of the decisions that my still-best friend an I made last year. It’s like this whole week has been a chance for me to visit the past and to see how far I really have come.
Wednesday morning was a sunrise yoga session at the base of Mt. Batur with the retreat and then I joined Beth and Angie for a ride through some of the most picturesque terraces in Bali and to a few of the artisan villages for a bit of shopping. No matter how yogi I become I am still a consumer, I still want and on occasionally I still buy.
That evening we were invited to attend a performance by the first women’s Kechak group in Bali. My landlady, Rai, is in the group and she was very excited that we would come to support her. I have seen Kechak before, performed traditionally by men, and it is always an amazing event, but to see these women so proudly breaking down a barrier was truly beautiful. At the end of a Kechak performance there is a fire dance, where the performers and a priest lead a man into a trance state, which allows him to dance barefoot on hot coals. This part was still performed by a man, apparently in a trance or not, the Balinese women are still too smart to dance on burning embers.
That night we ate dinner at Terrazo, one of the fancier local eateries where a huge piece of seared tuna will run you about $7.50. It was a beautiful meal.
Fine dining checked off the request list.
Thursday I sent the girls off with Pande to the mother temple for the full moon celebration and from there on to Amed for some beach time. I stayed behind wrapping up the retreat and completing my first of three weeks of full-time employment.
Trip to the beach checked off the request list.
The Escape the World retreat was a fantastic learning experience for me. Thirteen students of varying levels, some completely new to yoga, others who were quite experienced. The retreat I have been working months to plan is geared more for intermediate students and so it’s curriculum didn’t really translate to this group. As a result, I got to piece together new lessons, which was a great and rewarding challenge. I really, really love leading retreats, getting to spend so much time with the students, discussing all the limbs of yoga, tailoring the practices to their styles, desires and daily energy levels, it is a completely new experience each time we hit our mats.
After our closing ceremony I hopped in Pande’s car and headed for Amed to meet the girls and have a mini vacation after my first week of ‘work’ in months. Beth and Angie greeted me with cold beverages, a $5 massage and a sunset stroll to a beach front dinner. It was blissful and one of those moments where you stop to realize that everything is absolutely perfect. Lately I have a lot of those moments, I am finding it hard to want for any more than I already have, and that is a truly wonderful state.
Saturday we went diving at a shipwreck site. The USS Liberty was torpedoed by the Japanese in WWII and then towed to the beach near Amed where it stayed until the 1963 eruption of Mt. Batur which shook the ship free from the island and sent it down to the sea floor. It was Beth’s first dive and she had to hold her regulator to her mouth the whole time out of fear that her huge grin might set her oxygen source floating away, it was so much fun to watch her have the experience. Angie proved to be an excellent diving buddy and together we explored the various rooms of the ship.
Diving … check.
That evening we enjoyed a bonfire on the beach and an impromptu karaoke session with some local troubadours on a street-side bale (outdoor platform). Beth led us in a somewhat strained, but nonetheless, complete rendition of Hotel California, and the song has been in my head ever since ... my head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop for the night.
Sunday we retraced our steps back to Ubud, stopping for lunch Tirta Gangga, the water palace. As we strolled around the fountains I felt a bit sad that I had been able to fulfill all but one of their requests. Just then, I got an SMS from my friend Gabby – Tonight. 9pm. Benefit for local clinic. Michael Franti and Friends. Flava Coffee House. Pass it on.
Wow, I am good!
Begin at the Beginning
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