Finding Balance In Bali

image

Swooping into Bali on the eve of Nyepi, Balinese new year and day of silence, the streets are packed with revelers, smiling faces, singing and loud noise crackers. Crews from local temples have hoisted large daemon statues into the air and are parading on every street corner. For the typically laid back, relaxed Balinese people I would come to know, this was quite the extraordinary celebration. Waking up the next day and being legally required to stay in your home compound and relax, I slowly tasted this new setting.

 

It’s a strange feeling to arrive in the tropical paradise of Bali and receive the knowing that after two years of spiritual journeying the desire to travel is finished. The universe has been mysteriously pulling me towards Bali for over a year now, without a promise of why, but a knowing that something was waiting for me. I have arrived and suddenly I want to run away, I am anxious and scared, and beginning an existential crisis. I want solitude and warm clothes and a cup of hot tea. That is not your typical response to landing in the lush garden of Bali, but for me will be a critical turning point in my inner world.
image
After the solid support of India’s meditation, and meeting daily with enlightened masters, I find myself adrift in the laid back waters of this tropical paradise. With smiles and yoga, raw juice and food, techno nomads and water sports at every turn, I find this life of leisure a boring routine after so many months on the road. It’s a beautiful picture of a daily world, but I am lost and must be found. My ego must answer a new question that has been building in me: “Who am I and what am I going to do in this life?” Suddenly the question of practical life has reared it’s head in asking the most fundamental questions. What do I want to do to support myself? What skills do I actually have? Can I take my dreams and ideas and do something practical about them?
f5bc9a68_original
I am living in a beautiful villa courtesy of my new friend Salvador. The wildly charismatic, successful, Ashtonga yogi, and restaurant builder from Los Angeles whom I met in India. He is living a perfect balance of work and play, and is an example to me in this difficult time. After slowing down an 80 hour a week restaurant life to balance his spiritual practice and work, he is flowing in the universal juices more than ever. Watching him navigate new business ideas and deals from conception to reality, making friends with yogis and strangers in cafés, and absorbing the meditation world of Osho, I’ve seen levels of synchronicity I’ve forgotten existed. It’s all just a reminder to trust more deeply, that energy flows, to live a life that you love, and embrace yourself in the mystery of existence.
10431667_10100324487596341_7907335649558984020_n
It’s hard to know the full impact my new mentor in business will make on my life, but I know that my ego took a rough couple weeks of beating before I found my balance. It’s safe to say that I’ve been living a life focused only on my inner work for the last two years. Suddenly living in this new energy of business, practical life, meditation, and creation begged me to answer the question of what do I really want to build in my life and can I overcome the fear to actually do it? The rhetoric answer has always been my sustainable meditation community and my mind fed this back to me in one hundred different ways. Despite the fact that I don’t think I have the skills needed at this moment to accomplish this entire task, I was counting on my desire and inner knowing to pull me through. I was trying to answer the question of how to do this all in my head. Plans, figures and resources needed, locations and promotional success and again and again I was driving myself into a hole of pressure and trying to answer a question that couldn’t be answered without action.

 

This is the quality of the ego my friends. It will take you to the depths of despair, uncertainty, and fear so that it can maintain it’s power and keep you from living the fullness of your life. Despite battling this exact scenario and foe on many occasions, it still gets the better of me from time to time. You have to let it all go. You have to trust yourself and life. And above all else you have to stop trying to answer unanswerable questions. There is an answer of course in your heart, but never in the vicious circle in your own mind.
image
I finally managed with the help of some outside observers and patient support to settle down and put these mental questions aside. I began slowly to focus on the present moment and support myself with positive self talk, meditation, and simple daily goals. Most importantly I just stopped trying to answer these very dear and important questions when they popped up. Wouldn’t you know that a few days later I was calmed down. I could see the beauty of Bali and I could enjoy my life again. I could find my center and my authentic longing to live life once again. I could find my prayer, and my love, so that I could express my unique presence in each activity I did no matter how small. From this place, all those important questions seem so easy and simple. A matter of one foot In front of the other and remembering this is the most important remembering one can have.
image
I see many people wrestling with this one issue of trying to answer some deep inner question and never finding the answer. Osho has taught me that there is no answer, but the task is to take away the question. The heart deals with how to love and express and experience life. From this place there are no problematic questions as such. There are questions like how can I be in more gratitude, how can I feel the depths and heights of this human life, how can I better serve humanity, how can I be one with the universe, God, and love? These are also unanswerable questions, but the quality is instead a deepening and expanding of the life force. It makes you feel good to wonder these things. Alternatively trying to answer, what to do, am I good enough, and can I trust I’ll be taken care of deplete this vital source of happiness and energy to the point we fall asleep in life and forget the beauty that surrounds us.
image
As I woke up myself, I woke up to Bali. The food was better tasting, the people more loving, the whole situation was a pleasure to find myself in. I promptly took a vacation to the beach to surf and scuba for a few days. Out of the hustle of Ubud and the entrepreneurs, I finally relaxed into beach life and the beautiful meditation that is scuba diving. Spending my mornings exploring a vast, mesmerizing, alien world while floating in three dimensions is nothing short of meditation. Breath in, breath out, float up, float down, repeat. In those depths I found myself again and my efforts of centering were only growing more and more. I suddenly had three days left in Bali and the beauty had just found my heart.
603807_10153356796181282_6299275285401792825_n
*Courtesy of Carolyn McDonough
Perhaps it is knowing that something is going to end that helps make it all the more beautiful. We could cling instead to what is departing and suffer the inevitable outcome or embrace the fleeting beauty of experience. My ego has a pattern that has become quite familiar to me when it is time to leave a place. It tries to have every good experience again squeezed into just the final days. This is most often expressed by trying to eat every delicious food I know of. Such a silly idea because you just create a belly ache and then none of the food tastes good anymore. This is the egos way of trying to have everything, and in reality keeping you from accomplishing anything.  I’ve settled on going completely against this notion and try to have an entirely new day of experiences on my last day. New experiences are ultimately the only kind of experience we can have and any attempt at repeating one is met sadly with lackluster results.
11091354_10100324487526481_3683126616439728794_n
Salvador, Maria, new friend Jamie, and myself took a beautiful morning ride through Bali’s rice fields and palm trees to say goodbye to beloved yogi friends and master teachers. Followed by a trip to puri nugong kawi to sample the meditation caves of monks long past. Our real goal was the secret waterfall behind the temple where we plunge into the cold waters on this bright morning and feel the power of nature and come alive in her magnificence.
1484237_10100324490370781_7161442142874365195_n
My favorite experience it turns out is the Balinese water temple. You take a prayer Into the waters and before the twelve holy spouts you dunk your head and cleanse your heart. With each successful cleansing the prayer gets deeper and deeper. More longing and truth come out and you end up with the most beautiful process of cleansing your heart and knowing you are one with God. All the things you want, all that you are grateful for, all the love you wish to experience has been felt in that cold rush of holy water. Cold and wet, but perfectly happy, I can feel why ceremony is so important to the Balinese lifestyle.
image
We finish this spectacular last day with a long planned visit to mosaic. The most expensive restaurant on Bali and one of the best restaurants of south east Asia. While only moderately priced for western standards, this meal blows me away. Over 40 people have a hand in each dish, with expert execution and an emphasis on local flavors, this is easily one of the best meals of my life. Each plate has so many perfectly balanced elements to delight the senses I am in awe of how much effort went into each plate and there will be ten of them, for each of us, depending on our dietary preferences.
image
During this meal a strange thing occurred, but of course was orchestrated by the universe for my benefit. Having 12 people, we were split into two tables and my preference was to sit with my new friends and a particularly interesting gentleman with sufi background that I wished to know better. As such, it turned out I would sit with Maria, Sal, and three new friends, two of whom are from Kansas City. Small talk was polite and semi interesting, but the bomb came when Maria and I finally had a talk about our time spent here and the energetic issues we could never quite talk about with any depth. Often times you need a friend or even stranger to help you see the patterns which are obvious to an outsider yet oblivious to yourself. Thus the crux of my reason for being in Bali was made known to me.

 

I don’t know what the center of my power and identity of self is. Maria, thankfully a master in her own sense of identity, let the axe fall so to speak and gave me a strong dose of truth. It takes a strong person to deliver that kind of truth and be comfortable doing so. It is true that when I arrived in Bali I could not find my support, the base on which I could stand and be relaxed in my self. In India, Osho holds that place of support which I now understand more fully why I feel so comfortable there. This lesson is about being out in the world and finding my own inner support that doesn’t waver. Maria needed support as well and when we turned to each other in Bali and couldn’t support the other, problems arose. Our mutual support turned out to be Salvador who was a rock of joy and enthusiasm for living life each day in paradise. While I was struggling to find myself and battling my ego I did learn a few things.
image
Trying to answer a question in your head, for example brooding about something, is useless as the answer cannot exist there. If it did, you would have answered it, but since it isn’t, that is the egos way of running you in a circle to assert its importance and generally just tire you out. Remedy; put aside that thought entirely and replace it with action or positive self talk or prayer.

 

Laziness comes in many forms. If you cannot constantly apply yourself in your own life, slowly a type of sleep begins to master parts of your life. I was living more in thoughts and dreams than being active in creating the life I wanted. I needed to be more myself and take some risks. For fear of upsetting another person or some imagined status quo, I lazily placated myself and everyone by being “the good boy”. Sometimes you just have to stir the pot and be a bit crazy; upset some people, say something daring, be exciting. There is no need to be mean, but without poking people or yourself at times, you become lazy to your own growth and fall asleep.
image
What is your base of support and are you in control of it? I mean, is your base located inside or outside of yourself. Mine has been an external support, that of meditation and community. To bring that locus of control inside, to an internal support is a self growth exercise. Finding out what you can stand on is vital to branching out while being in your authentic power. This is where the confidence to support yourself, emotionally, spiritually, and materially comes into play. With that deep knowing, you are able to rest in your natural self and apply yourself in any endeavor.

 

I have struggled with this area of personal identity. With so much meditation and letting go of attachments, my cunning ego also found ways to exist with this new spiritual mindset. When you let go of excitement, curiosity, wonder, preferences, new ideas, and expansion, you begin to live a flat life, not a real life of non-attachment. Non attachment is a very positive state, you can delight in all things, especially the small things. Somewhere I forgot this state of being. The spiritual journey is full of dangers without any guarantee of being found. Which makes the process of being found such a wonderful experience. The more I wake up to the fact I was sleeping, the more I enjoy my own process of waking up.
image
That is the whole trick I believe. Once you start on the road of waking up one step at a time, everything will find its own place. Allow the beauty to be your focus and put all the concerns of the mind to the side. Bali was a wake up call, ripe with hidden teachers and lessons. It doesn’t take traveling halfway across the planet to learn these lessons, you can wake up to your life right where you are. It takes a little focus, it takes a little effort, and in the end you keep taking it one step at a time.
image
Bali was about finding balance between the internal and the external. It started a new dialogue that will move me along the path. I am thankful to all the teachers and strangers who stepped on my path to show me the way. Those that help remind me to keep waking up, to keep moving forward, to keep shining my own beautiful light, because one day I will realize myself and that will make all the difference.

 

Many blessings to you and your journey. May you find your way happily.

 

Workaway Round 2: Japan

10338687_10100226658336961_6487626720708170609_n My success with workaway experiences is beyond my imagination, and there are still so many opportunities available. It might be a little premature, but based on my track record, workaway attracts a certain kind of individual, both host and guest, that epitomizes the essence of traveling and trying new experiences. I find volunteering while traveling a highlight of every adventure, just like couchsurfing, you are instantly introduced into a new culture with friends and a network that often bring you fabulous new experiences. This time I am helping in a Japanese/Vietnamese cafe a few hours train ride from Tokyo, Japan. Yaizu is a small town in which it would never have crossed my mind to visit, but it isn’t the local attractions that grab your attention, its the wealth of open minded and well traveled Japanese people that will end up making this stay memorable.
image
I happen to have hit the traveling jackpot, being dropped into work at a little cafe in which the owner and clientele form a well rounded network of interested Japanese who wish to share various kinds of experiences with me, the foreigner.  Oddly enough, I have met a fair amount of foreigners already in this small town, mostly of the ilk who have married into Japan and now live here as their primary residence. It may just be that I am 8 years older than my last visit to Japan, but everyone seems to take my presence as quite normal, often starting off in perfect Japanese as I should be expected to know the language.  This is quite a difference from the last visit, where being a foreigner was more of a rare experience, and perhaps has to do with a maturity level that shows clearly on my face. This grouping of people however, mostly speak at least two languages if not four, and have traveled about as well as I have. The feeling about the place is like a grouping of friends living the small town life, but each bringing something interesting to the table.
 image
I recall saying an interesting thing in regards to work versus play when quitting my job two years ago; I would be happy to sling noodles in Japan and not call it work, because it is a new experience for me, and that is play. It’s strange little thoughts and desires like that, which you might only be saying off hand, which the universe always finds an interesting way to answer. I find myself laughing because each day the number one dish being served is pho; Vietnamese noodle soup. While not what I imagined, it is what I asked for.  As for other kitchen skills, I am now a master of spring rolls after having done well over 100 of them. No more the sloppy, lightly rolled behemoths I started with, they are well shaped, firm and dainty.
 10690320_10100226659015601_3078135424604756071_n
While the learning curve for Vietnamese food isn’t very strenuous, due to my love of food and working in the kitchen, the language curve is. Thankfully my host intuitively understands how to speak Japanese to me and also speaks much better English than my level of Japanese. She has me interacting with customers from day one, and after I release my fears of speaking English or messy Japanese, I am getting along quite well. Every day a new friend comes into the cafe for lunch and I get to introduce myself and use as much communication as is possible, mostly listening, but answering when I can. Of the many friends who visit, a few expand my experience by taking me out for various things.
 image
One day, I got to attend a tea ceremony practice session, kimono dress up and all. Watching a tea ceremony is great, as long as your legs don’t hurt too badly from sitting on them, but watching a teacher instruct students on the proper movements and etiquette is well worth attending.
10348994_10100226658975681_1627777168010576150_n
I was able to attend an after school program for the ubiquitous experience of playing with a bunch of over interested kids, wearing me out playing soccer and tag.  There was a house party where everyone got to make okonomiyaki, the Osaka famous pancake. There was a ramen fest going on in the next city, Shizuoka, and I sampled these delicious variations.
image
I visited a yoga studio for a free class and my first kirtan, complete with a harmonium for the real Indian musical feel. Oddly enough I never experienced kirtan in India, the joyous chanting of Sanskrit, something I feel a bit remiss about and will remedy soon. Along the musical avenue, I was also fortunate to be in town for a djembe concert put on by the owners of the yoga studio.26c7bee0_original
*Photo by Dai via Air BnB, Visit Here
I was also fortunate enough to meet a new friend, Dai, who owns a traditional Japanese home over 90 years old.  Dai is also a world traveler and English speaker, who uses air bnb to rent out half his property to entertain excited guests, and also works in the numerous bamboo forests, cutting 50 foot tall stalks. I was happy to visit his home and experience the beauty of this traditional cabin, if I may use that word. We were also so like minded that we surprised each other by stating we will be visiting Mooji in Rishikesh at the same time this February for the wonderful experience of darshan.
 10407714_10100223946641221_7894786128945930962_n
I was also lucky enough to be here at the right season for something wonderfully fall, and close to every Japanese heart; Inekari, the fall rice harvest. Once the rice has gone through the laborious process of being sprouted and planted, the mature plant is then cut down and hung over bamboo to dry. Traditionally this was done by hand which I experienced, but modern technology has produced the combine which goes to town cutting and bundling together the rice while you walk behind it.  Its a family fun event which makes the work a lot easier with friends. There are all kind of bugs whose homes we are destroying so the kids have plenty to do when helping is no longer fun. Catching frogs, grasshoppers, and playing in the mud seems to be fond memories of many children in this country. With the help of about 15 people we finished two small fields which each produce about 120kg of rice. Each field is enough to feed two people for a year when only eating rice, or perhaps 3 now with bread and noodles included in the diet. It was a beautiful day that truly felt like fall to me and an experience I am grateful for.
 10653340_10100223947334831_3153665144975335890_n
I would be remiss if I didn’t share my honest experience which has made this workaway something truly special. While everything I have done as part of my volunteer experience has been everything a workaway experience could be, I have been gifted something more. There is a special energy about this particular cafe, and in truth, stems from the owner.  Haru-san, my wonderful host, has a special energy about her, one of tremendous joy and mirth, laughing constantly all day with many smiles, even while working long hours.  This is slightly askew from the typical Japanese personality, but like everyone I’ve met through this cafe, people are a bit more open and ready to share themselves. I find myself overwhelmingly excited to wake up each day, not knowing what new experience will be offered to me today, but certain that much laughter, dancing, and smiles will accompany it.  It is this overwhelmingly simple joy that surprisingly catches us both off guard and from which we begin our relationship.
 10624898_587397588032073_2042458606624081625_n
*Haru is on the right
Having been a couchsurfing host for over 200 people, I am well aware of my feelings about this type of thing in a host/guest type relationship. It has always been my private understanding that as a host I never initiate anything because that would violate the unspoken rules of providing an emotionally safe space for my guest. I am also aware that many hosts and guests end up together for various reasons which rely heavily on their mutual feelings, something I have not experienced till now. However, a guest is free to do as they please and honoring my own beliefs, shared my feelings with my host because they were honest and I would have done so no matter the outcome. Strangely enough this wonderful and busy woman, whom for her own reasons has not had time or inclination to start a relationship in recent years, surprises herself and says yes to me. This obviously changes my workaway experience in quite large terms, but I honor the ways in which the universe works and for the opportunities in which new experiences of all kinds may enter my life.
 image
Traveling is exactly this experience. Setting your intention to go somewhere and then allowing the experience to unfold before your very eyes. It includes all those little voices of desire in your mind, and with hindsight, find that what you had asked for, was neatly wrapped up in a joyous experience you could not have planned or predicted, because originality is the joy of being surprised. As its been often said, letting new experiences happen is the key to joy. Anyone can plan a perfectly well organized vacation and pull it off, but you won’t really experience something new and worthwhile. This is key for your life lesson, let go of control, be vulnerable, and trust in yourself that whatever happens you can respond with your whole being and it will work out for the best.
image
Wandering into uncharted territory; the foreign relationship.
For your very own adventure please visit http://www.workaway.info and check back for more experiences soon.
10425091_10100223947544411_1080257335121595467_n