Bali is breathtaking. The bustle of the small city of Ubud is abundant with cozy cafes offering organic food, juices, and sweets. Colorful sarongs line the streets as smiling locals appear from their shops, and ancient temples garnished with Ganesha nestled into lush gardens, seduce the Western eye.
The island is unique with roughly 90% of the population Hindu followers. The familiar (good) scents of India – the burning of sandalwood and nag champa mixed with the sultry breezes of fresh flowers follow you down the streets. As you weave around heaps of motorbikes, taxis (and unfortunately tourists) you flow through the narrow sidewalks as if a video game character, avoiding the hundreds of small poojas, banana leaves with offerings for the gods. The poojas are such small, yet profound reminders of why I love the Eastern world and it’s traditions. These rituals are deeply embedded in the culture and give meaning and intention to even the simplest actions.
When you began to practice mindfulness, whether it is with a prayer, an asana practice, a meal you cook or enjoying a cappuccino with a friend – you are fully engaged and offer yourself completely to that present moment. I understand the importance of this the more I dive deeper into the path of yoga. I also realize this the more time I spend away from fast paced society in America.
During my time spent in Bali I learned philosophy behind the practices…the main objective is to find truth: how to live a life of contentment and happiness amidst reality. It is a path to liberation and freedom from suffering.
One of my mentors, Rose, often says “live your life passionately present and awake to reality, with non-attachment”. She explains the incredible sensations you experience when you can accept reality (because we will never win against it) with grace, by practicing non-attachment (because nothing is ever permanent) we allow ourselves to stay grounded internally, no matter what is happening in our external worlds, joy or pain. When we cultivate a sense of pure pleasure for people, places or an experience, without trying to hold on to them, we then enjoy them so much more, leaving us content and fulfilled.
Despite the chaos in the heart of Ubud, I noticed an elderly woman with a map of beautifully drawn wrinkles, smiling on the sidewalk, as she sells her exotic fruits, and offers samples to any curious takers. She sat in that same exact spot week after week, and that is enough for me to see her pure happiness and contentment. Although she was amongst many shops adorned with expensive malas, mats (and every other yoga paraphernalia under the Balinese sun) she was surrounded by Westerners with costly cameras, still she sat peacefully, completing her dharma (purpose in life) with enjoyment and sincerity. To me, that is the definition of Santosha (contentment) and is something most take a lifetime, or many, to accomplish.
As I traversed back through the rice paddies on small paths, I saw villages dispersed throughout the endless amounts of greenery. I heard chants from a not so distant temple and became consumed with the laughter of a family nearby. I saw men and women bent over in straw hats with machetes, who spend their entire lives cultivating these fields and harvesting the crops. I stopped to admire one of the many artists who create carvings from coconuts shells.
It is hard for most to imagine a life like this. It seems simple, for some – maybe too simple. Personally, I could do with more simplicity in my life. What really captured my attention is the honorable relationship between humans and nature, and humans and the divine – which is our ultimate happiness and inner peace. I felt a sense of Santosha and realize how healing a bit of purity, nature and truth can be.
I completely fell for this island and all it’s inspiring characters from all corners of the world. Bali’s lush terrain and stable mountains hold incredible spirituality, with a gentle sweetness exuding from its people. It is a sacred place to expand your awareness of these ancient practices, another culture and yourself.
Let go of all your expectations, growth begins with new experiences.