Saturday, October 31, 2009


“Plant both your sit bones into the ground and root your tailbone into the earth...” This was ringing in my ears when I woke up Friday morning. From Wednesday afternoon until Thursday evening, I attended 4 yoga sessions, which makes it something like 6 hours in one day. Too much... My shoulders were sore from all the wild openings, my ribs aching in every breath and then my ass... All the hip openers and “breathing through the pain” seems to have backfired. In yogic terms, I may now have more open femur bones and quadriceps, however in layman's terms I couldn't even sit on my ass on a normal chair. Still I managed to drag myself off the bed, went to the early bird yoga class, which is generally very gentle and provides a good opening for the rest of the day. On the way back form yoga, I decided enough was enough. However beneficial yoga was, it was tuning into an addiction. I decided to back off for a while and do something different.

Going to Kuta was in my mind for sometime but I was postponing it... Partly because most reviews on Kuta were on how tacky and touristy the place is and partly because I was lazy. I got a Perama ticket from one of the agencies for the 10:30 bus and went to my room to pack my towel and bikini. So far, I tried Tulamben, Amed and Lovina and all turned out to be major disappointments in terms of sea and beach. Being in Southeast Asia, I was expecting those picture-perfect white sand beaches, turquoise waters and the occasional coconut tree here and there. Whereas Tulamben and Amed were rocky-pebbly and Lovina had black sand, dirty water and horribly persistent hawkers. If Kuta also failed, I really had no other options for some suntanning in this island.

The Perama shuttle made many stops to pick up and to drop passengers and it took almost two hours to reach Kuta. I was complaining about not being able to sit on a regular chair, a shuttle bus seat made for Asian-size bottoms was worse in all the ways. I already started dreading the return journey. Well, despite the heat getting off the bus and being able to walk felt good. The Lonely Planet guide mentioned about complicated and narrow streets leading to the beach so I was prepared for the long-walk, which gave no clues if I was approaching the ocean or going parallel to it. After about 15 minutes, I saw the first indication that I was in the right direction; a surfer dude with water dripping from his hair and his board under his arm approaching me. Yesss! A few minutes later, I saw the all-blue and all wavy ocean and felt super-exicted! It was finally white-sand and blue ocean as far as my eyes could see.

The beach is separated from the sidewalk and there's a crowd of hawkers, surf renters, surf teachers, and mobile warungs aligned all the way. After passing that crowd with some “no thank you, I don't want sarong / water / surf lesson” the beach itself was calm. Just the right amount of people and action that would give me a lot of space but not make me feel isolated. Only a narrow strip towards the middle of the beach was flagged as “ok for swimming”, so I laid my towel right by the flag and ran to the water like a caretta caretta just hatched out of its egg. It was quite wavy but even if I was going to get drowned I was determined to swim that day. I spent the afternoon happily on the beach, walking, laying down, swimming, playing with the waves, watching the surfers and having a wide grin on my face all the time. Yes, the distance to Kuta is long, traffic inside Kuta is quite overwhelming and there's a constant smell of exhaust gases but it was worth it. At least the hawkers were definitely more manageable than the ones in Lovina.
My return bus was for 16:30 and I wanted to leave the beach a little early to find a place to eat before getting on the shuttle again. I wanted to take a different route on the way back. I noticed that all hotels and most restaurants have a security guard at the entrance, which reminded me of the Hayarkon Corniche in Tel Aviv. I guess after the 2002 & 2005 Bali Bombings, this was unavoidable. And just looking at the prices in shops and boards, Kuta seems to be much cheaper than Ubud. There's the usual bars with football league broadcasts, movie evenings, happy hours but nothing as tacky as I expected. More like your average tourist destination anywhere else... Hmm, it might be worth spending a few days here to absorb more sunlight on the beach. Thinking these, I find myself in front of a Pizza Hut. Ubud has none of these chains like Starbucks or McDonalds, but Kuta seems to be compensating for it's sister town by the overabundance. I see the salad bar inside and feel like taking a look. I have been on a relatively healthy diet of raw, organic foods in Ubud with the occasional curry here and there. But I guess a change wouldn't hurt :) So I end up eating from Pizza Hut's character-less “where ever you go it's the same stuff” salad bar while enjoying some cool air from the air-condition. Oh well... So much for authenticity, supporting local business and anti-globalism.

After sitting inside and drying for a while, I notice that my skin feels somehow tight. Of course with the strong wind coming from the ocean, I didn't even notice the heat and the sun. Now I feel that I am burning and emitting heat. A visit to the bathroom and seeing myself in the mirror confirms that I am as red as I feel. It hurts but I am happy. I got all that I wanted in a day; sun, sea, sand and a possible tan if my entire skin doesn't peel off in the coming days.

In the bus, I think that I was very satisfied with my day, but now it also feels very good that I am going back to Ubud. Sometimes it's good to go, just to know that you can and you will come back. Ubud gives me that “homey” feeling nowadays.

My yoga learning for the day:
“Prana follows where our attention goes”. Try to inhale into each chakra for 3-5 breaths and see if you can feel what's going on in each chakra. If you're a vata, it may be easier to try this after asana practice to assist in turning your focus inwards.

Try to activate mula bandha just a little during meditation and see if it makes a difference. Pattabhi Jois said that slightly activating the mula bandha while meditating makes the difference between thinking and meditating. I tried this today and felt a difference. Nothing major but a promising first try ;)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

our driver hates us

A few days ago Suzanne and Ida were making plans to go to Lovina. Ida wanted to have some beach time and sun before starting a vipassana in Java so she was leaving Ubud to stay a few days by the ocean. They asked me if I wanted to join and I was a bit hesitant. I haven't heard the best things about Lovina, especially its hawkers. But when I woke up the next morning, I felt that some sun would be good for me. I have been on an island for three weeks and didn't manage to get any tan or a good swim so far. I texted the girls to find out the departure point and joined them at 08:30. Lovina is supposed to be 2 hours drive, so I should have some significant beach time to bake myself.

In the car, I figure out that Suzanne and Ida actually planned this day as a tour, final destination being Lovina. Even better! So we first stop by the Pura Aman Tayun (the Royal Family Temple) in Mengwi. It's the day after Kuningan, so it's still a holiday for most of the Balinese and they seem to be enjoying picnics on the temple gardens. Especially the children have a lot of fun. We walk around a little then get back in the car for the next destination. Well it's more like Suzanne and Ida walked around a little and then waited for me to finish shooting photos for ages... In the car, we try to get some information from our driver Dewa but he doesn't seem to be very talkative. Most drivers in Bali are very friendly, they like sharing information about the island, the culture or the religion. In exchange, they also ask a lot of questions so a car ride in Bali is rarely boring.

That day, we were clueless tourists being driven around by Dewa. When we first started the ride, he summarized the itinerary for us, but none of us remembered when, where and in what order. So actually when Dewa dropped us in front of a ticket booth and drove away to park, we are clueless as to where we are and what we are supposed to see. We try to match the Bahasa words on our entrance tickets to the index of the Lonely Planet Bali guide but it doesn't work. We try to read into the signposts but they turn out to be warnings for temple entrance rules. So at least we know that we are by a lake and there's a temple inside. Not a bad start... As I drift away trying to shoot the ceremony that's just starting inside the temple through half-open doors, the diligent ladies figure out that we are at the water temple of Pura Ulun Danu at Lake Bratan. We manage to catch a beautiful ceremony and watch part of it. Balinese are so welcoming, as long as we are outside the temple doors, they do not mind the horde of tourists clicking their cameras to catch some of the most personal praying moments.

At some point, Suzanne tells us “I think our driver hates us” A very unexpected comment from such a positive woman... We dwell on the thought for a while and come up with all sorts of wild explanations but eventually reject the idea by saying he's either too shy or doesn't feel comfortable with his English.

Next is a local coffee plantation site in Munduk. It's already past noon and we stop for lunch. We are high up in the mountains, the weather is dry, there's a cool breeze and the music makes us think that we are in the Far East. A good food accompanies our conversation. One of those moments where everything's just wonderful! As we ask for the check, we realize that all of us ordered tea for drink in a coffee plantation site. Oh well... On our way back to the car, we have a chance to observe how coffee beans are ground manually. We are told that grinding one kilo of coffee with the traditional methods takes about one hour. The aroma is amazing, it almost makes me want to convert back to being a coffee-consumer but I manage to hold myself back.

Back in the car, Ida and Suzanne show active effort to get Dewa to talk. They bombard him with questions, but all we get is one-word answers. Are we that boring?

Since we are somewhat behind the schedule, we skip some hot water spring in our itinerary and head to a waterfall. It's a 30minute walk down from the main road and there are tiny shops selling sarongs, cheap art and whatnot all along the way so it's fun despite the heat. The waterfall is strong and it is refreshing just to sit on a stone and listen to it. But that doesn't seem enough for Ida. She takes off her clothes and gets into one of the pools formed by the waterfall. The current is strong and the water is cool but that doesn't stop our aquaphilic Swede friend from diving in.

We reach Lovina after 15:30. I was warned by one of my former neighbors about the stickiness and the persistence of the hawkers in Lovina so I am ready to reject whoever comes along my way. But Ida doesn't seem to be so lucky. She would spend the night in Lovina so while Suzanne and I go to get some ice cream, Ida starts to look around for accommodation. 15 minutes later we walk back to the beach to see her surrounded by sarong ladies, fruit ladies and god knows who else. They are overwhelmingly persistent. We go to the beach and there is the worst surprise of the day; the ocean is dirty. A lot of stuff floats on the surface and the beach isn't what we would expect after a 7 hour drive. I am determined to get some sunlight so I lay down while Suzanne no longer feels the need to hold herself “this sucks, this sucks, this sucks” is her new mantra. There's only so much one can be positive without losing the sense of reality so I can only agree. I add “and our driver hates us”. By that time I lost all my doubt that he really hates us and start thinking that he brought us to the worst beach in Lovina. As we are the fresh, na├»ve tourists on the beach, we are visited by someone trying to sell us something every 3 minutes. Art, batik, carved wood stuff, massage, ... Then Ida comes, followed by he entourage of sarong and fruit ladies. They are unbelievably pushy and keep saying “you touched my sarongs now you need to buy, otherwise you bring me bad luck... you bad lady, bad bad lady” We came all the way to Lovina for some quiet beach time and we get nothing but... Ida pays the ladies a little just to get rid of them. Given the circumstances, this was the wisest thing to do

We stay on the beach for a total of maybe 15 minutes, and then we pack our stuff and decide to leave already. We hug Ida goodbye, since she is determined to stay and explore the coast for a few more days. We don't don't make any stops but the return journey still takes us over 3.5 hours. For some reason there are traffic jams in every village center. It's probably the evening market, which is right by the road. Shoppers just leave their vehicles wherever and go to buy or eat stuff and since it's a one-lane road, all we can do is patiently wait. And of course our driver does not say a single word during the entire journey. We arrive back to Ubud around 8:00. Suzanne and I get of the car a little far from our places, we both need to stretch our legs and clear our minds before going into our rooms. As soon as Dewa drives away, we look at each other and say “our driver hates us” and break into laughter... That's probably the best we could do after such a crazy day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

holy knife - episode 2

I must be masochistic, otherwise I wouldn't have made an elaborate plan to visit Holy Knife again. The elaboration of the plan partly comes from the fact that this time I managed to drag 4 more women with me.

Friday after visiting Holy Knife, I was feeling quite tired yet I couldn't relax in my room. so I went to the Kafe to eat somethings and to update my blog. I saw Suzanne and Ida and told them about my healer story with maximum detail and drama. At some point, Jenna joined us too. Of course hearing about so much pain followed by a miraculous relief from a fellow female traveler immediately grabbed everyone's sympathy and somehow we ended up scheduling a visit to Holy Knife for Monday afternoon.

By the way, my eyes and knees were still feeling better when I woke up Saturday morning, though my foot was still hurting. There was a faint bruise where he poked the knife – so no wonder it was still sore. Even if for nothing else, I had to go again on Monday (this time armed with a better translator) to understand why he did what he did to my left foot.

By Monday noon, I still couldn't reach the driver recommended by Wendy so had to find an alternative fast. I don't have an address or a phone number for the Holy Knife so the driver had to know him or be familiar with his village. On my way back from the morning yoga, I run into Suzanne again, who was sitting with Olga. Olga came to Ubud from Moscow to learn English. Interesting choice of location considering the purpose but hey, if one can ignore the variety of accents everyone here communicates in English. Plus the climate is superb. So Olga mentions of his driver Ketut, and we give him a call. Over the phone Ketut says yes, he knows Mambal village and yes he knows the Holy Knife and yes he is available to pick us up at 3pm and yes he agrees to the price. Easier than we thought, so we part to our different ways to meet again at 3 o'clock. By that time Olga is also interested in the healer experience, as well as my new neighbor Melanie so it makes five. More the merrier :)

So we leave at 3 as planned. At some point I make the mistake of telling Ketut that I've visited Holy Knife just recently so he immediately assumes that my internal gps would take us to him. There's no way that I can tell him that my internal gps marks billboards and malls, so I'm completely kaputt here. We stop in the Mambal market and he gets out of the car to ask a few people and get the directions. We drive a bit further, nothing looks familiar to me but he stops in front of a fancy house and he says this is it. It's not it... There are no billboards but I can still tell this is not it. Holy Knife's home had a small entrance after a very sharp curve and he had a bird cage near the gate. Whereas this house has an entire pig farm in it – without the bird cage. I walk around the house to see maybe we are in the back entrance but no. Ketut insists that this is the place. Moreover, the “wife” of Holy Knife also insists that she remembers me from Friday... Either Holy Knife managed to give me a good memory erase as a bonus treatment or I am going nuts. I call Gusti, the driver who took me to Holy Knife on Friday – at least he can give Ketut the directions in Bahasa. That works, apparently we are in a different village and we reached the healer of that village. It is a mystery how the wife claims to remember me and how Ketut confirmed knowing both the village and Holy Knife when we called him initially...

As we reach the home of the authentic Holy Knife, we see him outside and we all cheer up. He seems to be happy to see a car full of 5 women driving to his place too. He immediately welcomes us in, gets prepared by putting on a bright yellow belt, washing his hands and praying to gods. He is ready to heal us. I volunteer to be the first and take Ketut as the translator. I guess I have already scared everyone else how painful it would be so they are jut happy to let me go and hear me scream from a distance.

As soon as I sit in front of him, I thank Holy Knife for making my knees and eyes feel better. This time he works on my shoulders, my back, my breathing and my blood circulation. (Wow, I feel like a 80 year-old grandma just reading what I write!) As I turn to face him, I tell that my foot still hurts a little and ask for an explanation what was wrong to start with. He says I stepped on black magic back in my country and that's why my foot was hurting. On Friday, he tried but apparently couldn't heal it all once because the magic was strong but today it should be all fine... Come to think of it, believing in black magic doesn't sound so crazy after seeing an entire world being convinced by a president talking about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in country as the sane reason to start a war against it. But I think I am more inclined to injure myself in yoga by pushing it too far rather than stepping on black magic. At the end of our session this time, I generally feel much lighter and energetic so I go back to meet the girls in the veranda.

Olga and Suzanne goes next. It doesn't take longer than an hour for all of us to be healed and none of us scream in pain. When all of us are done, it turns out that Holy Knife has identified black magic with 3 of us in varying degrees. Hmm... I guess being the oldest in the group I had the highest number of ailments, no one else gets poked to a bruise as I did on Friday. We pose for a photo together to remember this day and then get back in the car to return to Ubud. Although the entire journey was less than 2 hours, everyone is already quite tired.

I now know a driver who speaks good English and knows the way. I will keep telling my Holy Knife story to other travelers I meet. In case someone gets interested and would like to give it a try I know I will definitely join them again :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

holy knife

Some of the fellow tourists I've come across in Bali have expressed an interest in visiting a Balinese healer while they were here. However none of them (including me) were as action oriented as Wendy. I met her in my neighborhood warung during a dinner, on her first night in Bali. Far from being jetlagged, she had already oriented herself in town, found a good massage place with very reasonable prices and had solid ideas how to spend the following few days. We chatted a little over dinner and parted. I saw her again two days later while I was rushing for yoga so our conversation was limited. She said she's already been to a healer the day before and she had another session scheduled for that day. Hmm, so someone actually did go to a healer? I wanted to get more information, I visited her bungalow in the afternoon. It seems I got the name wrong (it doesn't help when there's Dewa, Dewi and Dewi Sri bungalows on the same street, all within 200meters range) so I couldn't reach her.

Yesterday I went to the shower after the Yoga class to bump into Wendy again! Little K and the Yoga Barn share the same bathroom facilities and she was there to wash her hands before lunch. Her driver would come to pick her up in one hour and then she'd be off from Ubud to hop in other parts of Bali at least for another 3 weeks. Call this meeting in shower a coincidence or fate if you will :)

I sat with her for a while she summarized the herb walk, the museum visits and of course the healer sessions. She's visited 3 healers (all of them were mentioned in the Eat, Prey, Love... I read that book about a year ago and I don't seem to remember any of these details that people talk about.) Wayan has apparently became so famous after the book, she's sort of a healer celebrity by now. She has a team of employees and her signature treatment is 2 young and fit Balinese men giving you massage at the same time. After the massage you eat a very tasty vegetarian meal cooked by Wayan herself and receive a bag of various herbs that you should be taking for the following two weeks as a follow-up on your treatment. Later I googled Wayan on the internet and all blog posts about her were very similar in content.

Then there's the Holy Knife and the Jokordo-Rai. Wendy said she got the most out of her two sessions with Holy Knife. She was impressed by his genuine interest and enthusiasm. And he only worked with donations, so no celebrity fees... He was in a village near Ubud, but one needed to know exact location. Wendy had a solution for that too; her driver Ketut. She gave me his mobile and said that he should be free tomorrow, after dropping her off to the ferry terminal. After she left, I googled both Holy Knife and Jokordo-Rai and saw some positive comments about both. Jokordo-Rai was even mentioned in some scientific paper.

Determined, I called Ketut this morning after I came back from yoga. Ketut said he was on holiday for 3 days because of the Kuningan celebrations, but he said another driver could help. He forwarded my number to him and next thing I know I met Gusti on my street at 11:00 to go to Holy Knife. We reached to Mambal village in about 15 minutes. I was hesitant if Holy Knife would be busy with the Kuningan preparations but after a few minutes of waiting in the veranda, I am lead into his “treatment room”. Gusti follows me as he also needs to be my translator.

What I call the treatment room simply is an open-air elevated platform, covered with a bamboo mat, no bigger than 1x2 meters. Holy Knife sits on one end and I sit in front of him, with my back turned. He starts by examining my head and asks via Gusti if I have itchy head... that's not an impressive start. I don't have an itchy head or scalp. What happened to all these miracle stories I heard or read? Wasn't it just two days ago that a famous soccer player visited him and just by looking, Holy Knife identified that he had problems in his ankle and both knees? I tell him no, my head is fine in terms of itchiness and he moves a little lower to my shoulders. He taps, massages, pokes and then touches a point on my right shoulder. He asks if I have problems with my sight. Being near-sighted as long as I can remember I confirm. Now this gives a little more confidence... He touches s point on my lower back, then on my shoulder for a long time. I thought he was trying to adjust some problems with my lower back but Gusti says all that is for my eye. Meanwhile, I figure out where the name Holy Knife comes from. When he finds a problem spot, he pressures it with the dull edge of a very old knife that he holds in his hand. When he's poking the knife, I see that even Gusti jumps a little in his seat.

Everytime Holy Knife finds a sensitive area which is very painful, I either groan or jump in reflex. Everytime he sees me squirm in pain, Holy Knife lets out a happy, almost childish laughter. For a few seconds I feel uncomfortable, here I am in pain caused by his metal knife and he can laugh about that? But then I realize that he laughs as a sign of relief, as to say “see, I found the sore spot and releasing you from your pain”. Or maybe I started imagining things due to the pain combined with the humid noon heat... He checks some more around my lower back and sides, as if trying to touch my internal organs then asks me to sit facing him, with my legs straight out towards the front.

For a minute I consider telling him “Look I have problems with my lower back, my knees are weak and my left hamstring is so tight that you would think it belongs to a marathon runner. Shall we focus on some of these areas instead of itchy scalps or near-sighted eyes?” Then immediately I am ashamed of myself for thinking like this and being a control freak again. I smile to him and let him do whatever he feels in my body. He's scanning my legs just by hovering his hands a few centimeters over them. In the worst case, there's always the option of the super- osteo Malcolm when I go back to Dubai. Then he lets out an “ah-haaa” and points his knife to my right knee. I couldn't agree more. Now this time instead of poking my knees with his scary knife, he pulls out a bone, shaped like a half circle and about 7-8cm in diameter from his toolbox. He dips one end of the bone to some dark-colored oil and then presses that end to the back of my knee, from the middle to the left side a few times, as he wants to cut something. This time it is more painful so I shout, which seems to please him a lot. He does the same with my left knee too, but this time with a smaller bone of the same shape. As this knee is less painful, I let my mind wonder wonder what else is in his toolbox? Then he massages some oil to my lower legs and to the front part of my feet to enable blood circulation.

It's a shame that Gusti's English is just very basic. Holy Knife constantly talks to him but he cannot translate any of that to me. At the same time, there are a million things I would like to ask but I just cannot convey.

Then Holy Knife figures out the most dreaded point of pain for me. There's this spot right in the arch of my left foot which gives me considerable pain. The reflexology therapists I visited said it's stomach, gall bladder, upper back, small intestines and many other things I forgot by now. But the pain gradually increased over the last 3-4 years and I got no relief through massage, detox, hydrotherapy, let alone figuring out what actually causes that pain. So, before I could say “please be careful, this spot is really sensitive and it hurts a lot”, Holy Knife pokes his knife there as hard as he can. I start to cry – that is the best thing I could do in that moment. I shout “stop” and try to pull my foot back, but the more I pull back, the harder he pushes. He pauses for a second and I have time to wipe the tears from my face. Gusti watches us in horror and then Holy Knife starts to do the same cutting motion from the center of my foot towards the left. I know that trying to escape wouldn't help so all I can do is to cry more. But the pain is intense, it burns so much that I cannot even describe. Once he's done and I catch my breath, I ask “what the hell was that?” Unfortunately language becomes a barrier again. All I understand is that I had enemies in my family or in my office, but now Holy Knife cut their connection to me. I don't know, cannot think... I am drained. I ask if I need to come again for a second session and he says unless any pain persists in my body, I am good to go and don't need to return.

While I am catching my breath, he gives a little demo. He pushes the knife to a random point in my body and I feel nothing. He pokes one of the problem areas with the same amount of pressure and I immediately jump. He says that it's only the pain areas that respond to the knife.

I thank him a million times, leave my little donation and get back to the car. Then I notice something interesting. I had these floaters in my left eye; two black dots that would float around especially when I was under intense light conditions. I asked two ophthalmologists in the past and both said it was a natural formation; nothing to be afraid of and nothing to do about it. As the light reflects back from the side-view mirror, I don't see my floaters. I look towards the sun, then down, move my eyes left and right but they are gone! I explain that with great enthusiasm to Gusti and he's happy too. Seizing the moment, he gives it another try “But you don't have itchy head? Never?”

On the way back, I don't talk at all. My foot is still burning with pain and I feel really tired. As he drops me back to my street, Gusti emphatically says “I hope you feel better soon!” I really wonder what a mess I must be looking like. I go to my room, lay down but cannot sleep although that's all I wanted to do for the rest of the day. About 20 minutes later I get up and feel like stretching a little. The second surprise of the day; my left hamsting can stretch as much as my right. It is not super-flexible but hey, none of that pulling feeling which limited my left leg significantly compared to my right. Now when I do a standing-up forward bend I can rest both my palms next to my feet, keeping my toes and fingers in the same line. A first in my life! I've been whining about my left hamstring ever since I started practicing yoga, so what will I complain about now?

Feeling a little more adventurous, I proceed to try a half-lotus on both sides in turn. Both knees comply without the pinching pain feeling. Now this is too good to be true... So Balinese healers really do heal multiple persisting problems in one session? I still feel very very tired and my left foot still burns but I guess when body gets rid of so many ailments in one go, the least it can do is to feel exhausted.

I am really curious how I will feel when I wake up tomorrow morning, and then after tomorrow's yoga session. Will my hamstrings still be flexible, knees less sensitive and no floaters in my eye? Depending on how I would feel in the coming days, I may consider another visit to him. This was really intense and tearful but worth every bit of it.

I quit the allopathic medicine few years back, doctors and hospitals are not an option for me when I'm sick. Ironically, since I stopped taking pills or using chemicals, I rarely get sick anyways... Not that allopathic medicine ever really treated the root of a disease yet even if you choose to go that road – it just suppresses the symptoms. I believe that if we provide the right conditions for it (lower the stress, reduce intake of toxins, get sufficient rest, sunshine and natural nutrition) our bodies are totally capable of healing themselves. This visit to the Holy Knife was the perfect example for me. Whichever way I feel when I wake up tomorrow, today will be a day o be remembered for a very very long time.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

when was the last time you saw one?

Yesterday evening, as we were starting the evening Yin yoga session, the electricity was cut off. It was interesting to practice in total silence and with candlelight, trying to figure out the pose only through the shadow of the instructor. I thought the power cut would only be affecting a neighborhood or a street, but as I leave the studio and start walking towards home, I realize it's probably the entire Ubud. I must have mentioned before that Ubud does not have the most pedestrian-friendly sidewalks. They are full of cracks and big holes to allow rain water to drain. They also constantly ascend and descend to allow motorbikes to drive through. All these, combined with the complete darkness did not help at all. I tried to use the ipod to light the way and it helped (I'm not sure if the guys at Apple thought about the flashlight functionality but it works when there are no other options). It probably took me double the usual time, but hey I was finally home. I noticed a faint light as I was walking towards my room and thought it might be a candle to light the path but it turns out to be a kerosene lamp in front of each room. Such a beautiful and soft light, bringing childhood memories from Ankara...

In the 80s, when power cuts were a norm rather than exception we had a few o them at home, along with a box of matches that was always on the top of the fridge. So whenever the lights went off, either the grandma or the grandpa would reach for the matches ( t was a big no-no fir us kids to touch anything related to fire) and light the kerosene lamp for the living room. If the cut lasted longer, candles would be lit for hallways, bathroom etc. once the lights were back, the adults would mindfully wait for another minute or so and put the candles and kerosene lamp off without making much smoke. Electricity cuts became less frequent and kerosene lamps were replaced by torch lights or rechargeable lamps. Almost 30 years later in Ubud, I was again sitting under the same light, eating mangosteens and thinking these... It was a peaceful and beautiful night.

sustainable farming in bali

I was sitting in the Kafe having my lunch after a Forrest Yoga class. An older lady smiled and sat next to me and started talking about the heat. She said that Julia Roberts and the rest of the crew was in town to shoot the movie of the “Eat, Pray Love” and she was at the scene of shooting. I asked if she was a member of the crew, but she wasn't. However she knew a lot about the cars they drove, the hotel they stayed in, what they did last night so I was amazed. Either this lady is so well connected with the Ubud social scene or I am totally clueless... I learn that her name is Diane and she is an academician in one of the US Universities and she is very passionate about the environment. She gathered most of the UN leaders sometime ago to sign one of the environmental treaties. She's been visiting Bali over 20 years and been living in Ubud for the last 6 months to implement some environmental programs. I was very interested and Diane invited me to one of the farms same afternoon to see her work. Wow, of course I jumped at the opportunity.

As we were walking towards the farm, Diane explained to me that farmers in Bali burn the falling leaves or leftovers in the farms after harvest time. Diane is trying to implement a program where that organic material is turned into topsoil or humus through mulching and other methods. She is in close cooperation with some farmer families since the 80s. She said that in the 80s, over 70% of the families were self-sufficient in terms of food production,now this ratio is 0. We have already reached the farm by that time and Diane shows me the piled-up humus on the rice paddy as well as the other site where they are burying the fallen leaves to build up some heat to prepare it for mulching. She visits all the family farms several times a week to monitor the progress closely. I admire her enthusiasm and we agree that next time she's visiting another farm she'll give me a call so I can join with my camera.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

holy diver

I am a coward, a chicken, faint-heart or whatever you'd like to call it. I can list a hundred things that I am afraid of and after a few minutes, I can definitely remember more things that I forgot to add to the original list. Darkness, icy roads, adho mukha vrksasana, formal situations, tall seaweeds... just to name a few. My fears do provide a level of safety cushion though I can't say I am very happy with all of them. Especially with the limitations they bring to my life.

A few weeks ago I had a big, traumatic event in my life. It left me feeling like I was punched in the stomach hard, while I was drinking water. It was very painful and I was unprepared for it. After the initial shock passed by, it made me think “hey, this was painful but I survived. All the stupid things that I've been fearing cannot possibly hurt more, so why not give them a try when the next opportunity arise?”

2 days after thinking this, I am sitting in the Little K and one of the yoga instructors join our table with her boyfriend Bruno. I overhear their conversation and figure out that they are both diving instructors. Moreover, Bruno has already scheduled to take another yogini for a discovery dive in about 4 days time. He quickly makes a plan and says I can join them and one of these 2 discovery dives can count towards my certification. Plus the week after we can schedule for 2 more days in the sea, followed by the exam and I would have my certificate in 10days! Without thinking for a second, I agree to the plan. I am fascinated by the underwater world, however the idea of breathing through my mouth, through these tubes and tanks and all when there's tons of water above me never felt good for me. It was somehow beyond my sense of adventure so I kept postponing it. I was by the Red Sea in Eilat and found excuses not to dive. I was in Kas and said I needed to suntan instead of being underwater. In Dubai I had all the time and a thousand diver friends who regularly go to Fujeirah, but I said the red tide is bad so I skipped. So this was definitely the right time to take another step; meeting the dive instructor that afternoon, organizing everything in a few minutes were signs for it.

Sunday afternoon I see Bruno again and we confirm that everything is set for tomorrow. Weather is good, taxi is booked and equipment is arranged. Monday morning I wake up and pack my bag at 6:30am, go to the Early Bird yoga class feeling super excited. The taxi picks me up from the Yoga Barn at 8:30 and we hit the road to Tulamben. The idea is that we'll have an information session before we go into the water, learn the essential diving skills and then have two dives to about 12 meters, one of which will be to the Liberty Wreck. After a two-hour drive, we reach the dive center in Tulamben. The “dive center” is actually an open-air hut with some suits, tanks, masks and basically nothing else. I have never seen a dive center besides the Oman Dive Center, but this seems to be pretty basic. We are given suits for our sizes and the only place we can change into them is the pit toilet. Hmm... After we change, our instructor Bruno looks at the sea and says that the waves are a bit too strong and takes us to another location. Oh, there goes the wreck dive but we should still be able to see some fantastic corals in the new location. On the coast (which is not actually much calmer than the first location), Bruno gives us an information session, along with a very comprehensive demo of the 5 skills we need to know before we go into the water. As we do this, the sea gets rougher and rougher. We constantly see people struggling to get into the water with all the heavy equipment in their backs while trying not to lose their balances against the waves. By the time the demo is over we don't even remember the first skill. Bruno says not to worry as we will anyway have to review them in the sea, at 2-3 meters depth while kneeling down.

Bruno helps us put on our tanks and helps us walk into the sea. This turns out to be a challenge by itself as the tank is much heavier than I thought and the strong waves do not help. Once we are in the water, things get easier, though the equipment still feels very cumbersome. We finally manage to sink but then it is quite difficult to kneel down due to the strong current. I finally manage to put my knees on the bottom, which is mostly coral rocks and pebbles. So every time a wave hits, I get a deep (but unwanted) scrub to my knees. Sometime later with the help of the salt water, the scratches turn out to be painful. First my partner tries out skill number one and she fails at some point and shoots to the surface. Bruno tells me to stay kneeled down and goes to help her. Damn, being here and watching the fish is fun but my knees hurt. After what feels like infinity, they are back and now it's my turn to try the first skill; taking my regulator off and replacing it while clearing the water off it. I take it off, continue to breathe out... No problems so far. I put it back on, blow to clear but surprise! Some water comes into my mask. Trying to remember how to clean my mask (this must be skill number 3 or so) I breathe through my nose which is of course a big no-no. All that time my mask is clean, I happily breathe through my mouth without any problems and the one moment that water gets into it, I decide to switch patterns, very nice :) Noticing that I don't remember anything about cleaning my mask and I am unlikely to remember in the following 30 seconds, I also shoot to the surface as fast as I can. I explain the problem to Bruno, he reminds me what to do and we go back down. Another struggle to kneel down and I try again. Same thing... I have no idea how I manage to get water into my mask while blowing into the regulator, but this time I am even more successful. I get more water in it and manage to inhale it all through my nose, while holding the regulator in my hand all that time. This time I shoot faster to the surface. While trying to cough off, I wonder what would I have done if we were at 12 meters depth as originally planned instead of the 2, I was struggling with...

Although we didn't realize during out struggle, it's been almost an hour in the sea and we haven't really achieved much. We decide it may be better to call it off and perhaps try some other day when the sea is kinder to newbies. Bruno leads us to the shore, runs to the coast takes off his equipment and comes to help us as by now it is evident that neither of us can go out of the water with the stuff on our backs. Still the sea is so rough, I cannot even stand on my feet to walk out. Every time I manage to lift a little, a wave knocks me down. I panic and totally lose it. I guess this is how we read newspaper stories of grown-ups getting drowned 5 meters from the coast. Bruno comes back and helps me out once again and asks “are you OK?” as I am now out of the water and sitting happily on a piece of wall I say “yes, now I am OK”.

My legs are red, swollen and hurt. I was told that this must be some kind of allergy besides the coral scratches. I don't know allergy to what, but at that moment it feels that I am allergic to everything scuba. We dress, leave the equipment to the “dive center”, have a bit of food on one of the warungs in Tulamben and then hit the road back to Ubud. I feel exhausted and fall asleep in the car.

Overall, it cannot be considered as a successful experience but it was an experience for sure. We couldn't dive, I panicked more than once and I still feel uncomfortable underwater with that funny equipment on my back. But the parts I feared most like being unable to breathe out of my mouth turned out to be much easier than I have dreaded over the years. So I was probably fearing the wrong things to start with! It was an eye-opening experience nonetheless. Almost everything that can go wrong went wrong and we still ended up having a bit of fun (between moments of panic). I haven't lost my appetite to try again; but maybe this time starting in a pool before being in water.

Maybe this is the most important lesson; however I dread, things go wrong in the most delicate moments and all I can do is to go for it again. I cannot control the sea, as I cannot control most of what's going on around me. All I can do is to breathe again and give it another try.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

my 10th day in bali

Today is my 10th day in Bali. So far I have:
- attended 12 yoga classes

- had a total of 6 hours of massage

- found places that sell second hand books and got all my reading material trading through them
- never visited a single tourist attraction such as the palace, elephant forest, kecak dance etc

- met and exchanged with a lot of really interesting and fun people

- not disposed a single pet bottle. Kafe sells purified water and I get daily refills.

- created such small amount of litter that wouldn't even fill a soup bowl (I know because my garbage hasn't yet been emptied)

- become quite skilled in washing my laundry by hand in the sink

- spent less than I budgeted

- used taxi only once on a very rainy evening, otherwise used my feet as the only mode of transportation

- adopted the habit of taking my footwear off whenever I'm entering a room, shop, etc

- developed a curious interest in vipassana

- attempted to “stay in the present moment” 30,467 times and failed 30,468 times

- felt happy, satisfied and blessed everyday

Friday, October 16, 2009

yin and the mosquitoes

In Dubai, one of the last things I would do voluntarily would be Yin Yoga. I accidentally tried it once and got so bored that I wanted to run away and never get into a studio ever again. (A little explanation for those who are not familiar with it; Yin yoga is about opening and stretching the connective tissues. In order to reach and to stimulate the connective tissues, very deep stretching poses are held for 3-5 minutes. During this time, one is expected to be completely relaxed, as engaging the muscles would prevent the pose to reach down to the tissues. Vinyasa or astanga can be considered as more “yang” forms of yoga as they focus more on strengthening the body. )

I guess Dubai has a very yang/male energy, and going with the flow there is a preference towards more dynamic forms of yoga like astanga. It was the same for me and it felt better to sweat a bucket and sense that your muscles have been stretched to the extreme after a 90-minute session in the studio. As much as it was exhausting, it was also strangely energizing.

In a yin yoga class, you barely sweat. Once you get in the asana, all you have to do I completely relax and breathe. Yet it is one of the most difficult things to do, physically and mentally. All of us have stiff areas like hamstrings, shoulders, hips etc and opening them can require quite a perseverance. However each millimeter of opening becomes so rewarding (again physically and mentally) it is definitely worth the effort.

With these thoughts in mind I arrived to my third yin class in Bali. I was really determined not to fidget, lose myself in the pose or mediate on the thought “this is so painful I can't stand it anymore”. Instead, I was going to be totally aware of what I am feeling and not engage in escapist thoughts. With this confidence I sat for the opening pranas and already started feeling good.

As I have described earlier, the Yoga barn overlooks rice paddies. And the yin class is around sunset time. This combination meant one thing and it wasn't good; the mosquitoes! There are repellents by the door however I should have thought about rubbing some on before the class and getting up to grab the bottle now was out of the question. There I was, in the middle of some ankle opening position and the mosquitoes were enjoying every bit of me. My mind was anyway ready to jump at any opportunity to drift away, and having mosquito bites on my arms were excuses good enough to shift my attention from the pain to the itch... I started with tiny moves to shoo off the mosquitoes, and then openly started scratching my arms... My determination to take the pain and stay focused did not even last through the first asana.

What does that say about me? I am not yet quite sure. Maybe I am not yet ready for certain openings. Maybe the fact that I tried to commit myself to “staying put” had just the reverse effect and actually blocked me mentally. Maybe this is a great example how I deal with everyday problems, or not deal with them... I really don't know yet, but hope to get a glimpse into it soon.

Seriously how do you stay focused to your pain when you have the option to get out of the pose and put an end to it?

My yoga learning for the day: It is easy to wake up and say “oh I wish I was ...(fill in the blanks with whatever) However unless you sit down first and accept yourself for who you really are, the change is unlikely to come.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


This was meant to be a day of celebration in all the ways! Woke up to a beautiful sunshine, packed my camera and lenses and walked to the 7:00am Early Bird Yoga class.

The streets were different; Calmer definitely, because there wasn't the usual horde of noisy motorbikes and most shops were closed. Instead there were men outside of their homes, washing their cars or bikes before family rounds started. More beautiful, because all the galungan decorations were up, many more flower arrangements and offerings being placed by the penjors by women in elegant local dresses. Yummier because of the sweet smell of incense coming from every corner. More exciting, as behind that stillness it was impossible not to feel that a big celebration was about to commence very soon. I didn't know where and when the celebrations would start but hoped that I wouldn't miss much while I was in yoga. Couldn't have asked for more; as I was out of the class, walking towards home I saw the group of men in local dresses on the street. They were playing drums and cymbals, the music was almost meditative. Then I noticed that they were playing the music across a temple where the celebrations were held. Along with all the tourists who were not allowed to enter the temple I tried to shoot a few photos by the door (those are the moments I wish they sold lenses that can shoot through curves & corners)
I was told that anyone can attend the ceremonies in the streets, but in order to attend the ceremonies in the temples, one must have the exact Balinese costume. As most of the shops around Ubud were closed the day before, I was there without a costume and could only take peeks through the temple door.

There were the 3 spirits (Rangda, Barong Bangkung and Barong Macan) and a lot of chanting around them. I sat on the sidewalk across the road, listening to the drums. Then women with offering trays on their heads started to walk out of the temple, followed by the spirits.

The men playing music on the street followed them and soon it turned into a very colorful march. I followed them for a while, taking as many photos as possible. Then I heard a fainter sound of bells from the opposite direction, walking towards there, I saw a group of boys starting a similar ceremonial walk. They were lead by a spirit (later I learned that it was Barong Bangkal), and a small band playing music followed. I was told that this was a Ngelanawang (which is a playful door to door visiting, instead of a more religious ritual) They visited almost every house on the street danced in front of it and collected small money, while a big group of tourists including me chased them around. The boys must have started to feel like local celebrities, as towards the end, they were got comfortable and started posing for the cameras :)

Then the streets were empty again... It was a peaceful silence. In the back of this however the families were busy visiting each other, having the traditional Galungan meal. Listening to the sound of teh drums and the cymbals coming from a distance, I took a nap in my veranda, celebrating all this my way :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

forrest yoga

The rainy season seems to have officially started here (and I seem to be the only person who is obsessed about it). Today I also woke up with the sound of the rain, turned around a little in the bed and decided that a few drops of water should not get in between me and my mat. Had my usual breakfast of a bowl of fruit salad and a pot of tea while watching the rain and the rabbit. I don't know his name, but until I saw him, I thought the rabbits were timid creatures, running away a mile with the sight of a human being. This one jumps to my feet an sniffles around for some food and I feed him some bananas from my hand every day. If I figure out a way to shoot his photo while I feed him I will definitely post a pic, he is so friendly and lovely.

Then I went to the Forrest Yoga class. I never heard of it before, but last Friday it had the most convenient timing for me so I ended up attending. So far it's been only two classes, yet from what I understand, Forrest Yoga seems to focus more on prana and core work with a gentler pace. Don't be mistaken with the gentler pace bit though, you feel every bit of muscle around your abs the day after! It is quite a different experience trying to relax your facial muscles, especially the chin and the neck while your abs are contracted to the extreme. The instructor Cat is very motivating so the class goes really fun and smooth. I am always very distracted during the pranayama and the meditation (especially if it is before the asana practice) however today she guided us in such a way that I could stay focused on my breath and within my body for a considerably long time. Last time I could really dive into the meditation was during Paul Dallaghan's workshop in Dubai, which was way back in the spring. (I wouldn't really consider myself as a fan for his teaching style, yet he definitely knows how to capture his students and give them the opportunity to learn what they need.)

That super-short period of stillness of the mind had such an impact on me! I was planning to do a million stuff after the class, however I could only bring myself to get down the stairs to the Little K, sit down and watch the green scenery in a blissful silence. I could only describe it as having my senses cleaned... The trees were greener, the sound of the small stream running nearby was much clearer. After a long time, I had a nice, soothing comfortable feeling inside of me... Like I am full and whole again, that “someone punched a hole right through me and I am empty” feeling was gone for the first time in a week. Maybe I am healing or maybe it's too soon... Maybe it's a sneak preview of how I will feel when I am healed. Whatever it was, I liked it

After spending almost 4 hours in the little K, with a smile on my face the entire time, I was ready to go back on the streets. Shot some more photos for the Galungan preparations, and had a massage in Lena's Reflexology Spa. It was one of the best I had in Ubud so far, so I am happy to find a reliable massage salon now. (The spa is called Bugar Sehat and has two branches, one if Jl. Hanoman and the other on Jl Raya Ubud, if anyone reading this happens to be in Bali and would like to give it a try)

In the evening I wanted to try the Buddha Cafe and got miserably lost because I was given the wrong directions. Finally it turned out to be very near to my place. There's a small store downstairs with a selection of organic food items, cleaning products, raw food etc. So I won't have to worry about my organic shampoo running out, which is good news. I don't know maybe it was just bad timing but in the cafe section, neither the food nor the service was the best that it could be. Probably due to a slower pace of life, the service in Bali generally seems to be quite relaxed anyways. Receiving a menu, having your order taken, drinks to arrive etc are all like stages in life that come gradually with age. Maybe there's a superstition that if you go through all these stages quickly, you won't appreciate the food? I don't know... There are people from all over the world here and everyone smiles through this slow service, but I have a feeling if this was the pace in our home countries, we would have snapped within the first 5 minutes.

My yoga learning for the day: Wow this one was big! You know all this talk about breathing to the pain and staying with it... It generally works for me to some extent but was never the complete answer, especially with the hip/upper leg/lower back openers as they are super-painful for me. During the Forrest Yoga class, Cat said “ breathe in, send the prana to the area of tension or pain and then when you breathe out, send the pain to the earth. We often don't know what to do with the pain, but the earth does and takes care of it” Wow, this sounds more much more complete than just breathing in. Inhale... Then what? The missing part is finally answered... I tried it with the Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), really trying to breathe into the area of pain (Say your tense area is lower back, when you really master this, you should be able to feel your lower back expanding as you breathe in. A good way to test it is to lightly put your hand into the area an see if your body pushes it up when you inhale) Then as I exhaled, I imagined the tension leaving my body though my sitting bones and flowing down to the earth. It worked, it really worked and I felt that “extra milimeter of opening” with a very relieving feeling. Then I tried with my shoulders and now I can grab my wrist with the other hand behind my back during the Cow Face pose ( Gomukhasana).

Try all this with a relaxed jaw if you can :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I set my alarm clock to 6:20am, hoping to catch the 7:00 Early Bird Yoga Class, have a fruit break and then go to the 10:30 Yin Yoga. However I already woke up with the strong sound of rain hitting the roof around 5:30. Hoping that this was just a cloud showering, I tried to get back to sleep but couldn't because the sound was really loud and strong. It kept raining almost until 8:30. During that time, I remembered that this was the beginning of the rainy season in Bali and there would be many more days like this, with increasing frequency and duration of showers. Well, for those days, I don't have plan B. Romanticizing about autumn rains in a hazy Istanbul morning is one thing, but I don't like to be outdoors during these tropical rain showers. I saw that both in Malaysia and Indonesia that life goes on as it is under the rain; bikers wear a raincoat and keep riding, pedestrians just open their umbrellas and keep waiting for their buses etc. Well of course I didn't expect life to go into a total crisis state every time it rained (and I am thankful that it doesn't!) but I am still not at ease with the idea of jumping from one sidewalk which is full of cracks and holes to the other while crazy drivers spray all the rain on me. So as long as there's tropical rains, I plan to spend a lot of time in my room. Ah, that's one of the reasons I still love Dubai; it's hot without the hassle of rain :) (Well even in Dubai there seems to a day of flood every year, and that flood is usually due to only a 20-minute shower but it's a completely different subject which may upset Metro Mo, so I won't go in there now. I don't want my blog to be blocked by Etisalat in the UAE ;) )

The Yin Yoga class was as usual. I couldn't keep the poses during hip-openers as the pain started to make me tremble no matter how much I tried to breathe into it, staying with the present moment. However there seems to be noticeable progress with chest & shoulder openings which I am very happy about.

After the class, I felt like having some Thai food and visited a nearby restaurant. It's one of these “cousine nouvelle” type of Asian restaurant, where the menu had vegan curry, organic red rice etc. By the way, I have noticed that Bali could be the paradise for raw foodists or for vegans; most of the restaurants have dedicated menus for vegetarians/vegans and so far I came across 3 cafes that offer a good selection of raw. But I guess, health conscious also means rich here as these places tend to have at least double the price of regular eateries. Anyways, as I was enjoying my spicy Thai food with tears and a runny nose, one of the staff in the restaurant started talking to me, Tut. He mentioned about the concept of "Takwamasi" which meant something like “me is you, you is me”. As far as I understood, it roughly refers to if I do you good, I also do myself good as all human beings are connected to each other. Seeing me eagerly taking notes as he speaks about religions vs Hindu spirituality, Tut invited me to one of the more comfortable lounge areas where we discussed in length about how fanaticism found its way into religions, while all talked about the oneness and doing good to others in their own ways. Tut's view was that this is related to “doing the religion vs owning the religion”. Since there are established bodies like Vatican that own the religion and try to exert power through it, it seems to have lost the essence that comes just by practicing it... Definitely worth thinking about.

One thing I know for sure is that I admire how Balinese spend a significant time of their days practicing religion through rituals and ceremonies yet do not possess it in an obsessive way. Such detachment is difficult to attain and probably has something to do with also detaching from the ego. He mentioned a little about his life, where he spent the first part with a strictly scientific-oriented mindset, boosted ego and ignoring spirituality. Then he gets sick one day, doctors cannot figure out what's wrong with him and the village healer cures him through prayers, which becomes his turning point into a more spiritual life with traditional values.

I wonder why I spent hours talking to him about all this, then spent even more time organizing these thoughts into writing? Don't know for sure but I guess I try to collect evidence that there's only so much that we can understand by means of our minds. There's much more that can be sensed or felt through emotions and intuition. And I doubt if that part is religion or is it something else?

I actually planned to visit one of the nearby villages in the afternoon, however ended up staying in town due to this long conversation. I walked around in town shooting photos of the Galungan preparation. Here are some catches of the day:

I had a late dinner in a local eatery in my street because I did not feel like walking under the rain which started drizzling again. I walked into the restaurant at the same time with two local women and there was only one table left. I offered to share which turned out to be a great idea, the place was what you may call quasi self-service. You would write down your order and hand out if a waitress passes by, and occasionally go to the kitchen to remind if your order is unreasonably late. It was a busy and lively place, especially with the younger tourist crowd probably because of the dirt-cheap beer and food. My table companions were a young lady from Jakarta who came to volunteer for the Ubud Writers Festival and another lady who owned a reflexology salon. Then one of the local writers, who was featured in the Festival joined our table. His name is Pande Putu Setiawan and his first book of poems was just released. He had meetings that day for the possibility of having it translated to English. He translated 2 of his poems to English on the spot and gave me another one which was already translated & printed. He writes short stories and poems about higher love, universe, beauty etc. I certainly hope he gets what he wants and acquires and international audience.

Looking back, it was a super good day; a more opened heart center, a satisfying discussion over spicy curry, discovering a new massage place, discovering a very lively eatery, shooting some street photos and meeting a young local writer and listening his poems …

Now looking forward to Galungan celebrations Wednesday.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

this is what you wake up to when you're in Bali...

Every morning, fresh flower arrangements are placed on the street along with some rice and burning incense. So walking to the Yoga studio becomes even more of a pleasure. There are different flowers, different arrangements in front of every door, generally on the sidewalk closer to the street. I asked Rai and she told me that these offerings are called "canang sari". The rice is to thank to the nature, because the food contains all elements of the nature like sun, rain, animals... if one of these would be missing, there wouldn't be any food. So before eating early in the day, some rice is offered to remember this and to share with all other beings. And the flowers are to greet the nature with mindfulness. The flowers represent the heart.

I am really grateful that every morning I wake up to the colorful sight of the flowers and the sweet smell of the incense coming from the most unexpected corners of the streets in Bali. It does put a smile on my face and warms my heart. We discussed a little more about the offerings. Nyoman said that for Balinese people religion was like a boat, after you cross the river you don't carry the boat on your back. He said if continue to carry the boat, it turns into "whose boat is bigger or better" which leads to fanaticism. There is no room for fanaticism in Balinese spirituality.

The first 4 days in Bali, I stayed in Nirvanaku. It was a pension I found over the internet. It wasn't my first choice because according to the maps it was quite far from the Yoga Barn and all that were close were fully booked already. So I booked a room for 4 days and thought this would give me enough time to look around and find a new place for the rest of my stay. However Nirvanaku turned out to be a great choice with its great garden, calm and welcoming atmosphere and the continuous artistic activity going on. The father Nyoman and the son Putu are batik artists and as well as doing batik themselves, they teach students in their garden-studio. Any given afternoon, you could see random students walking in to get their hands dirty. (I would highly recommend Nirvanaku to anyone who will visit Bali and would like to stay in a very down-to-earth, artistic and soothing environment. It beats fancy hotels any given day.)

So yesterday was my 3rd day in Nirvanaku and I decided to shop around a bit for cheaper accommodation. I enter the next pension and they quoted me a price of 10$ / night including breakfast! In Nirvanaku I was paying 25$ and considered myself lucky because there was nothing cheaper than 30$ over the internet. Finding this difficult to believe, I walked into the next pension and they quoted me 10$ too. Both these places were more run-down than Nirvanaku but I couldn't care less. The difference of 15$ / day means 2 super-large meals or 2 hours of massage in a good spa. (An average neighborhood massage salon here charges 5$/hour for massage and in good spas the price gradually goes up to 12$ / hour, I haven't yet checked the very luxurious spas) Both pensions said they were fully booked that day but would have a free room tomorrow. I somehow liked the second one better and decided to go with them if our check out times can somehow be synchronized. Today everything went smooth and I moved to my new home for the following 3-4 weeks. This place seems to have some interesting, long-term neighbors, hope to meet them when the time comes. I will however definitely keep visiting my hosts in Nirvanaku; Rai and Nyoman and have Batik lessons there in the coming weeks.

My yoga learning of the day: Ankles and hips are closely related, if you open one, the other would open too. A good exercise to open and to increase your body awareness can be this:

Sit with a straight back on your sit-bones, first point your toes as far as you can and feel the sensations on the front part of your leg. Then flex your toes and feel the sensations on the back of your leg. Are there differences between legs, what are the similar points of tension as you do hip openers?

The ankles are also said to represent commitment. No wonder then many people who are in wrong relationships consider themselves “shackled”...