I arrived in Canggu (chan-goo) and I immediately felt out of sync. Whilst every one looked like extras in an episode of Baywatch, I climbed out of the taxi looking like an extra from an Enya music video. I can’t keep up?!
Ripped bodies, tanned skin, tall men and women…It was disgusting. So this is where Zeus breeds his demi-gods. I see…
This was a surfer’s paradise. I’ve never surfed. So I booked a surfing lesson.
I’ve always had a fear of the sea. Not the shallow part where you can see your feet and where you’re going, but the deep sea; the fear of not seeing what is under you, or what is ahead.
I’m the same when it comes to life I guess. I’ve always liked knowing where I am, what I am doing, and where I am going. The unknown has always intimidated me; the unexpected.
During this trip, I started off with an itinerary of destinations, advance bookings, and pre-paid accommodations. Whilst others prefer to live more spontaneously, I like to have some form of structure; it keeps me at ease.
You could say that my fear of the deep sea was an analogy of my fear in life; the unknown, the risk, and trusting in things you can’t ‘sea‘.
I’ve slowly started to loosen up and let go; reducing my need for over-thinking and worrying. I am trying. I saw this surfing experience as another opportunity to go against the current of convention, and to ride the waves with willingness. Willingness to take risks, make mistakes, and trust the unknown.
I mean, in both surfing and in living; what have we got to lose? The biggest accomplishments that we have ever achieved in our lives have been due to taking risks. We are not the only ones out at sea, experiencing the unknown. Many are doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. People have been doing this for hundreds of years; taking risks. I can do this!…pass me my rash vest!
Ok. It worked for an hour…But that was an hour longer than I would have committed to before! And I did it! I actually surfed. I was no Kelly Slater, but I slayed nevertheless.
My scooter experience was not as…successful.
I felt really lonely during my third day in Canggu, so I decided to pick up a scooter that morning. I was feeling both excited and anxious about popping my scooter cheery, and being able to travel around and feel the new found freedom that this bike could offer me.
I checked the breaks, the lights, the accelerator and indicators. Perfect.
I strapped on my helmet and gracefully climbed on my cherry-coloured chariot.
Away we go.
I glided down the street towards the beach front; the wind in my newly sunkissed hair. This was the life.
Before I could say ‘Namaste’, I found myself at the bottom of a ditch; my legs throbbing, my head thumping, and my dignity drastically descending. What the actual Honda just happened?!
After scanning the scene for potential pedestrians pointing and laughing, which thank the lord there were none, I stood up and scanned myself. Cut shoulder, cut legs, grazed thigh…grazed confidence. Amazing. I was really blending in with these scootering/surfing/sunkissed species. Time to hide.
I scuttled back with my scooter, gently closed my apartment door, and collapsed onto my bed. I laid in bed and suddenly felt vulnerable and disheartened.
Anxiety is like a virus. As soon as your inner-confidence gets knocked down, anxiety latches onto your weakened ‘immune system’ and drags you further down into the depths of insecurity and doubt. Splendid.
I felt blue in Canggu.
It was as if in that moment, I felt like everything that I gained in Ubud, was shattered by the scooter blooper. I was back at square one; feeling vulnerable, alone, and insecure.
I dragged my sorry self out of bed and I took a walk. I saw a puppy. I picked up the puppy and I cradled it. I kissed it, comforted it, and gave it love. As I walked away from it, I felt almost ‘healed’. It was as if subconsciously gave that puppy what I needed myself. It worked. God I love puppies.
I sat down and spoke to myself like a little child. “What do you need?! What will make you feel better?”. I decided that a late night swim would help ease my wounded spirit, and hopefully soothe the wounds from the accident.
During my swim, a young mother left her apartment opposite the pool, and stumbled out of her room and headed to a party with a friend; leaving behind her little girl, screaming on the other side of the door. I had seen her during the last couple of days; left behind by her mum. Ignored, abandoned, and shut out. I refused to paddle in the pool whilst that poor girl pounded against the door. I wouldn’t ignore her. She felt alone. She felt scared.
I slowly walked up to the door and I pushed down on the handle. The wooden door opened, and behind it stood a little girl soaked in tears.
I tried to calm her down but she was too young, and I was too much of a stranger. I started to realise how strange this whole situation was, and how I should have ignored the strange cries from behind the closed door, but I couldn’t help but feel a strange sense of responsibility. Strange.
With the child in my arms, I ran after the mother. I reminded her that her baby was more important than Bacardi….in so many (British) words. It was not my place. It was not my business. It was not my child. It was, however, something that I could not watch happen.
Did she not know the consequences of her actions? How that child would grow up to experience the repercussions of abandonment, isolation and anxiety?!
I wondered why it had affected me so much; why I could not let it go. Then I realised. During my life, I have been that little girl. I have been banging on the door feeling abandoned, isolated and anxious. I opened that door to try and stop her from feeling those emotions because I too had been experiencing them, and did not want her to suffer.
During this last year, I have began to notice how my younger self; my ‘Little Ben‘ has been kept behind a door for many years; locked away and ignored. I have never felt comfortable with letting him out because his presence felt somewhat unwelcome in other people’s company. Deep down I have always been conscious of who was behind that door, but I chose to ignore it. Lately, I have began to hear the knocks and the cries from that little boy. Whilst I have been away and on my own, it is as though I checked around for the all clear, and slowly unlocked the door, reassuring ‘Little Ben‘ that it is now safe to come out.
New day. New start. I remembered Buddha’s mantra of our minds and how it “projects its subjective experience onto the world”, so I started something a simple as smiling, and the world started to smile back. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world; if you are grey, so is the world; EVEN in Bali.
Mama Ayu mentioned a family friend who knew of a spiritual healer. He was based in a village on the outskirts of Ubud. I had to go. His name was Made Lunas, and he was able to see me that afternoon.
As I edged closer to Ubud, I began to feel warmth in my heart, and a smile stretching across my face. I was home. I felt at home. I arrived at a small house opposite the rice fields, and slowly climbed the steep steps towards a garden full greens, pinks, blues and yellows.
Made was waiting for me. He stood tall, centered within the brick archway of a small stone snug. He greeted me with little words and welcomed me inside. Candles softly lit the room whilst incense filled the space with a gentle scent of lemongrass. A shrine stood proud against the brittle bricks; donned with gods, flowers, stones and satin.
He asked for my name. “Ben”. The rest he already knew.
He blessed me with his hands and his holy water. He scanned me. He assessed me. He read me. He smiled.
Ben, your kidneys are good. They are red. Your stomach is not always too good. Is this right? Your neck and shoulders are tight and sore.
You have a beautiful energy Ben. A beautiful chakra and big heart, but sometimes your heart gets stuck because of worry and over-thinking.
You are very good with your mouth and tongue. A good teacher of wisdom and knowledge.
This is your first time in Bali? It is not your last. You will be here three more times.
You will write a book and it will be successful in 2020. It will teach people how to be happy, mindful, love and success because you are very spiritual Ben. I know this is what you will do.
You have no partner, no house, and no children, correct? You will.
You will meet someone next year who will be a man, and not from your country. This will be your real love (he nods and smiles). He is a little older, and a little taller. He will love you not for your beauty, but for your beautiful tongue.
You will have a job this year, but will not do it for long. In ten years time you will have your own business, and your partner will work with you. It will teach others on how to be spiritual. You must continue to practice your mindfulness and meditation as this will be part of your business.
You will not live in your county. You and your partner; the real love (he smiles), will live in a house together somewhere quiet in the next ten years.
Ben your heart is so powerful. You are very spiritual. I have no worry about you. You need no healing, but you must carry on doing what you are doing; it is good. Continue to just ‘be’.
I will see you again Ben, I know I will. You will tell me of your success and happiness. I know this.
I embraced him and said thank you. I walked away with a smile; I am ready to ‘be’.
The next day, I had heard of a free workshop that was being held in Canggu; Ecstatic Dance followed by Sound Healing.
Dancing for me as always been associated with performance; choosing and using movement to impress people, or to prove something. Being passionate about dance has always allowed movement to be somewhat cathartic for me, but technicality and precision is still at the forefront.
Ecstatic dance is anything but precision, skill or performance. It was about expression and meditation.
At first, the idea of letting go intimated me; it always has. If you left go and let flow, you are exposing your true self, and with that, comes the fear and insecurity of judgment. My biggest fear.
Watching others just ‘be‘ was such a liberating observation. No cares, no performances; just expression.
It didn’t take long for me to free myself from the constrictions of my ego, and I found myself dancing like nobody was watching…to an extent. I will always be a ‘performer’.
I used to have to drink myself stupid before hitting the dancefloor; using my ‘moves’ to seduce and impress others…well, that’s what I imagined. Video archives of nights out have proven otherwise….
I felt so free, so connected with myself, and so liberated.
I’m starting to realise that alcohol did not support my conscious self in letting go and letting flow. It didn’t provide me with self-confidence, but in fact, dehydrated it, and instead, hydrated my ego. It’s quite easy to disassociate the two, but I think I’m cracking the code.
I felt like a child again. People were laughing, acting care-free, dancing like nobody was watching, picking up instruments and playing along with the music…sounds like something a child would do right? The very things we adore in children; the things we often envy in them.
When we ‘grow-up‘, we are somehow forced to think that these traits are only, and should only be felt by children, and feared by adults as if it is almost a sign of weakness.
“She is dancing like nobody is watching! Is she ok?”
“That guy over there is really letting go and shaking those hips! Good for him, but I’m after a real man’s man.”
Why? I don’t believe that letting go, being curious and care-free, and allowing to have ‘fun‘ is solely created for children. We were all children once. We still are those children who enjoyed using our imaginations, having ‘fun‘, wearing our mum’s tights on our heads to give ourselves long hair…(just me?). I would still love to do all of that now (especially the latter), but we are somehow made to feel that those things expire at a certain age, and that ‘responsibility’ and ‘maturity’ take their place.
The word ‘mature’ means to be fully developed PHYSICALLY. Nothing is stated about the mind. The word mature originates from the Latin word ‘maturus‘ which means ‘to ripen‘ and ‘occur at a good moment‘.
Don’t mean to point fingers again, but it looks as though, we ourselves have given this word a new meaning which we must adhere to.
Society’s meaning for ‘mature’ almost insinuates ‘to have responsibility; a restricted amount of ‘fun’, and the logic of life overpowering the love of it.
We usually rely on alcohol to provide us with an excuse to have a little ‘fun’; to let go and lose our inhibitions (and house keys, and phone, and dignity).
Seeing these men and women tapping into their inner-child/inner-self, was inspiring. I began to think differently.
I woke up the next morning, ready to seize my final day here in Bali. I was picked up at 7.a.m and driven to the mountains in Bali where I was to meet with a high priest and priestess. A dear friend of mine had put me in contact with them, and I was eager to meet with them. After I was draped in traditional clothing, I made my way through a baron garden and into the temple. It was a fire ceremony. A ceremony to cleanse and purify. I sat there chanting with the priestess before being blessed with holy water from the priest. During the ceremony, I needed to ask the gods what I wanted. The words that I repeated throughout were; To be sure and to be pure.
It was sunset and my final night here in Bali. As I walked along the shore, allowing the waves to break against my shins, I noticed my shadow walking alongside me; we did thid, together. I suddenly felt this overwhelming surge of emotion. Accomplishment, pride, peace, and happiness possessed my body. I started to laugh to myself whilst looking around; shaking my head with amazement and disbelief.
I didn’t envisage being here. I didn’t envisage a lot of things that have happened within the last year.
When a deep honest conversation makes us feel connected to someone, we become very happy. The same deep connection with ourselves is possible by wholly accepting who we are and realising the enlightened nature of ourselves. This, too, is a source of incomparable happiness and freedom.
– Haenim Sunim
It is said that there are seven wonders of the world which we should encounter. Bali has allowed for me to encounter seven wonders within myself:
People may think that my choice of saying no to alcohol somewhat limited my life and restricts my freedom. I feared this also.
I stood within the waves, embracing the warm sun and realised how saying saying one ‘no’, has opened up a life full of ‘yes’.