I came to Bali with my friend Nancy Gertz a week before my students were set to arrive. In the course of that week, Nancy and I became friendly with a couple from Holland and the four of us enjoyed meals and conversation. The three of them, in Bali for the first time, were sharing their impressions. When I said it was my sixth time returning, they asked “Why do you like Bali so much? Why do you keep coming back?”

I thought for a moment and there were so many ways I could have answered that question. I could have talked about the beauty of the land, the warmth of the people, the spirituality embedded in the culture, the way the Balinese have deep respect for the arts, how people live in community, and on and on.

But how I actually replied was: “I like how I feel when I’m here. I like who I am when I’m here.”

I’ve been mulling over those statements ever since. And today, as I began to shift gears toward welcoming my students, being a writing teacher and running this retreat, I kept thinking, I should look at my notes. I should make a list. I should… should… should do something to prepare.

Nancy says I’m like a dog circling around and around before finally finding a place to lay down. And that’s so true. I’m always out of sorts before I teach—certain I should be doing something to get ready, when what I actually do is procrastinate and avoid any real preparation. I repeat this pattern every single time I’m about to step into a major teaching role. So, I guess this IS my preparation. And today was no exception.

What I actually did today was go snorkeling (despite choppy conditions, I still loved floating on the water), take a nap, get another massage, sit in a sundress on a lounge chair staring out at the water, watching dusk turn into night as the first stars came out, all while savoring a light breeze on my skin.

At that moment, I realized in a way I never realized before that my skin actually is a sense organ. I mean I’ve heard that phrase, but until today, I’ve never really known what it meant. But suddenly I did; I’d spent the entire day bringing stimulation and sensual pleasure to every inch of my skin. I’d soaked in salt water, waves, wind, and sun, had a 90-minute massage, even walked out in a short intense rainstorm early this morning; all of it made my body feel good, no, great, embodied in a powerful, rich way.

And here’s the real key: when I’m tuned into my senses like that, my steel trap of a mind loses its grip. Even now, sitting up in bed, listening to waves outside my window, cozy blanket and cool air surrounding me, my body feels sated and fully alive. Deep happiness is radiating through me simply at the felt pleasure of having a body.

Which is definitely not my normal state of affairs.

So that’s why I love Bali.

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