Since I’ve Come to Bali

This is a compilation of responses to final writing prompt of this first of two retreats.

Those of us who have all been here for 15 days together are all going our separate ways today. We just had our final closing circle.

I’m going to be resting for the next 4 days and then will return to Candidasa to greet group number two.

Here’s my compilation of responses to my last prompt in our final writing group yesterday: “Since I’ve come to Bali”

Since I’ve come to Bali,  I’ve witnessed endless beauty: bamboo squares holding flowers, rice and tiny objects as offerings; incense sticks with exotic scents and smoke rising into the ethers; rock statues of Gods and Goddesses, Ganesha, Saraswati, Krishna, Buddha; frogs and bulging eyed creatures, some smiling, some looking terrifying and fierce.

I’ve seen cleansing, churning waterfalls gathering force from bountiful recent rains.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve seen shape and design wherever the eye rests. A culture that loves beauty and lush delight.

I’ve seen so many flowers, so many shades of pink, waxy red petals, yellow stamens, big and small lotus flowers, mirror droplets on the floating leaves. So many iterations of rice: baby green rice in deep water, emerald green terraces, waving gold rice, little mounds, big golden bundles tied together, table rice: white and red, black dinner rice, black rice pudding. Rice cooked in more ways than I could have imagined.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve seen huge bundles on the back of scooters. Traffic flowing in swirling patterns on narrow roads. Families four deep on mopeds skidding up one-lane trails into the clove forest.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve seen the sun set over the Bali Sea. I’ve seen mahogany trees and wooden dug-out canoes.

I’ve seen brilliant orange sarongs billowing in sacred waters.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve seen group members squealing with joy under a pounding waterfall. I’ve been one of those group members. I’ve seen healers work with my new friends in the most intimate, tender and difficult ways. I witnessed the close connections that we’ve grown to share with each other.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve savored the opening of my senses. I am centered in the moment realizing that this is exactly where I need to be. I am nourished and healed.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve heard lots of laughter. Surya calling: “Jalan! Jalan!” Let’s go. The rushing of a waterfall so loud it covers everything, even the noise inside my head. Birds chirping, an avian orchestra in different movements, at sunrise, less during the day, and then crickets, locusts, and frogs taking over the evening.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve heard gentle dinner music played by a solitary man with a single instrument. Melodic healing sounds.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve heard water flowing, trickling, rushing, pounding, splatting on the roof, sloshing as we walked across a flooded lawn. I’ve heard the rolling waves of endless tides, thunder in the night, birds calling to their lovers, cicadas reminding me it’s over 32 Celsius, the shuffle of flip-flops, the layering of rice bundles being placed in heaps to dry in the sun, the flow of water in a stream outside my window, low speaking voices in melodic tones.

I’ve heard, night after night, a cicada chorus high above the Bali Sea.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I have tasted the best coconut ice cream I have ever had and the best sweet crispy tempeh, with and without peanuts. I’ve downed sweet welcome tea at our hotels. Fresh papaya juice every day. Savored the sweetest tiny bananas, the best homemade papaya jam. Black, sticky rice pudding, so sweet and delicious. And those weird green pancakes wrapping the fried bananas, the sweet caramel of palm sugar, Arak, the moonshine at cocktail hour.

I’ve tasted new fruits hidden by hard shells protecting shaped lobes of fruit.

I’ve tasted spicy sambal, sweet and savory peanut sauce, many kinds of nasi goreng, and young coconut water blessed by a healer. I’ve tasted the mist of a waterfall collected on my upper lip.

I have tasted the sweet fruits of friendship and delight in meeting those who are familiar, friends of my heart.

I have definitely not had enough chocolate.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I have felt comfortable, relaxed, myself, rested, with renewed sight and writing the best concoctions I’ve written in years. I feel happy in my body. I’ve felt the luxury to smile as much as I like, as much as is natural for me, and to have it reflected in the smiles of the Balinese.

I have felt scattered puzzle pieces slipping into place, forming a picture, coming into focus.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve faced various parts of me: old pains and new visions and dreams of possibility.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I have savored my time alone and the profound silence that sometimes only lasts a moment, sometimes extends for minutes, a meditation unexpected, unanticipated, a rest from noise, hubbub, interference. I have savored the evenness of the day.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I have learned how important my regular meditation practice is, the intentionality of offerings and ritual, just how sticky sticky rice flour is, and a new love of tempeh.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I have reconnected with my love of fabric, craft, and flowers. I’ve enjoyed imagining them woven together. I’ve reconnected with a childhood love of sleeping outdoors, the cool of the natural night air, the sounds of the nearby forest, the road, the dogs, part of my dreams, safe and sound in my lumbung.

I’ve felt ecstatic from sacred ceremony, blessed by love, my body bent and moved in surprising ways that brought relief.

I’ve felt giddy with anticipation of each new delight just around each corner.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve felt like the line from the Charles Dickens’ novel, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I’ve experienced acceptance and surrender, no matter how painful, I’ve loved finding my joy, my heart.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve met the high priest and priestess, both their extraordinariness and ordinary humanness.

I met Surya who constantly amazed me with his vast knowledge and playful energy.

I have met people sure of their place in the world, rooted in their compound and their banjar, rooted in their lives, unencumbered – seemingly – by the clutching and discontent that permeates my usual world.

I’ve met earth angels and Boddhisattvas, in the Balinese and my retreatmates.

I have felt alternatingly enthralled, touched and deeply moved to tears by the open-heartedness, decency and sweet nature of the local people I’ve met.

I have learned with gratitude and relief that Americans are not feared and reviled everywhere.

I have learned that many Balinese are proud that Barack Obama spent years of his childhood in Indonesia.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve left behind the pains and sufferings of home, and given myself the permission to not fix that which is far away.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve heard a recurrent gamelan, like a mantra that reminds me where I am. I’ve loved the feeling that people here have a deep sense of belonging. I’ve seen how a people can make different choices for themselves. I have felt the color green everywhere, but I have never felt dry.

I have met more smiles that are unforced and natural.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve learned how very much I love home. I will take with me small parts of Bali, and oh-so many memories that will forever enhance my life. It is only through leaving that I can fully appreciate the return.

I have felt a welcoming presence that I’ve felt nowhere else. I have felt safe and at peace as if held by a loving ibu.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I have learned I carry another spirit with me for guidance, possibly even of ancient ancestry.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve witnessed over and over again that the Balinese are joyful, caring, creative, hospitable and kind. 💖

Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve learned, or maybe relearned, how very much I enjoy writing and how for me, writing is both a love language and a way to express myself in the world.

I have learned that expressing our vulnerabilities brings us closer to others.

Since I’ve come to Bali, I have learned to share openly and be authentic in the safety of our circle. We all share in the pain, insecurities and the need for love. We are each other’s healers and teachers. I’ve met people on this trip I hope to be friends with for the rest of my life.

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