The Best Laid Plans

In our group orientation this morning, I stressed two qualities I wanted the group to embody: courage and flexibility. Courage has to do with taking risks and moving out of our comfort zone. I put it to the group this way:

“What I’m going to ask you to do every day you’re on this trip, is to find a way to take a risk. It can be a big risk or a tiny risk, something visible to you that no one else would notice, or something that for everyone else would be no big deal.

“When I have new writers come to class, I always encourage them to go a little bit beyond their comfort zone, to take a small step, not a giant one. Because sometimes if you go too far out past what you’re comfortable with, there’s a big rebound in the opposite direction.

“Only you can determine what your risk should be.  Here are just a few of the examples of a what a risk in Bali might look like:
Eating a new or unfamiliar food
Starting a conversation with a Balinese person
Attempting to say a greeting in Indonesian
Showing more—or less skin than you usually do.
Getting up earlier or stay up later
Bargaining with a shopkeeper
Going on a solo excursion or adventure
Skipping an activity that everyone else is doing in order to take care of yourself
Letting go of some routine you have at home about your daily appearance…like not blow-drying your hair or not wearing make-up.
Confiding in someone
Giving up a habit you rely on for security
If you normally say no to new experiences, try saying yes
Opening to a healing modality different than what you’re familiar with
A break from anything habitual
Anything you wouldn’t normally do
Taking the risk to read a piece of your writing out loud to the group
Writing about a topic that has been taboo for you up until this moment

I finished my instructions this way: “Look for opportunities in your day. You can take the same risk over and over; it doesn’t have to be something new. Every day ask yourself, ‘Where’s my edge today?’ ‘What one step can I take out of my comfort zone?’”

The second quality I stressed to the group was flexibility, something we’ve already had to practice in spades. This morning, at 4 AM, we woke up to a deluge, an unexpected, unseasonable tropical rainstorm. Our plan to take the group snorkeling obviously had to be scrapped—there was high surf, brown muddy water, and no visibility.

So we moved our afternoon orientation session to the morning. Judy and Surya and I made a new plan to reschedule our outing to the Tirtagangga “Water Palace,” which was supposed to happen in two days, for this afternoon. Like fitting a puzzle piece into a new slot, it seemed like a good plan. All set, right? Judy just had to notify our drivers and we’d be good to go.

An hour later, I wandered over to Judy and Surya’s room to check in just as Surya was getting off his cell phone. He reported that the roads were flooded, there had been a landslide, and the route to Tirtagangga was blocked. Traffic was barely moving. Google showed a solid red line. I just had to laugh. To date, I’ve had retreats canceled or shortened due to encroaching forest fires, smoky conditions, mudslides, collapsed roads, and a pandemic.

This clearly wasn’t a day to take the group anywhere, so we retooled again. The hotel set up a beautiful meeting space under a bale (an open-air room), people made their way across the property bearing umbrellas, mostly barefoot in a couple of inches of water. Lotus Bungalows set out a towel to dry our feet, dried all the chairs they’d carried over and set up a big water cooler and cups with our names on them. They always want to do the very best for us.

We held our orientation with the rain pouring all around us—and then it would start—and then we’d hear the whoosh of the rain coming, and the sky would open up again. We all had to speak very loud in order to be heard—the rain was so loud! Using my strongest voice and employing the power of projection, I introduced the basic structure of our community guidelines and our writing practice.

Then we broke for lunch, and while we were eating, Surya gave an introductory talk on Balinese spiritual practices, community organization, and beliefs, something that originally was supposed to happen at another time.

Now everyone is on an hour-long break, and we’ll be returning to our outdoor writing room soon to dig into our first real writing session together. I’m looking forward to it and I think everyone else is, too.

Flexibility—the traveler’s best friend and essential companion. Why fight it? It’s so much better to be nimble and flow with what is happening. So, we’re flowing. Obviously, the water is, too.

FACT FOR TODAY: At lunch today, Surya explained why shrines and temples are wrapped in black and white checkered cloth. The cloth serves as a reminder that you are entering sacred space. The black represents darkness; the white represents light. Having this duality expressed in the temple entrance—and elsewhere around Bali—reminds us that we always have a choice where to put our intention. And the grey in between invites us to seek the neutral space in between.

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