As soon as I was feeling a little bit better after getting food poisoning in Bingin, I headed straight back to Ubud. I met up with Jennifer, and despite our 25 year age difference, we fell into an easy friendship. She knew she should probably be spending her time reflecting in solitude and trying to sort out this whole “finding herself” business, but that’s a scary mission, and as it certainly wasn’t going to happen overnight I think she preferred my company (which is delightful, by the way). She had booked herself into a place called Honeymoon Guesthouse, so I ended up staying with her for a few nights to help take up some of the massive space for two.
Not too shabby
That’s just the kind of generous, kindhearted person I am, going out of my way to stay in a flash marble guesthouse with aircon, swimming pool, and wifi when I could be staying in the taxi man’s spare room with his uncle and wife. She did make me earn my keep though, demanding live music while she played chess with her new Balinese friend Ambara. I just pawned the responsibility off on the Australian guy I met in the pool earlier who made the mistake of telling me he played music. Obviously he had no chance of doing anything he wanted to do from that point forward as I was going to force him to play me sweet sweet music. And that he did. Keep an ear out for him, his name is David Cheney and with music as impressive as his is, just getting started, I can only imagine what he will be creating in a few years time.
As I always have plenty of my own reflecting to do, I eventually retreated back to my own accommodation with cold showers, broken ceiling fans, and lizards for roommates, leaving Jennifer to her solo honeymoon. Despite the downgrade, my place is still comfortable and clean with a great view.
View from my porch at Dena Sari
Aside from wandering aimlessly and looking at artwork, I wanted to branch out and try to open myself up to some “Eat, Pray, Love Moments” as my dad calls them. (Sidenote: I am obsessed with the book, not the movie. If you havn’t read it you should do so immediately. The movie is artistically shot, but nowhere near as insightful). Ubud is where Elizabeth Gilbert comes when she is in Bali, and being here it is easy to see why. I discovered a place called Yoga Barn (www.theyogabarn.com) and decided to take a chakra meditation class there. It is a beautiful, two-story open-air studio over looking terraced rice paddies, dedicated to “yoga, movement, and healing”.
Yoga is easy when that is your view
Chakras are meant to be the different areas of your body that transmit and receive energy, each relating to a specific type of energy and associated with a color. In Hindu and Buddhist Yogic traditions, the energies spin like a fan, and the practice of chakra meditation is meant to help you sync your body’s chakras, harmonizing them and getting in tune with which energies are being blocked and which energies are strongest.
The typical 7 chakras
I very much believe in positive and negative energy in the universe, and the power the mind has to impact the things around you, but I generally stray away from trying too hard to label it or quantify it. I nonetheless came to the class with an open mind and a clear and calm head. After about 20 minutes of various forms of meditation, we were all standing in the class, eyes closed, as the teacher had us swaying our arms around each chakra, focusing on what was happening in each area of our body as we “oh-ah-mmm”ed in unison. The air was still but for the vibration from our voices until a loud “WHACK!” pulled us from our meditative state. We looked up to find a woman, about 40 or 50 years of age, on the ground after fainting. Instead of going limp before falling, she had gone down like a wooden plank, taking the brunt of the fall on her chin as she hit the timber floorboards beneath her. Strangely, one of the guys in class, Andy, said for some reason the second before she fell he had opened his eyes from meditation and looked straight at her. Though she could hardly move her jaw, she mentioned before the ambulance took her away that before she went down all she could see was the color purple. Purple represents Sahasrara; the Crown chakra. Located at the top of the head, this is generally thought of as the chakra of pure consciousness. Whether or not there is some deeper meaning hidden here is not really for me to say, but it is interesting nonetheless.
After the drama, those of us who remained resumed the class and we were soon separated into groups of three to do an exercise. We sat holding hands with our eyes closed, and one person had to choose a color to represent and then send that color to the other two members of the group through the vibrations in their “oh-ah-mmmm”. After a few minutes, the other two group members had to share what color they received. I was with Andy, a middle-aged Englishman, and Clint, a 25 year old Australian. After each round, the whole class shared what had just happened, and it was pretty impressive how many people had guessed correctly, or at least guessed the color just above or below the intended chakra. When I went, I decided I would be a bit tricky, and went for two colors. I wanted to be yellow and orange so I focused on sunlight, which kept conjuring images of the beach in my mind. Andy guessed first and said immediately that he got two colors from me, but I just looked at him blankly waiting for him to finish his guess, and he said he wasn’t sure why but he definitely got two colors and they were yellow and orange. Exactly right. Then Clint guessed and said he got blue, but then kept getting yellow as well. Though not completely right, it was still a pretty accurate guess as I was using the beach, with blue water and golden sunlight, as the image in my head to channel my colors. But it gets weirder.
Later in class, no longer in small groups, the teacher told us to send a simple wish or desire out into the universe and channel our energy into making it happen. I had been struggling to meet other young, solo travelers like myself, and had noticed that while a lot of people seemed to have come to the class with someone else, Clint had come on his own. So I made my statement simple, “that guy is going to come over to talk to me after class, and we’re probably going to go get some food together.”
What do you know, after class I’m rolling up my yoga mat and who wanders over? Clint, asking if I would like to go get dinner. Oh well, gee, I hadn’t thought about it, I’m not sure I may have to YES OF COURSE I WOULD! So me Clint and Andy end up going to a place in town called Bali Buddah. Over Bintangs and dinner I learned that Andy had just got back from an Ashram and practices NRP; neurological response programming. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Clint works as an engineer in the mines in Australia. Loving every moment of the fascinating company I found myself in as the result of a simple decision to take a meditation class, the three of us carried on sharing and exploring our life perspectives, continually moving our conversation as place after place closed and kicked us out. The night ended in me playing a few songs at a reggae bar (wtf?! And in smelly yoga clothes as well!) before we went and “danced the chakras” at the only late-night club in Ubud. Now before you think I’ve gone completely new-age and mental, we were fully aware how ridiculous we were being. And it was awesome.
After struggling my way through a full day bike trip up an active volcano and through the Balinese countryside the next day (I had booked before I knew I’d be out all night!), I met up with Andy and Clint again, and this time brought Jennifer along to see what she could gain from the experience.
Surprisingly good shot of Mt Batur considering the state I was in when I took it
Balinese Woman Hard at Work in the Fields
One of the most beautiful things I love about travel is the way in which strangers can come together and share something meaningful that each will carry with them, even though they will most often float out of each other’s lives as fast as they came. You can learn about the deepest crevasses of a persons mind after only knowing them a day because in this environment, people cut the bullshit of day to day life and come together in the simple acknowledgment that we are all just people, trying to figure it out.
Not sure if J is going to be stoked with this pic or not
After another night of amazing conversation and insight, we all decided to exchange emails as Clint and Andy were both heading out of Ubud the next day. Now if you didn’t think guessing the correct chakra colors or telling the universe to make Clint talk to me was enough to make you think twice about the power of the mind, listen to this. For fun, Clint and I decided to try to guess each other’s last names before exchanging emails. We closed our eyes and held hands, and I tried my best to send him “Berner,” focusing on really hot things and thinking this was definitely not going to work. His guess? Burns. Out of all the last names in the world, he freaking guesses Burns. Then it’s my turn to guess. Loads of last names are floating in my head but I tell him I’m not getting anything. He says to scratch that idea then, and just guess an animal. I close my eyes and after a few minutes just say sorry, I didn’t get it. All I can think is rabbit, and that’s obviously not a last name.
Or it is?
His last name is Hare. He sent me “rabbit.”
I don’t care how skeptical you may be about any of this meditation/personal energy business, you have to admit that is pretty damn weird. He guessed Burns, I guessed rabbit. Weird.
Now, I’m not going around thinking I have special powers and can read minds and control the universe, but this experience was enough to reinforce a simple idea that I have believed for some time, but am not always diligent in practicing; the energy that I put out into the universe is more than fleeting thoughts, but it is something tangible that has an effect on the area around me. The more in tune I am with myself, the more opportunity I have to control the energy that I emit. At dinner that second night, Clint told me that he had watched me walk across the street to where he was and that I was glowing. He said I just had an energy about me that was radiating. It was one of the best compliments I have gotten in a really long time, maybe ever. It’s not easy to maintain that positivity all the time, and doing so would mean living in ignorant bliss as the world is far from a perfect place, but I was happy, even for just one night, to have gotten my glow back.