Day 90- Namaste, India!

This morning as I prepare to go to the airport I know I should be excited and deep down I really am, but layered over the excitement are many other less comfortable emotions. I want to laugh and cry at the same time. I feel like I’m running straight into the unknown. Maybe that’s because I am running into the unknown. I decide to just breathe through every moment because today is one I will probably never forget. Today is one of those whole day meditations. Without the calm breath, I might freak out.

Saying goodbye to Andrew is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but then again all the best things in life are. In love, I give my everything until I am drained and often lose sight of who I am. So this part of the journey, I need to continue alone so that I can find the greatest relationship I will ever know; the one with myself. Part of me thinks I am an idiot but that part is overridden by a deep-set sense that this is the right thing. I am on my life path and in order to find myself I have to do the search alone.

I have airport pick-ups all organised I have my next month of travel all mapped out in front of me but I still feel like a lost little child. Anything this terrifying must be worth it, right? If I think of the times in my life when I have truly felt afraid, like actually heart pounding, tongue dry fear, I know that this is nothing. Aside from my irrational fear of seeing clay cut with wire (yes I know, specific and weird), I can think of exactly three situations when I have felt real fear. Once, when a huge SUV ran a red light and missed me by about half a second; on 25th October 2010 when a tsunami hit the Mentawais islands and we didn’t know where some of our friends were; and when I felt an earthquake for the first time. Come to think of it, anytime I feel an earthquake is a terrifying moment.

But this, this isn’t fear. This is the unknown. This is the beautiful and crazy moment in life when I am facing a massive shift, when my life is literally getting turned upside down and I know I’ve done it to myself. It’s too late to turn back. I’m caught in this flash flood and the only way I’m coming out is on the other end. But I still catch myself thinking, holy f*** I can’t believe I’m going to India!

When I arrive at the airport I am shocked to find that nobody is yelling and trying to get my attention. I kind of imagined it would be like Indonesia, where the taxi drivers just tell and wave the minute you walk out but everyone just ignores me. I finally find my driver and he seems a little upset that he had to wait so long inside only to find me outside. As I get into the car, I ask him how far the hotel is and he says, “10 hours” with complete stoicism. I start to laugh nervously, you’re kidding right? He finally nods and then says, “thank you for smiling miss!” and I thank him for making me laugh. We make small talk and when I notice a small effigy to Kali he asks if I believe in the gods. This seems like too slippery a question so I answer with a simple yes. I was once asked at the Gandhi ashram in Bali which religion I prescribed to, to which I replied diplomatically, “all of them!”
I tell the driver Aji that I am Mexican and can speak Spanish he says, “Hola, Hola coca-cola” and “Mira, mira, Kashmira”, which is all the Spanish he knows. I find this absolutely hilarious.

We arrive at the Cottage Yes Please which seems to be amongst some kind of night market. It is almost midnight but the street noises never really die down. There are pigeons nesting right outside my window so I can hear feathers beating and the occasional coo.

Well, I made it. Here I am, still a little bit gobsmacked that I’m in INDIA!

Day 89- stay in bed meditation

I wake up but my eyes stay closed. It doesn’t matter which way I lie, this bed is the most comfortable place in the world to me right now and I can not think of any place I would rather be. It is my last morning of sleep-ins for a while, as tomorrow I head to India and then will spend the next month in ashrams where the usual wake up time is 4.30am. But not Bali. Not today. Today, I do not know the time yet and as I am lying on my side, curled up under the doona (the air-con is still on), and as I roll over with my eyes still closed, I feel all my worries and concerns leaking out of my ear and into the pillow. I can beat them out of there later. I smile in contentment and feel the empty space within where only breath exists. I let go of the day. It hasn’t begun for me yet, so really there is no point being attached to it yet. Anything could happen. I do not think about breakfast yet, as I usually would. I do not wonder why my phone vibrated a little while ago, or what time it is. I just enjoy being in bed. This is definitely a formula for waking up on the right side of the bed.

When I eventually open my eyes and come out of my bed-itation, I check my phone. I have been looking at my visa for India and wondering why the expiry date is only the 21st May. When I asked a friend, she said it looks like I only got the 2 month visa, which means I am already getting in ten days later than when it begins and I have to be out 7 weeks after I arrive. I feel the frustration and disappointment rise up within. I go to the bathroom in a huff and brush my teeth with more emotion than what is necessary for oral hygiene. Then I decide to leave all that negative emotion right here in the bathroom, where waste is usually left. Meditation only takes you so far, sometimes you need to make the conscious decision NOT to be a slave to your emotions. I emerge from the bathroom with a smile and resume my position in bed. After all, if I need to be back in Sydney by the 21st May, then I assume that it is for a reason and I trust that reason to be something amazing.

Day 88- make every moment sacred

Even after a ten hour sleep, I can still wake up feeling exhausted sometimes. It is frustrating. I have no motivation, no energy and I just feel low. I come into child’s pose but my knees ache. I sit cross-legged and close my eyes. I bring my hands into prayer position and on the inhale, allow them to slowly separate and expand out wide. On the inhale, they come back together. After about ten rounds of this moving meditation, my arms still feel tired so I change direction. I face the palms up, with the arms bent at ninety degrees and slowly lift them up on the inhale. At the top of the in-breath, I turn the palms to face down and exhale slowly. This flows a little easier and as my breath slows, so does the movement. After a few minutes, the breath and movement are flowing in super slow motion, moving the prana around me.

Slowly my arms come back to prayer position. I bow my forehead to my fingertips and offer an intention for my day.

Make every moment sacred.

Make every breath and every movement a meditation.

Day 87- meditating in Vishnu’s shadow

North of Jimbaran, Bali, is the GWK Cultural Park where there is an enormous statue of the Hindu god Vishnu. When I first went there over 7 years ago, I remember running up the steps to find a ceremony taking place and since I was only wearing shorts and a singlet, I took a quick photo and left. Now it seems more like an amusement part. You can rent a segway or a quad bike to get around the vast grassy plazas or ride down between the stone mountains on a flying fox. Today, at the great statue of Vishnu, there is a film crew playing Indian music and actors dressed like Spanish salsa dancers. This weird mix of latin and Bollywood, next to the deity makes little sense to me, but I find a shaded area around the back of the statue where I can’t see so many of the people. Every now and then a small part of the same song is blasted out of the portable speaker and I can hear a burst of “Hare, hare, hare…” From where I am sitting, I look up to the statue to see a pair of pigeons nesting in the back of Vishnu’s neck. A tiny blue butterfly is beating his wings slowly, dancing around in circles. When two swallows rush towards him, he flutters off into the leaves. As soon as the swallows fly away again, he returns, again going around and around in his slow circle. Another tiny blue butterfly comes out of nowhere and they connect, spiralling down towards the water fountain at the base of the statue, where they release and separate. I watch the path of the butterfly as he once again returns to his space of sky and starts circling again.

I am wondering why this temple is so different from the one in Candidasa, but the answer is obvious- aside from the entry charge, and the people in here filming, this place has become a cultural park. It isn’t really a temple anymore. If you come at night, they perform a Kecak at 6pm every night. As you enter, the cafe workers encourage you to stop for an icy coconut and you can’t leave without walking through the gift shop. The commercialisation of god is what separates this place from a genuine temple. But, if I can meditate on a plane then I can certainly meditate here in Vishnu’s shadow. A man behind me is lighting incense to make the midday offerings and the smell of sandalwood curls around my face. Again I find the butterfly, making his rounds and watch his flight in peace.

Day 86- one thousand crunches of doom

Don’t worry, it is a misnomer. I don’t really do one thousand crunches. I do one hundred. It is a trick I made up, I break it down into four lots of twenty and then two lots of ten; the first twenty crunches with feet on the floor or soles of the feet pressed together and knees wide, the second and third set of twenty with both knees to one side, the fourth set of twenty with both legs straight up and then ten for each leg in a scissor legs position. I have PMS so I wake up and have no energy or will to live, let alone get out of bed. I try to sit down and meditate but I can’t sit still, the cramps are just making life very uncomfortable. I am craving poached eggs. I feel a little dazed and spacey. How is it that every month I can be thrown completely out of sync like this?

I may be acclimatised enough in Indonesia to wear jeans but a hot water bottle would be beyond extreme so to deal with my cramps, I decide to exercise. I want to do a full flowing practice but I just don’t have the energy or the motivation. Since it is my abdomen giving me hell, I am just going to give it hell right back. With my ‘thousand crunches of doom’. The repetitive nature of the exercise clears up my fuzzy little mind and my irritability slips away, at least for the time being.

In the afternoon, the cramps threaten to return so I do another set of crunches of doom then plank, side plank, single leg lifts, reverse crunches and any other core exercise I can think of. When I practice asana, I generally leave out the core exercises, feeling like it turns my flowing yoga practice into too much of a workout. It’s like I think there is no room for the sacred when you do crunches. But today, I find the sacred in my crunches. Even though my body is moving, inside I find stillness. If nothing else, it is meditation in ACTION.

Day 85- hugging trees and kissing frogs

It is my last morning in the ashram so I wake up for the morning prayers at 5am. As I walk to the common area, I can feel wind on my scalp. I love that feeling. Several frogs leap out of my torch light and into the scrub. Frogs symbolise cleansing, inner beauty and opportunity through transition. I have been seeing them everywhere for the past 5 days and I have probably undergone more change in the past 5 days than the whole year! Shaving my head was certainly cleansing and I guessed comforted to know that there is a message of inner beauty as I struggle with the tennis ball fuzz that is my new hair do.

As I sit through prayers I find it hard to keep my mind still. It’s like I sucked in helium all night, it just keeps floating up and away. As I walk back to my room, I am blessed with a beautiful sunset and while trying to take a photo and walk at the same time, I stumble in a hole and twist my ankle. That would be the universe saying, “Get Grounded, Liz!” so I stop at a tree.

This grounding meditation I found a few weeks ago when I was flying to LA but all the city transits made it hard to find a good tree. When we got to the Mexican desert there was only cactus nobody wants to be hugging that! I have waited a long time to find the perfect tree for this meditation and when I look up at this tall palm tree in the dawn I know it is the right one. This tree has been helping me with handstands lately so it is already a friend. I also like picking the palm tree because a) I can get my arms around the trunk and b) the nature of the trunk draws water from leaves to roots so strongly that Indonesian people use the trunk upside down to build pillars of their homes as they suck the water from the roof down to the earth. I definitely need my energy to be pulled down to the earth so I approach the tree and kindly ask if I may have a chat. The tree answers in a booming voice… No, just kidding, trees don’t talk! (not that loopy yet) I place my hands gently on the wood and notice a rusty nail driven into it. I tell the tree what is going on in my life, any concerns or tensions. I tell it my deepest darkest secrets and worries and feel them all moving into the tree and down to the roots expanding beneath the earth under my feet. I finish talking and hug the tree.

As I sit down for a morning coffee I am blessed with a Monet sunrise. That would be nature hugging me back.



Day 84- shaving my head… yes I will miss my long hair!

Hair, I will miss you. I will miss the way you tickle my back. I will miss the way you provide a pillow when I have none. I will miss your smell when I have washed you with coconut shampoo. Hair, I will miss the way you can make my face look pretty even when I have had no sleep and feel like crap. I will miss the mindless entertainment you provide when my mind is absent and I can curl my fingers around you. I will miss those times when I have come across a bad stench in the air I rely upon my hair to work like a filter and use it to cover my nose. I will miss the way you can shine in the sun and the way you feel after a macadamia oil treatment. But mostly I know that I won’t miss you for long. I know you will grow back faster than I expect and I know before long I will be struggling with baby hairs and frizz and split ends and cursing you for troubling me. I know that, like everything in life, our separation is only a temporary thing. Nothing is certain except the impermanent nature of the universe. You are a perfect example of that, hair.

I wake up and touch the long strands of hair that frame my head. I pour it over my face and breathe in through it. Then I flick it out of my face and sit up. It is a hot day in Candidasa and my hair is a huge mass of frizz already. The perfect day to chop it all off, really. At breakfast, I am talking to Janice, another ashram guest, who loves India and has shaved her head on the banks of the ganges. She suggests I go to the temple across the road for a short prayer before I head to the hairdresser. I cross the road and the Ibu at the gate wraps me in a sarong. The air cools as I ascend the steps. The temple is halfway up the mountain in the cold, dewy rainforest. As I ascend, the sounds from the road start to fade away. In the temple, I can hear only the sounds of the birds. The air is fresh and alone in this sacred moss-covered stone shrine, I open my palms and turn my face to the canopy. From within All I can hear, all I can think is “love”, pure love, unconditional love. Perfect clarity descends upon me: I am not my hair, I am not my clothes, I am not my tattoos. I am only that which is within.

I open my eyes and look around the temple. Churches may not make much sense to me, but here, amongst the moss covered stones and bird songs, I know that if there is god then god would live here.

As the electric shaver is taken to my head, I grow silent and solemn. It is not sadness that has overcome me, but a reverence in the knowledge that I do this to free myself from the bondage of vanity, to let go of the conditioning of society, to let go of the attachment to “pretty”and just to allow myself to be my authentic self. No masks, no strings, nothing to hide behind. This is me and I love me. Pure love. Unconditional love. With inner peace comes world peace. With love for self comes love for others. With detachment comes freedom.

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