Sunday, May 8, 2011

What is a Life?

April 2 ,2011

What is a Life?

I’ve now spent this rainy Sunday morning while internet is working perusing film clips of Elizabeth Taylor from National Velvet to Butterfield 8, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe

Elizabeth Taylor’s death, as it trickled through the news sieve (mostly things I read are through facebook, when there is good internet and when there is time away from my relationship teaching in the world’s most gorgeous living studio)…has stayed on my mind for several days- through a yoga, music, dance-athon at the Bali Wonka village of Desa Seni, a touch in Ubud at the BaliSpirit Festival, the colossal tragic earthquake in Japan- shifting the earth’s access, Grandma Lois turning 90 and…I’ve fallen in Love…

The last thing, the most EPL People thing, I could write in a Bali blog. To fall in Love in Bali is the last thing I want to do, being a blond yoga teacher from LA, from the Siddha yoga lineage of teachings, in a life quest for awakening…(see Eople People Blog to make sense of this)

Horrible cliché’s and mock versions of myself zip through my head in a Temple Grandin picture parade math problem for cow Slaughtering improvement like montage.

Looking through Elizabeth Taylor’s life through the years, her loves her losses, her diamonds, her Oscars- I am again wondering, from one of the greats, “the greats”, what is a life?

When my grandma Lois turned 90 March 26th. My mother asked each of Grandma Lois’ grandchildren (5) and children (3) to create a compilation of materials celebrating the peak of the last 9 t decades. My Uncle made a TimeLife mock cover with pictures through the decades, My aunt, a list of foods, menu items and their recipes, and my mother, of course candies through the eras, My brother-in -law music (3 CDs), my cousin, film clips, and me- writers.

Needless to say, as I perused the post war writers, depression era writers, through the beats to the Ginsberg word salad “HOWL”- I’ve been mentally tripping through decades of subconscious mind spilling out through word symbols, carving images of time cells captured in the imagination, wondering what Grandma Lois- farm girl from Maryland marries Swiss ex-pat linguist expert for the Government. Moves a family from Frankfurt to Niece to Beirut and back to Cheverly Maryland. What touched her, what did she read.

Elizabeth Taylor, Somehow that lead me to AFI’s list of of the 50 greatest Film Star Actress. - has me thinking about this- really stirring- some rumination that looks something like this…

From Carole Lombard to Katherine Hepburn the question of beauty and timelessness sparked by phrases about Elizabeth Taylor’s preternatural violet eyes and porcelain skin have me pondering a life which is gifted the world’s biggest diamond in the world, to the world that takes Jean Harlow at 26 of kidney failure- have me thinking about this-

What is a Life?

Part of me is so resistant to making life choices, and I look at the writers, the actors the ages when most of these greats I’m reading about created their greatest contribution before my age.

I am at the tail end of 39.

The facts and milestones of these peoples lives, the starlets greatest performances were all before the ages of 40, I realize to create, to keep creating , and to take big risks is the point.

To fall in love.

To fall in love, to do something unprecedented, to go BALLS OUT BIG creates a compelling life, no matter how short the ride.

As I pour through accomplishments- poems and pages through 100 years of Americana- combing through decades for Grandma Lois’ 90th to what is GREAT, memorable, worthy, groundbreaking- I remember this.

I remember the loves they wrote for. I see the things about them that broke through boundaries of humanity. From Elizabeth Taylor’s sexuality, scandalous even when she was in National Velvet, to Ginsberg’s bawdy, raunchy truthful sexual HOWL in 1959- no one, not one of them makes a dent from holding back. No makes the safe choice. The ride begs us to be Katherine Hepburn and wear pants, or TS Elliot and tell it like it is, to get married 8 times, twice to same man, or, as my Grandmother, and persevere through 9 decades of change and innovation, and transmutation.

And have a family that celebrates it with you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bali Wonka and the Kula

Writing a blog has become difficult.

It occurs to me that both shocks and mortifies me to know anyone is reading. It is like the mental/verbal equivalent of flashing one’s boobs, or pulling down one’s pants. If one is being really honest.

Therefore I had to begin writing my stories, most of them in the “unblog”, the one that might be published after my death, the one that holds the stories like those of “You’ll Never Say Namaste in This Town Again”, my unwritten, unpublished tell all book about the real truth of teaching yoga in LA. The unblog flirts with plots of countless films and books(as a former screenwriter I realize I’m constantly coming up with loglines:” She gave herself six months to live- during that time she has to make amends to all the men she has wronged throughout her life….meanwhile her pembantu is turned into a goat…”)

Likewise the unpublished blog, like the unwritten unpublished book, should probably remain as such, unread.

So, then what to write here, and WHY write here. There is something truly tantalizing, perhaps in the same way as flashing one’s knickers about throwing something out there and seeing if anyone reads it, resonates with it, and also to practice a responsibility in writing which is unaccountable when you are writing something that should not be read until you die. I imagine someone pouring over my unpublished book thinking, “So many misplaced modifiers…” Probably my mother. Why dangle such a tantalizing carrot in front of the eyes of readers?

Probably I want to take all my masks off- but not yet.

Back to THE BLOG:

“This place is amazing! Tom is like Willy Wonka of Bali. Bali Wonka…” another visitor to Desa Seni (translates to Art Village), remarks on our village resort.

And it is true. It is undeniable the small “art village” of Tom’s creation, looks like a storybook. You wouldn’t, in certain areas of Desa Seni, feel surprised if you saw an oompa loompa cutting the grass, or a small pan with pipe running through the rice fields heralded by fairies. The storybook setting, the organic farms, the gorgeous yoga shala with has turtles and geckos, , bridges over small streams, and the lumbung (OH! The lumbung!). The setting has been well forged.

It was to this setting Bali Wonka invited me to run the yoga program. And honored me to help co-create what he has started. Maybe I am his Charlie Bucket. All I know is this, Bali Wonka has met the notion of Kula. And there really is no better way to say this, It’s on.

Something bigger than I could have imagined seeded in his Bali Wonka mind. And now me and Bali Wonka are having a baby, it is in it’s fourth month.

Kula is often described as a community enjoined by the heart. Paul Muller Ortega, one of my beloved teachers, describes somewhat more elegantly:

Whether one examines the body or the entirety of the universe, each is understood to constitute a kula, a grouping or assemblage that achieves a kind of temporary structural integrity, continuity, and identity. They enjoy a certain kind of autonomy: a living body, an embodied person, appears to exist as a relatively autonomous organism, sustained in invisible and complex ways in its continued existence.

But to create a Kula, in the midst of the travelling destination node of consciousness called Bali, is a many-layered thing. How do we magnetize, those that will create a healthy body collective?

So far we have been blessed to see the yoga classes grow, local expats that live here are the blood and bones of our body. We have returning kula members from the States, Singapore, Germany, Australia, Holland,

We have created an entity called I-LAB (Bali backwards, ) to show films, and hopefully eventually to hold satsangs, music, book clubs, maybe community projects.

We are holding teacher trainings to create a level of depth and collective knowledge in our body.

And hopefully this body will grow and awaken. It feels very much like mothering a child into walking and talking self-sufficiency. And yet, as every mother must feel, at some point, her own un-examined traits are often passed to the child. In Kula, every cell reflects the others.

The cells of this child, the cells of Bali, are a fascinating plethora of past lives. Almost everyone here, came from a life that was drastically other. They, like myself, consciously left a familiar culture, family, career, a certain lifestyle and came to the other side of the earth. In some ways we are bound by that decision, but in other ways that decision defines a self that potentially eschews collective body. So the heartbeat must be strong. Strong enough that it overcomes the simultaneous entropic desire we harbor as humans.

And as parents must feel, what I see in this process is this. My weaknesses. Where am I, as a parent/member of this kula (one of several) creating a body that harbors disease. In a village, which we are, it is so easy to see the microcosm of society. When I am foul, I create foulness around me. When I am love, I create that.

Why did Willy Wonka create his chocolate factory? And look at all the children that had to be eliminated to ensure the health and longevity of the future factory. Veruca Salt: my selfishness, Augustus Gloop, my hedonism, Violet Beauregarde- my crass impetuousness, Mike Teavee- desire for fame. None of these work in the collective body, if there is to be health. Only the heart filled, integrous Charlie Bucket prevails as the heir.

I see so clearly, maybe clearer than ever- that what one is one magnetizes. And if I want our baby, our community, our self to embody beauty, love, kindness, I must by necessity be that. Not stealing fizzy pop with Grandpa Jo.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mr. Beautiful

A Dutch man in Java was arrested for unplugging the loudspeaker of a mosque. When questioned it was revealed he had committed the crime before.

Martina, my roommate, and I had a good laugh over this and we’re contemplating the mindset of the expat, living in remote central Java surrounded by mosques competing in volume over the rice-fields for the 5 times a day prayer. Knowing there probably weren't loudspeakers when he moved there, but with money and competition came the loadspeakers and broadcast prayers.

With the irony that only consciousness can summon, two days later, a new loudspeaker pops up out of the blackness, to blast prayers into our space. It started at 8 pm as we were trying to watch the bootleg copy of “Rachel Getting Married” that I shamelessly bought for 10 cents from”a video store”in Seminyak. It continued until 11. It continued the next day, the next day and the next. Each time for three hours. This night, last night, it was louder than ever before. We’ve known it’s high holy days of Ramadan, but this was Balinese. Not that we, or maybe anyone could understand what the priest was saying out of the loudspeaker, just that it was important, slow, alternately spoken and sung-usually off key.

I imagined, for hours what he might be saying. Imagined myself teaching yoga class in his loud long draw of a Balinese sermon voice- something between Indonesian and Cantonese. I imagined Baptist preachers doing the same in the middle of New York City, what sort of tolerability or intolerability would the Americans have for this sort of auditory violation. Or a Rabi, in the middles of Beverly, Fairfax, blasting the Torah, into the busy streets of LA.

Martina and I often unload after work, sitting opposite each other, chewing the fat, we’re kind of like two crazy old aunts. The word for “Mrs.” in Bahasa is “Ibu.” If you are a grandmother or a woman of note you are an Ibu ibu. So we joke that we are two ibu ibu’s knocking around the house like two crazy artists who’ve lost the plot. I imagine the Aunts from “James and the Giant Peach.”

This night, Martina says, “Maybe they are having a big ceremony, let’s go down, “ she pauses and laugh’s,” or maybe there is just an old farmer and a chicken.” We put on sarongs (respectful to temple) and walk down the dark road from her house. Even though the sound source isn’t far, there are no street lights, only a sliver of a moon, bulan chuchi (spoon moon), and a tropical breeze, and of course, the weird sounds blaring, anonymously from a loud speaker.

As we approach the small temple, it is clear there is no one. Martina speculates, “Maybe it’s a tape…”, just then a loud feedback sound screeches from the speaker.
“That’s not a recording, “ I say.

A bali dog barks wildly at us from just inside the temple. Martina is fearless, I am a little less so. The headline “Rabid Dogs Kill Many on Tourist Island of Bali” flashes through my head. A sort of joke to one expat friend, since in 5 years, more people were killed in motorbike accidents than the villagers in outlying towns that didn’t know that a bite from a Bali Dog might have rabies. But the headline was posted throughout Southeast Asia, none-the-less to announce the spread of rabies in Bali.

The loudspeaker stops. There is a pause of silence. I think for a moment that if a Bali Spirit were to fly out of the temple, I wouldn't be suprised. Instead a little, old man dressed in white with kind eyes comes out, another man follows behind him, who has an ear to ear smile, that never leaves his face.

Martina speaks perfect Bahasa Indonesian and asks him what they have been doing. This is the story that comes out:

His name is Pak Chantik which means Mr. Beautiful. Now he is a Mangku (priest) hired for 17 days to help reconcile the world above with the world below. During the day he is a shrimp fisherman, but for this auspicious time, he is hired to help spirits crossing over, and to invoke the powerful beings who have been here in Bali before to come back. Too many foreigners are coming, farmers are selling their land, and they need the strongest ones, the ones that KNOW, that have been here before to come back into the island.
Martina and I exchange looks. We both haven’t slept for two nights. Not because the loudspeaker has been blaring, but because, now, we’re pretty sure the ongoing ceremonies have stirred up a lot of energy. We are sitting next to a cremation ground.
Of course, as holy as it is, the Mangku tells us we can buy it for the right price.

Martina laughs.

“He has such a wonderful face,” Martina says about the Mangku. It’s undeniable. I would believe anything he said. Martina has been talking about an art project, just photographing people’s eyes, I know she is mentally recording this for her collection.

He continues, the rest of his expose, at least through Martina’s explanation, get’s simpler rather than more complex, “you eat, so the mind can work. Be honest, be healthy, be happy…that’s it.” Somehow it doesn’t have the big wind up I was expecting.

The man behind Mr. Beautiful is smiling even brighter. Like he has just delivered us the gospel.

Just then the dog starts barking again, another man in ceremony gear walks up. My first thought, just a split second of a thought, at this man is sinister. His right eye is half closed, giving him a slight mobster look. Even weraing ceremony white. He sits down next to us listening. Then I feel his energy, it’s not sinister. Feeling trumps vision.
He listens as we ask Pak Chantik more questions, then the man to my right speaks in perfect English,

“It’s a compass, we are praying to the four direction and the triad of Brahma, Vishnu , Shiva. The black represents water, and it is here” (he points to his belly) the red represents earth, and it is here, “ (He points to his heart), “and the white, the heavens, and it is here, “ he points to his head.

“It’s not different than anything you’ve been saying in class,” Martina says.

“What is your name?” I ask, to the man with the half closed eye.

“Pak Circus!” He exclaims proudly.

“Pak Circus?!” Martina and I say at the same time.

Pak Circus is the most famous healer on this part of the island. Everyone has told me to go see him and how he has healed people December. It’ s been on the “to do” list, but things in Bali have a way of being so close and yet escaping you. It felt more appropriate that I should meet Pak Circus here than in the small villa across the street from where I used to live.

Just then some bamboo sticks bang loudly from about 100 yards away. Pak Cantik and Pak Circus quickly pull out their cell phones, like cowboys.

“Something’s happened, “ Martina says.

“What?” I ask

“I don’t know, but the banging of the bamboo sticks symbolizes something has gone wrong, maybe an accident, It’s their signal.”

It appears our darshan is over. Pak Circus is called to duty, and Pak Chantik is heading back to reconcile the spirits from above to below. Before we leave we find out, how much longer they will be doing this ceremony of reconciliation “Two more days,” Martina translates.

Which was the real reason these Ibu Ibus walked down here in the first place.

To partake in a ceremony, or, in truth, we were going to unplug the speaker.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

KuDeTa in Wonderland

KuDeTa in Wonderland

Queens again. This time, Queen of Spades.

Adyashanti, a California teacher of non-dual awakening , often says human beings are like people wearing Batman costumes pretending to be Batman. Consciousness pulls our mask back and snaps it on our face, as if to say, “Get it, it’s a costume.” but we insist we ARE the costume rather than the thing behind the costume.

I’ve been playing with that idea of my ego/costume for some time- But what happens when a costume puts on a costume?

I resist going out at night, because, in truth, I’m really not a partier. Maybe I was once, but for now, it feels like it requires a lot of effort to force myself to go out.

It is August. Bali high season, and everyone who lives here year-round says, the high season parties are not to be missed because international DJ’s come here to play to Bali’s best impression of Ibiza. A few days prior I was talked into venturing out to KuDeTa (the epicenter of high season madness) to catch Frankie Knuckles. Mr. Knuckles is a New York based DJ pivotal in the development of house and dance music in the 80’s and 90’s. That night went off ok, but also offered a visual foreplay into the preparations for the “KuDeTa in Wonderland” party, a few nights later. Alice in Wonderland decorations were being mounted for 10 year anniversary blow out. “$80,000 were spent on the décor,” someone whispered “and the Brain New Heavies are slated to bring down the house.” A huge 20 foot tall rabbit clutching a pocketwatch dominated the entrance, large oversized mushrooms loomed up everwhere, a very scary chesire cat sneered down among dancers. Having previously glimpsed what designers in Bali are capable of, I was curious what happens if all of these creatives simultaneously come out, decked to the nines in wonderland regalia …

The going out, and the idea of putting together a costume both seemed like a lot of effort, which I would more easily have rejected, but then in a last minute crazy confluence of events, including an Australian journalists with convincing enthusiasm who was promised to go as the Red Queen including, a mysterious yogi from Jakarta appearing and offering to drive to by me tickets as a form of Seva, and, Tom, the artist visionary owner of Desa Seni wanting to go dance up a storm, I decided to go.

Of course, it was a last minute decision, and I couldn’t imagine what costume I would pull out of my newly paired down wardrobe. Again, I didn’t factor in May. Leave it to the creatives.

My friend May, in a flash envisioned the costume she would create for me, out of the mysterious endless depth of her closet, accessories and make up.

“The Queen of Spades!” she said , as if there really only was one choice.

“That’s not a character from Alice in Wonderland…” I said, tending often toward the literal.

“No, “ May said in confidence. “She is underground. She doesn’t need press. She is Kali.“. I couldn’t deny the sense in this. She was speaking my language.

Our departure time was 11pm, the time that Tom would be finished in the kitchen at Desa Seni and the party would actually be “happening”. Everything here is the inverse of LA hours. In LA everything shuts by 1, here, like Europe, it’s all just starting after midnight. All this late night stuff is really a challenge for my body, which is used to being asleep by that hour. I resist it so thoroughly I figure there must be something there I am supposed to discover.

Adyashanti says to find where the resistances are and go there. Seems ironic that “partying” is my resistance. When so many here, especially the tourists are LIVING for the party. My party feels like it happens in yoga class, in conversations, in lunches- but I’m trying on for size the other thing.

Out of her creative compassion, May consented to get me ready, since I think she had a hunch I might go shy, “Why dress up half way?” She again inarguably commented as she transformed me into a costume in a costume. There is supreme surrender in letting someone else costume you. Especially since apparently the Queen of Spades wears short-shorts, fishnets, and white platform sneakers, a black sequined top, a painted white face with a sparkly bow of red lips, a pile of blond teased hair, feathers, a collar, a black and white jeweled belt. When finished, I stood probably 6’3”, a tower of black and white. The ludicrousness of my size underscored by the fact that when I embraced May and her partner Jason after the whirlwind of creation, both their faces buried into my chest, as they stood fully upright.

One side makes you taller….

I never wear heels, and navigating May’s platform sneakers made me feel like a clumsy RuPaul, which I probably also resembled. Tom, for his part dressed as the Bali monster Rang Don. He actually was wearing our Ogoh Ogoh creation from Nyepi, Long horse hair streamed down to his knees, and a huge scary monster face, the size of four heads covered him completely. We were quite a pair of costumed costumes.

As the day progressed it became abundantly clear that most of the local expats who live here were NOT going to the KuDeTa party because of the anticipated throng of tourists that would all be pooled into this single event. Tickets were $100. Which is like a week pay for most Balinese.

When Tom and I walked into KuDeTa, one thing instantly became abundantly clear. No one else was in costume. And due to this fact, we were a spectacle, two costumes among costumes, who didn’t know that they are costumes, and in fact were not costumes wearing costumes.

A blaze of flashes went off. Suddenly every tourist, and I’m really not exaggerating when I say EVERY tourist photographed us like we were Posh and Beckam. We played up the part. And I thought I must resemble some sort of Matryoshka dolls. The folk art, where like peeling back layers of an onion one doll fits inside of the other. A costume, who knows that she is wearing a costume, wearing a costume- No Self layered, and being photographed while the Brand New Heavies play to throngs of tourists from every nation.

And while we danced and danced and were photographed endlessly, literally out of maybe 2000 people attending, I think we saw one other in a costume, I wondered what happened to the Red Queen. I sort of had an image of us having pictures together.

I found myself in a swirling mass of humanity, a costumed costume feeling slightly giddy with the hilarity of it all. But the 6 inch platforms were too much for me to navigate with the whirling dervish of my Ogoh ogoh dance partner. I toppled to the floor and fell on my butt.

One side makes you smaller.

I got back up to continue dancing, but my illustrious swirling illusion was too bruised. Ego within costume came crashing down. The Brand New Heavies ended their set. Costumes who didn’t know they were costumes began looking at each other wondering, “What next?”.

I quickly decided the experiment was over. I got the lesson I came for, and set about making my exit. Queen of Spades sheltering , the costume Tara, grabbed a cab back to Canggu.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bye Bye Romance

I spent my first fifty dollars in Bali on an astrology reading from Paul Sixx.

This is ironic in a million ways. The first of which is that the walking cliché of myself right now is not missed on me.

On the way LAX I looked at the billboards for Eat Pray Love and thought, “Shit, really? Am I really moving to Bali one week, ONE WEEK before Eat Pray Love comes out in cinemas- me a blond yoga teacher named Tara, really?” I secretly began to regret the last minute decision to carry my yoga mat as a carryon.

Somewhere in my consciousness is an 80’s dyed black haired version of myself with smeared mascara laughing hysterically. Or sneering. Or both. Ridiculous.

And the next thing I’m going to say is going to pull the rug out from the previous thing.

I liked the book. The first time I read it. Yes, I read it twice. The first time on a beach in Tulum in 2007 because it was a mindless beach read, the second time (this is worse) two years later because my MOTHER said I hadn’t learned the lessons in it the first time I read it. Even though she herself thought Elizabeth Gilbert was a bit whiney. My friend Jim who lives in Ubud, said there is now an even newer term for the epl people, a fresher thing to call the women knocking about Ubud in the height of tourist season looking for love, Gilberterians.

Black haired self is vomiting in the background.

So as I was eating lunch with my friend Johnny at Desa Seni, the bright blue-eyes subtly eavesdropping on our conversation from the neighboring table belonged to Paul Sixx. Johnny was telling me how his friend raved about his reading with this internationally acclaimed astrologer who was giving a free lecture at Desa Seni that evening.

I looked over at him. Probably in his late 60’s, pure white hair, hunched over his computer.

“Do you have time for one now?” I tossed over to him across the porch. He looked at me intensely. He has a clarity that is palpable, the kind I’ve come to look for in people I’m ready to listen to.

“I certainly do.” He said.

When I sat down next to him and his computer he said, “Do we know each other?”

I thought about my French friend Guilloime in LA who, just having written a book called The Creative Advantage , advised me to say to all new students, “I’ve been waiting for you…”, and then to say, “We’ve known each other for a long time…”. I considered saying to Mr. Sixx, “Oh we’ve known each other for a long time…” but simply said instead, “No.”

Paul Sixx basically summed up my reading in five minutes. Which also apparently surprised him, because he said, “Well what should we do with the rest of our time…”

The five-minute summation was this. I’ve been powerful in many lifetimes, maybe even a Queen, and now my ego (which I should shed as quickly as possible) is shocked that people don’t treat me like a Queen, but my Taurus sun sign being in the 12th house means that my purpose this life is to wake up and to communicate this to all around me. I should stop my obsession with romantic love and allow myself to go for the big purpose I was brought here for. Communication. Powerful synergy, transformation. “You already know all of this,” he said.

I really didn’t come to Bali looking for love. I swear I’m not a Gilberterian, but when I pressed Paul Sixx a little about love and possibly children he said,

“You’ve already achieved that before in many lifetimes, you’ve followed that path to the end of the road, you know what it is, this time you have to go the whole distance this lifetime you chose something different…”

I know what your thinking. You’re thinking the same thing the four people I told already think, “what the fuck, does Paul Sixx know…”

I know. But here’s the thing. I have thought this very thought for the past six months.

Not the Queen bit, because wasn’t everyone a Queen in their past life? I mean, it’s as if psychics and astrologers tell you that to make up for the fact that you’re not one this life, nor are there any chances of you being one. But it sure feels reassuring to know that you’ve been there done that. I don’t know what they tell actual queens, but everyone I know was Cleopatra in a past life, or Joan of Arc, or Queen Elizabeth.

But I have thought, if I follow the signals of the universe that it is urging me towards a more a much more expansive notion of loving and living than say –“boyfriend. “ And I’ve also thought, because of my previous compulsion to say, have one- that it will probably , to help swat my former Queen ego around a bit towards total dissolution it will demand that I not, have one.

It’s funny, other women’s reactions to your saying that you have to give up the notion of romantic love. I don’t know if it’s true or not true. But it is utterly fascinating how upset on behalf my friends have become.

My friend Jody put it best, “he’s a douche.”

Paul Sixx made point, “it’s not the time for Romantic love. Our world is a mess. The work has to get done. We have to get to work, and move through this shift. Our world is on the brink of financial collapse…” we talked about the quickening, the chaos, the tipping point. And I know what Paul Sixx is getting at with his readings.

I eavesdropped on a reading he had with a different lady the next day, just to see if he was saying the same thing to everyone.

“I see you marrying someone with a lot of money, he’s older, and when he dies you will control his companies….” He said to a woman from Mexico city. “Santa Barbara would be a good place for you,” he told her.

Shit, ever have that feeling you should of taken the other pill…

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bali Goodbyes

Bali Goodbyes

I just said goodbye to blonde Kate.

I dubbed her that, as brunette Kate is brown Kate during practice. Kate flies back to London tonight.

I’m almost finished with my three month residency here in Bali. At first I found myself counting the goodbyes, a shocking although obvious bi-product of living in a tourist destination.

I realize that I suck at non-attachment. Aparigraha- a yoga tenant that I think I have a grip on when it comes to loosing iphones (four so far)– but when it comes to people , I sticky.

As of February I had said goodbye to no less than ten really precious people. Maurice ,from Sydney, Allison, Didier, and Rodulf from France, Susie from Australia, Isabelle from France, Luciana, from Brazil/Kuaui, Claire, from Australia, Zena from Oz/England the list gets longer and now as I now prepare for my departure, I will be the one leaving, saying goodbye.

When I first arrived I thought the local ex-pat community was being distant, now I realize they were just being selective. My heart broke each week as someone I had just grown to know and love and appreciate would come to class and announce, “I’m leaving tomorrow”. I taught classes about always saying goodbye. I relived my own childhood abandonment issues. I dreamt about my best friend Renee, in fifth grade, whose family moved away, to Texas. I remember crying for hours.

At some point I decided to act like an adult and see the good in all of these momentary intersections. Rather than looking at everyone always leaving, I chose to look at all the people I was gifted to interface with. I clung to the idea that had I not come to this “node” in the body of Earth, Bali, that I would not know the four quadrants according to Maurice, the dangers of basejumping according to Rudy, The cockney slang and wicked humor I discovered with Zena, or the ecstatic Brazilian joie de vive of Luciana, the cool French calm of Allison, or the tender heart of a poker player that was Didier. This is not even including the rush of nationalities that I met in the high season, Natasha from Russia, Adya from Portugal (the neurobiologist I spent hours with talking about teremeres- the future of ant –aging), Jim from Switzerland, Caroline and Claudia from Holland fearlessly trying yoga daily, for the first time for two weeks straight.

One by one they came, connected, and departed a revolving door of cultural travelers.

It’s not the average traveler that comes to Bali, and Desa Seni being outrageously beautiful centered around yoga and wellness as well as a little pricey also magnetizes a certain milieu.

The local expats come here for yoga, the visitors are here for a weeks in and out. People start to sort themselves into silt layers of staying power. After a month, I moved to a different silt layer, after three still another. These layers coalesce into certin groups. Those that have come in the last five years, the over five, the over 10, the over 15, the over 20 are like Bali royalty.

I understand, finally, how the urge to connect with travelers so thoroughly starts to wain.

Balinese too, have seen travelers come, fall in love with Bali, open a business, close a business. One Italian restaurant owner told me “They play with you, to see if you are going to be around, they’ve seen so many westerners come and go”.

I know as a teacher I see students come and go all the time. I learned long ago, they are not “my students” but students on the path. I may see them for a day, a week, a year, three years. But one day, one of us will move on.

The bittersweetness of life, the fact that everything is temporary is a daily reminding as the next plane out of Denpasar takes a whole other crew of people back to their respective homes.

“Let what comes come, let what goes go, and find out what remains, “Ramana Maharshi said.

I don’t think he was talking about Bali travelers, but experiences, thoughts, health, the body. And yet, this quote is what I also try not to cling to, as I prepare to say goodbye to the friends who will stay here for the moment, on this magical island.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Crazy Cliff

B.A.S.E. jumping, also sometimes written as BASE jumping, is an activity that employs an initially packed parachute to jump from fixed objects (also see paragliding). "B.A.S.E." is an acronym that stands for four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump: buildings, antennas, spans (bridge), and earth (cliff).

On Thursdays for the month of February, I had an astonishing two classes. Every other day, I draw the line in Bali at teaching one class. But for the taxing month of February, I had to cover for Shirley and Steve Oconnor, my yoga teacher friends at Desa Seni, while they travelled back to the States.

The 8:30 am crowd in Bali is already a select bunch. Seminyak is a place where, it seems,there is a high preference for going out into the wee morning hours and sleeping late in the air-con rooms with shades drawn while pembantus arrive early and begin the household chores.

So I’m always impressed when someone wakes up for 8:30 am class.

Equally impressive are those that venture to my 12:30-2:30pm practice style class. A popular, advanced class in the states- a total experiment in the heat of the day at an outdoor studio in Bali.

And someone who comes to both classes in one day is unprecedented.

Meet my friend Rudolph, base jumper, windsuit flyer, climber…general fearless dude from France.

His third and fourth yoga classes were these two Thursday classes. By the end of his fourth yoga class he was jumping into handstand. It took two days to find out he was a base jumper. It took two more days for me to understand what that was, it took approximately 15 seconds after I understood what that was to realize he was crazy. It took one dinner party to know that this was the funnest fact info I could possibly drop into a collective conversation.

There is nothing more fun than watching people size another up, “Oh he’s French, he looks conservative, he’s from the south, he’s travelling for four months…” The brain tries hard to get a fix on what is never fixed.

Especially when there were big guys around.

Me: “Rudy’s a base jumper…” beat, beat, beat

Eyes grow wide. You watch the interior brain disorient. In some I watched a slight bit of drool leak out the side of their mouths.


“Yeah. He’s travelling around the world jumping off things.”

Rudy shoots me a look of admonishment. It’s not that he’s not obsessed with base jumping and wind suit flying (Yeah, the flying squirrel thing) it’s just that he’s had this conversation in already at least 5 countries over the last four months since he was lucky enough to be fired from his finance job and take two years at 70% of his normal pay. This is why it’s good to be French.

Rudy has a fancy camera where he’s recorded his base jumps, which almost always now include the wind suit flying component. He can’t find a good place to jump in Bali. Nothing is high enough. So instead he shows me videos of jumping, flying off the Blue Mountains in Australia with some characters Aussie twins referred to as the Mario Brothers. Apparently Mario brothers talk like this,

“Fuck, we gotta fuckin jump off the fuckin rock before the other fucking fuckers beat us to it…” and they mumble. Rudy couldn’t understand half of what they said. But he jumped with them in the Blue mountains for four days.

He shows me flights in Norway, and South of France. Usually it goes like this. Some French exchange, him and another guy, standing on the edge of the cliff, and then without much ado, they are falling, or flying.

When you see a video of wind suit flying it looks like the closest thing to ultimate freedom one could ever know. Rudy’s longest flight was almost two minutes. He says comparatively skydiving is boring.

Skydiving is boring.

While base jumping is categorized as an extreme fringe sport, its not easy to get into. A minimum 100 plane jumps are recommended, and according to the dialogue I heard at least ten or more times to the inevitable, “I want to base jump” from the drooling guys at dinner parties, there is a long vetting process. You have to offer to drive jumpers up the mountains. You have to earn the respect into this elite crowd by carrying gear, learning where the jumps are, learning the equipment, knowing how to rock climb. All of this for the two minute high.

And, someone you know will die. Rudy has at least four friends that have died.

As I’m riding on the back of the motorcycle while Rudy drives, I think about how not smart it is. I’m wearing a helmet with a broken strap that I have to hold on my small head so the wind doesn’t blow it off. I start to refer to it as my hat. The number of times I close my eyes and say a silent prayer to not die exceeds my ability to count them. Rudy tells me among his friends, he drives slow. “Your friends are base jumpers, I say.”

But he’s still inevitably a much better driver than me. My biggest injury to date is from hitting a rock on my scooter driving home from a two hour massage. Rudy was driving behind me on his motorcycle.

“What did you do?” he says, scooping me up. “I saw you, see the rock, go toward the rock and hit the rock, boom, “ he makes the motion of me falling on me side. I knew this is what I did. It was like time/space slowed down and I had a five minute dialogue about the rock, the construction that was not there yesterday, how I shouldn’t hit that rock, and then I hit the rock. Even in my slow cautious attempts at control, I’m a hazard to my own self.

I joke that the one thing Rudy has taught me, is that I’m not as fearless around death as I once thought. I thought with all my non-dual philosophy and liberated embodiment teaching and playing with handstands that I actually had a tiny little grasp on fear.

But I realize, I’m a total pussy.

100% afraid of my own death.

I think about the end of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, jumping off the cliff into the clouds, as a symbol of love, freedom, the impermanence of life and the transition/non-transition of death. I think about getting a better helmet. I think I will never base jump.

I find myself making arguments to myself about all the ways in life I am fearless and resolving to grow ever more so, fearless but not stupid.

I think about how Rudy almost died from an allergic reaction to Brazil nuts after eating a mixed nut bar I gave him.

I think about JD Salinger and “the crazy cliff”.

Bali is a place where you are constantly shown alternative ways people chose to live. Either as they are passing through here on vacation, or as they tell you their relocation stories from their varied and fascinating backgrounds and cultures. It’s this constant contemplation.

Knowing the inevitability of my own death, how live.