What a week we have had this past week! It’s been full of adventures, emotions, and temples. One of the main lessons I’ve learned is that my yoga practice is not what I expected it to be while here. I anticipated filling each morning with asana and meditation, but I’m quickly learning that most of my journey here is about being vulnerable and practicing all of the less highlighted aspects of yoga. First is trusting in myself and the Divine, and then to take a deeper seat within my higher Self. With this connection awakening more and more, I can see my actions and reactions to situations shifting – coming more from my heart and less from old samskaras (patterns). I realized, quite simply, this is what I am here for. And what an experience and practice it is! While my asana practice is still happening and proving to be a great tool for deeper practice, my focus is more on that and a journey through the layers of and to the Self.
The first temple we visited is called Uluwatu and it sits on top of a cliff on the Indian Ocean. I encourage you to search Google Images of it, it is AMAZING!! As we walked down the path to the entrance, I could see the ocean getting bigger and bigger. When we reached the open view, I was blown away by the immense power that this scared space holds and felt an energetic shift within. When standing there looking out at these views and ancient temples, for me, it was so natural to take a deeper seat within the Self and trust and appreciate the Divine. Not only did I feel more connected to my Self and God, but to spirit and intuition as well. It was overwhelming! In a really good way, of course. We walked through the temples and watched people going in to pray, what they call “ceremony”. The devotion as well as the architecture are beautiful and inspiring. I can’t wait to share the pictures! (Which are all on my camera, I didn’t take any on my phone. So those will have to wait until I return to my computer).
After Uluwatu, we visited Tanah Lot. Again, I recommend searching Google Images. Tanah Lot was more touristy than Uluwatu, but still breathtaking views. The main temple is sometimes on an island. You can only get to and from it when it’s low tide, because when it’s high tide, the (very rough) water covers the walkway and steps to it. So basically, when worshipping, you want to make sure you finish before the tide starts coming in, otherwise, you’re stuck there until it goes back out. Lol. But it really was beautiful, there were so many temples there for worshipping, it was quite large. We hope to go back at sunset and low tide so we can see the views at sunset and get to the main temple. Even if we can’t go in the worshipping area, hopefully we can make it back to walk the path and steps!
Visiting both temples took most of the day last Wednesday, so yesterday, Tuesday, we went to Pura Besakih, “the Mother Temple”. It’s the largest in Bali with 55 temples. The three largest ones on the sacred space are for the three main Gods they pray to: Brahma- the creator, element of fire; Shiva- the destroyer, element of wind; and Vishnu- the protector, element of water. We got to see a very large crowd doing ceremony, they all wear white, and pray to each God. It was so cool to see their culture more. And learn more about what and how they pray. After our tour, we were able to pray as they do each morning and evening! (Afternoon prayer is mantra given to you by the priest). We were given a Canang Sari (see last weeks blog), and used each different colors flower to pray to each God- Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. Then the priest doused us with holy water and put rice on our foreheads for good luck and Ishwara- God of prosperity. We then offered up our baskets in the temple with all of the others. Really interesting experience and I’m so glad we did it. It was super powerful to see what the Bali Hindus do everyday and to witness their spiritual devotion (Bhakti!). We’ve got a couple more temples on our list that we’d like to visit before we leave. Either way, I’m happy we were able to visit these three!
On Friday, we went snorkeling with super colorful coral and swimming with manta rays! I wasn’t so excited about that because they were HUGE! But in honor of my theme of being vulnerable and stepping, in this case swimming, outside my comfort zone, I did it. When we first got in the ocean, far away from land, we couldn’t find any. Then one of the guides got in and after searching a bit, we found one very large manta ray. Both Van and I were gripping our guides arm super tight as the manta swam in circles around us. His mouth alone was probably twice the size of my head. So cool, but so scary. He then started swimming underneath me, at which time I thought “that’s enough, I’m done.” And hustled back to the boat. Back to safety lol. You would think that would be enough vulnerability and adventure for one day. NOPE. I wanted to do the cliff jumping experience too. Growing up in Vermont, there were many swimming holes we would go to and jump off the rocks into the water. Super fun. So now way was I not going to do it in Bali! When I saw where I would be jumping, I got a little nervous. I had to jump from the boat and swim in very rough waters to a latter that went to the first platform. I’m a good swimmer, and that was an exerting swim for me. I felt like Ashton Kutcher in the Guardian, lol. (It’s only funny if you’ve seen the movie). So I finally get to the first platform where there is a guy there (that would be screwed if someone forgot to pick him up by boat at night because he’s on a cliff in the middle of the ocean), and doesn’t speak English pretty much at all. I looked down and was like no Ashley, face your fears and go to the top. Well the top was about 18 meters high, that’s about 6 stories high! I was shaking by the time I got up there and asked the cliff man if I was going to hit the bottom. His response was “yes.” I thought, no couldn’t of understood me. So I reframed my question to “is it safe?” He shook his head and said “no”. Well now I’m really shaking because climbing down is more scary than just jumping. So I have to do it now, and having jumped from cliffs before, I know you have to jump in a straight line, otherwise it feels like you’re smashing into cement. I finally got up enough courage to jump, but because I had never jumped from this high before, I expected the water to come sooner, it didn’t. I got scared mid jump and bent my legs. That was not a good idea. The way I hit the water knocked the wind out of me and I thought for sure that’s what a broken pelvis feels like. I don’t bruise easily, very rarely actually, but that fall left a bruise from my right gluteus all the way down my right thigh. And a little on my left, plus my tailbone was/is sore. I can say I did it and swam back in one piece, but I don’t think I’ll be jumping off a cliff 6 stories high again.
I have a crazy, huge love for animals. So when I heard about elephant riding I was super excited, and even more so to know that the place we were going to was very humane and kind to their animals. I will never go to a circus or anywhere animals are treated poorly/abused. We went yesterday and got to play/ride with Comang, a beautiful 29 year old elephant. It was such a fun experience, I loved it! I got to ride bareback instead of in a chair and pet him, while we went for a little stroll and into the water. Elephants are beautiful creatures, I have always wanted to interact with them. It was an amazing experience with a kind, gentle, loving spirit. I only wish Reesee, my cat, was able to ride with me. Maybe next time. 😉 They had some other animals there and when leaving, a monkey looked at me, came over and turned around for me to rub his back and head. It was soooo sweet! Then we held hands and I didn’t want to leave. Animals fill my heart with love!
The last exciting thing that is happening this week is “Nyepi”. It’s like a Bali New Year where all week different cities and families celebrate and worship the Gods in the community temples on different days according to the area. It all leads up to the day before Nyepi where there is a huge ceremony and every practicing Hindu comes out to dance in the streets and worship and everyone ends up at the ocean (I believe as a symbol of holy, purifying water). Then the next day, the actual day of Nyepi, is a day of silence. EVERYTHING in Bali shuts down, even airports, no one leaves their homes and is a day of rest. This is happening this week! Nyepi is March 21st, Saturday. We had no idea about this when booking our trip and are still learning more and more about it from the locals, but are SO excited to be able to be here to experience it! All week they are preparing and we’ve seen many more large group ceremonies while exploring this week than since we’ve been here. So we are gearing up for the big ceremony Friday afternoon and day of silence of Saturday. I plan to fill it with rest, mantra, meditation, yoga, and introspection.
I am excited to share more of our experiences here and of Nyepi next week. Stay tuned!
With love from Bali,
See Ashley when she gets back at her Arm Balancing Workshop!