Wednesday, October 28, 2015

my Bali high (lights)

Serendipity has me winding up my Bali reflections in this third and final post.

As in yoga practice, exploring a posture three times - once for the body, once for the mind, and a final time for the soul - I am revisiting my Soulful-Escape experience through the many images I attempted to grab onto through my camera. It is impossible to convey the fullness of Bali through sight alone. While each moment is filled with vibrant color, lush landscape, and decorative details there is also a fullness of sounds, smells and sensations (okay, and a dewiness on the skin, aka sweat) that can only be experienced in person. If you dream of Bali (and why wouldn't you?) then I highly recommend visiting the country with people who know and love it. People like Nicole and Em who offer an intimate and creatively rich immersion into Bali's special treasures and delights. 
Nicole & Em, photo by the amazing Tashi Hall

One caveat: once you've experienced Bali, you will want to go back!

And return, I will!  

Some of the highlights of my week and the reasons I yearn to return include:  

audible-gasping, stumbling-to-a-stop views & encounters with nature:

 vivid and expressive sculpture:

Bali is such a decorative place. Everywhere there are sculptures representing revered deities such Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, Saraswati (the goddess of arts and learning) or the Buddha or any number of guardian or protective figures. Usually these sculptures have offerings heaped upon or around them, demonstrating the vibrant and vital way the Balinese bring spiritual practice into everyday life ... in a very celebratory and joyful way!





 life experienced through the lens of celebration and gratitude:

And then there are the many parasols - known as tedung which means "to guard."  They are wildly colorful and whimsical, but they are more than mere decoration. Found at any temple or sacred site as well as in homes, the many colors serve to represent different deities and to describe where they are to be placed.(Red represents Brahma, the aspect of Creation in the Hindu religion and it would be used in a temple devoted to Brahma; black would be used for Vishnu, the sustainer and white for Shiva while black and white - predominate pattern throughout Bali - stands for balance in nature and the cosmos.

In Bali the spiritual and the sensual find balance. The highly decorated is often a place of worship and reverence which tends towards the celebratory rather than quietly introspective.  Every day and every place is an opportunity to give thanks to the divine. As I said in my first blog post, the first thing I noticed when arriving in Bali were many offerings or canang sari placed upon ever possible surface. They are found on sculptures, on the steps of shops or restaurants, in the rice fields and in small hut shaped altars before every home.  Each day I would wake to find a new offering placed in front of the gate to our joglo (lodgings) or in the nearby shrine. What a beautiful way to start one's day: with a moment of reverence, gratitude and beauty.

Of course these human expressions of beauty mirror the natural beauty and sense of abundance found in the vibrant plant life throughout the island.  

Dominating the floral landscape is the lotus flower. Expressive of the spiritual teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism (spiritual purity amid the muck of life; rebirth, spiritual awakening and rebirth are all associated with the lotus), everywhere perfect specimens invite yet one more photograph.

There is no shortage of sights to delight both in the countryside, but also in the city (and in our retreat setting). The scooter riders alone are a constant source of amazement for what (and who) they can carry. 

The temple complexes are well worth the short ride out of Ubud and yes, the journey down (and then up!) the many steps only sweetens the well-earned experience. We were one of the first groups to arrive at Goa Gaja or Elephant Cave and had time to take in the sacredness of this site. 

A second site we visited, Gunung Kawi, is an eleventh-century temple and funerary complex. There are numerous candi or shrines cut into the steep cliff-sides surrounding the area. There are also several holy springs and shrines found if you are willing to climb numerous winding trails. 


All of this is reason enough for my heart to be yearning to return to Bali. But you could strip it all away and still I would want to go back! For the brightest, most vibrant, most heart-filling aspect of Bali is truly the people.  Both the Balinese and the like-minded spirits who opted not to merely visit Bali, but to experience Bali.  I hold so gratitude for all that Em and Nicole created, and for women who signed up for a Soulful-Escape and who made it a dream-come-true.  Matur suksma! (thank you very much


I mean, these women! They hold up more than half the sky ...

I haven't even mentioned the shopping ... 

the joy of following behind Em in her natural environment ...

watching Kristina embrace her inner batik-pompom-tasseled self ...

Or the food ...

There is just too much ... my mind and my heart (never mind my laptop and computer files) are just busting at the seams there is so much to remember, to savor, to share.

the above 2 photos courtesy of Cassandra Edwards

the above two photos by Em Falconbridge

Did I mention I had a good time? 

Heavens, yes ... until the next trip ... this is truly

The End of this Bali Travel-log!