A Student, A Teacher, and Getting High Off The Beaten Path, Bonderman Fellowship, Week 2
I find that it is the feeling of the experiences , not the events themselves, which have been most important. What I learn from the events, the feelings they provoke, and how they change me is what lasts longer than the actual events.
As usual, there is so much to tell! This week included many solo treks to remote nature (one which I'll talk about here), a brief run in with the Indonesian police ( everything's okay), an amazing secret canyon I climbed through with a girl from Holland, risky night time hiking, getting low on gas - far out there - and copious yoga and meditation.
In this entry, I will talk about 3 events. These are the ones which invoked the most vivid feelings. A student, a teacher, and a solo trek to a waterfall.
I moved to a home stay this week, about 15 minutes away from the surfer town of Canguu. Immediately, I took to my host family, the wife and husband are warm, intelligent, and more than enthusiastic to talk. We got to the topic of meditation, and Ngman (the husband) asked if I could teach him.
It really tests your understanding when you have to teach someone a mental exercise on being present, with only few words shared in language. (I find this, as with any other discipline, is a true test of comprehension. To explain something to another person, at a level they can understand it , requires deeper knowledge.) The beautiful thing is, I found I didn't need all the big words, and analogies I usually would resort to. The language barrier forced me into the simplicity of "feel breath, mind talk? notice, not good, not bad, feel breath , mind talk? notice, not good, not bad, feel breath." In that moment, no more was needed.
He sat with me for 30 minutes, with ease. After meditation, I could see that look in his eye. The look of self-confidence and certainty, the look of presence. I didn't need the conversation after to reaffirm this, but what he said was profound. He told me, he only tried meditation once before, but now, "he feel more self - confident and now he can handle life". The next 30 minutes were spent in laughter and conversation, delving into deeper topics with the assistance of an online translator.
We have been sitting together nearly every morning. In exchange, at night, he teaches me Indonesian language and culture.
After we meditate he tells me, “ happiness is not money. No one can buy your eyes, your arms and your soul. this work on yourself is more important than business work.” What is most shocking is, I will open my eyes after the meditation bell has rung, indicating the sit is over, and there he is sitting in complete stillness and ease. He has no previous meditation or yoga practice, yet can sit with ease and dignity for up to an hour. I think this speaks lengths to the differences between cultures. I know some "yoga" teachers who can't sit for 5 minutes. I can't help but reflect on the conversation I had with an Estonian pre-school teacher, who has been volunteering with children abroad. She said "all kids are the same, it's only once we grow up that we start to diverge."
I'm not going to lie, I've been high all week. In fact, I've been high since the first morning I arrived in Bali. But not the high that involves drugs or alcohols to alter your consciousness, rather the one which comes naturally.
This week I've been getting off the beaten path, doing a lot of solo treks, to be in nature in silence and solitude. The arrival of my second week brought more of a groove in my step, more confidence in dealing with uncertainty, and more ease in going with the flow. With the heightened confidence, came the intention to take a little more risks, adventure to where only locals go, and get out and away from western comforts for a bit. And my did that happen this week. Don't worry mom, with my adventurous spirit feeling satiated for the week, I will scale back a little bit.
One of these journeys brought to me a remote waterfall and cavernous river about 1.5 hours away from where I am staying. The surrounding village brought copious looks of perplexing amusement, followed by people asking to take pictures with me ( i’ve grown to interpret this as a sign you are somewhere where white people do not often go.)
Upon getting lost in a village, I met Mari. He's a local tour guide and also the only person I've seen in hours with a dose of English in him. First he began to show me how to like my bike, and said though Bali is safe I need to always be doing this. That was only the start of his stream of wisdom.
He talked about politics and how many people abroad view America as the icon of democracy. And it's our duty to maintain that image, as if we lose that image, we lose hope for the rest of the world. Upon telling him I have already left the country and, if thou whose name shall not be spoken, becomes president, I have another reason to not go back to my country. He shook his head. No. "Your country is your mother. It is your job to make sure it stays good. Maybe this is the reason you are born- to rid your country of the things you're running away from- not only the bad politics, but social injustice, poverty, greed and everything else."
Our paths will never cross again but I have been changed.
The waterfall itself was a book of experience. This is a personal journey, so I'm not going to overly share my experience here (if any friends who are on the path as well, want to hear more, happy to give full disclosure). The little I will share, was I felt myself shift from thinking to feeling. During my meditation, there were moments, where the sound of the waterfall became heightened, almost overpowering, like it was surrounding me, better yet like I was completely immersed in it. The meditation ended with an outpouring of tears, tears full of joy, contentment, and oneness.
I wasn't just teaching but this week I also found a teacher. Holy transmission! You know when you just know? I felt that way looking at his picture and hearing his story. He and his wife are both authorized ashtanga ( Mysore ) teachers. His story is a movie. Earlier in his life he was a black belt in jiu-jitsu and a Brazilian fighter. A paragliding accident left him in a coma for 8 or 80 days ( sorry Fernando sometimes I can't understand your accent lol), and a wheelchair for 6 months. Lethargic, with only one working elbow, and unable to walk, he tried yoga. Now he is a teacher.
Practicing with him has pushed me harder than ever before. My physical practice has grown in just a few days. But more importantly, it has renewed my commitment and certainty towards ashtanga. It has shown me a real teacher again, one with palpable joy and presence. You can just feel it in his interactions with others, and the way he teaches. He says little, but no more is needed. It is humbling to see how little I do know, and how much space I have to grow. That feeling of beginners mind is here again, and its full with invigoration and refreshment. Never did I think I would be waking up at 630am in Bali to take a 20 minute scooter ride to practice, but that is the commitment I feel. The commitment will fade on the journey, and most mornings I won't be waking up early to practice, but when I stray and start to doubt I can always connect back to the feeling. There is so much more here, but for again this is a personal journey, so I'll leave the rest of the details alone for now.
Again this week has been about connecting to the feeling. I got a recommendation from a cool girl, who I met in Ubud, to go checkout a hostel in Canguu which is where I found my teacher.
I find this is the best way for me to do it. Not only does it feel great to truly go with the flow, but it cultivates a deeper understanding of my own internal voice.