I stepped off the plane and somehow deep inside, I knew I’d be back.
It was instantly familiar and like nothing I’d ever experienced. I was reminded of Hawaii in the open-air buildings and that “island feeling” that is practically tangible. I was reminded of Iraq as we passed countless buildings with dirty, crumbling facades and countless mothers with dirty, hungry babies sitting too close to the road.
It was a like nothing I’d ever done, when in the dark of night, confused and excited by 9 months of anticipating, 24 hours of travel and 15 hours of time loss, we reached our temporary “home”. When our drivers pulled to a stop at the top of a set of stairs that appeared to go nowhere, threw our suitcases on top of their heads and disappeared into the dark, going (we hoped) only they knew where. When we passed dirty, tired, industrious women who smiled at us with the smiles of the truly happy- like they knew secrets we didn’t.
I could write a book about everything I did, everything I learned, all I saw and how I know I’m headed back. I’ll definitely have more to share in the coming months as some cool things are in the works as a result of this amazing experience, and I definitely have much to share about things I learned from Bali and its people.
But today, I want to share what I learned IN Bali, from the super-cool group of people I was blessed to have been invited to travel with.
It all started with my passion-friend Pam who asked me mid-run if I wanted to go on a yoga retreat to Bali, to which I replied “of course”. From there I met Amy- our wise teacher, who just oozes confidently quiet strength. Other than those two and another passion-friend Jessica, I knew no one. But that didn’t stop me from learning from all 14 of these amazing people and making some really fun friends in the process.
Some of the lessons are direct quotes, or thoughts shared during “check-in” time (ask the two men about that one!) and some are just observations. The lessons came from the trip but are applicable to life anywhere, anytime. To them and anyone else still reading (thanks family!) I share with you my lessons, with gratefulness.
What I learned from:
Amy: The art of communication; setting and being comfortable with boundaries and the beauty of quiet strength; the attractive quality of humility and not needing to announce, show or make public all that you may be doing to make the world a better place. Amy told us early on that somehow “Bali is just…enough”. And we found that too be true.
Emma: Amy’s lovely teenage daughter impressed me with her ability to just “be” in Bali and go with the flow; she volunteered in different places, floated in and out of the group- independent but friendly and held her head with a certain confidence I’m not sure she fully yet understands. I see A LOT of teenagers, and I was actually fairly in awe of this girl. (That and the fact that she is my niece Abby’s doppelganger- seriously!).
Tracy: She was in and out with her flowing hair and her soft-spoken voice that made me REALLY listen when she spoke. (She’s what you non-yoga peeps picture when you think of people on yoga retreats). I was struck by Tracy’s soft smile and acceptance of whatever seemed to be happening- from infant covered in bites, to waiting in the sun for 2 hours for a ride (life without cell phones), to feeling “good” as she contorted her body in ways I won’t ever dare to try. Same face and same voice for all of the above-quiet acceptance with a smile. If you can’t see the lessons in that, I don’t think I can help you.
Holly: Holly, were you a cheerleader? I can just imagine you turning 3 flips in a basket toss and landing with a big smile. I loved watching her excitement over whatever the most “challenging” pose of the day was- she was always smiling. I was reminded as she shared one day that everyone is dealing with something, and sometimes smiles are forced or hard-fought for and we should be kind to each other. I was reminded of Proverbs 17:22. Holly’s husband Benner was with her and it was so encouraging to watch them walking hand-in-hand together quietly.
Sarah C.: Sarah walked right up and introduced herself, pointing out that we had matching tattoos. She seemed like one of those artist-people whose feelings at any given time are usually noticeable- a trait I greatly appreciate! Honesty, integrity, real. Sarah reminded us all one morning that even when you are uncomfortable (hungry, perhaps?) that it’s still ok to just “be” in the moment, not fighting it, but accepting it. This is a lesson I’ve been learning the last few years and was a good confirmation and reminder.
Marianne: One of my favorite times of the trip was walking to yoga one morning across the beautiful Campuhan ridge as the day was just breaking. Marianne and I talked about the value of relationships and independence. She reminded me of the strength that comes from scars where the break/pain was and that friendships are vital for heart health.
Colleen: Colleen met me with a bounding “welcome” hug the first morning and a grin from ear to ear. I’m told she talks a lot, so that must be why everyone laughed when she was often “speechless”. Colleen shared a really cool insight that was proved true again and again to several of us. She said: “You don’t always get what you want when you want it in Bali, but you always get what you need when you need it”.
Stan: I’m told that Stan, in contrast to Colleen, “never talks”. I don’t know about that, because he talked plenty, it’s just that he always had something to say when he did. Stan’s “check-in” had a definite nature theme (lots of bug talk) but I totally connected with his words. He pointed out that the normal “separation” we have from nature- the great outdoors and all the life it contains- was removed in Bali and we were IN nature. An actual part of it, which leads to all kinds of other thoughts and my guess is either you appreciate these words or you skim along to the next person, but to Stan I say “I hear ya”.
Liz: Liz is a celebrator of life and lives quite comfortably in her own skin. She knows what she wants, does what’s necessary to make that happen, and is happy if you come along but ok if you don’t. She speaks very clearly and is an organizer and motivator, who just sort of makes things happen. I am always secretly envious of these people as I feel so NOT like that, but I’m learning…..
Katie: You know how sometimes you meet someone and you may have nothing big in common but you have a lot of little things in common and you sort of recognize a piece of yourself in them? Is it sort of weird that I felt that way with Katie about 5 minutes after I met her? If I am as adventurous, kind, easy-going and fun as Katie, I would be honored, but she reminded me that there are always people- wherever you may find yourself- to identify with and get to know and count as a new friend.
Sarah R.: The last 5 of us traveled together from Seattle through Thailand to Bali and back and it was an adventure to remember. Sarah was a trooper despite whatever ailment or unexpected event presented itself for the day. She made the most of the days she was feeling well and didn’t really complain on the days she wasn’t, but quietly accepted that day for what it had. Again, a lesson the whole world could do well to learn.
Mike: What can one say about a guy who willingly agreed to a yoga retreat in Bali for a honeymoon, with the added luggage of 3 extra girls to watch out for? One could say that Mike himself was a lesson in kindness, flexibility, patience and good-naturedness. It was truly inspiring to see the way he loved his new wife in big tangible and tiny unspoken ways. He has learned the art of communicating with women and he probably deserves an award- or at least another honeymoon- sometime in the future.
Jess aka “Mrs. Fields”: She’s somewhat indescribable as she’s so multi-layered, but what I love about Jess is that she lives BIG. She doesn’t really do things half-way and she embraces whatever she’s doing or feeling in the moment. She is full of grace and beauty and she has the biggest heart of gratitude, which I think is one of the things that draws me most to her- the desire to live a life of more gratefulness myself, which I was reminded of over and over on this trip.
Pam: What can I say in 5 lines or less about the lovely Pam Holt? I realized as she was talking one morning that “still waters run deep” applies so well to her as you don’t really know her until you know her. She’s emotional but mature in the expression of said emotions. She’s an amazing and dedicated mom, but an expert at taking care of herself as well. She is giving, awed by beauty and one of the most verbally precise communicators I know, with a voice that could sell you desert property in Bali. To be able to live with someone in an open-air house in the middle of critters galore, with no AC, daily yoga, no cell phones, and various other challenges for 2 weeks is a true test of a friendship and I am grateful for my partner in adventure travel. Pam teaches me always the beauty in quiet, mature confidence whatever the surrounding circumstances may be.
To you my Bali yoga friends I say thanks and I hope to see you all again soon. (I’ll still be the one in the back admiring your beautiful feats of strength and grace).