I’ve never really been invested in generating personal wealth, possibly because I’ve always been more interested in building and exploring experiences, adventures that put me in unfamiliar situations. I have been hungering for adventure since doing the Camino last year.
Each time I remove myself from routine, I learn. Journeys often teach us what we already know deep inside, but tend to forget through the hypnotic pulse of familiarity.
As soon as I finished work I began to explore the mechanics of disburdenment.
It’s hard to make ashes of the mind and to still the body.
How foolish the preparation for travelling to Indonesia now seems… we pored over maps, charted our route, geared up… camera, backpacks, hats, ibuprofen- forgetting the meaning of simply going.
The first couple of days are an assault to the known- the shape of faces, enticing aromas, indecipherable language, silver light dancing between alien plants, all so different, my senses are slapped awake.
Time slows, I observe everything with a child’s wonder.
Circulation begins to return to the numbed parts of my mind.
When we reach a tiny, palm drenched island off Lombok, I am forced to run an internal diagnostic. Renting my mind out, hour after hour, month after month, without a nourishing solid rest has bruised my mind. Many clients carry sharp objects that need to be handled with care in order to avoid needle-stick injuries.
Sometimes I get pricked.
Here, with room to roam, I feel the shape of my ferocious spirit stir again.
I have come here to sniff out “shizen”- the Japanese word for a spontaneous, self-renewing, inherently sacred connection to the natural world of which humans are an inextricable part. I want to see how and where holiness reveals itself, to search for those ” thin spots” on the ground where divinity rises as if spirituality were a function of the landscape itself.
In Bali, temples are scattered around like litter, bathing locals in a soft glow of faith. This faith insulates and illuminates them, standing next to its warmth, I feel strangely empty, hungry for a connection to the Divine.
I begin to understand how spiritually emaciated we have become in the West.
I befriend a Balinese man with a deep, serene smile. We roam for hours, sharing the rings of being alive, seasons of famine and fortune. I ask him a multitude of questions about his faith and culture, so happy to finally connect with a local who is willing to take the time to offer me more than what’s on a tourist brochure.
I ask, ” do many Balinese suffer from depression?”
He answers ” what’s that? Depression?”
“You know…when people become low…sad, when they can’t cope with the world”
“Why would they want to feel like that?” He asks confused…he explains,
“In Bali…even a poor family who has one plate of rice to share between them are grateful and offer thanks, even if they do not know where their next meal will come from. If they have nothing they will not starve, or if they have nowhere to put their heads, because their neighbors will look after them. We look after each other, you people in the West are always focussing on yourselves…me, me, me. It makes you sick.”
The simple, humble truth of what he was saying, the deep gratitude these people feel and the thanks they offer to the divine struck me to my core.
I have been exposed to enough facile self help literature to know about the benefits of ‘gratitude journals’ and ‘counting one’s blessings”, but the way he spoke about gratitude, as if it were a living, breathing entity made me feel as if I’d stumbled upon a universal truth for the first time.
He went on, ” in Bali we have a sacred trinity,
mans’ relationship with his (or her) God,
mans’ relationship with other people and
mans’ relationship with the environment.”
I mused about this for a while, is it possible that the multi-billion personal development industry (of which I am an integral part), promotes relentless ‘navel-gazing’ and ego augmentation at the cost of engendering a much deeper connection to spirituality, to other people and to our natural environment?
Is this relentless pursuit of individualism above all else, not a contributing factor to our growing isolation from each other, to our relentless plundering of the environment to serve our needs and to a burgeoning narcissism fueled by the ‘Cult of the Self?’
I’ve returned home pensive, replenished and with a fervent desire to expand the way I work with and serve others. I must admit though, I have a bad case of the ‘Bali Blues’, it feels as if I caught a glimpse of what it could be like to live in harmony with all other beings on this planet, a more enlightened world view which made so much sense to me. I miss it, but I won’t forget.
Now, anyone got any ideas about how to cope with this bloody jet-lag?