I decided to go to Bali after a really rough year. I had been through the ringer emotionally and was looking to escape, to experience something life-altering, to feel peace and beauty. I needed to have an adventure. I quickly made the decision to participate in a yoga and meditation retreat. I had always wanted to deepen my yoga practice and engage in the personal and spiritual development facilitated by such retreats. After researching options, I came across one that advertised the perfect escape. It promised yoga and meditation in a beautiful setting, gourmet meals, tantalizing spa treatments, cultural experiences and outings, and all for a very reasonable price. It sounded like just what I wanted and needed.
Indeed, it was what I needed…and so much more. My experience at the retreat and in Bali fulfilled a longing, a hunger that I didn’t even know I had. I got to experience a place where time seemed to stand still, where the physical beauty of the land was so breathtaking it felt surreal, where the air was thick and fragrant and charged with energy, and where the people smiled as if they knew a secret about life that I was still trying to figure out. After my experience in Bali, I can say I feel closer to that secret – more connected to a sense inner peace, to something more important, to a spiritual energy that often seems so elusive over here in the Western world.
When I arrived at the retreat site, in Ubud, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and peacefulness of the setting. The grounds were beautiful; quiet, simple, and traditionally Balinese. All of the private villas were secluded with lovely balconies overlooking rice fields. They were connected by small stone pathways overhung with luscious flora and fauna. Fresh, gourmet meals were served on a lovely veranda overlooking the resort. There were two pools and other communal buildings, including a spa.
The yoga/meditation practices were twice a day — once in the morning and once at night for two hours — and were done in a beautiful outdoor pavilion overlooking a stream and rice fields. It was a mixture of different yoga styles and open to all levels of practitioners. The teacher were gentle and accommodating. They were the warmest, most loving, and clearly spiritual individuals I’ve encountered. Infusing joy into all of the classes and providing a charming combination of being contemplative and spiritually insightful, while also being funny, playful, and very “real world.” I learned so much and many of their words of wisdom and ideas followed me back to the States and continue to guide and enrich my life.
In between yoga sessions and meals, there was plenty of down time where we could go for walks, read, take naps, sit by the pool, relax in our villa, or spend time with others on the retreat. In addition, there were several activities planned, including a trip to a major Balinese temple and participation in a purification ritual, a morning trip to the volcano Batur and sunrise yoga session overlooking the volcano, a 21 km bike ride through back roads and tiny traditional Balinese villages, a rice field walk, learning to make Balinese offering baskets, and a few optional experiences, including going to a traditional healer. There was a clear and authentic focus on introducing us to the culture of Bali — and trust me when I say that we have a lot to learn from the Balinese about how living should be done.
Sore muscles from yoga, biking, and walking the rice fields were soothed by the other-wordly spa treatments we received – several over the course of the five days. The highlight for me was a massage/body wrap/floral petal bath treatment. After receiving an hour-long massage and hour-long body scrub, I was escorted to a beautiful bath room. The room was open at the back and the huge bath tub was situated hanging out over a pond with a tiny little waterfall and a vista of rice fields. The bath was filled with flower petals.
As I lay in this bath tub, so incredibly relaxed, alone, and far away from my normal life, looking out over the spectacular scenery, after days of intense yoga, meditation, and self-reflection, I had what could only be described as a spiritual experience. I suddenly felt utterly at peace, serene, and at the same time filled with immeasurable joy and gratitude. All fear, stress, and doubt just melted away and for a moment I felt connected. This place, this feeling, is where I now go in my mind when the stress and pressure of everyday life feels too much and I need to remember what it feels like to be truly peaceful.
I went to Bali to escape the stress and pain of a bad year. What I got was so much more. I did succeed in escaping from my everyday world, but more importantly experienced something akin to a spiritual reset, a shift in perception, an opportunity to move more towards the person I want to be in the world. It’s hard to articulate, but the experiences I had there – the physical beauty, the vibrant culture, the joyful and compassionate people, the opportunities to feel peaceful and connected, the intense self-reflection and personal growth, the food, the music, the ceremony – all of it converged to create a life-changing adventure. I would like to think that I could tap into the kind of peace, love, and beauty I experienced in Bali right here in Chicago — and I can, of course – yet, somehow it just seemed easier in Bali. Bali is a magical place and one I dream of returning some day.
© Written by Amy West, a blog contributor for Indo Discovery Travel
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