Om Swastiastu my yogi friends! That is the way I was greeted in Bali, and it is a beautiful way to say hello and peace and greetings from God! In Bali, Om is the most important sound, and an Om starts every mantra, prayer, and ceremony, and it represents Brahma the Creator or God. I have seen this greeting spelled several ways, but the meaning and intent is always the same and done with the hands in a prayer like position at the heart.
I’m back in the states now after spending an one incredible week in Bali leading the Shanti, Shanti, Bali yoga retreat and then another week of travel and adventure in Thailand. I’m finally recovered from jet lag, but I’ll never be quite the same after experiencing the rituals and ceremonies, offerings, blessings, purification, and healings that were so graciously shared by these smiling, friendly people.
The Shanti, Shanti, Bali Goddesses!!
I’m grateful to have some time today to sit down, regroup, and process what I experienced and start to sift through the hundreds of pictures I took. It will take me a long time to process it all, so I’m going to share a series of blog post installments over the coming weeks to share the yoga and life experiences that I brought back.
The view from the yoga sanctuary at Bali Floating Leaf Resort overlooked lush green rice fields, a bustling street, distant views of the Indian Ocean and Mount Agung Volcano . It was stunning and impossible to practice without my heart bursting with gratitude. As I looked out at Mount Agung and the other mountains in the distance I was reminded that the Balinese believe that the mountains are the dwelling places of the Gods.
One of the excursion during the retreat was a hike to these waterfalls!
During my morning sadhana as I stood in Tadasana (mountain pose), I closed my eyes and asked, “Is God dwelling inside me? Am I treating my body like a temple?” I stood there for a long time not only to ponder the question, but also to allow the Divine to flow into me. I didn’t want to move, it felt incredible and it filled me with gratitude. I have to be honest here and tell you that this exercise made me realize that I have not been allowing God to take up permanent residency. The Divine is always accessible and I need to let it flow freely, not just when it’s convenient or when I need something.
Being surrounded by the incredible beauty of nature all week while being immersed in the Balinese customs tied to faith, balance, and God, inspired me to set some clear intentions to focus on treating my body more like a temple and to let the Divine continue to flow and reside in me. I encourage you to try this out the next time you get on your yoga mat. Come to Tadasana, close your eyes, and ask if you are honoring the divinity that resides in you. Do you picture yourself as the miracle that you are?
The Balinese are very in touch with their bodies, souls, and higher consciousness, and because of that they know when they need cleansing and purification. One of the things that I loved about Bali Floating Leaf resort is that they immersed my retreat group in the culture and customs of Bali. We learned why offerings are made and how to make them. We learned about purification ceremonies and got to experience a purification ritual at the Holy Spring Tirtha Empul Tampaksiring.
Learning about and making Balinese offerings
I can’t say enough about the staff at Floating Leaf, they washed and massaged our feet when we arrived, learned our names, were always there with a smile and a cold drink, and they deserve a medal of patience for shepherding 18 Yogini Goddesses around all week. As I was writing in my journal about my experiences I realized something really serendipitous had occurred, and that somehow, some way one of the staff always found their way to me just when I needed a profound message or spiritual guidance.
The first instance happened as I was making my way into the pool of holy water for the purification ceremony. I was deep in thought about what I wanted to wash away and my list was long and full of judgement. One of the guides with us named Gusti, came up to me and must have sensed the stories playing in my head and said, “Maria, say a prayer to the Gods, and ask them, why am I here.” He went on to explain that the Gods will know what you need to let go of and will wash it away. I just had to ask, believe, and trust. THANK YOU GUSTI! I took his advice and had a truly profound experience and will continue to use this guidance. Now when I come to my yoga mat instead of setting an intention for the practice, I ask my Divine, “Why am I here? How can I serve? How can I love more,” and then I open my heart to trust that the Divine and the universe will know exactly what I need and lead me in the right direction. I’ve been taught this lesson in the past, but sometimes you have to fly across the world and stand in holy water to get the message (you know what they say….when you are ready, the teacher will appear).
I’m quite certain that each one of us took away something spiritually different from the Purification Ceremony, but I can tell you that not one of us wanted to move from the steps in the picture below. There was an incredible beauty and visceral energy at Holy Spring Tirtha Empul Tampaksiring that you could feel in the air, see bubbling up to the surface in the holy water, and I’ll never forget the multitude of dragonflies flying overhead when I stepped out of the water.
The Goddesses after the Purification!
I have so much more to share, so stay tuned for more yoga and life lessons from Bali and Thailand. If you are interested in joining me for a Shanti, Shanti Bali retreat in 2018, please leave a comment or send me a message through the contact page, I’ll be announcing dates soon!