Thursday, February 26, 2015

Oleg Tambulilingan and Bum Injections: A Story of Love and Unlikely Room Service

I What a day and night it has been here at Puri Santrian! Today my Shakti sisters and I enjoyed our final day on Sanur Beach before we shuttle out tomorrow at 9:30 AM for the central mountains to begin our month of immersive yoga training. (Insert "eeeeh!!" sound here). Yesterday, Robyn, Stephanie and I welcomed our sisters Bobbi, Sanovia and Jill who all arrived at the Denpasar airport late in the afternoon. This afternoon, another sister India arrived, from the foothills of western Mass (w00t w00t!) I'm so looking forward to meeting and growing in community with all of our sisters, these women who, up until now for most of them, I've only known via facebook posts and phone calls but with whom I already feel so connected. Four months of reading, listening and reflecting about energy, transformation, and dancing with uncertainty has a way of bringing people close together. Kind of like being trapped in an ontological elevator and the other rando in there lets one rip-- you make eye contact with your people, and huddle a little closer together.We have quite the month ahead for heart huddling! (Plus, I hear there is a dance naked in the rain initiation ceremony ahead, where all of us have to shake our stuff beneath a waterfall as a strict part of our graduation requirement. Toto, we're not at Amherst College anymore! Lord Jefferey would hemorrhage right on the spot on the mere THOUGHT.  Anyway, I can't wait for that one. I might even invite Putu. Just kidding. <Kind of.>)

 By the way, I'm loving ALL my sisters and am particularly relishing chill Jill from Vermont. Jill is the epitomy of chill-- she's rockin in her sixties, glowing in grey hair, and has only just received her suitcase late this afternoon after it was mistakenly held hostage in Hong Kong for Mao's ghost to personally inspect it.  She's been chillin easy in, what she calls (throwback!) a 'camisol' for the past day and soaking it all in as it comes. Tonight, at the traditional Balinese dinner and a show we attended at the hotel's own handy dandy beachside entertainment hall, I asked if I could have one of her balls (the green olivish dessert like ovularities on her plate and we roared with laughter like teenyboppers in a discoteca. We're gonna be pals, me and Jill.

So, about the title of this blog post. I'll start with the cultural snippet.
Oleg Tambulilingan means "Bumblebee dance", and is the typical Balinese dance of love. Here's the words straight from the horse's mouth: "The Bumblebee dance is representative of traditional Balinese Love Story. It is performed by two dancers, one male bee and one female bee, who fall in love in a beautiful and romantic flower garden (I know, you're thinking about Putu, aren't you?) It is a symbolic courtship ritual of two young Balinese in love."

After piling our plates high with pickled vegetables in tumeric sauce, Indonesian Gado Gado (stir fried vegetables with spicy peanut sauce, hard boiled egg and chili sprigs), and Satay (skewers of beef, chicken and fish nuggets), we made our way back to the tables for a feast of sound and movement. A traditional Balinese musical group sat on the floor in wrapped sarongs and beautiful hats. The designs, pattens and textile intricacies here are jaw-droppingly exquisite. The band was decorated in spirals and flowers of gold and mahagony, while the dancers on stage sported bright pinks, yellows and greens. The dancing was MAGICAL. I couldn't believe how precisely the women moved their hands in alignment with every "ping ping" from the xylophone like instruments, the syncopated winking and blinking of their stunningly outlined eyes.

Now, I came to dinner a little late, as I had to deal with this unbelievably pervasive skin rash that has my entire body, save my face, praise Jah, looking like red sandpaper. I went to the receptionist earlier this afternoon to inquire about local medical clinics and they said they'd call the doctor right away to come to my room, that I'd have to wait a couple of days to be seen at the clinic. Not having much alternative, I agreed, thinking it more something from the Oregon Trail era to have a housecall from a doctor, but remembered my travel mantra, go with the flow, and decided to trust.

Sure enough, roughly two hours later, Doctor rang the doorbell of room 377, traveling medkit in hand, and asked how he could help. I showed him my back, my arms, my legs, covered in red dots. He confirmed that it was indeed an allergy, and recommend a hefty shot of cortisone to reduce the irritation and get this allergic reaction under control. I felt medically safe and trusting of this doctor and was happy to make conversation with him as he prepared the sterilized needle. As he loaded the needle with the correct fluid, I moved my hair to the side, clearing my left arm for him. He smiled at me lovingly and gently tapped his bum "Dis one, my dear."

Oh, I thought.

Yes, have to do it here because big shot.

Good thing I have a big bum, I grinned.

Who was this speaking words out of my mouth? I hate shots. I all but ask for a binky and my childhood blanky at home when I have to have a needle injected in me, but when Doctor asked me to lay face down on the hotel bed and lift up my (gorgeous new) dress, I felt tickled to oblige.

Ready, he asked. Before I could sputter "yes" into the pillow I was chewing, I felt a cool tingling then a mild burning on my left cheek, before it spread into utter numbness.

Dat's it!

Bali: the land of courting bumblebees and in-house bum injections, professionally delivered and satisfaction guaranteed. One thing's for sure: the prayer flag of "firsts" here continues to get longer and longer!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Om Swasti Astu

I woke early to walk along the beach, opting to forgo early AM yoga at the hotel, considering I will be breathing eating and sleeping yoga for the next month. The familiar pull toward exploration, to get out of inside the resort world, was calling. 

Along shore, the tide was low, the water calm and regal like, the beachside cafes only beginning to stir with signs of life. Balinese men in fishing garb waded into the water, long poles in hand, fishing for prawns. 

The greenery and lushness of this place is stunning. As the morning fog started to fade with the brightening sun, I noticed a massive mountain in the distance. Tad asana.

Smiling men and women with bright faces greet me with "good morning miss!" Three women, short and laughing see me and say: good morning! You want massage? Maybe pedicure, I do your nails!" Not today, I smile, and continue walking, closing our brief encounter with my hands in anjali nudes, prayer pose, hands gathered to the heart. This is a sign people take not at the end of a yoga class, but in every encounter in the day. 

I snapped photos wide eyed in wonder, of the trees, the sea, and the stunning flowers. A security guard from a hotel half a mile from mine saw me taking pictures of flowers and asked if I liked flowers. He said he'd take me to a garden to take more pictures. I hesitated for a minute, wondering if he seemed trustworthy, and decided on yes!

He opened a gate and we walked through to the most stunning landscape of lush green trees, moss covered statues, and bright flowers. We walked along, my new pal Putu and I, and chatted in choppy English. As we contined walking, he apologized profusely for the Mosquitoes, and when we came to a muddy rut (I was barefoot) told me to jump on his back and he'd carry me through. Thankfully, he was a bit taller than me and strong so I jumped on, grinning in disbelief at what was occurig. A stunning bronzed Balinese man, carting me barefoot on his back through a hidden beach garden. Life is unbelievable!!!

I think Putu had a crush on me. Thankfully, he was also extremely respectful and when I said I wanted to go back, led me back.

Back at the hotel I met my sisters for breakfast and asked, on the way to the bathroom, one of the hotel staff how to say good morning in Balinese. She smiled at me, hands in prayer pose, and said "Om Swasti Astu". This means bless you or blessings with you.

Good morning, bless you, blessings with you. Bali is something else, a paradise not only in landscape and sea and sky but in heart.  Wowza!!! 

In other news, I have a horrific skin rash all over my body. Been taking Benadryl and rubbing cream in but my skin is reacting to something. Nothing's ever100% though, and if that's the worst of my troubles, I think I'm doing okay! Today holds more beach, some spa, and tonight an Indonesian feast coupled with a dancing and music show. Then tomorrow it's off to the mountain to begin this yoga journey!!

Blissin in Bali! Day One

I'm writing from the hotel computer, open air and fan overhead. Just a few minutes before myself and five other of my Shakti sisters walk down the street for some live music and traditional Balinese fair (YUM!) A stone statue spits water in a nearby fountain and geckos climb and scurry up the stone wall to my left, backing an ornate picture of gods and goddesses dancing. HOLY SMOKES! What land did I arrive in!? I'm still in pinch-me-is-this-real mode. Utterly awed by the breathtaking beauty, the intricate variability and exquisite detail of this magical earth we inhabit.

What a day it's been. I wrote today's post by hand in my journal, lying on a cushy beach couch (yes, that's right, a beach couch...think white reclining beach chair and temprapedic had a kid). As I don't have a computer here, posting may be difficult but it feels more important than I even know now to keep log of my thoughts, musings, seeings, not only to keep connected with my loving and lovely sangha back home, but to honor all this experience is. I remember reading somewhere about writers that they live the richest lives because they get to relive their experiences twice. I want to cast this experience in language to be able to look back and remember the smell of the salt air, the warmth of the salt water, the healing on m skin, the just-right sweetness of the welcome drink strawberry mint lemonade, feel the texture of Rada's gentle yet fierce palms rubbing into my travel-weary shoulders during the two hour massage I received today...the rose petals in a silver basin beneath the head rest. All the magic in the minutae.

We are staying for the next three days at Puri Santrian, a beach resort and hotel that, blissfully, my Shakti sister Robyn took all the initiative to set up. She hit the jackpot!! It is, as pictures will show, completely gorgeous. A welcome gong and clan of smiling bronzed beauties welcomed us in yesterday, and it's been only layers upon layers of magic unfolding since then. I'm stunned by the detail of this place, the thoughtfulness and care lurking in every flower petal, every sprig of orchids, the sarongs covering even the statues "to make dem look like people" a nice Balinese man told us today, when we asked about the tablecloth like sarongs covering the loins of all the dozens of statues all over the property.

Morning yoga, breakfast UNMATCHED (papaya, carambola, passion fruit, yoghurt, make your own omelette, yummiest coffee with freshest milk)-- the food has been heaven. Such abundance.

I must go shower before dinny din, so will have to post my longer thoughts from today later, but here are a couple of poemish snippets from today! 

Sending big love to the snowy northeast. 

"Sphinx statues and lotus petals
rising from the muck.
the soft sound of water spilling
gentle sun, surya king, rising with the floating breeze
Balinese, wrapped like royalty and brimming with smiles
Everywhere, everywhere, warmth radiating--

"Hello! Where are you from?" Everyone truly welcoming, truly curious, looking at the eye and into the heart. This morning, I woke early to the sound of birds and jumping squirrels, a calm slow sun after a night of heat lightning and gentle rain dancing across the sky.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


A six mile walk through snowy Central Park; carriages, taxi cabs, pedestrians, panhandlers; skyscrapers and city lights, rosy-cheeked toddlers bundled and giggling in different languages. Subway stops and traffic cops, smells every imaginable kind. 

After my long walk, I escaped the snow and spent the afternoon yesterday lingering in the Asian wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, gaping over statues of stone goddesses standing tall from centuries past. After successfully navigating the NYC subway system-- CHECK!-- I slushed through the pomodoro smelling streets of Nolita to share a three hour dinner with my old high school friend, Talia, at the yummiest healthveg restaurant, The Butcher's Daughter, downtown Manhattan. Spicy kale salad with almond caesar dressing?! Vegan GF coconut ice cream sandwich?! Free glasses of wine on the house as a complimentary toast to long lost reunion?! NYC, you're quite the gem!

Off to a yoga class today with another high school friend, then an afternoon to settling and gearing up before I head to the airport tonight! Feeling gratitude and excitement to the brim!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Call to Adventure!

Dearest friends and family, far and wide,

Hello and welcome to my travel blog! As I gear up for the journey that lies ahead, to meet my Shakti sisters in Bali for a month long immersion 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training, I am so looking forward to having a platform to reflect, muse, share and otherwise connect with all of the loving sangha, community, that has helped me arrive to the place in my life I am today. If you are reading this, YOU form a part of that community!

I have spent the last hour or two with my dear friend Leah, who has helped me finalize the finishing touches on leaving my space clear and clean, and packing my life for the next three months into an impressively compact 2 bags. This afternoon, I am headed to Connecticut, where I'll visit with my aunt and her partner for the evening, then head to New York City to soak up the wonders of the city's urban metropolis before boarding my disconcertingly long flight to Bali late Sunday night! EHH!

For those of you who don't know, the program I'm doing is called Shakti Initation. More info on the program here:

I'll have limited access to internet during the first month, but have promised myself to make every effort to post whenever I can. Be expecting snippets along the way, and as always, your emails, notes, songs, memes, facebook stickers and youtube clips are ALWAYS welcome in my inbox!

Now, for my first musing snippet.

This morning, I went to my final yoga class at Yoga Sanctuary, the studio I most practice in home in Northampton. Ellie, a gifted and radiant teacher, taught on Shiva, the male counterpart to Shakti. Shiva is both the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the universe, and is balanced by Shakti, his female counterpart. Shiva can be thought of, she offered, as the riverbanks holding up the river, and Shakti, the dynamic, energized movement and flow of energy that runs through the river. This dynamic balance between stability, structure, firmness, grounding, and vitality, movement, motion, transformation, is my working definition of the journey ahead. To stay open and rooted, receptive and courageous, are my intentions for the road ahead.  

As part of the many-stepped preparation for the training I will begin on February 27 with my Shakti sisters at the Bali Mountain Retreat Center, I had to select both a mudra and a goddess to adopt. I selected Abhaya Mudra, the mudra of fearlessness, courage and protection. As Ellie led us to take this mudra in class today, I couldn't help but smile and think of this little gesture I'll be making as I board the plane across the planet. Here we go!

Biggest love to you all <3