I had made a drastic change in my life a year prior to this trip. I had been given the ‘keys’ to a magical FREEDOM that I had been searching for my whole life. I had been given the gift of sobriety.
I had always felt uncomfortable in my own skin. From birth, I had felt this way. Nothing, most painfully including myself, ever seemed to be ‘good enough.’ I tried many ways to feel different about who I was and how I felt. As I got older (13 years) I realized that alcohol could make me feel just a little different. It was enough that I latched onto it for years and years.
At 19 years old, I landed the perfect job for my irritable soul, an airline career that would allow me the opportunity to move around and travel all over the world. Still feeling uncomfortable and 30+ moves later, I landed in Anchorage, Alaska. Crash landed, as it were. My soul crashed and burned and eventually I was directed to a recovery program. I haven’t had to take a drink since that day almost 15 years ago.
I befriended a woman who owned a travel business. She was considered the Bali expert. She needed someone to go check out a hotel and I was her lucky gal. The hotel was less than $100 a night, but it was considered a 5 Star hotel. Being there was like being at a palace. I was treated like royalty. I remember eating at the dining hall daily and getting to know one of the waiters. He asked me one day if I was happy. He had a sense that I was not a happy soul. I was blown away that a stranger could so clearly see the sadness inside me. He also thought it odd that a single lady was traveling there alone for 10 days. He was curious about my difficulties in life.
I hired a driver to take me all over the countryside. I was amazed by the differences in our cultures. I asked many many questions, as I always do. I would see families bathing in ditches, small groups riding together on little scooters, people walking while carrying so much weight on their heads, large families living in little huts. At the time I had established a career in an outside sales position making close to six figures a year. I had recently divorced and bought a little condo for myself and my two dogs. I felt so rich, and yet so empty, as I toured this country.
In addition to witnessing how few material possessions so many of the locals had, I witnessed an overweening sense of peace that most people did have. They displayed such a calm about them. There did not seem to be drama, but a steady balance unlike anything I had witnessed in America. The driver and I talked as much as we could, given the language barrier, throughout the week. I was truly impressed by how wonderfully simple this lifestyle seemed to be. People seemed to be genuinely happy, but not overly so, not giddy, just a calm and even contentment. I was overwhelmed by how much STUFF I had back in the US, and started to connect this materialism to how often I was depressed and filled with a sense of wanting more.
I was at a temple, Ulu Watu when it happened… my first ‘spiritual experience’. I had been driven to this amazing temple on the cliff. [It was Uluwatu Temple (Pura Uluwatu) is one of Bali’s nine key directional temples. Though a small temple was claimed to have existed beforehand, the structure was significantly expanded by a Javanese sage, Empu Kuturan in the 11th Century. Another sage from East Java, Dang Hyang Nirartha is credited for constructing the padmasana shrines and is claimed to have attained Moksha here. Even more remarkable than the temple itself is its location, perched on a steep cliff 70 meters above the roaring Indian ocean waves. There are more steep headlands on either side and sunsets over Uluwatu are a sight to behold. via http://wikitravel.org/en/Bukit_Peninsula] I walked and chatted with the monkeys that were hanging out everywhere. The sun was just starting to set. I sat on the edge of the cliff and suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion. I am crying writing this now, as the feeling is still with me. I sat there sobbing uncontrollably. I was filled, for the first time in my life, with the belief in a Power greater than myself that loved me unconditionally and wanted only the very best for me. This Power did not care what I did for a living, or how much money I made. This Power truly just wanted me to know how much I am loved and that LOVE is the key to life. I remember it being all I could do to walk back to the car where my driver patiently waited for me. When he saw me, he was very concerned as I was soaked from crying and tears were still streaming down my face. He thought someone had harmed me and was ready to go find them. I tried to explain what had happened, however I could not.
I came back to the U.S. and quit that job. My friend was my sales manager at the time and was shocked. She did not know what had happened to me and was quite concerned for my well being. I knew I would be ok. I knew I had to seek what was in my heart. I have been seeking a career that fills the hole in my soul ever since that trip. I had the opportunity to create and sell a fun business working with dogs. I loved that. Somewhere along the way the need for more money, more stuff came back into my head. I had drifted back into that way of thinking for a few years, and now have found my way back again to the path toward creating a life filled with love. A life filled with passion for day to day living. I believe Bali has allowed me to fully possess the strength and courage that I never knew I had. I believe that the local people I got to know while on my visit empowered me to seek peace and love.
When my friend Phil asked for a travel article, I am not sure this is what he was looking for, however it was exactly what I needed to write about and perfectly remember. I am at another wonderful crossroads in life and needed the reminder… the Spiritual Bali reminder. When I put anything before love in life, my perception of life gets skewed. Then I reflect back on the simple life of the Balinese and remember that many times, less is truly more.