Saturday, March 30, 2013

Words from an Official Yogi...

It's official! I am a 200 Hour Certified Yoga Instructor! I took my exam on Wednesday and received my certificate that evening at our Graduation Celebration. I have thought about doing this for so long and so proud and happy that I finally acheived my goal! 

So how do I feel now? Am I enlightened? Am I a Yogi? I certainly feel like I have changed. I don't think a month long class can really every begin to touch what being a yogi means and our Teacher agrees. Being a Yogi and living this way is a life long challenge and goal. Living in Ubud has made it easy to make healthy spirit lifting choices. Once I am in back in the real world is where the real work starts. 

I now feel that I have a lot of the building blocks to learn more and go further on this spiritual journey. I learned so much in the past month and wanted to share so much with my blogging world but there simply wasn't enough time in the day. I hope to delve into some of these topics further in the next few weeks. As we always said in class, take from it what you want. You don't have to believe everything but at least consider it and let it open your mind. 

Right now I am on the island of Gili Trawangan staying at a beautiful beachside resort with some of my fellow classmates. The island is part of Lombok, another Indonesian island. To get here we had to take a one hour taxi ride from Ubud onto an hour boat ride onto a 15 minute donkey ride. Yep, a donkey ride, there are no motor vehicles on the island! Sometimes it's nice to go back in time (with wifi still available of course). My days since graduation have been spent laying on the beach, eating, and relaxing perhaps take in some snorkeling and paddle boarding in the next couple of days. I promise I will get some meditation and yoga in too! 

As I sat back taking in the beauty of my new accommodations, I felt that familiar pang. Matt would have loved this place and sharing this luxurious room with me. If only we would have been able to enjoy the Gilis' together. He would also be proud and happy to say that he was married to a yoga teacher! Of course he would be pushing me to get out there and turn this around to be a profitable venture as well!  

Being after the year mark has proved to have it's own unique set of emotions. Primarily just realizing that it has been a year and that I now have a whole new year of memories that don't include Matt. On St. Patty's Day as I looked at the pics of my friends on Facebook enjoying one of Chicago's biggest drinking holidays, I couldn't help but think about all the St. Patty's days Matt and I spent together and remembering back to one year ago and the freshness of my pain. This time last year, I was recuperating on the beaches of the Bahamas at the yoga ashram. Clearly I have a pattern of healing on the beach with yoga. 

I will be staying on the island for the next few days before heading up to the mountains to see yet more natural beauty of Bali. Also planning for some more beach time before heading home on April 9th. Wishing everyone a Happy Easter... so many good memories of celebrating Easter with Matt's family in Wisconsin. 

Matt and I celebrating Easter for the first time in Appleton, WI... enjoying the day at High Cliff Park

My Nanny and I at Easter Brunch last year

Sunrise over Gili Trawangan this morning  



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Yoga Teacher Training on to Week 3!

I can't believe that I am already entering Week 3 of my training! And that I have barely had time to write about it! I have been busy with training during the day, studying at night, trying holistic healers, eating delicious food, getting spa services, and just loving Bali. 

Even though the course is already a week away from being over, I wanted to take a moment to share a little about my training. I am doing my 200 hour course through Shades of Yoga (www.shadesofyoga). The first week started out with correcting postures and building strength. I thought I was walking into the course in pretty good shape after teaching Zumba and practicing yoga almost daily. While I wasn't completely out of shape there was a lot of improvement to be made and I really needed to increase my strength to hold my poses in correct alignment. The course has focused on core and this is definitely an area I need to strengthen! The second week was spent further improving basic poses and also exploring additional postures including; backbends, hip openers, and inversions. We typically have an hour class to start and end the day with theory, philosophy, and discussion in between. Of course so meditation and breath practice is also included. This week we are upping the anti with an additional hour of asana as my classmates and I practice teaching. Today was the first day of this and although it's taking some getting used to, it felt amazing and I am loving it! 

There has also been plenty of svadhyaya. Yep now that I am on a Yoga Teacher Training, I can use all the fancy terms! This means self inquiry or looking inwards towards oneself. I knew this would be part of the course and knew that it would be be the perfect time to do so as I transition into this next era of my life. The training also covered the Yoga of Food where we discussed many different principles of eating healthy according to several different diets. Once again, I thought I ate relatively healthy for the most part before arriving here but still have a lot of improvements to make. I have incorporated many of these modifications to my diet here and can already feel the effects on my body. 

All in all I have already made a lot of change both physically and mentally. I feel absolutely wonderful and am in a pretty much constant state of contentment here in Ubud! Life is good looking forward to learning more the last week of training and then off to enjoying some rest and relaxation! 

Yoga Room at Taksu Spa 



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nypei... A Day of Silence in Bali

I had read about Nypei before I arrived in Bali but had forgotten about this custom, upon my arrival I was quickly reminded. As I was driven from the airport to Ubud I kept seeing giant statue like creatures that were for the most part half naked. I wondered to myself what these were before being told that I would be here for Nypei and these were the ogoh ogohs! 

Nypei is the celebration of the Balinese New Year and was celebrated today on March 12th this year. Last night, a parade was held of ogoh ogohs carried by the children of Ubud village. The ogoh ogohs are made to represent the bad spirits and the parade is held to thank these spirits for their help in the past year but asking them to please go away for the next year. After the parade, the ogoh ogohs are burned as an extra precaution to rid the year of any evil doings. 

The day after, the whole nation of Bali goes silent to trick the spirits into thinking the island is now deserted and there is no one to haunt. It is also used as a day of reflection and contemplation. Everyone is to remain at their homes and quiet. Electricity is not to be used (luckily my homestay didn't adhere to this completely and I had WiFi) and no work is to be done. I had to gather up water and snacks yesterday to prepare for the day.  I have been at my homestay all day and if I was found on the streets I would be jailed. The airport even shuts down for the day. Tomorrow, the Balinese will go to family and friend's homes to ask forgiveness for any of the prior year's wrongdoings. 

Nypei is a wonderful holiday to experience in Bali. Again, when you visit this country you can't help but be amazed and intrigued by the observance and love of the Balinese. Think of the United States trying to enact such a holiday. Instead we spend our new year drinking as much as we can, feeling like crap the next day, eating everything in site, and making empty promises. 

As a traveler, once could be annoyed to be shut in all day but I tried to embrace the spirit of the day and used some of the day for contemplation to look back on the year and where my journey has brought me. One thing that I have struggled with while I have been here is the fact that I wouldn't be here in Bali attending this training if it weren't for Matt's passing. It is truly the yin of my yang. At times I have even found myself angry in my sweaty little room missing my comfy condo in Chicago snuggled up with Matt and Lila knowing I am really here for only one reason. I have had fleeting moments of these thoughts but mostly it makes me even more appreciative of the fact that I am here understanding what I had to go through to get here. 

Check out some pics of the Ogoh Ogohs below and of the children carrying them... if these don't scare away the evil spirits, I don't know what will! 



Sunday, March 10, 2013

One Year Two Days and Counting

Yesterday or today marks one year based upon what time zone you are in. Leading up to this date I had spent quite a lot of time thinking about what day to observe this one year sad-aversary on. Since I had class on Saturday, I was really planning to observe this on Sunday so I could relax and let my heart take me where it wanted to on Sunday. In the end it has just felt like this date has extended over two days. Like the rest of the year, it's been a big giant blob of time. 

The night of March the 8th (Bali time) I found myself wanting to look through what I call my grieving tools which include old journals, calendars, and to do lists. I basically look through it all from the past couple of years to see where I was and what I was doing that particular day and the days leading up to it. I haven't had any of these tools since I moved but as you can guess I am fairing  fine without them. I think it gives me something to actively "do". Typically when I am hit with a grief wave, I feel like I want to do something to make it go away so having these tools gives me something to focus my attention on. The one tool I did have was music so I sat and listened to playlists that Matt had compiled for me.. deciphering their meanings with many tears shed. 

The next day I was feeling okay and headed off to class. As usual, it's good to keep the mind busy and I was content working on my practice and learning about the Yoga of Food until we started watching a film about how food can prevent and cure cancer. Although I agree with the majority of the information, I had to get up and leave the room for a minute, I felt like if I heard the word tumor or cancer one more time I was going to puke. I regrouped with some fresh air and headed back in to complete the day of coursework. I finished Saturday off with a relaxing Balinese massage and a healthy dinner at a vibrant local cafe. 

Sunday morning I woke up to lots of messages on Facebook which was heartwarming but sad at the same time. It was nice to hear from so many people being halfway across the world and could feel the love here in Bali. I again shed some tears before heading off to meet with a traditional Balinese Healer. 

I did not go to see the Healer from Eat Pray Love as I understand his prophecies have become a bit commercialized. This was a healer that the owners of my homestay use and were kind enough to share with me. We headed out early in the morning to be the first ones there. As we pulled up, it looked very similar to the one in the movie as it was a traditional Balinese compound which they also used in filming the movie. We waited for a moment before the Healer came out and told me to sit before him. I told him where I was from and he then told me to come sit right in front of him so he could conduct his tests. He pushed various spots on my head, neck and shoulders before asking me to lie down. I did as I was told and he soon started pushing on my toes naming various organs that those pressure points were responsible for. He then pushed on the pads of my toes and it hurt like heck! He told me it was because I worry too much that worrying was blocking my aura. He cleared my aura before again pressing my toes and it really did not hurt this time! He also asked if I was looking for something new... new boy new job? I said, yes, new life, and he told me I would now be happy well happier than I am. He shuffled back into the house to mix up an oil and instructed me to put on my back and neck. I felt lighter as I left and was pleased with the experience. I was really not sure of what to expect and I am still not sure of what happened. I am also not sure of what results to look for but I am all for anything that might clear my aura and make me happier! 

I got back to my homestay before heading out for a day at the beach. I headed with a classmate down to Sanur, a beach about 45 minutes away from Ubud. We lounged by the pool and it was a lovely day until I got back with my first Bali Burn. I put sunscreen on but I think the sun is just way too intense down here for me to handle for very long. Matt used to always tease me when I would lather up my legs with SPF saying your legs can never get burnt. Today the worst and most painful part of this Bali Burn are certainly my legs. I rounded the night out with a nice meal before heading in to get plenty of rest before another week of training. 

I am happy to have this two day sad-aversay come to a close and I felt that I have honored Matt in the best way possible today and more importantly in the past year. It is said that the first year is always the hardest and I agree the year of firsts has been difficult but only time will tell as to how I will fair in the next. I feel a lot of promise and excitement for this new era especially with a clean aura guiding me. For now, I pleased to have spent the weekend and year making Matt proud and showing him once and for all that your legs really can get sunburned. 



Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bumming Around in Bali

I have arrived in Bali! My plane landed late on Friday afternoon and I made it relatively easily through the hustle and bustle of customs before finding my driver as we headed off to Ubud (he had a sign for me!). The drive did scare me a bit as I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I had flown into the capital city, Denpasar, and the town of Ubud which isn't that far away but with the hectic motorbike traffic took about an hour and a half. Bali is a small island nation but Ubud is about an hour north from the nearest coast As we drove between the cities, the side of the roads were littered with workers, food stands, stray dogs, and roosters.  

As I stared seeing signs for Ubud and realized we were on the outskirts of town a little relief passed through me as the surroundings improved. We drove onto Monkey Forest road noted by the Monkey Forest Sanctuary where my homestay is located. The driver stopped the car and informed me that this was it! A young boy came out to take my excessively heavy bag as we headed down a long alleyway. We passed many homestays and Ubud Dream was located almost at the end of the alleyway. He led me up some narrow stairs carrying the suitcase atop his head and showed me to my room. It is a simple basic room with high ceilings, a big bed, a hot shower, and fans. Most importantly it was clean, I can live here for a month! 

A homestay is a very popular place to stay in Bali. What exactly is it? It's basically the family compound with extra rooms that are rented out to travelers. I would place it in between a hostel and a hotel almost a bed and breakfast. You can hear the sounds of the family everyday and everyone helps out except for the little little ones. Breakfast is also provided. I am waiting for my second breakfast right now. There is also a little temple located on the compound and offerings are placed there everyday. Everyone makes these offerings. As you walk down the street every shop has these outside their door. Yesterday as I got a massage, I saw a girl craft the straw offerings for over an hour. Imagine Americans putting this much dedication into daily religious rituals! I can barely set aside then minutes a day to meditate.

As you can guess, it's pretty different here. Most people speak minimal English, enough to serve or sell you what they can to get by. As I walk down the street I am continually asked if I need a taxi or if I want spa services. Spa services are INSANELY cheap. I cluelessly had no idea about this hidden gem of Bail. We are talking one hour massages for about $10. I got a mani/pedi for $14. Food is also cheap. Yesterday I ate some fried rice, a couple of beers all for about $5. Last night I ate at what is probably one of the nicer restaurants and it was only $22 with a couple of drinks and a nice tuna steak. I am a millionaire here which basically means I took out $100 of the ATM as the conversion is slightly under 10,000 rupiah to an American dollar. It's led to some awkward math at cash registers to say the least. I am getting more used to the ridiculous conversion though. 

Another thing I immediately noticed are all the stray dogs which is recognized as a national issue. Given my love for dogs and especially Miss Lila, I was taken aback by how many there are. They usually look scraggly but some I thought were pets. They don't seem mean either and just go about their business frolicking along motorbikes and hanging outside their favorite shops. Yesterday, I saw the animal shelter rescue unit and I will probably stop in over the next month to see what I can do to help. I wonder how difficult it would be to adopt while I am here... I can only imagine what Lila would think if after being gone for two months I brought home another dog! 

The Balinese people are very sweet and good natured always greeting you with a smile. Sometimes conversations are hard to come by with the language barrier but I have had a few good ones already. The first restaurant I ate at the host who was tasked with inviting in passerbys sat at my table to chat for awhile. He shared with me his secret to health which is eating spicy food.. gets all the bad stuff out. I shared with him that I was staying for a month and he said that was good, I could follow my heart while I was here. He stated that so many visitors come to the island hoping to do everything in just a few days and miss out on the beauty of Bali, just relaxing! Another waitress asked me about my kindle and if it was a book I was reading. I let her look it over and she got excited when she realized we had read a lot of the same books and especially loves Twilight and the Hunger Games

The first two days here have been good, really just trying to get my bearings together and figure out the ways of Ubud without getting run over by a motorbike. I have have been so busy on this trip I haven't had a lot of time to be sad or reflect on the past year. Last night it hit me. As a vacation spot there are a lot of couples here and as I was eating dinner last night I was lonely. I missed Matt so much.  It's odd to miss someone in a country that you have never been to before (and so so different than your own) and one that you never planned to go together too but I guess Matt is just a part of me so I miss him all over the world. Matt would have loved it here... all the culture... the cheap food and drink... me letting go and becoming one with this place. I look at my little room and he would be so proud of me for staying here especially for putting away the makeup bag because really I would just sweat it off in a few minutes anyways. He would have loved trying to see me get around town on my push bike. I wish he were here with me, this place reminds me of our honeymoon to Aruba and all the fun we had there. 

I am looking forward to the start of my Teacher Training tomorrow. I am sure this will take away some of the lonely feeling and of course looking forward to seeing what the next month will bring. 

daily offerings in front of my homestay

my new friend from the monkey forest

rice fields just a few steps out of town

my homestay... Ubud Dream

ganesha guarding the door at Ubud Dream

I have WiFi at my place and it's at a lot of cafes but it's just not as fast so it's very timely to upload pictures, we shall see how much more of it I can wait through. Be sure to check out my instagram pics which can be uploaded more easily. Just use the little camera link at the top right hand of the page. Off to see Legong, a traditional Balinese dance at the community center!