Dec 3, 2014

A Day in the Life, Ubud-Style (An Honest Account)

7:30 WAKE

Wake up surrounded by a parachute of mosquito netting. I thank God I’m alive. (What word can I use to say this, without using “God,” that goes beyond the confines of religious attachments and connotations?) I vow to live the next 24 hours mindfully: to do good, not do evil, and see with the eyes of compassion. I dedicate the day to someone, that all my efforts are for them. Today: my Aunt Gloria, who inspired the idea for this post.


The father of the family-run bed & breakfast comes around to ask what we’d like for breakfast. I order my usual omelet full of spices with fresh fruit and tea, and take in on the patio overlooking the tree-palms and wafting butterflies.

I talk with a 75-year-old Vietnamese lady from the neighboring room, who has recently retired from her embroidery business in California to travel the world. The way her face crinkles up when she laughs makes me smile. We hug three times before I leave for yoga class, because she’s going back to Vietnam that afternoon. After three days, it feels like we are parting as old friends.


I bring a rain jacket and umbrella in my daypack; the morning clouds are always pregnant with an approaching downpour. It feels normal to be in public wearing a tank top and loose gym pants. The teenage boys eating breakfast around the last block corner call out “good morning!” to me and laugh as I pass, reminding me of my students in Japan.

I pass daily offerings: origami square or flower-shaped boxes made from leaves, with pink purple yellow white flower petals, incense, and oils, placed with a prayer outside the open doorways to homes, temples, shops, and even the seats of motorbikes.

Ubud is an Asian chaos of concrete buildings selling Western clothes, dogs and chickens sharing the road with vans and mopeds, dirt piled on garbage-strewn sidewalks and broken blocks covering the deep rain gutters — and there is spontaneous joy springing from it! The smiles on people’s faces in this atmosphere are like the colors of the offering flowers in the streets.

In ten minutes, I arrive at the Radiantly Alive Yoga studio.


OMMM— In Yin/Yang, Yang is the “hot” yoga where you’re pushing your limits, changing poses from one to the next, and really working on your muscles.

In today’s Beginner’s Yoga class, we learned the Sun Salutation Poses for the first time. In Child’s Pose, your face is down to the ground as you stretch your back. When I sit up again, Noga, the instructor, calls the class’s attention to my “third eye” — the bright pink spot on my forehead from pressing my face into the mat, lol. I think to myself how good I feel.


My body is active, un-tensed, and my posture straightening. I send a letter at the post office next door to Wayan’s Balinese Healing shop from Eat Pray Love. I wander around a few shops in search of a good book, but don’t buy anything. The number of propositions I get for “taksi! taksi!” has decreased today; a real miracle.

12:30 LUNCH

I’m becoming a familiar face at Mama Warung, where $3.50 USD gets you a coconut lassi (my probiotic choice to clear away the “Bali Belly”), and gado gado, an Indonesian dish of boiled vegetables and rice with peanut sauce. I take this time to write a letter or jot down notes, i.e. this blog post.

13:00 RETURN

The mother of the B&B brings me hot tea when I return, and asks after my yoga class. She offers to take me to her family’s temple for an upcoming festival, and will lend me an appropriate sarong and lacy shirt. I tell her with her yellow festival shirt matching the window shades, the scene looks like a painting; so I ask to take her picture (above).

I’m thankful I splurged on this $17 USD / night B&B for a host of reasons, one of which is the knowledge and recommendations the B&B family give me on local attractions and events. I don’t have my travels planned to the hour; my m.o. is more to show up and wander about. I’ll hear about what other travelers have done or seen, and follow after whatever sounds interesting to me. For example, two people I met climbed a nearby volcano to watch the sunrise, so now that’s on my to-do list.

Back in my room, I use the wifi to check messages, keep an eye on finances, and do travel research: I use TripAdvisor and Google Maps to look up reviews on points of interest and where they are; HostelWorld or Airbnb to book upcoming accommodation (no need right now, as I’m staying put for at least two weeks here); and SkyScanner to check flight prices (all booked through to Thailand for New Years).

The afternoon always slips by, and before I know it it’s time to go back to the yoga studio.


OMMM— Complementing Yang yoga, Yin yoga is about restoration, holding single poses for a longer period of time, and going deeper with your muscles. Usually I do this type of yoga in the evening, but today’s 5pm time slot is another yang-style yoga class, the most challenging I’ve tried yet: Ashtanga.

The instructor, Sanna, seems a deeply calm and compassionate person. She has us begin our practice with a dedication, so that our efforts go out to someone and make any suffering in their lives a little better; I renew today’s dedication to my Aunt Gloria.

Using our body weight and synchronized movements together, the whole class worked up a pouring sweat. It was difficult for me to do multiple sun salutations, balancing during stretches and trying a headstand. It was intense, and sometimes I wanted to go into Child’s Pose for release, but I find you really do put more effort than usual when you have it in mind you’re doing this for the benefit of a loved one.

The instructors said that your body is tied to your mind, and practicing yoga can release your emotions. I was like, “Yeah, I’m sure, but not me, I’m under control.” Well, well — at the closing of Ashtanga, Sanna told us as we relaxed to be happy and let yourself feel joy, and it all came up — the gray foggy cloud I feel that keeps me from feeling deeper emotions, and which I’ve been trying so hard to break free of, was superseded by a bubbling up of joy and I wanted to SCREAM as loud and as long as I could, I wanted to release it, the scream of HORROR of what I’ve seen and felt in my life, all the things I told myself I didn’t feel when I experienced them, I wanted the toxins of my life OUT OUT OUT!!!

They say unexpected joy can feel a lot like grief, and the scream of horror and of exhilaration are the same extremes. Of course I don’t scream in class, but I feel it in my chest wanting to be released.

18:45 DINNER

I stop by a restaurant on the way back to the B&B, and it’s here while waiting for dinner that I put my hands over my mouth and let out two silent, full-power screams. The third is not as powerful; like water poured from a jug, I am trickling out the last of my energy before becoming empty.

I think about the end of the practice, when the class was instructed to put our hands over our hearts and bellies as we breathe, that this is what it’s all about! Sweat and heat and pain and ache and tears and heat and sweat and pain and ache and tears and the monk rips your heart, your breath out, and hands it back to you and says: “THIS!”

I eat dinner in silence and watch the geckos try to eat the flies through the glass window. In the dark, I walk back to the B&B.


While I take a refreshing cold shower, I soak my clothes in the sink with some soap. Once they’re hung up to dry, I brush my teeth with bottled water. I rub Indonesia-made cocoa butter on my skin and it feels like the most lavish thing in the world; here I am, with the time and patience to focus on my body. Now that I smell like warm chocolate, I sit on the bed and focus on my breathing for a few minutes of meditation. I say thank you in as many ways as I can think of. I feel totally calm.

When I lay down I experiment with different sleeping postures to prevent my neck muscles from tightening, but eventually give in and curl up with the pillow in my usual way, and finally fall into sleep.

This is my present life.

~ ~ ~

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