Archive for March, 2009

Dragonflies and incense sticks...The Magic of Bali

Dragonflies and incense sticks...The Magic of Bali

A dragonfly just landed on the corner of my computer screen. Gorgeous lacy wings. Long delicately furry tail. I moved slowly to get out of my chair to my camera, but he flew off. I think he paid a visit to say “Don’t give up Robin”, so going to put in 15 more minutes trying to get these beautiful sounds of Bali onto this post. 15 minutes later: Yay!!! Thanks to my angel web design & maintenance guru in San Francisco, Bradley Charbonneau (, you can hear morning and night sounds from Bali. Scroll down to the post before this one. They’re abbreviated versions and you’ll need to crank up the volume, but they’re there. Yay! Thanks Bradley. (Still open to learning how to perfect putting audios in my blog. Anyone want to share?).

More sounds and videos to come!


Silent Sounds of Silence

Posted by Robin Sparks on March 26th, 2009 | Email this to friend

Anyone out there know how to upload audio sounds? I borrowed several hours from sleep time last night to find software that would convert my wma files to mp3 for the Mac. Found one called Max and it converted them alright but then wouldn’t upload into my Word Press blog, I am assuming because they are too large (6plus megabytes each). Then found Shift, and it worked, but still the files are too large to load onto this blog.

It ought to be easier. I would rather be writing. Is there a techie out there that can help me avoid re-inventing the wheel? Am eager to share the beautiful sounds of Bali during its day and night of silence.

Robin in Bali

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morning-sounds-ubu… embed

Robins Next Audio –

Sound of Silence

Posted by Robin Sparks on March 25th, 2009 | Email this to friend

Me outside Bali Buddha yesterday stocking up on food for the Day of Silence

Me outside Bali Buddha yesterday stocking up on food for the Day of Silence

This photo taken a few hours ago outside Bali Buddha where I stocked up on groceries in prep for tomorrow when the whole island of Bali goes into silence. It’s a holiday called Nyepi, celebrated the day before the Balinese New Year. No cars, no one allowed outside, in some villages no electricity. No human-generated noise. No movement outside of people’s personal homes. Nothing open.

It is the day that people go inside their hearts and minds to reflect, pray, and meditate about the past year. And the Balinese are also hoping that by keeping the lights off and minimizing human-generated sound that the evil spirits will be duped into thinking no one is home.

I said no to sailing with friends to the Gili Islands, in order to say yes to this incredibly cool holiday. I will record the day and night sounds of Bali-minus-humans. (I’ve heard that every year someone forgets to tell the birds and insects about Nyepi.) I’ll be uploading the soundscapes on this blog, so check back soon. Now off to Tutmak’s to celebrate the night before the day of silence. (: I’ll be thinking about you.


(P.S…Next morning I am fully into this day of silence…I even put up a notice that I won’t be checking email and am not reading as that would be someone talking to me. Right? Hmm. This entry probably counts as talking but I couldn’t resist telling you that as over-prepared as I thought I was for today, ($23 on groceries for one person for one day is nearly impossible here, but I pulled it off) I overlooked the need for dishes and cutlery. I am at this moment eating Bali Buddha organic raw granola and milk out of a sugar bowl with the end of my toothbrush. Back to scooping, slurping, and silence.)


Don’t miss this!

Posted by Robin Sparks on March 23rd, 2009 | Email this to friend

Do you have an impossible dream? Here’s how you can make it come true. Self help author, Barbara Sher, is having an online Twitter party beginning Monday, March 23; 8PM to Tuesday March 24; 8PM. The occasion? The 30-year anniversary of her bestselling book Wishcraft. You are invited! Once the party begins you can present YOUR wish and obstacle. Watch the magic as everyone at the party helps you to make your dream come true. See you there!

For directions about how to join the party on


Philosophers’ Notes from Bali

Posted by Robin Sparks on March 6th, 2009 | Email this to friend

Everyday is an extraordinary day in Bali.

I began at 6AM this morning with a one hour holosync meditation, which is (in a nutshell) stereophonic sound designed to put take one quickly into an alpha state.

I then wrote on the terrace outside my room overlooking rice paddies, palm and mango trees, fountains, lotus flowers, a garden, and a pool. The staff brought me a breakfast of banana pancakes with palm sugar syrup and fresh watermelon, papaya, cantaloupe, and bananas. I put on a blouse I bought in Turkey, a skirt from India that I bought in Argentina, and flip flops from Brazil. Then I drove myself on a Yamaha scooter to see a house for rent in Nyuh Kuning, Bali by a guy from Oakland. I scootered through Monkey Forest past monkeys and temples and over bridges and up and around jungle ridges, past a man balancing a huge bag of who knows what on his head walking through a rice paddy and wound my way around tarp after tarp of rice laid out in the street to dry.

I ended the day at the open-air Yoga Barn in Bali participating a Osho-designed (India) Sufi (sect of Islam in Turkey) dance meditation, guided by Selina who is from the UK and has lived in Asia for 18 years.

Only one month left in Bali! Scary but a necessary part of the journey.

It is so easy to be here.

Philosophers’ Notes Discussion Group

The touchstone of my 3 months in Bali has been a discussion group I attend three times a week called Philosophers’ Notes. Brian Johnson from Los Angeles has been in Bali for six months writing Cliff Notes-ish summaries on 100 self-development books and in our group we discuss the big ideas he extracts from each one. He records our discussions and puts them on his website.

Participants at a Philosophers' Discussion Group in the Yoga Barn - Ubud, Bali

Participants at a Philosophers' Discussion Group in the Yoga Barn - Ubud, Bali

Our Philosophers' Notes discussion group leader, Brian Johnson

Our Philosophers' Notes discussion group leader, Brian Johnson

There was a new guy in our group today, a fan from London who discovered Brian’s Philosophers’ Notes online and came to Bali expressly to meet him. And not a minute too soon because Brian announced today that he’ll return to Los Angeles in two weeks. (Note: Since this blog was posted, Brian has postponed his return to Los Angeles until August. Yay!) He’s been swamped with requests by authors to add their books in his Philosophers Notes selections. And a big name self-help author is advising Brian to expand Philosophers Notes and has hooked him up with the world’s largest spiritual publisher. In partnership, their mission says Brian, “will be to unify the world around a common set of truths.”

It is Brian’s work he says to challenge people to become fully alive. After being in Bali for 10 months “upgrading” his consciousness, he will return home.

All part of the “Hero’s Journey,” a mythical construct that comes up frequently in our discussions. From the intro in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell explains the Hero’s Journey like this: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder (Bali in this case): fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” I’m not sure what “boons” are, but I’m sure Brian will do a great job bestowing them. (-; To retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into human life, and then share the wisdom with the world is the most challenging part of the Hero’s Journey.

Go Brian!

Today’s Big Ideas

Today’s featured book was “The Other 90%” by Robert Cooper.
First a caveat…I found myself editing the word “God” from the notes that follow and then I stopped and thought, What’s up with this? Why am I comfortable speaking one way here but feel it’s necessary to edit what I say elsewhere? It has occurred to me lately that almost all my friends in San Francisco and Istanbul are avowed atheists. In Turkey secular atheism is understandable as a reflex to the threat of fundamentalist Islam. In San Francisco, I suppose it is a backlash to fundamentalist America.

In Bali, the people I’ve been hanging with openly refer to God, Jesus consciousness, Buddha, Abraham…all the big names in religious history. People here exist on a level that I can’t quite put words to. It’s a polyglot belief system, beyond Christianity, while oddly similar. The words you hear Bali-ed about are energy, vibration, polarity, consciousness, prayer, Goddess…I’m a kindergartner in this language and “way of being”, but I like it. And actually I think I’ve been an accidental practitioner most of my life.

Two years ago I wrote on my Facebook profile that my religious beliefs are: “spiritual, not religious”. I dislike (I was going to write “I hate” but that sounds decidedly unspiritual) dogma and exclusivity, whether it is in the form of fundamentalist Christianity, New Ageism (I received a reprimand from a friend via text message when he heard I was eating at Naughty Nuri’s, a restaurant that specializes in barbequed ribs) or I’m-gonna-convince-you-or-else atheism. Yes, atheism is a belief too. When you believe that your beliefs are the only right ones, you are practicing dogma and fundamentalism. My opinion of course. (-;

Rice paddies south of Ubud, Bali

Rice paddies south of Ubud, Bali

Quickly a little about my beliefs, I have always known that there is more than I can see. Since I can remember I have been able to sense things outside the physical plane. I am highly intuitive. I know in some indefinable way that there is a supra-loving, all knowing power both out there and in here, and well, everywhere, because I have experienced it. Repeatedly. And I believe that this super consciousness has manifested on earth a number of times to different ethnic groups as Jesus Christ, Buddha, Abraham, Mohammad…. and all the other “Greats”…If I had to pick one religion that resonates with me most, it would be Sufiism. Followed closely by Tantra.

Anyway, the word God as used in the notes that follow, means something bigger than yourself, which is in you when you are in tune with it. A something more than we can conceive of at our present level of consciousness that exists in every molecule in the universe. A universal intelligence if you will.

There! That said, let’s go…

The “Notes”:

Syntropy – The innate drive to perfect oneself.

Gradualness kills. If you want to make a change, Do it!

A good question to ask yourself is, are you closer to who you want to be and where you want to go than you were 30 minutes ago?

Winners are superior not to other people but to their former selves.

Your dharma, your highest calling, your raison d’etre is the divine expression of your unique truth. Everyone has it. It is when we shrink from expressing it in our lives, work and play, that we become depressed and frustrated. Most people numb the pain of non-expression through television, alcohol, food, drugs, gratuitous sex… fill in the blank here with your favorite numbing substance or activity.

When you take on the challenge to be and give your highest self to the world, you’ll be enthused, inspired, and happy.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

What are you five signature strengths? Write them down and then make sure that what you do employs these strengths.

In every moment, we have the choice to step forward into growth or back into fear.

Pain is God’s gift – a challenge that helps us to grow as we reach towards becoming our higher selves, or as Brian puts it, “the unfolding of our awesomeness”.

When we get out of our minds and let the thing that is bigger than us, come through us authentically and truthfully, we are at our most powerful.He tells the story of a piano player who announced to his audience, “I am just a piano player, but tonight God is in the house”… Musicians know about channeling. Writers understand. Painters absolutely know. When you are “in the zone”, something bigger than yourself flows through you and the result is magnificence. By the way, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. And it is through letting that bigger thing flow through you that leads to excellence.

Go away for one week of complete silence, just you and your journal, and when you get back into the real world the ideas you wrote in your journal will seem insane. Do them anyway. Those ideas were divinely inspired.

Whenever you feel stressed, ask yourself, “How can I best let God flow through me?”

EGO = Edging God Out

Brian says that personal development guru Gay Hendricks’s affirmation is “I expand in success, abundance, and love as I inspire others to do the same.” Hmm, I wonder, is it ok to steal someone else’s affirmation?

Which leads to this one: If there is a path, know that it is not your path.

Are you a weathervane blown every which direction by circumstance? When everyone is freaking out about the economy are you stressed about it too? Or are you a lighthouse, rock solid beaming your light steadily no matter how hard or from which direction the wind blows?

Two of Brian’s top values he says are authenticity and full expression. Beautiful. I may have to borrow these too. (-;

You can gauge a person’s character by how easily annoyed they are by other people and events. Picture a “character meter” with a 10 at one end representing someone unaffected by anyone or anything, and the number 1 on the other, representing someone who is bothered by everyone and everything.

What is your highest ideal for yourself? In every moment how can you demonstrate this by integrating it into your actions?

Embrace your biggest expressions, surrender to the power that is bigger than you.

Aspire to be a 2,000 watt light bulb that can sustain more of God’s flow without blowing.

Adversity – when overwhelmed, ask yourself, what is one thing I can do to gain some control over this situation? Action kills fear. Postponement feeds fear.

That’s a taste of life in Bali and a nibble on the Big Ideas from one “Philosophy Notes” discussion. More soon!

Over and out, Robin Sparks – Ubud, Bali. March 6, 2009, where everyday is an extraordinary one.

Robin reporting from her cubicle in Ubud, Bali

Robin reporting from her cubicle in Ubud, Bali

A Fully Erect Appendix

Posted by Robin Sparks on March 6th, 2009 | Email this to friend

There are the plans you have for your journey, and the plans your journey has for you.
Things to do in San Rafael, Argentina:

1. Get an appendectomy.

We were on the neighbor’s ranch watching the annual gallop of the gauchos towards town when it was decided that I should see a doctor. I’d felt queasy all day, but, when it began to hurt to breathe, I knew that it was more than the bottle of Malbec wine we’d had the night before.

During the 30 mile drive over dirt roads to the hospital, I had time to think. I’d entered that travel place where you go from being captain of your itinerary, to giving up all control. It’s this very possibility that keeps many would-be travelers at home. And it’s the place that travel writers secretly love to go.

The on-call doctor at the private clinic looked like he’d stepped off the set of General Hospital. He poked around and called the surgeon to come in, late Saturday night or no. As an interesting aside, each doctor from that point on, from the lab doctor, to Dr. Castro, the surgeon to Dr. Gonzales the emergency room doc, each was more Calvin Klein model-esque than the next. What are the odds? The only way to explain it is that in Argentina you get into medical school based on your looks.

The nurses have an entirely different set of requirements.

A handful of expatriates and a couple of Argentines, some of them strangers an hour earlier, had gathered in the examining room to help. Johnny from South Africa, who had survived 14 heart attacks at the age of 35, introduced himself and told he’d be there no matter what. There were Annette and John, Brits who traveled the world on motorbikes before ending up in San Rafael to try their hands at gentleman farming, and there were Angel and Rosie, he Argentine, she Mexican, along with their daughter Candy. They’d recently moved to San Rafael, Argentina from Las Vegas. Did you get that?

Fifteen-year old Candy was unflappable as my interpreter until the doctors started speaking very fast and she said, “Ah, they’re just talking about a bunch of medical stuff”. Great. Argentines speak Castillano. I speak a rusty version of Spanish. It was a Three Stooges comedy of mis-translation.

The surgeon checked me in for overnight observation.

I ponied up the extra $30 per day for the one patient room with a rattly air conditioner in the window. I couldn’t see how anyone could heal in 100 degree heat, most especially me. Through the partially open doors of rooms up and down the hall, I’d seen visitors standing over the beds of their loved ones fanning them with magazines. Patients are required to have a friend or a family member stay in their rooms to provide basic nursing…an ingenious solution to health care costs, but a tricky one when you are a stranger in town.

As it turns out, my new friends fought over which one of them would remain with me throughout the night.

Next morning the pain had mostly subsided, so I figured I’d soon be headed home and was embarrassed that I’d caused such a ruckus. The docs came in to make rounds, said a few words to each other in rapid Castillano, and suddenly I was being lifted onto a gurney and wheeled down a hall to surgery. I told Dr. Castro, that no offense, but I would like very much to be flown to Buenos Aires for the operation. He assured me that I’d never make it.

Keeping pace with the moving gurney, Annette scribbled down the telephone numbers of my two children and my best friend and said she’d call them in the States. I wondered what they’d think when they heard this woman with a thick Northern England brogue calling to say their mother/friend had gone into surgery in rural Argentina.

A nurse strapped me to a table, tied both my arms straight out at my sides, stuck IV needles into my arms and I lay there like Jesus Christ looking up into the operating light dangling from the ceiling.

My last thoughts as the gas mask came down? A Readers Digest article I’d read years before about a surgical patient who was effectively paralyzed by the anesthesia but remained awake throughout the operation, able to feel every excruciating slice and stitch, but unable to let anyone know.

I ran a quick inventory as the doctor leaned in. I could hear. My eyes still worked.  I started to say, “Now wait a minute,” but my mouth wouldn’t work. I began to wag my head violently back and forth looking at the masked surgeon with eyes that I hoped screamed,  No! I’m not asleep yet! Your anesthesia isn’t working!…

The upside down face of the anesthesiologist came into focus. “Ms. Sparks”?

”Fineeshed?” I couldn’t think of the Spanish word for ”Over?”
Ow. I’d been kicked in the gut hard. How much time had passed, I asked.  Thirteen minutes. Had it been my appendix? Yes. Had it burst? No.

”12 centimeters long!” the surgeon announced as if I’d given birth to something wondrous. Which in a way, I suppose I had. My appendix, an organ normally around 2 inches in length, had been found poking up into my chest cavity, a fully erect seven inches. Oddly, I felt proud.

The next morning, Dr. Novak, I mean Dr. Gonzales, stopped by my room, and after checking my stitches, said, ”You can put on your makeup now.” I chose to believe that he meant that my prognosis was good. Dr. Castro came by too, and announced that he’d made the scar small enough that I could still wear a bikini.

A few hours later, a nurse summoned my new friend Annette out into the hall. She returned carrying a a packet neatly bound in butcher paper. “What’s that?” I asked.

“Your appendix.”

We left it sitting there on my night stand until the next day when I summoned a nurse to take it away.

”La postal?” she asked. ”No, no. Don’t mail it, throw it away!” I said.

It may be a global world, but it is still a Babel world in lots of ways.

Two days later I was ”home” on the ranch surrounded by the warm people of San Rafael, Argentina feeling very grateful indeed.


P.S. – The cost of the surgery, hospital room, doctors and medication was  $1800. Less than two months health insurance premiums back home.