Good Morning Bali

Posted by Robin Sparks on January 15th, 2014 | Email this to friend


The view off the balcony in a friend's home in Ubud, Bali

The view off the balcony in a friend’s home, where I am staying for 20 days. Ubud, Bali

Early morning in Ubud, Bali after a predawn lightening storm and a soft, steady rain

and I am so Full. Here. Now.

In this moment, in this skin, feeling this heart, sitting outside surrounded by rice paddies, bare feet, wrapped in a sarong, soft tropical air bathing body, tasting Bali coffee and cashew milk on my tongue, hearing a scooter motor past, birds twitter, and unseen things cackle and crow life into being, the flutter of wings, the buzz of a bee, all of us … greeting this moment.

It is the time of day when my senses are open and the moment pregnant with possibility and JustIsness before the world has had its way with me.

And that overused word, Grateful, is what I feel.

I like to enter the day slowly with waking making love, meditation, padding quietly through the dawning day house and opening windows and doors to let in the day, lighting incense, loving and gently straightening my nest, making coffee, quiet, no words please and then…and then…sitting down to write, to let words flow, to let messages arrive, to hear, to transcribe. Like now. This moment in which everything exists and everything is possible.

Good morning Bali.

Thank you for your womblike warmth. I’ll be leaving you soon to greet another soul who is preparing to arrive on Planet Earth.

In this moment, I birth into a new day on your tropical wet soil surrounded by temples and wildlife and thunderstorms, love and possibility.

Meanwhile, Back in Bali

Posted by Robin Sparks on January 3rd, 2014 | Email this to friend

October 15, 2013

P1090220 Workshop attendees and me dining at Bali Fair Warung.

Milestone. Workshop finished. Writers festival wrapping up. I did not want to come back to Bali, but I had a workshop to teach and so come back I did.

And now? Feeling blessed. Surrounded by friends. Laughter. Wonder. My beautiful home on the edge of the jungle. So much possibility. The remembrance of magic and mystery. The smell of cloves in the land that is Bali.

And a new appreciation for this island. For its Alice in Wonderland quality that always brings me squarely back home or plops me into a world of pain. There is something so other-worldly about Bali. When I told my friend, Claire last night about how the workshop transpired and the organic creativity that unfolded, first we laughed about how seriously New Age this island can be. And then she said, “We forget and take for granted the energy of Bali.”

Yes, we do.

I am watching workshop participant Francesca – who has committed to stay with me this month along with another workshop participant to focus on our books – transform, and she talks about the possibility of moving to Bali. I see the wonder in world travel writer, Don George’s eyes. I hear the roosters calling us to wake up this morning. The water trickling from the ancient Subak to the river below. Bali is magic and I am woven into it, and I am grateful.

Another relationship has come and morphed into I do not know what. But I saw a vision of him floating down the river. Goodbye. Nice knowing you. Now that love has cleared out, and thank you Universe for creating the meetings, the possibilities, the moving away…I don’t quite get the lesson yet, but the short-lived relationship was amazing practice for getting clear on “what I want”, and when seeing that his way did not fit, simply opening my hand and letting him fly. A huge lesson.

And now? Back to the big fat book. Love of my life. I talked to my students about being in relationship to their writing as if the writing were an intimate partner. And so in honor of living what I teach. I’m here to say, I love you writing and I’m committing to more intimate time with you.

Starting Here Now.

I Dreamed I Met the Pope

Posted by Robin Sparks on February 21st, 2013 | Email this to friend
Dream Beach

Dreaming at Dream Beach

Feb. 19, 2013
Nusa Lumbongan, Indonesia

I dreamed 5 nights ago that I met the Pope.

He was walking down an avenue surrounded by many people. A group of men were with him, bald, wearing vestments. The Pope, kind, soft and warm, approached me and looking me in the eye said, “Will you prepare a meal and bring it to me? I am hungry.”

I said, “Yes, I’d be honored,” and I turned to go home to prepare a plate of lasagne (of all things). But as so often happens in dreams, I could not find the lasagne I thought was in the refrigerator. OK, there were a few bites left on a plate, but that would not do. And so I sat out to find a meal for the Pope.

I met some women in the street and told them of my dilemma and they handed me a plate of food, their food, and said, “Here give this to the Pope.” It wasn’t what I’d had in mind, but it would have to do. And then I began to look for him.

So much time had passed. Had I lost him? Where was He?

I had promised.

“He is up ahead,” some people said. “You can still find him.” I began to walk looking for the Pope carrying the plate of food in my hand.

And then I woke up.

No big deal right? That’s what I thought. Weird, I dreamed about the Pope.

I rarely remember my dreams – maybe one or two a year is my average – although I’ve recently made an effort to change that.

And so I casually mentioned the dream to another guest dining with me at Dream Beach – yes, that is the actual name of where I have holed up for 2 weeks on the island of Nusa Lubongan to write.

Tescha looked startled and proceeded to tell me that the Pope has been in the news lately. That he is going to step down. “You know about that right?” she said.

“What?” I said, goose bumps coming up all over my body.

It was the first I’d heard regarding the Pope.

I haven’t read the news since I left San Francisco on November 1. I have blocked it from coming up on the internet. I have been around no television sets for several months, and have no clue what is going on outside my very immediate world, per my choice, when I am in Asia. I am not Catholic and the Pope rarely, if ever, enters my consciousness.

What did it mean? I wondered. And why now? The fact that I’d dreamed about the Pope when he is in the international news gave me the heebie jeebies. The good kind. A dreamtime example of collective consciousness?

My personal dream translation:
I have received a call for home delivery. A big one. And the Pope is hungry.


You need to become a pen
In the Sun´s hand.

We need for the earth to sing
Through our pores and eyes.

The body will again become restless
Until your soul paints all its beauty
Upon the sky.

Don´t tell me, dear ones,
That what Hafiz says is not true,

For when the heart tastes its glorious destiny
And you awake to our constant need
for your love

God´s lute will beg
For your hands.



High Pea Allen Times Day

Posted by Robin Sparks on February 21st, 2013 | Email this to friend
Indonesian sunset

Indonesian sunset

I have come alone to an Indonesian island called Nusa Lumbongan for a writing retreat.

Why a solo writing retreat when I live on the bucolic island of Bali? Because in Ubud there is just so much life, friends and distraction, that I have to hide away at least once a year to focus on writing. I am most creative when still.

And so here I am on February 14, 2013 on an almost deserted island.

“High Pea Allen Times,” the waiter said placing a young coconut in front of me on my table just a few feet from the sea. “Excuse me, what did you say?” I asked. He said it again. “High Pea Allen Times.” What??? I thought. I didn’t want to ask him to repeat it a 3rd time. And then it came to me, “Ooooh, Happy Valentines?” I asked. “Yes,” he said with a sweet smile of connection.

The sand is ivory, the sea sapphire, and the air a heavy damp blanket.

All that is left to do is write.

Robin at Devil\’s Tear

One is the Un-Loneliest Number

Posted by Robin Sparks on January 6th, 2013 | Email this to friend

January 3, 2013
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Back together again

My children and my former husband are boarding a plane in Bali at this very moment to return to California. As 2012 dovetails into 2013, I’m here to share with you something that is big for me. A long time dream of mine has come true.

My family is whole once again. Different and whole. We are one.

We were a unit decades ago and then something common happened. We grew in different directions, but instead of acknowledging what was happening and arranging paths that would serve all of us, it was as if a bomb exploded, leaving in its wake, a battlefield of injured and bleeding, with scars and pain that went on for far too long.

I’m here to tell you that, as of this past holiday, the war is over.

A few days before Christmas my 2 adult children, my daughter’s boyfriend, and my former husband arrived from the other side of the planet to the tiny island where I now live in Indonesia. We lived together in a foreign country with crazy drivers, rented motorcycles (oh yes, we were a motorcycle gang of 5 in Ubud, each with their own Honda…Did you see us weaving through cars all in a row?) My son surfed, we snorkeled in Lombok, relaxed in my jungle home, dined at new restaurants each night, attended a concert in Kuta to bring in the New Year where Michael Franti wrapped his arm around my son and danced with him. We ran and rode through the rain, waited out the rain, soaked up the sun when it made brief appearances, swam in the pool, surrendered to nearly daily massages, shot off fireworks over the rice paddies (“Man! You’d never be see anything like this in America!” my son exclaimed as the rockets did flare.) Laughter – lots of it. Accepting. Loving. Appreciating. Listening. Loving. Being.

We are family once again, sama sama in Balinese parlay, setting out into the world on separate paths, only now, with common heart. We’ve got each other’s backs and we respect our individual journeys. It is OK that we no longer meld in one direction as once we did. All faux pas, hurts and trespasses are forgiven and forgotten. Hoʻoponopono – I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

As expatriates, it comes with the territory that living far from “home” can result in not only physical but emotional distance from our families of origin. Healing at home and more time with our families is something I’m wagering that most of us long for. I know I do.

This concept of Oneness has been a biggie for me since I can remember thinking about these things. I was born into a family in California that believed that the human race is divided into 2 camps – the saved and the unsaved. I never could wrap my child heart around the fact that our neighbors not to mention foreigners – all those “unbelievers” out there, were, well, “bad”. They didn’t seem all that different from us. I sensed something in them that was beautiful and born of love – same as us. Seven years ago, I named my Turkish company – a business to place western tourists in real Muslim neighborhoods – Oneworld. And in retrospect, it seems that my whole life has been about scaling the metaphorical walls that keep us apart. It’s the reason I’ve spent the past decade not only meeting, but living among the Others on 4 continents in 7 countries.

Them as it turns out is Us – in business, politics, love, and life.

I have discovered that every single one of us – White, Black, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Asian, South American, European… rich, poor, powerful, disenfranchised, young, and old…wants one thing more than any other. Love. Unconditional love.

We just go about trying to get it in different ways. If I can remember that every annoying behavior, every hurtful word or action is a cry for unconditional love, I can love each person as they are, including and most especially myself. When I offer unconditional love in the face of “off” behavior, so called perpetrators melt into the love that we, every single one of us, crave. And then they, make that we, no make that me, no longer need to hate, hurt, or separate.

Yep, this holiday was a big one.

I celebrated the coming and arrival of 12/21/12 – the end of that world as we knew it – with my Ubud tribe. All the discomfort, the pushing, the fear, the struggle, the pain, of this past decade, has been childbirth.

And life begins, as all we know, at home. It was essential to my own healing journey, that I set my familial relationships right before I could hope to heal anyone else.

Yesterday my former husband shared with me his experience of his mother and then his wife dying within 2 weeks of each other. Followed a few months later by his own near death – a sign from God he believes, that his life as he knew it then (60+ hour work weeks) was over. Within a year he moved to Mexico to do surgery among the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyon of Mexico. He stops at the drug cartel blockades between Mexico and the USA as he drives supplies back and forth. (Another doctor who tried to outrun a blockade saw his wife shot to death) He flies in small planes to deliver care to those who cannot walk the many miles through the mountains to the tiny hospital. Amazingly, I had a vision many years ago in which I saw him doing exactly this, and I shared it with him then.

My daughter will go back to researching and writing public policy on America’s education system in the hopes of helping the children she so dearly loves. Her boyfriend will return to creating entertainment in Hollywood. And my son will go back to engineering weather satellites that open windows on our world illuminating the fact that we are, after all, Oneworld.

I will keep writing the stories that remind us how much more we are alike than different and I will continue bringing together teachers and students around the world. I’ll pick up again, what I began last summer as a Clarity Breathwork facilitator (my latest jet fuel for re-remembering Oneness).

There is most certainly a bend in the road ahead that’s not on any road map I am currently holding. I don’t need to know where the next turn is. With my family beneath me, love restored, forgiveness complete, I am now ready.


[caption id="attachment_1598" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Lindsay and her boyfriend Vince with Bruce at Balinese performance"]

Ryan Surfing

leaf placed on the pillow of my room in Lombok

Refugees – A True Story of Thanksgiving

Posted by Robin Sparks on April 23rd, 2012 | Email this to friend

Istanbul, 2008

Sultanahmet Skyline

I am up hours before the sun speeding in a taxi to Ataturk Airport in Istanbul to assist Iraqi refugees who are headed to the country that I have voluntarily left behind.

Refugee: One who has crossed an international border and is unwilling or unable to return home because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

If I count the rednecks in America including some who have been in political office recently…nah, I probably still wouldn’t qualify as a refugee although I often feel like one.

So who are these Iraqi refugees and why are they leaving, and why are they headed to the USA?

They are Chaldean Christians, one of the world’s oldest religions, in existence since the first century. They constitute what remains of the original, non-Arabic population of the Middle East. All use Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ. Despite successive persecutions and constant pressures, Christianity has continued in Iraq since brought there allegedly by Thomas the Apostle.

Before the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Christians and Muslims lived together peacefully in Iraq. Chaldean Christians were mostly middle and upper class professionals. But as a result of the US-led surge the struggle with al-Qaeda moved to the city of Mosul, the home of Chaldean Christians. In misplaced anger towards the West, Muslims have increased demands for Chaldeans to convert. Death threats, the looting of homes and businesses, kidnappings, bombings, and murder have become increasingly commonplace. This past March the Chaldean archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul was abducted and murdered. Numerous priests and deacons have been tortured and shot or beheaded. And at least 40 churches have been burned to the ground.

I am here today because the United States requires an American be present at the airport for a final identity check of all political and religious refugees headed to the United States. The job pays little and costs a night’s sleep, but I come at least once per week because it pulls me from my ant hill existence and lands me in an experience that is raw and real.

Fifty adults and children stand in line at the check out counters – next to 2 bags per person, each weighing a maximum of 23 kilos, containing all the belongings they will take with them into their new lives. They have waited for months, some for years for this day. It is 5 AM. They’ve been here since 2 AM after a 6-hour bus ride from various satellite cities throughout Turkey. They are excited like children the night before Christmas.

Sweden has taken in the most Iraqi refugees — 40,000 – while the United States, which had only taken 1,608 by the end of 2007, has implemented a program for receiving up to 15,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of 2008. Around 500,000 people have fled Bush’s new Iraq and its violence, mass abductions and economic meltdown and most of them have been Chaldean Christians.

Arim standing with his family of five says, “My life is in Iraq, my work as an English teacher. My home. My friends. But lately they are making it impossible for us to stay. When my daughter entered university to become a teacher like me, she was told to convert to Islam or she would be kidnapped and raped. It was then that we knew we had to go.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to convert to Islam?” I ask.

“We would never do that. Our fathers, our grandfathers, their fathers, for 2000 years we have been there. We will die before turning our backs on our ancestors, our faith.”

Arim and his family

After hours in the checkout line shuffling through all the documents, checking passport photos with faces, police letters, sponsor letters signed, the group is ready to go.

But wait. There’s a glitch.

Someone notices that the photo on a security letter for one of the young men does not match the photo on his identity card. A government bureaucrat hundreds of miles away in the Turkish capital of Ankara apparently transposed photos on the documents by accident. Calls are frantically made, but government offices are not open at this early hour. The International Office of Migration officer here with me tells the family that she is sorry. They will not be able to go.

The mother collapses to the floor, pressing her hands together in the universal sign of prayer and begs, “Please, please, help us. We have no money.” The officer looks away, there is nothing she can do. The woman’s sons and husband try to console her, veiling their own disappointment behind cultural machismo. The IOM employee continues trying to call offices that are not yet open. She cannot find a solution.

After at least an hour of pleading and crying and desperate attempts to talk the IOM officer into letting them go, the family concedes that their worst fears have come true. The other passengers look on with a mixture of pity and relief as the family shuffles out of the airport, the father and son holding up the mother by her elbows, daughters trailing behind, heads hung low.

“Where will they go?” I ask the IOM personel. “I don’t know, “ she says her face a blank mask, and turns back to processing the remaining 44 refugees.

They are checked through, documents combed repeatedly at checkpoint after checkpoint, and then the only remaining gateway is passport control where once approved, the refugees will be granted entry to the other side – the side of the airport full of glittering duty free shops and restaurants, a sort of paradise before getting on a plane to heaven. Even I, without an airplane ticket, am relegated to watching from outside the pearly gates.

One by one each passes through the barrier after saying goodbye to family and friends on the other side that wave them on. Only one elderly woman remains, melded to a young adult man, her tear racked face glued to his, bodies entwined as if to imprint a memory.

I’d been looking away all morning gulping down rising emotions and silently repeating the mantra: be professional Robin, be professional. But it’s useless now. The tears spill in a torrent and I gulp down sobs that rise up in my throat. I watch this mother saying goodbye to a son she will likely never see again.

My son is in America and I am in Turkey. She will go to America and her son will remain in Turkey.

They pull apart as her name is called over the loudspeaker, and the old woman goes through the gate that separates her new life from the old one, turning to gaze one last time into the eyes of her son. At that moment she scans the crowd behind the barrier and our eyes meet. Unbelievably, she returns to where I stand, reaches over the barrier and wraps her arms around me. We stand there, a woman whose name I do not know, whose language I do not speak, holding each other. And in this moment she knows me, and I know her.

And then she is gone along with the others to America.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I will eat turkey in Turkey with American friends. I will celebrate Thanksgiving as never before, grateful that I am free to be here because I am an American. And I vow to never, ever complain about filing my taxes again. (A vow I have admittedly broken since writing this article).

Postnote: The family that was turned away at the airport in this article, boarded a plane for America 6 days later.

How You Can Help:

Church World Service (CWS)

Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS)
Episcopal Migration Ministries

Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)

Bureau of Refugee Programs
Iowa Department of Human Services

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS)

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

World Relief (WR)

Clicked My Heels 3 Times

Posted by Robin Sparks on December 12th, 2011 | Email this to friend

Been home less than 24 hours after flying half way around the globe – Turkey to Northern California – in time to get my mother to the doctor for Round #3 chemotherapy treatment. …So grateful for the ability to get around the planet with such speed. And for the knowing that the all the world is home.