Where’s Robin now?

Good Morning Bali

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

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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.

An Interview

Posted by Robin Sparks on September 18th, 2013 | Email this to friend
Mom and Me

Mom and Me

So much has taken place these past 4 months – in Istanbul an East Meets West wedding and a revolution, in Greece 2 glorious weeks of sailing with friends, and in California up and down the coast reunions with family and new and old friends, meetings with my book editor, and taking care of the myriad of logistics that make my nomad life a possibility.

Now what? I’m packing up to return to Bali to facilitate “Breathe Life Into Your Book” at the lovely Kumara Sakti Resort in Ubud, Bali on October 6-13, 2013. We have just a few spots left, so if you’d like to join us, please email info@oneworldretreats.com ASAP.

The following is a recent interview with me by the staff of Oneworld Retreats.

Passing on inspiration via writing is not as easy as most think. Experiencing blocks with our creative process is something all writers experience. Robin Sparks describes how she revs up her writing process with connected breath work.

What inspired you to start a writing and breath work retreat?

Robin: While we can learn a lot “out there” about the craft of writing, I have come to believe that it is “in here” where we discover our most authentic voice. I had been writing professionally for 20 years and facilitating writing workshops around the world for 9, when I discovered breath meditation. I loved the way that connected breath for an extended period of time, created a space in which the outer world fell away, so that that which was truest for me, became crystal clear. I took a 4-level training course in breath work so that I could incorporate the two things I love most – writing and breath work, and share this process with others. In “Breathe Life Into Your Book” workshop we will approach writing from within and without.

As a teacher and trained breath facilitator, do you have any specific affirmations / empowering words when you begin a project?

Robin: I meditate with connected breath before sitting to write, and then from that space of knowing, I begin writing without thinking. If I get stuck later in the writing process, I ask, “If I could say only one thing in this story, what would it be?” I then return to writing with the answer to that question informing my story.

What are your hopes for future writers?

Robin: That each student might gain insight to the unique story that only he or she can tell. Once the student knows the story beneath the story, he can put to use the additional support we will provide in the workshop to breathe life into his book.

You have wide experience as a travel writer. What do you love most about your journey as a travel writer?

Robin: What I love most about travel writing is the opportunity to meet people from diverse environments, cultures, and ways of being. I meld into their way of being for a time, listen to them, and then share their stories with the world. What I have discovered, is that while we are a deliciously diverse bunch, all stories as it turns out, are our story. This is why I travel and why I write.

Why did you choose Bali for this retreat?

Robin: Bali literally hums with life. Everything grows abundantly and rapidly here, and nothing stays below the surface for long. The beauty and warmth of Bali along with its unique culture provides an inspiring and nourishing environment in which ideas flourish and projects are birthed. Bali is the perfect place to breath life into your book.

Robin Sparks, is a facilitator and teacher of writing workshops around the globe. Her stories and photographs have been published in hundreds of magazines and newspapers and her online blog has been going strong since 2003. Sparks is enjoying the process of writing her first book about her trans-global search for “home”. Sparks is a Level Four Clarity Breath Worker and a global citizen, who is based in Bali and lives part of each year in Turkey and California. Robin will be leading the “Breathe Life Into Your Book” writing retreat at Kumara Sakti Resort on Oct 6-11, 2013

- See more at: http://www.oneworldretreats.com/bali-writers-retreat.php for more information about “Breathe Life Into Your Book” – a breath work and writing retreat”

Breathing Underwater

Posted by Robin Sparks on February 26th, 2013 | Email this to friend

Written on Nusa Ceningan, a small island off the coast of Bali, Indonesia on February 13, 2013.

snorkeling at Manta Cove

Breathing Underwater at Manta Cove

When I was walking along the beach last night, an Indonesian man told me they needed one more person for a snorkel trip in the morning. They were going to see mantas he said, and to stop at other beautiful underwater spots while circling the islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. Time of departure, 9am.

“Ooh, that’s early,” I said.

I had arrived the day before on Nusa Ceningan for a solo 2-week writing retreat.

“I’ll see how I feel in the morning,” I said.

And so when I awoke this morning I thought, “Robin you are here to write your book, so write.” Another voice, “But it’s only 3 hours out of the day, and you want to exercise anyway and you can write all afternoon and evening.” A third voice, “Let’s see how it flows.”

A few minutes later, the electricity went off in my bungalow. It was 8:30 am. I’ve noticed that the electricity “goes out” for a couple of hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. My cabin, which sits in direct sunlight on the beach all day, was quickly turning into a sauna. Oh what the heck, I’m going. I climbed out of bed, dressed, packed my bag and met the boat at the harbor.

Our first stop was Manta Cove where there is a cave where the sea water is breathed in and exhaled out. Into the cool cerulean soup I went. And drifted towards the cave.

In less than 5 minutes a large dark shadow appeared like a space ship, coming to within inches of me, and then gliding out of site.

Oh my God, I have seen a manta ray, and up close!

Before long there was another and then another. Darth Vader-like, the manta rays arrived with mouths agape. I floated quietly gazing into their eyes saying silently, “You are such a beautiful creature”. Each one (there must have been 8-10 in all!) would appear, look me in the eye, then swoop away, bank like a plane, and return. Flashes of light sparkled through the water from divers wielding cameras on the ocean floor. I flapped my arms slowly, gracefully, mirroring (thank you NLP training!) their movements, and I did not follow or approach them, but waited for them to come to me, and come they did. Again and again.

It was as if they knew that I was loving and appreciating them, and they were digging it.

They had wing spans at least 5 times the length of my body, triangular bodies, heads rounded, mouths open to display gills and hollowness inside. Underneath they had large evenly placed gills on a white torso. And a long tail from which I noted no stinger or threatening barb. We curved around each other, beings of light and love.

I wondered briefly if they were dangerous (vaguely remembering a recent story about an Australian travel adventurer who was stung by a ray directly in the heart) and then was glad I hadn’t asked before we left. Again and again they came and we practically greeted each other with a kiss.

AMAZING!!!

exploring the over and underwater world of Nusa Ceningan, Indonesia

Exploring the over and underwater world of Nusa Ceningan, Indonesia

In snorkeling, breath is the main event, loud, and present, like a metronome. I-Am-Here-Now-in-This-Moment breaths. What irony that I’d felt a tinge of disappointment this morning when I realized there would be no time for my breath practice – because here I am now breathing, deeply, rhythmically – underwater.

Hypnotic, soothing, effortless while all around is the beauty and wonder of the underwater world. What better way to go with the flow than snorkeling, where with the smallest effort you move like the fish with the fish?

I spent 3 weeks last month trying to push through a last minute visa to India so that I could attend a trauma release breath work class in Goa, India. One day while driving back from Danpasar after yet another failed attempt, the words “No more pushing the river” came, and I surrendered.

A few days ago, the trauma release breath work teacher I had hoped to train with emailed that he and his girlfriend, a tantra teacher and life coach, will be coming to Ubud in March and would like to trade a room in my home for personal training. Both tantra and trauma release are modalities I’ve wanted to incorporate into my breath work. Two teachers, coming to me, now that I am floating effortlessly.

I kept riding the current through February and ended up in Thailand where I met with old friends and new ones who re-invigorated me with their love. I interviewed Chiang Mai expatriates for the Thailand chapter in my book, and rode elephants bareback at an eco resort, which just happened to be perched over a flowing river. It was there where I met the owner Alexa, whose story will bring light to the chapter about Thailand’s expatriates – a chapter which had been leaning a bit too far to the dark side.

I will return to Alexa’s Chai Lai Orchid Eco Resort next year to offer trauma release breath work to the girls she donates her profits to – girls at risk for sex slavery. A greater purpose for my Clarity breathwork training last summer had appeared.

And as if that weren’t enough, 2 screenwriters and several writers have appeared in the past few weeks to support me with my book.

Life is coming to meet me where I am. Bringing me exactly what I need and much more now that I am still.

There is a popular meditation and way of being called “Following Life”. I like to think of what is happening to me now as “Life Following Me” when I stop pushing and directing it.

I love warm seawater

I love warm seawater

In the water I am transported to a primordial world where I once lived – Mother Earth’s underwater show of sacred geometry, repeated in shapes underwater as overwater and within and without in every living and non-living thing.

I’m sure I once lived in the sea as I am so at home and happy here. We all began, come to think of it, floating effortlessly, safely, in the wombs of our mothers complete with our own private snorkels, until our time to be born and breathe on our own arrived.

I think of my home of Ubud, Bali as a womb – warm, wet, and feminine – a bubble in which I have gestated, received nourishment, and grown. And I’ve been feeling vague contractions lately, a knowing that my time to emerge and to meet life in the light is nigh.

When I first attended a Transformational breath work session 3 years ago, I met the Divine within in such a cathartic way that the name “Transformational” was a an understatement. I was hooked. For God’s sake, it was here, inside all along. All I have to do is breathe deeply, evenly, for at least an hour to access it.

It’s occurred to me since I began breath meditation, that the things I have loved most throughout my entire life – riding a bicycle as a child, running through the woods with my dog, swimming, cross country skiing, ecstatic dancing, hiking in nature, connecting intimately with a lover, meditating, to name a few – all involve breathing deeply, evenly and consciously. Nourishing every cell in my body with oxygen, love, life force, the Divine. It was about the breath all along.

I have missed my Ubud community and our group breath sessions this past month – and I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Breathing under water.

Taking a break from writing at Dream Beach, Nusa Lumbongan, Indonesia

Robin Sparks is a Level Four Clarity Breathwork Facilitator, available for private and group breathwork sessions. She’ll be leading a weeklong workshop at Kumara Sakti in October 2013 in Ubud, Bali called Breathe Life Into Your Book.
For details email Robin at Robin@RobinSparks.com

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.

THE LUTE WILL BEG

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.

Hafiz

food!

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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND HEAPS OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!!!

[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

Bangkok – So Bad It’s Good

Posted by Robin Sparks on March 4th, 2012 | Email this to friend

Ganesha and Central Shopping Center share real estate

I love gnarly shiny Bangkok with its jarring juxtapositions. Vendors selling anything and everything you didn’t know you needed (vibrator anyone?) for miles and miles along potholed smelly sidewalks, next to towering air conditioned shopping malls, the likes of Terminal 21 – a play on a 5 story airport, each floor representing a different country. The ease of speeding from one gristly or glittery part of the city to another on the Sky Train. Thais holding smoking incense sticks at their heads while bowing to temples with golden Buddhas in the shadows of mega skyscrapers.

Billboard in Bangkok as seen from a sky train station

I ate a hurried meal of naan and curry on the street of Bangkok’s little Arabia, and watching the people pass by in the streets was like being on the film set of Arabian Nights – not entirely surprising considering both the Pakistani and Dubai embassies are located nearby.

Bangkok reminds me of Bombay in “Shantaram”, the book I am currently reading. It is the biggest, most bustling, economically alive melting pot of a city I’ve seen in the world. It’s good, bad, beautiful and ugly all stirred together. And it works.

I am here to get my visa renewed. Easy enough to speed to the Indonesian Embassy across the steamy city on the highly efficient and cooled sky train. And it was no surprise when I arrived at 1PM – the hour advertised on the Indonesian Embassy website that they open – that someone had pasted a piece of paper with the number ’2′ over the ’1′. So to kill time, I thumbed through hundreds of pirated movies and music at the nearby Phuntip Plaza – a 4 story shopping mall entirely dedicated to all things digital.

I am also in Bangkok for my yearly physical exam at one of the world’s most medically advanced and inexpensive (by US standards) hospitals. Kings and queens and just about everyone else with even a little bit of money or means in Asia come to Bumrungrad for medical care. Today in the waiting room I met a pilot from Ethiopia, a woman from Bangladesh, and an American couple living in China. I saw women wearing black burkas with only eye slits sitting next to women in flirty, silk lace-edged veils, and men with table cloths on their heads and white pillboxes, some wearing white flowing gowns (and these weren’t hospital gowns), and I have no idea who and where all these people come from. But come they do.

See the story I wrote on this hospital in 2003. (Scroll a ways down on this blog roll).

I stood next to an older guy outside the elevator in the hospital who when I asked for directions to Building A, sounded like he was from Iowa, and then I noticed his name tag said Chief Executive Officer, Bumrungrad Hospital. Dennis Brown showed me the short cut to get to the next building over for my next appointment.

Next time I come to Bangkok I’m going to check out the Chulalongkorn Hospital where they have a snake farm out back.

With Love from Bangkok,
Robin

International Healthcare in Bangkok


Bumrungrad Hospital


Remember when nurses in the U.S. used to wear these cute hats?


multi-lingual elevator buttons

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.

Gated Communities and Homeless Dinners

Posted by Robin Sparks on November 17th, 2011 | Email this to friend

Hey there…

Where in the world am I now?

Home. Really home. With my parents in Northern California. As you may have surmised from last month’s blog, I am with my mother who is undergoing chemotherapy.

photo shot last week while driving down Columbus Street in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco

With the soundtrack of Bonanaza, Walton Mountain reruns, and the preaching of Dr. Phil droning in the background – my father is an avid TV watcher – I am mining notes that comprise the story of my search for home.

Sometimes an experience I’d forgotten surfaces. Here’s one found today, circa 2004, San Francisco.

GATED COMMUNITIES AND HOMELESS DINNERS – San Francisco 2004

An old friend from my Tahoe days visits me in San Francisco. We haven’t spoken in over 4 months, pre-Brazil.

“Karen” has a new condo in the East Bay with a private lake, a tennis court, and “it’s in a gated community,” she adds with emphasis.

“What are you afraid of?” I ask, genuinely perplexed. After all, she lives in a suburban town the likes of Mayberry.

“Are you joking? Haven’t you been watching the news?” she says. “Didn’t you hear about that guy who was killed at the Giants game and what about that woman who disappeared last week in Oakland?”

“Yes, I heard. Repeatedly until finally I turned off the TV. Don’t watch the news,” I plead. “They bombard you with the occasional horrific event, and because that’s all you hear, you begin to believe it is the norm and live in fear that you will be next.”

Karen looks at me oddly.

___________

I accepted an invitation for one of Marc Bruno’s monthly dinners in North Beach for the homeless. Bocce Cafe donates the space and much of the food. Other restaurants like the North Beach Cafe and Washington Park Bar and Grill prepare desserts, salads, bread, and drinks. The purpose of these meals Marc says is to give the homeless a feeling of community by sitting down to dinner with their neighbors.

And so tonight I am dining with people I normally see emerging from a blanket on a street corner.

They are memorializing Punky who died last week at age 28 of liver failure. A tall lanky man stands and introduces himself as Macaroni and talks about what a kind soul Punky was and how he was the kind of guy who would do anything for anyone. He adds that they are all going to miss him, “but hey, he is in a better place now.” Then one after another they share how Punky touched their lives.

It is not all that clear who is homeless here tonight and who is not. I am mindful of small talk like, “So where do you live?”

It’s a fine line between us.

I sometimes worry about how I’ll pay for my apartment. (ok so it’s a luxurious worry).
My newly divorced friend has been looking for a job for 6 weeks.
An ex boyfriend buys an SUV so that he can sleep in it if ever he should lose his home.

After the dishes have been cleared, Macaroni stands to announce that he and Dougie need 35 cents each for cab fare. A man at the next table says, “Do what I do and sneak on the back of the bus.” A woman dressed in ski cap and layers of clothes says, “Or look on the ground for a bus pass.”

We, neighbors all, walk to our homes – some under roofs and others under the stars.

Coit Tower towers over North Beach and Telegraph Hill in 2004

Ready, Set, Back to Blogging

Posted by Robin Sparks on September 12th, 2010 | Email this to friend

Istanbul!

And so here I am in Istanbul, the experiences from this rich summer piling high and fast creating quite the blog jam. The “when to live” vs. “when to stop living in order to write ” conundrum is a long standing one for me. I nearly always opt to jump into life rather than to pull out of it to write. But I’m a writer and I get cranky when I don’t write.

There’ve been comments lately, lots of them about the dearth of recent blogs on my website and well… OK, no more excuses. I’m either a writer, or I’m not. And so I sit down to write.

Immediately I begin to think about the party this afternoon that I will attend at Ellen and Husam’s yali (a summer home for former sultans on the shores of the Bosphorus ). Yalis on the Bosphorus, Istanbul, Turkey

Then the To Do list for Oneworld, my business in Istanbul, fills my head…..

Followed by the biggest I’ll do it later boogeyman of all, Mr. Perfectionism – the only Virgo trait I’ll admit to. I can’t bear to post anything less than perfect, and, well, perfect as we all know, never arrives.

And so I’m going to post stream of consciousness experiential stuff in this space, because if I don’t I may as well retire this blog, and I really do want to share the richness of the life that has been mine these past few months (make that years, but we’ll settle for months for now).

It’s not easy to get going after a good long bout of procrastination and so I begin in as good place as any – “Yesterday…

The phone rings. I get up to answer because I am expecting a call from my manager Elif. We discuss me walking to her apartment (30 minutes through central Istanbul) to clear my things from her home where I stayed last week and to pick up the keys to the flats we rent out. I remember that I need a manicure and a pedicure before catching the bus to meet Alexandra in Fener to ferry over the Bosphorus together to Husam and Ellen’s party in 3 hours.

Oh yeah. The blog.

Yesterday…

Yesterday after meditating, I got up to prepare coffee. But the refrigerator was bare in the apartment I’d just moved into, and so off I went, down the 5 flights of stairs, and up the hill to Galata Tower (the Coit Tower of Istanbul) and down the back alleyway called Camekan to Molly’s Restaurant.

Camekan Sokak in Galata, Istanbul

Molly's Cafe

Molly is from Toronto, Canada, a robust redhead with freckled white skin and a sweet smile and big bosom that makes me want to curl up in her lap. She has this little cafe that I’ve been wanting to try, she’s got filtered coffee and she’s got internet. So I sank into a big leather armchair facing a floor to ceiling bookshelf packed with books at Molly’s Cafe, next to where a cat was sleeping in a window sill, and someone in an apartment across the alley was playing a violin. We chatted for a few moments and next thing I knew I was sipping a mug of coffee and eating a breakfast burrito prepared by none other than Molly herself.

I opened my Mac and begin to write. My morning stream of consciousness journaling is free form, completely unedited and done directly from my heart in a nearly subconscious manner, often with eyes closed. After approximately 30 minutes, the writing stops itself. I just know when it is done. And usually I have no idea what I have written until I read it again. And I am nearly always surprised . I wrote THAT? It’s my daily visit with my inner therapist.

I left Molly’s leaning into the winding cobblestone alleyway twisting, climbing, dropping past the hamam shops, past the new designer boutiques, to a ezcane (pharmacy) . I showed the pharmacist a piece of paper on which I had written the name of a medication I needed for a minor but persistent infection. I understood in bir az Turkish that they were telling me that they must order the medicine, and would I please return in half an hour. So I crossed the street to Sok Market, filled my basket with milk, yogurt, almonds, and plums and headed back down the hill and up the 5 flights of stairs to my apartment to unload the food. I slipped out of my sweaty clothes (this has been the hottest summer in Istanbul’s recent history) and into a sundress and flip flops and returned to the pharmacy.

The pharmacist pointed to my dress and said something in Turkish. I looked down and horror of horrors, saw that my dress was on wrong side out, its big white tag flapping like a flag from one of its exposed seams. The pharmacist motioned to a room in the back where I could change.

I stood there in that room eyes focusing in the dark and what i saw was row after row of dusty brown jars in all shapes and sizes with white labels with names like Boric Acid and Sulphur. Ancient bronze scales and crusty bunson burners. My God. I was in an old time chemist’s workshop. I wanted to whip out my camera and start shooting. Sometimes memory is best.

I walked across Galata Square (which is actually a circle)

Galata Tower

past gypsies playing happy music that made me want to shimmy my shoulders. Beatnik types (do they still have those? Oh well, the word fits) were everywhere just sort of hanging out. On benches, in the surrounding tea gardens, seated at sidewalk cafes, on benches around the tower. As if no one had anywhere to go, and as if nothing was more important than just being there. It was like stepping back into 1960′s San Francisco or Soho, New York.

Hours later I was walking back home along Istiklal Avenue (a 2-mile pedestrian artery through central Istanbul with over 1000 restaurants, taverns and bars), when something caught my eye in a side alley way. Looking into an early evening summer sun, there in sillouette were several old Turkish men gathered around a tiny turkish table, a cloud of smoke billowing up behind them from the nargile pipe they shared, and I heard the click clack of backgammon pieces being picked up and set back down again on a wooden board. I was filled with something that can only be described as joy.

I thought about that as I walked the remaining half mile home. Why did the sight of those men in that cinematic setting make me so happy? Why did I love finding myself in that old timey chemist’s shop this morning? Why did I delight in seeing an Islamic woman on the street earlier, her head covered in a scarf for modesty, whilst her blouse was revealing and tight? Why did hearing the gypsies play beneath Galata Tower make me smile? Why did I stop to watch the man with the little round hat on, long pointy beard, standing in the street selling big platters of baklava?

Because I’m hooked on surprise. I love being childlike, wonder-filled, confronted with things I’ve never before seen, smelled, tasted, or touched, and I like it pretty much all of the time.

I thought about this and the fact that I have been on this search for home – a place on the planet to settle.

What is this thing called home that I am looking for? Do I really want it? Is it possible that home for me is the freedom to change my environment whenever, wherever I want? Is home for me an eternal state of surprise and delight? A never-ending state of wonder? If so, why am I looking?

Maybe all this searching and not finding has just been an excuse for the journey.

Maybe I am home.

Robin on the rug drug

Bali Lite – In the News Today

Posted by Robin Sparks on May 27th, 2009 | Email this to friend

“In Kalimantan Brothels Take Over Orangutans’ Habitat”

How could I not read The Bali Times today with a headline like that?

As it turns out, the mention of a brothel was a largely irrelevant bit in a story about commercial development in a national park and the subsequent disappearance of 600 orangutans. Serious stuff.

I admit, I was hoping for something more colorful.

I scanned the paper and I got it.

More headlines:

Egg-Laden Motorbike in Scrambled Calamity “Eminent chicken-egg wholesaler Ketut Tutek lost all 2,836 ovums aboard his motorcycle (converted perambulator) when his journey was arrested…by a rare wind sheer that sent him spralling into a acrenous pothole….’With the thrashing about of Tutek in the hole and the heat of the midday sun, it quickly turned into a large omelette that was enjoyed by all,’ he said.”

Villagers in Mass Rat Hunt – “Villagers in Kuwum…successfully killed over 1,000 rats in a mass hunt last Friday, an official said…”

Unpaid Bills Leave Bali Aussies Stranded

Bar in Brawl “A bar started a brawl on Wednesday night, street beggars reported. A local vagrant said she understood the bar was “upset at having become a venue for tattooed louts and was feeling unloved.”

Expat, Living Locally, Has Smug Thought

and my personal favorite:
Facebook Users Clinically Braindead: Study “”Researchers concluded that following a survey of postings on the popular website, there was ‘little or no brain activity,’ the peer-reviewed study conducted by Harvard University’s Internet Department for Social Sciences said. ‘It is clear that with the sheer volume of gibberish and drivel posted on Facebook, there is a vast chasm of intelligent thought,’ the study’s lead author, Dr. Hamish Barnicle, said.”

Vowing to read more newspapers,

Robin in Bali

traffic on Dewisita Drive; Ubud, Bali

traffic on Dewisita Drive; Ubud, Bali

Nostalgia sets in

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

Haven’t even left yet and already I miss her.

A few photos from the Island of the Gods, 2008-2009.

My front yard

My front yard

My pool, make that OUR pool, River Ayung

My pool, make that OUR pool, River Ayung

Balian Beach Ecstatic Dance Retreat

Balian Beach Ecstatic Dance Retreat; Photo by www.rolfandkarina.com

Yoga with Katy Appleton

Yoga with Katy Appleton

Balian Beach, Bali

Balian Beach, Bali

Robin at the beach

My foot at the beach

Balian Beach

more Balian Beach

Friends

Friends

Dead gecko in my refrigerator

Dead gecko in my refrigerator

More to come…
Yours truly, Robin

Photo by Marie B

Photo by Marie B

Bali Spirit Festival – Day 2

Posted by Robin Sparks on April 30th, 2009 | Email this to friend
Nature's energy drink on tap at the Bali Spirit Festival

Nature's energy drink on tap at the Bali Spirit Festival

Day number two of Bali Spirit Festival 2009 is packed with classes and workshops led by healers, musicians, and instructors the likes of Swami Shankardev, Khalife, Patrick Creelman, Awahoshi, Rebecca Pflaum, Geoffrey Gordon, Nick Woolsey, Cudamani, Ravi Vempati, Ganga Giri, Akim Funk Buddha, and well, I could go on and on. It’s a metaphysical glutton’s delight. And I, for one, am happy to partake.

My first class is Awahoshi’s crystal bowl class, because I met her last night dancing with the Tribal Goddesses and she encouraged me to come. Something about her wise, mystic way intrigued me.

Awahoshi is a Cheyenne-Slovakian calirvoyant musician who pioneered the use of crystal sound therapy over two decades ago.

Awahoshi's Crystal Bowl Sound Therapy Class

Awahoshi's Crystal Bowl Sound Therapy Class

She is a keynote speaker for major conferences around the world, has been interviewed on BBC, NBC and Italian Alternative Medicine TV, and has been recognized by the Native American Hopi Bear and Blue Flute Tribal Elders, Navaho Medicine Keepers, and Mayan Priests as “one who brings circles of healing to the world”.

I arrive a few minutes late hungry and so, grab a Kafe organic chicken quesadilla atop a banana leaf(plate) and a fresh young coconut, with its top hacked off, complete with a hollow bamboo straw (no plastic straws here!). I balance the soccer ball sized coconut in one hand, the plate of food in the other and head across the lawn as if on my way to a Balinese temple ceremony.

incredibly delicious healthy food for sale

incredibly delicious healthy food for sale

Nearly every square inch of real estate is taken up in the large hall by students awaiting Awaohi’s crystal bowl magic. She must be really good, I am thinking. I lay my mat in the only remaining spot in the back corner of the room . Meanwhile, Awahoshi is saying that our bodies are 90% water and crystalline. She instructs us to repeat an affirmation during the playing of the bowls, claiming that our physical and metaphysical molecular structure will transform in accordance with our thoughts.

I pick an affirmation that at this moment, I desire most. Love. As much as I’d like to say I don’t want or need love, the fact is, I do, very much, and so as the reverberation of the crystal bowls zing and ricochet through every cell of my body, I repeat: I am sharing my life with an amazing, loving man who I love very much and together we are creating a life that is full of peace and joy, and together we are growing and changing the world. By the end of the hour, I not only know that my affirmation is going to come true, it feels as if it already has.
(Read more about Awahoshi at: http://www.bali3000.com/crystalsound/index2.html)

Time to get my yoga on at Patrick Creelman’s Anusara Yoga class in the upper bale. The curly headed Canadian’s energy is reminiscent of a college cheerleader.

Patrick Creelman guiding Anusara Yoga class

Patrick Creelman guiding Anusara Yoga class

Introduced to the teachings of Ram Dass early in his life, Patrick has been exploring the spirit of yoga for over 10 years in Costa Rica, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, U.S.A. and Hong Kong. What makes him stand out from the gaggle of yoga teachers I’ve had, is the subtlety of the words he uses to guide us through subtle movements, such that I find myself twisting and stretching in ways I’d thought impossible. We are accompanied throughout the hour by the African drumming workshop taking place on the lawn next door. The “up” energy as we disperse after class is palpable.

Balinese Barong performance

Balinese Barong performance

At sunset, I join friends on a rattan mat to watch a Balinese gamelon and barong performance. Geoffrey Gordon, renowned kirtan singer and musician leads us in devotional chanting.

The evening’s performances are a mellow respite from the past two nights of late-night dancing and upbeat music and what promises to be a riveting performance tomorrow night featuring Brian Parks (aka bKp) and Tom Freund.

I leave with about 40 more mosquito bites on my chest, under my arms, and on my stomach than I arrived with, but I am peaceful and happy as I kiss friends goodbye and head home for the night.

See you first thing tomorrow at Ines Somellera’s 8 AM Yoga & Writing class.

Robin Sparks
www.robinsparks.com

Children entertaining themselves on festival grounds

Children entertaining themselves on festival grounds

between classes and workshops

between classes and workshops

Reporting Live from the Bali Spirit Festival!

Posted by Robin Sparks on April 29th, 2009 | Email this to friend

Tri Hita Karana
3 Balinese words that symbolize the heart of the Bali Spirit Festival:
Harmony with God, Harmony in Community, Harmony with Nature

Masters of ceremony, Amsalan Doraisingam and Teresa Hererra, kick off the opening night ceremony

Masters of ceremony, Amsalan Doraisingam and Teresa Hererra, kick off the opening night ceremony

Ketut, owner of Tutmak Restaurant and Joe, local musician

Ketut, owner of Tutmak Restaurant and Joe, local musician

Charlie and Stacy from California

Charlie and Stacy from California

Food prepared "Balinese offering style" on biodegradeable platters
Today's Sun Salutations

Today's Sun Salutations

Renowned yogini, Katy Appleton, in this morning's kick off Yoga Mala

Renowned yogini, Katy Appleton, in this morning's kick off Yoga Mala

Yogi, Mark Whitwell gives hands on instruction to festival participant

Yogi, Mark Whitwell gives hands on instruction to festival participant

It’s official. The 2nd annual Bali Spirit Festival is under way!

www.balispiritfestival.com
A vibrant, uplifting and diverse festival of yoga, dance and music which awakens and nourishes each individual’s potential for positive change within our world.

Festival Vision
*We honour, respect and promote the power of the saccred arts of yoga, dance and music.
*We champion the collaborative power of the global creative community with Bali.
*We strive to strengthen the ecological health and harmonious vitality of Bali and the cultural vibrancy of Indonesia.

Opening night, Tuesday April 28, 2009 -

I park my Yamaha motorcycle with hundreds of others feeling like I’ve arrived at an outdoor rock concert in California. Except that this is different. This is Bali.

For one thing, most everyone I know on the island is here. Claude from France, Rama from Venezuela, Glenn from New York, Orly from Tel Aviv, Marie from Sweden, Charley and Stacey from California, Ketut from Ubud, Bill from Australia, Paula from Singapore, and more. Each of us arrived in Bali once upon a time on holiday – and stayed. Why? Because we are better here than we were at “home” – and a big thank you to the Balinese who so graciously share their island and spiritually-infused lifestyle with us.

Locals, young and old stand to one side, watching us curiously. The air is balmy, the dress, tropical casual: shorts, sleeveless shirts, tevas, and long flowing sexy Goddess.

Attendees meander among the stalls of the Dharma fair, checking out handcrafted jewelry, hand-tailored clothing, and organic food and drinks. Eventually we make our way to the main stage, where we spread out on the grass. (Over 1000 tickets have been sold). Stars sparkle overhead throwing palm trees into silouette, and bamboo mats are spread out on the lawn.

Local dignitaries welcome the crowd onstage. Ketut, a Balinese healer, reminds us that we are much more than our physical bodies – which he compares to wrappers discarded on the side of the road (which is by the way far less common here than it was even 1 year ago). I Made Gunarta, co-founder and producer of the concert along with wife Meghan Pappenheim, welcomes us first in English and then in Bahasa Indonesia.

Pooja Bhantangar shimmers and shakes to haunting Indian music.

Rocky Dawuni, his waist length dreads swaying in the tropical air, performs fusion Reggae, Afro Beat.

Nick Woolsey spins fire, flames tossed into the air, spun round, streaking the night.

Larisa Stow and The Shakti Tribe huddle in prayer on a darkened stage preparing for will be the last performance of opening night. Lights, action! Lusty goddesses chant in Sanskrit, whipping the crowd into a spiritual fervor. Sofia Thom, ecstatic dancer,undulates stage right like the tantrika she is.

We are here not only to enjoy the music and the dance and to catch up with friends, but as part of a collective effort to be better than we were – yesterday, 15 minutes ago. It is about spotlighting the divine in everyone and celebrating it. It is dedication to living a life that supports and nourishes ourselves, every living being, community, and the planet.

Party on!
Your humble blog Gloddess,
Robin Sparks
www.robinsparks.com

Day One at the Balispirit festival, April 29, 2009:

I cycle through an outdoor Bali Hai movie set of rice paddies as the sun rises. Uniformed Balinese children fill the streets walking to school. The warm sun licks my bare shoulders. I pull over to the side of the road next to a football field where boys and girls in bright yellow uniforms fill the field like happy bees. I hear the deep resonant chanting that I often hear wafting on night air usually near temples. Incredibly enough, the sound, I discover, is coming from the coach who stands peacefully at the side of the field, the children buzzing around him. He wears a white flower behind his ear.

Right there on the side of the road, I speak into my voice recorder: Bali is beautiful without trying. So beautiful it hurts! In a good way of course. (-:

I climb back onto my bike and arrive at the festival in time for 8AM sun salutations guided by globally renowned yogis, Mark Whitwell, Ravi Vempati, Katy Appleton, and Uma Inder.

Eckhardt Tolle says actual consciousness cannot be defined in words. That consciousness is the space beyond and around thought. Awareness. Presence. A way of being that is beneficial to one’s self, to others, and the planet – in every walking moment.

Consciousness surrounds us here: Organic whole food served on biodegradeable banana leaves. Toilets that compost. Recycling bins everywhere. Integration of the local culture with the foreign. Friends hugging. Love. Lots of it. And gratitude to spare.

I join journalists in the media tent to speak with yogis Katy Appleton, Eoin Flinn, and Mark Whitwell.

Eoin, surfer, author, yogi, and a self-proclaimed “blissoligist” from Vancouver, says his temple is the ocean and that his students are regular people, many of them formerly entrenched in a life of work, consumerism and television.

Katy Appleton, answers a Balinese journalist who asks why we need yoga, that yoga liberates us. Helps us to define what binds us so that we can let it go. “Yoga asanas help you turn the noise down so that you can settle into a full feeling of abundance”, she says.

Mark Whitwell proclaims that there is a yoga practice for every person, young or old, religious or not, regardless of physical location, environment, or politics. He points out that the Islamic world has more yogis than anywhere in the world. “After all,” he said, “Muslims perform full body prayers five times a day.”

Speaking of Muslims, Pujiastuti Sindhu, from Bandung (near Jakarta) represents Muslim yoga practioners this week on Bali, an island of hinduism in the world’s largest Islamic country. Puji has been in the forefront of recent yoga fatwa debates across Indonesia and Malaysia.

Yogini, Pujiastuti Sindhu

Yogini, Pujiastuti Sindhu

She discovered yoga in a second hand bookshop seven years ago whereupon she began to practice yoga and within 5 years was teaching it herself. “Yoga softens the heart, lets it open up – and only with an open heart can we receive the truth,” she says. In spite of recent government “laws” which discourage Muslims from meditation and chanting as part of their yoga practice, she says that there are many headscarf-wearing, Muslim yoga teachers in Indonesia. She believes that Indonesia is already loosening its anti-yoga rhetoric.

__________________________

So all you yogis, yoginis, dancers, musicians, wanna-be-in-Balians and already-in-Balians…that’s it for today. I am headed back to the festival to dance with the Goddess Tribe.

Your Bali Spirit Blog Gloddess,
Robin Sparks
www.robinsparks.com

Escape the World and Find Yourself

Posted by Robin Sparks on February 10th, 2009 | Email this to friend

p1050582 Escape the World – three words that like a siren song tugged at my weary soul. Nine years of life on the road and a recent move to a foreign country had taken their toll. In spite of a multitude of reasons Not To Go, I went anyway, escaping the winter of Istanbul. I’d been in Bali for one month, a virtual paradise in and of itself, when I graduated to heaven by attending an “Escape the World” retreat held at the Kumara Sakti Resort in Ubud, Bali.

Located on the property of a Balinese prince, Kumara Sakti Resort is tucked in and around the jungle on the side of a ravine. From my room with its windowed walls, I can neither hear nor see another human soul except for a tiny dot on the horizon, which upon further inspection, is a farmer leading his ducks through a rice paddy. Just outside my room a tree bends over from the weight of several bunches of bananas. Larger than life waxy leaves dance in the breeze, so brightly hued they appear to be fake. It’s easy to see where the inspiration for the batik textile on my bed came from – the patterns for Bali’s famous ikat sprout all over the island. I stretch out on the hand-carved Balinese bed enveloped by a white mosquito net on the balcony to try something I don’t do very often. Nap.

Hand carved stone paths and steps meander, climb and fall next to streams and tiny waterfalls and statues to the Gods and lead to the dining hall, the yoga pavilion, and further down to the second pool. The only sounds aside from rain pattering on leaves, a rooster crowing, birds tweeting, frogs croaking, and geckos geckoing, is the deep resonant gong, calling us to yoga twice daily, and the tinkling of a bell to wake us at 6:30AM each morning. That’s right — just me and eight others in the jungle hailing from Holland, Jakarta, Australia, France, Sweden, Singapore, and America. The staff quietly attends to our every need and then some. When we return to our rooms each evening after dinner, there is a fresh frangipani blossom on our turned down beds, the candles on our balconies have been lit, and fresh incense placed on our tables. Although it’s a five minute drive to the center of Ubud, we may as well be a million miles away.

On our first evening we meet for tea and desert on the opulent terrace of the residence of the prince. Partners of One World Retreats, Claude Chouinard and Iyan Yaspriyana, introduce themselves and give us a preview of the week ahead. Claude tells us about Balinese rituals and traditions so that we can incorporate them into the upcoming week.

Among a handful of upcoming activities that include not only yoga and spa treatments, but forays into “real” Bali, we learn that we will attend a purification ceremony at a Balinese temple tomorrow night and are shown how to wrap our sarongs and secure them with temple sashes. One sarong for the outside, and one to be worn inside for bathing in the purifying spring waters. Claude encourages each of us to come up with an intention for the week to think about at the ceremony.

The next evening we go together to the temple and kneel behind a Balinese priest. Waving his hands in the smoke of the incense and holding up flower after flower in prayer clasped hands, he chants in Balinese. Whatever he is asking for and whoever he is asking it from, thank you very much. I am sure that I can use it and I accept it gratefully. We then bathe in the holy waters of the temple pausing under each of eleven fountains to make a wish before letting the healing waters rush over us. There is a longer line than most behind the relationship fountain.

Walking through waist-deep water sheathed in white linen and dipping under its surface reminds me of my Christian upbringing – the significance that water plays in cleansing and renewal. I’d been thinking that 2009 would go down as the year that I began a new life. In the year 2000 I began living abroad for months at a time in various countries in order to write about those who leave home to find a new one, as well as the stories of my own inner journey in search of a new tribe. I’ve been telling friends that my book has gestated for nine years and that it is time for it to be born. Two weeks ago, I laid in the middle of a kundalini healing circle and saw an amphibious-like shell falling away, and something raw, tender, and innocent, emerging. Might the book be a metaphor for me?

The morning call to yoga

The morning call to yoga


The next morning at 6:45 am I am stepping gingerly on the beautiful inlaid stones beneath my feet, shimmering wet after all night rain. The smell of jasmine in the air, deep gong signaling the beginning of another day. In the open air yoga pavilion overlooking the jungle, Iyan guides us through meditation and yoga with his deeply resonant voice, both soothing and eerily reminiscent of the chanting of the priest last night. Ommmmmmmmm. Iiifff youuuuur miiiind (up and note or two on the word mind) has gone awayyyyyy (up again on last word) bring it baaaaaack (stretch out the word back and bring it down a half note). One of the attendees has never before done yoga. Two are regular yoginis and the others, like me, are on and off practitioners. Our different levels are seemingly irrelevant. Iyan’s intuitive guidance offers precisely what each one of us needs when we need it.

After yoga, we eat breakfast in the open-air (of course) dining room. Black rice pudding with warm coconut cream. Fresh papaya, mango, pineapple, banana, yogurt, home made crunchy muesli, and a delightful bread that can best be described as crunchy, nutty, wholesome, slightly salty, and yummy. These are but a few of the selections on the menu. Master chef and raw organic cooking specialist, Ceciia Chaimberlan of Sweden, owner of Curly Foods (insert website url here) is training the kitchen staff this month. From the “Happy Salad” with its center of finely chopped green olives, lemon zest, olive oil, black pepper, naked cashews, and a side of tamari sauce, to the chocolate mousse which is so delicious that we raid the refrigerator to scrape the remains from the mixing bowl (imagine our surprise when Cecelia reveals the mousse is actually mashed avocado!), each meal throughout the week is a mouth watering concoction of raw organic ingredients. Cecilia says that for food to be truly nutritious, it is essential that it not only be healthy, but that it be prepared with loving hands. Fete acompli!

Early one morning, we drive up the summit of Mr. Gunung Batur and as the sun’s first rays beam over the rim of the volcano, we do sun salutations. Amazing. We gradually descend on mountain bikes past gob-stoppingly gorgeous rice paddies and through villages where the Balinese are going about their ordinary (albeit extraordinary to us) daily lives.

When first informed about the day of silence, some of us are a bit dubious. What, no talking? No phone calls or instant messaging? For 24 hours? Claude suggests we spend some of the time writing affirmations. (but no reading allowed). As it turns out, it is the day of silence that sets a transformative tone for the rest of the week and we love it. I for one, resolve to make a day of silence a regular ritual in my life. One of the participants, Andra from Jakarta says later, “It was the day of silence that changed my outlook on life. On that day I found that I’ve been searching for happiness in all the wrong places. That I have all the answers within me. It was a real awakening.”

A bridge leads from the resort through the jungle into the rice fields and eventually to one of the most unique, awe-inspiring, delicious, healthy open air restaurants in Bali – Sari Organik – situated next to the farm where it grows its own produce. There surrounded by a palette of colors, smells and sounds that are pure bountiful Bali, we laugh and relax and eat together, and I slurp through a hollow tube of bamboo the best mango lassie I have ever tasted in my life.

The world is your mirror.

The world is your mirror.

The spa treatment rooms are open to views that simply have to be seen and experienced to be believed. It is in this setting where we are expertly and reverently kneaded and massaged. I have never and doubt I will ever again experience anything like the three-hour ayurvedic massage that is the specialty of the trained masseuses at Escape the World retreats. The pedicure and manicure, the hair cream bath, the head and shoulder massage, the crown chakra anointing of oil, oh yes, those too are divine. But the ayurvedic massage not only puts me in a deep state of relaxation, but brings up insights and melts away negativity. I have long dreamed of living in Bali, and now here I am sitting smack dab in the middle of my dream my feet being washed lovingly, my shoulders being massaged looking out at what must be the most beautiful place on the planet. The world is my mirror. What I see, both good and bad, I create. It’s an analogy I’ve heard before. But it is not until this day during this massage at this moment as I sat here looking out at these scalloped mirrored rice paddies that the words take root. The world is my mirror. If I created this, I am one drop dead gorgeous woman!

Instead of ruminating on all the things my boyfriend does that bug me, I begin picturing the perfect loving partner all the way down to his calf muscles. The person in our group who annoys me with her deluge of derogatory comments about Americans? She too is my mirror and all negative thoughts about her go the way of the knot in my back.

Wrapped in a sarong and holding a mug of hot ginger tea, I’m seated on the terrace in a full-on post-massage glow thinking I smell like a frangipani flower and look like an oil spill. I don’t ever want to shower again!Someone emerges from an adjoining treatment room and sits down next to me. Guess who? That’s right. Her face glowing like an angel, we smile at each other, Goddess to Goddess. Duchess to American.

On the last morning we meet in the yoga pavilion to create from palm leaves Balinese offerings like the ones we have seen piled up on altars and stone Gods all over the island. Seated in a circle, we watch in silence as Iyan burns the pieces of paper we have given him, containing lists of things we want to eliminate from our lives. He covers the ashes with flower petals and takes the basket to the river. We watch from above as he first prays and then releases the petals and ashes, allowing them to flutter on the currents down to the river below to be carried out to sea. They back up behind a branch that has fallen across the water, but I turn and walk away in peace, confident that it is but a temporary obstacle that will soon be washed away on the current.

The Escape the World retreat touches parts of your heart and soul that a boot camp-like yoga retreat simply can’t reach. It is more than a meditation workshop, where one spends 99% of their time in their heads. And it is far more than its delicious healthy inventive meals and mesmerizing massages. The Escape the World Retreat is a buffet for all the senses. And isn’t balance what the body and soul craves nearly as much as food and water? p10504131Find out all about how to escape your world at www.oneworldretreats.com.

Robin Sparks reporting from her cubicle in Bali

Robin Sparks reporting from her cubicle in Bali