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Bali High II

Almost a month after Bali, I still reminisce about the trip and what a wonderful time I had. Have been meaning to write about the various rituals we undertook as part of the retreat for the benefit of my dear friend Deepika, who is enamoured by all things exotic!

The five-day retreat was packed with activities. One of my favourite moments was getting ready in traditional attires and heading off for a purification ritual at Tirta Empul, Bali’s most revered temple. The staff at Kumara Sakti saw to it that not one sarong or headgear were out of place. We arrived at the temple after dinner. My heart was already racing at the idea of a dip in the holy pond - having never stepped into anything beyond two-feet in water. After offering  prayers and flowers, we were led to the bathing pools , the water gushing out of the many pipes before which we had to dunk our heads three times and immerse. I took the plunge after making sure I was surrounded by two, of the three men in the group. Of course my fear for water got the better of me. Prayers were last on my mind. I was happy I was out of the water in no time.

After the dip we headed for the main prayer session where an amused priest kept smiling at a bunch of non-Balinese who wanted to know if the holy water meant for sipping was mineral water. I broke out into a laugh. But there was sincerity in the prayers as everyone sat with hands clasped, closed their eyes and for that few moments established an affinity with someone, somewhere, a supernatural power perhaps. It was a special beginning to our holistic retreat.

Getting up at 4 am to drive down for sunrise yoga near Mount Batur was another highlight. Mt Batur is a volcano still active and revered by the Balinese. We were a bit apprehensive that the sun would fail us as we were greeted by thick clouds along the way but our mood of the moment was lifted by the driver who said the sun does show up eventually. True enough, the sun shone through the mountain and we continued with our yoga.

After breakfast, we meandered through through Aga village. Walking through the village I was reminded of the north east region of India where I come from. Small houses, thatched toots, children playing, dogs barking. We were taken further to a special graveyard where the people house their placentas inside coconut shells that dangle from trees until the placentas rot and fall to the ground. Narrating this to a friend back home, I was told that the Khasis in Meghalaya, where I spent 23 years of my life, do practice the same thing. I am going to delve into this further on my next visit home.

After a peep into the village, we had a 22-km bike ride to Ubud. I sat in the car following the bikers because I am a non-biker in today’s age and time. But it was as if I had almost fallen off the planet, I enjoyed being the cosy spectator, clicking photos and cheering the bikers who seemed burnout at the end of it.

But there were more activities in store. On the second last day, we did a nature walk which ended at the Sari Organic restaurant set up in the middle of paddy fields. The food was beautiful and so was scenery. A massage and a restorative yoga at the end of the day helped us rejuvenate. We also had a cocktail on our last night to celebrate the successful retreat. The fresh juices, organic meals in portions, early sleep did us a world of good.

The saddest morning was the day when we woke up to find it was our last yoga after which we had a Balinese offering class. After breakfast, we assembled at the yoga hall and took part in a beautiful ceremony to mark a cleansing of our mind, body and soul. It was a ritual of letting go of our unwanted emotions or attributes which we had written down on small pieces of paper. Wayan, who became our friend, philosopher and guide, lit a fire where we burnt them one by one. Then we made small baskets of flower offerings which we took to the river and along with it flew the ashes of our burnt papers. It was a total let go. I am not very spiritually inclined but I did feel something, watching the river carry away all our flowers and ashes and I did hope the river took away all that I wanted to detach from. In silence we walked up the steps with our last remaining offerings and gave these to the temple at the resort. 

The retreat ended with a healthy lunch and I headed off to the spa for a chakra massage lasting two and half hours. The massages were out of the world (more on my next post).  In the meantime, most had bid goodbye and left. For the few of us who stayed behind and were flying off the next day, we hit the bar and restaurant and night and danced away to a Latino music. It even got the singer saying. ‘the group from this table is special’.  Unlike most holidays, Bali did something to me, I came back enriched in every sense of the word!

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