My desire to visit Bali began more then a decade ago, listening to friends’ tales of this beautiful and peaceful far away land and culture. However, like many, reading the book Eat Pray Love just reinforced my desire to go. Although a spiritual awakening can occur in any setting, many travel to Bali in hopes that they can recreate a version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s spiritual journey to find enlightenment or maybe love in the form that she did. In my case the book acted only as a reminder that Bali was a place I wanted to visit, but for many it signifies much more than that.
As someone who loves having access to spiritual practices and vegetarian food based on my own lifestyle and commitment to wellbeing, I wasn’t disappointed to find those things in Bali. However, the identity of Ubud was somewhat confusing for me. Everywhere I looked I saw Western women with their yoga mats and attire spending time in the communities centered around yoga studios, spas and vegetarian restaurants. Balinese people, although not participating much in these activities themselves, were there to sell you everything from wellness packages, spa treatments, yoga retreats/classes and various other forms of healing, including meetings with the acclaimed medicine man from Gilbert’s book. It seemed that the entire village of Ubud had turned into a wellness mecca targeted at tourists, many of which were spiritually seeking women. Although I had mixed feelings towards Ubud upon arrival, the longer I stayed there, the more disheartened I felt.
I began to wonder why so many people were travelling such great distance for services and food that they most likely had access to at home, potentially missing the teachings from the Balinese culture, spirituality and way of living in itself. Even though there seemed to be many Westerners living full-time in Bali for any number of reasons, those who were there short term seemed to display an optimism that they would somehow rediscover themselves in this beautiful setting with all the right classes, teachers, healers and food present. Ubud felt like two communities living side by side, the seeking Westerners and the peaceful Balinese, neither of which fully understood or merged with the other.
Here began my thinking about how most of us, myself included, often do indeed believe that spirituality is somehow more obtainable when we’re in the right place or circumstances. We’ve all said to ourselves, I’ll be more balanced when I have time to commit to yoga or take a meditation class or focus on my eating habits. But often that “time” we’re seeking doesn’t come or we do what many are doing in Bali which is to spend a few weeks to a few months in an environment in which we give ourselves the time to focus on our inner self, only in many cases to return to the same old patterns of neglecting our spiritual wellbeing soon after returning home.
What most spiritual masters will tell us is that moments of true self awareness and enlightenment can and do happen in any type of setting, even in the most difficult circumstances. Connecting with your higher self (in any way that you interpret that) is a daily practice that becomes easier and easier over time. Taking time out to quiet the mind and reflect on what’s happening within is a life long practice that doesn’t start or stop by escaping the “real” world for the “spiritual” word. In truth, there is no difference between those worlds as we are spiritual beings living in a human body, not the other way around. No matter where you go in the world, you take yourself with you, which includes all your patterned ways of being and thinking that stop you from feeling fulfilled within.
So my message for today is that although places like Bali are beautiful and educational to experience and enjoy, there is nowhere in the world that offers a sure path to finding fulfillment or happiness within. As most of us know on a deep level, we already have all of the tools within us to cultivate peace and love no matter what our circumstances are in our daily lives. Even though we might like it to be, spirituality isn’t something to find in a place or outside of ourselves. It’s something that already exists within each of us and is always there to be accessed and remembered when we’re present to who we really are. What struck me about the Balinese people was not only the kindness and love they continually displayed towards others, but also their commitment to their own daily spiritual rituals based on the Hindu faith. For me, this was a powerful lesson and observation to be treasured and remembered from my time spent in Bali.
Published On: November 23, 2012