Finding Freedom and Flow in Bali

There is freedom in the simple act of making time for yourself. It doesn’t matter what you carve out time for exactly, just that you use those moments to listen to your heart and follow its yearnings. 317401_10150425030320086_799755270_n

In 2011 I spent three months in Morocco and returned to my home in Los Angeles feeling like my wings had been cut off. I’d found my sense of wanderlust during those months embedded in such a rich and unique place and was going stir crazy being back in the box of my old life. A severe case of culture shock left me feeling like I needed to flee the country…again. So I bought a ticket, a Lonely Planet, packed my backpack and set off for a month in Bali with a loose itinerary and without an agenda of any kind.

Traveling around Bali, I found a gap for magic in the time without bookends. It’s true, I may have found that sense of freedom anywhere, but in Bali that time was soft, lush, beautiful and barefoot. It was an easy country to navigate and everywhere I went was a soft place to land. I traveled from Ubud, rich in art, craft, culture and music to a meditative place where the river meets the sea on the black beach of Suraberata. I learned to scuba dive on a whim with a handsome Aussie in the crystal waters of a seaweed farming island called Nusa Lembongan. I took in the pristine beaches of Sanur from a hammock on a quiet stretch of sand.

In each place, I found that when I was able to put everything down, stand still and clear my mind, I could allow myself to be carried from place to place and from experience to experience.  Once I began to go with the flow and let the right moments nudge me forward from my resting state, I understood my own capacity for freedom.

I spent a month this way, letting each day, each hour, each minute, carry me to the next. I saw and experienced things I couldn’t possibly have planned for before I left for my trip because my mind was smaller before I began the experience. Travel has this capacity to break open your perspective of the world, but you have to allow it space and time.

Especially in our Western day to day lives, we force ourselves into tight work and life schedules that leave little room for flow or spontaneity. It’s difficult to let the universe have its way with you and naturally guide you to the people and places you are meant to encounter when all of your time is committed or obligated. I learned in Bali, that real freedom is a gift we can only give to ourselves.  We become our own captors in the prisons we create with schedules and attachments and it can be tough to find the key to freedom which is hidden in our own pocket.

The Path to Transformation

It’s easy to talk about the positive aspects and outcomes of transformation.  It’s easy to look at the before and after pictures of our lives and recap for others what steps we took to get from point A to point B.  What is difficult to understand, especially while it’s happening in our own lives, is that although deeply gratifying, the path to transformation can be a long and arduous one.   Transforming, which, by definition means changing form, is painful and it’s easy to become lost, lonely, and afraid along the way.

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Whether you have chosen to take on a life altering transformation, experienced some catalyst that has landed you in the midst of it, or you are being led to contemplate the journey, my biggest advice is to tune into your heart.  Turn off the noise and fear being generated in your mind by the ego and close your eyes.  Focus regularly on your breath and on the peace and silence that lies within your heart.  The capacity of the heart far outweighs that of the ego.  You hold in your heart all the courage you need to move your life forward and listen to the quiet rumblings of your spirit.  Once you have awakened to the voice of your spirit, you will develop a natural desire to grow and expand.  You will begin to realize how unfulfilled you have become by the control, power, and material possessions that define our Western society’s idea of success.  Begin to answer the callings of the spirit by paying attention to the things and people in your life who allow you to be creative, vulnerable, compassionate, and embody the true essence of your being.  With this new perspective, acknowledge and accept the emotional attachments you hold to people and things in your past that you are ready to release and welcome new, more gratifying relationships and experiences into your future.

With the realization that what you have in the present isn’t enough, comes the fun part of brainstorming and playing with ideas about what you do want in your life and where and how you want to do it.   Think Big.  Maybe you’re being called to move to a new city, try a new career, or kindle the flame of an artistic talent.  Maybe it means calling in a new system of spiritual support, developing deeper friendships, or pursuing a relationship with someone who sees and respects the authentic person you are becoming.  This fun and crucial part of the transformation process is about creating this ever-evolving vision that will become the reward for your efforts.   Transformation is about bringing change and renewal to your entire being and way of life and purposefully molding it into something more beautiful, fulfilling and honest.  This new vision for your life will be your constant motivation.  If you become uninspired by your vision at any point along the way, it’s okay, even important, to evolve that vision in to something even bigger, better, and more beautiful.

Now, from the safety of your caterpillar body, you can see in your mind’s vision the beautiful butterfly you were meant to become.  You see the potential that lies inside of you and are ready for the season of transformation it will take to get there.  You begin to build up the bravery and energy it will take to fuel this evolution and there is no denying the amount of dedicated work, effort, and courage it will take.

This is when the real work begins.  Throughout the course of your life, you put down roots with every decision you make, with every relationship you engage in, and with every task you take on.  Transformation requires the laborious work of digging up these roots and making sure they are replanted in a way and in a place you really want to live.  During the process of uprooting, you will be severing ties that no longer serve you.  It will be difficult and emotional, but from it, you will gain freedom from a life that is suffocating your soul.  During your transformation, you are growing in your capacity for love and acceptance.  You are welcoming the adventure of new and exciting prospects that you have created room for and which will shape the beautiful being you are becoming.  Fortunately, along the way you will begin to build the muscles for this work and it will become easier to see clearly what you want to draw into your life.  With small successes, you will become even more motivated to find happiness and fulfillment.  Though you will still experience highs and lows, anxiety and fear, eventually you will become lighter and less attached to the previous state.  It will become easier to make new kinds of decisions, take new kinds of risks, and give yourself more time to gain new perspective through travel, conversation, and ideas.

At some point, you will come to the realization that the things you’ve drawn into your life are things you can’t believe you ever lived without.  You’ll realize that in the past you were coasting along, just getting by in a world where existence was meant to be so much more.

So during your season of transformation, when you are feeling lonely and confused or like a ship lost at sea, it’s important to dig deep and keep working to get yourself to the other shore.  There is no going back for there is no room in your previous existence for the expanded, enlightened being you have become.  When you are feeling anxious and afraid, tune into the heart’s peace and listen for the wisdom you need to continue along this new path.   Take time to reflect on how far you’ve come; from the old cave of despair and angst to an outlook of passion, excitement, and clarity at the future you are creating.

As published in the March 2013 issue of Soulwoman eMagazine.

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