Friday, April 18, 2014

White Dragon Temple - Pura Lempuyang

          As predicted, the 999 steps were to take 3 hours. I began my ascent at roughly 3 o’clock, so I took off fast up the mountain; thoughts rushing through my head, processing experiences Bali, where I will go next, my relationship with Anais, my path. I began to feel the wild sensations of the mountain and the valleys that surround me and the ocean filling me with life, strength and vigor as I walk barefoot on the stone stairs past families of monkeys. Women balancing baskets on their heads filled with flowers and offerings appear, most in thong sandals, others barefoot, most with healthy, strong, wide feet.
As I begin my descent down the 999 steps (or 1700) of Lempuyang temple, I cannot help but to reflect on my experience. Passing through the gates of the White Dragon Temple, I entered into my first ceremony; receiving the holy rose waters and white rice on my forehead: an indicator and remembrance of the Ajna chakra and marking a cross of protection. As I begin my ascent, I pass reverent, humble, fully dressed in white Balinese spiritual beings gathering at the temple to celebrate the full moon and upcoming lunar eclipse on this sacred mountain. As I pass by, I bow my head in prayer pose, greeting everyone with “Om Swastyastu.” Most return my greeting with a wide smile, bright eyes, and a gesture of prayer.
When I reach the top temple, I was just in time for ceremony. Many gathered around, dressed in white sitting in meditation as the priests began to chant. Ringing bells, chanting mantra, burning incense, and offering flowers. The woman next to me passed me a stick of incense and a handful of beautiful flowers. Realizing in this moment that my intention is to live in my fullest grace, to fully be free, to not worry, to go with the flow. The priest began to bless everyone with holy water. Flower infused water collected from the inside of living bamboo. I watched as people received this offering. He came to me. I put my hands out, and as he filled my hands I drank 3 times. On the 4th I let the water touch my crown and trickle down my spine. He gave me a pinch of rice, which I placed on my third eye and behind my ears. As I opened my eyes a beautiful Balinese woman looked at me in approval, smiled and shook her head. Incense filled my lungs and prayers began again.
As the ceremony began to come to a close, people stood up and filed out. I stood up, grabbed my water bottle and backpack, and then moved to one side to allow people to pass. In this exact moment, I recognized there is no use trying to develop spiritually, it just happens. It is a natural gift. Truly, only the grace of God has this power. We can do our best to be in the right place at the right time, and open our cups to be filled with the sweet nectar of the Lord when it is our time to be filled. I thought to myself, “Maybe one day I will have a spontaneous Kundalini experience at a ceremony like this, where energy just takes over my body.” The exact instant this thought came in my mind, a man let out a horrifying scream. He fell to his knees and smacked the ground and dug his nails into the stone. The priestess began singing louder. People developed worried looks on their faces. Some grabbed different herbs, potions, flowers, and eggs. A priest grabbed holy water and incense. This man seemed to be possessed. Within a few seconds, another man screamed and his body began to uncontrollably spasm while his rear-end raised high in the air and his chest pointed towards the ground. He began hissing like a snake. Embodying the white dragon, this man wiggled his hips back and forth as the other man continued to let out blood curling screams while digging his nails further into the stone. The priestess sang.
The priestess began to spin a broom in her hand to clear the energies. Another man took his head covering and threw it in the air. Uncontrollable laughing came from deep in his belly as he began to fall. A few men caught him, and he continued to laugh. The priestess joined him in high pitch laughter. As I watched in amazement as this continued for a few minutes, I began to pray for love, healing and light to reach these humans. In any moment of disbelief that crossed my mind, something spontaneous happened to reaffirm that this was actually happening; these people were actually experiencing a possession of spirit.
An old man looked like he was taken over by a wild spirit. He fell backwards but his feet ran forward. Three people caught him before his head hit the ground. They rocked his head like a child as this old man let out deafening screams. A woman near by let out a cry and fell in rigamordious, her hands clenched. People supported her from every side as tears began flowing down her cheeks. The priest escorted the laughing boy to a tree where he blessed him with holy water. The woman was then guided to the priest, where he performed ceremony with herbs on her. The other three looked as though they were in excruciating pain. The priestess began hypnotizing them with her song.  The tune brought the snake-man to his feet and he began dancing with his eyes closed. The two other men began to relax. The priest came over to them with copious amounts of flower water, blessed them and said prayers to each of them.

The whole community helped with the process. Bringing medicines, saying prayers and giving support where needed. The group snapped out of their trance almost in synch. Light returned to their eyes. Life was celebrated once again. The worried looks that everyone wore on their face were wiped clear. People seemed clear once again of anxiety and free to enjoy one another’s company. The ceremony ended with the laughing boy drinking mouthfuls of blessed flower water. Smiles were exchanged and people began to disperse. Another beautiful day in Bali.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Naked and Free in Amed

      The last few days in Ubud were filled with bliss and joy. Early morning Sadhana followed by synchronicity after synchronicity. Doors opening, opportunities arising, staying in the flow. Peter left on the 1st to go back to Sydney. How could things continue to amplify or stay as electrified as the times spent with this dear brother? So many insights shared, theories discussed, and practices experienced together. I love you Peter, thank you for sharing. I look forward to continuing the dance of Bamboo with you through the wind.
            As I found myself alone, a thunderbolt of inspiration shot through my spine. An idea for a book appeared into my being. The book is already written, I just need to get it on paper. As I am super stoked to share, the words are flowing out with ease and grace. The book will give a description of the path that has led me to my current position. I will intertwine the “secrets of the masters” that I have tested over and over again that have kept me in this flow. As I have fully committed to a few practices and seen the immediate results, I feel the scientific community may be able to deem my experiment valid and worthy of consideration for scientific journal! J
            I picked up my newly stamped Passport, giving me one more month in Bali, then took off to Kuta to meet Ryan to pay for our bikes and sell my surfboard. He texted me on my Indo Iphone (hilarious) and warned me of police blockades handing tickets out to foreigners without international drivers licenses. Always the Polisia…Aiy! I already had one run in with them here. As I was driving a cop car pulled up behind me and turned their lights on to pull me over. Luckily I had the sense to crank the gas and weave in and out of traffic, leaving the cop car in the dust. This time though, I had no way around it. As the cops blocked the streets, I tried to hide myself between two trucks and scoot by them. But a cop with a yellow vest ran out in the middle of the street, blew his whistle and grabbed my bike. He told me he was going to write me a ticket for $100 US for not having a license. I tried to explain that I was a pilgrim visiting in the name of Krishna and Ram, but he didn’t give a donkeys rear end what I had to say. He told me that he was going to confiscate my bike if I did not go to court, or I could just pay him $30 not and he would let me go. If I were to go back, I would have slammed on the gas, cracked a smile and took off. O what a chase it would have been! A corrupt cop never wins.
            Instead, I handed him $8 and told him it was all I had. He gave me a frown then pulled over the next sorry foreigner he could threaten. Luckily I reached Kuta safely, met with Ryan, and sold my board for 60% of what I bought it for. Not too shabby.
            One last mission while in Ubud: Tirta Empul. It is said the male and female dragon ley lines cross at this section and are bathed in the spring water. It is considered the amrita (nectar) of immortality. Scooting along in the early morning sunshine through rice fields and jungle; I zipped passed locals, threw out “peace signs” and flashed smiles, and somehow made it to the springs without a wrong turn. This place is the real deal.

            As I walked in, a local boy offered me a basket of flowers and incense to offer my prayers. He then made his way into the spring fed pool with dozens of spouts engraved with sacred text and images. The boy stopped at every spout, lit incense, drank from the water 3 times, put his head under the water, and offered his prayers. Handfuls of locals and coy fish filled the 3 purification pools. Tying my sarong tight, I lowered myself in the cool waters.
            Yum! This was the best water I drank in months; right from Momma Bali, water of the Gods and Goddesses. Wahe Guru! I developed my own ceremony intuitively as I stopped at every spout. The whole process took roughly 30-45 minutes, a good bit of time to be soaking in sacred spring water. By the time was in the last pool, a handful of tourists walked into the temple with their camera straps on and ready to shoot! A few different groups lined the edges of the pools and took pictures of the locals and the token bearded white dude offering prayers. Although the locals were quite encouraging, no one else ventured into the pools while I was present. There is something to be said about a human that can enter into a temple, and keep the space sacred while taking pictures. I have accepted that I am not one of these rare beings, hence why I have very few pictures but many stories.
            After being cleansed and feeling incredibly fresh, I joined a sound healing collective for a 4-hour sound workshop. We played with Tibetan and crystal bowls, chakra chimes, drums, rattles, flutes, and our voices. Zipping and spinning on life, a friend invited me to a kirtan after the workshop. I scooted to the kirtan hosted by Kevin James. Without a doubt, this was the most spectacular place I have ever been for a kirtan. It was in an marble floored pavilion open to the jungle, a massive flower/candle/crystal alter, a screamingly beautiful night sky, a small fire being tended by a local boy, a pile of hundreds of coconuts to drink for free, and a group of a 100 or so amazing souls singing for peace and harmony on this earth. Mmmm! Thank you Ubud for this amazing day!
            I woke the next day to an unknown. Where would I go? I knew Amed was the destination, but which bay or beach was undecided. I was tempted many times to look on the internet for hotel recommendations or Air bNb for nice places to stay. It was my intention to stay the next few weeks on the beach, begin writing a book, snorkel and free dive, and live in peace. I packed my little scooter up and we took off.
            I took many back roads through little villages in order to avoid the police and to enjoy the scenery along the way. I passed through one forest that is filled with Durian! Piles and Piles of Durian along the road – in fact, I drove back there just to buy a scooter full of them. This island is paradise. Massive rolling hills, a volcano, lush green forest, fruits everywhere on the sides of the road, and then, there is the ocean! Amed! I wasn’t too impressed at first, but as I scooted along the coast, I began to get deeper into the heart of the bliss.
            I stopped at “Apneist” a local freedive/yoga center that I had heard about. I was exhausted after a 3-hour ride on my scooter. Drinking a turmeric/lemon juice, I spoke with the owner of the shop about places to stay and the free dive course. He named a few places in Jemuluk bay (where the shop is) but I was more interested in getting off the beaten path a bit. Jemuluk is great, but tourists stay in and around that area for diving. Almost passing out from heat exhaustion, I got on my bike and kept riding. I kept repeating, “Trust Michael, trust. God will lead you where you are supposed to be.” I saw a sign, “follow your heart, Life in Amed. Organic Chocolate.” Maybe this was the spot!
            I took many turns and passed through many bays, but did not find the organic sanctuary that I had created in my head. Instead, I saw a little sign that said “Smiling Buddha – Meditasi 7km.”  I decided this would be the farthest I would travel, and I would turn back from this spot and find a place.
Shanti view from bed!
            Eventually I was off the beaten path and saw a sign that said “Welcome to the Jungle – No internet, no cell phones, enjoy nature.” This was exactly what I was looking for. Statues of Ganesh, Shiva, Buddha and Kwan Yin greeted me followed by an amazing Balinese man with a smile. He informed me that a group was just leaving and he could show me to a room in a few minutes. I put my bags down and ventured to the desolate beach. A whole ocean bay with no one swimming and no one to be seen; is this the “real deal” I wondered?

            They unlocked the room to reveal a stone outdoor bathroom that is designed with genius. There are many different water irrigation systems that keep the floor dry and clean. The room has bamboo walls and an open ceiling covered by bamboo, a queen size, clean bed with a hanging fan above it, a desk and two massive doors that open up to the ocean. On the porch is a twin bed, a table and a couple of chairs. Beyond the porch is a small private yard, fenced naturally by bogenvelia bushes, hibiscus bushes, and a frangipani tree. The sweet fragrance of blooming flowers mixed with fresh ocean air fills my room. I’ll take it.
I love this bathroom
            They gave me room number 7; the woman who wrote “Eat, Pray, Love” stayed in the same room 3 times. She has good taste! Smiling Buddha invited me to meditate in his cave that he built – an extra bonus. Inside is a waterfall to help equalize noise, a Gayatri statue of Shiva, and crystals. Next to the meditation cave is their organic restaurant with many ingredients grown right on the land. Every day the staff cleans your room, picks up flowers from the land and decorates the many alters, serves a complimentary delicious breakfast of your choice, and is always there to offer service. I cannot say enough about this place. I feel incredibly blessed and hope that all good people find this hidden gem. As of now, I am the on site yoga teacher. If you come, I am teaching the evening classes, and they are promised to be super shanti.
            I have spent most of my days here swimming naked in the ocean, becoming one again with the water. I came in contact with a few turtles so far, many exotic fish including a lion fish, huge heads of coral, but I really want to swim with the dolphins. While eating dinner the other night, two swam right through our bay. I jumped in the ocean, but the current was way too strong and they swam into the sunset. I continue to put my love to the ocean, and I feel like I will connect again with these incredible beings again soon. When I am an old man, I will hopefully have a home in a bay that I can swim with the dolphins, whales and turtles on a daily basis. I find the most peace under the sea.
Sunrise from my porch!
            I just finished a 2-day free diving course with Apneist. It is a great course for beginners. I was curious to take the course because I free dive very deep alone, and wanted to make sure I was using proper form; I am also interested in teaching people to free dive, so a professional training and certification is always a plus. Throughout the course, I became most fascinated with the mammalian underwater reflex we have. After being under pressure with high levels of CO2 for a certain amount of time, our aquatic heritage kicks in and helps our body to calm down. Our heart rate slows down and our ability to hold our breath increases. This is why free divers experience a zen feeling while diving.
            I dove with a few local boys today. One saw me under the water and put his spear gun in my hand. He told me to get a big fish. What a difference!!! The past two days I have spent all of my energy focused on being super zen so I could stay under water as long as possible. Now, I have a gun in my hand to hunt my friendly fish pals. I watched my heart race go up and my ability to fully enjoy the ocean go down. The locals went to shore and left me alone in the ocean. A few times I could have shot a beautiful fish, but I didn’t want to pull the trigger. I would think, “O no, there is his child or his wife. I can’t kill him” or “That reef is his home, if I kill him then his family won’t be able to live their because it won’t be safe.” I gave the spear back and ate a massive durian and raw chocolate/cashew/cardamom pudding.

            Bali is amazing. Spirit is alive. Live music always. But, trash is everywhere. We need to help these islands or they are going to perish. The fish are eating plastic, the water is getting dirty, and the earth is getting strangled. I watch ignorant people make decisions everyday without thinking that is harming our planet. I scold the local boys, pick up trash here and there, but this is not enough. I am not sure that I am the one for this mission, but perhaps someone who reads this will be moved to help clean up or spread conscious education in Bali and other tropical paradises. Wahe Guru, bless up!