30 November 2013

Bali: Panca Mahabhuta Retreat, Days 1 and 2 . . .

Well . . . It’s happened. I have completely rendered my computer unfunctional because I have taken too many pictures. TOO MANY PICTURES. That which I enjoy so much has now reared it’s ugly head. My iPhoto—which proudly contains close to 50,000 images and countless videos--is taking up so much space on my computer that none of my regular apps can open. Knowing this causes a tightness in my belly. An extension of my person has seized up and stopped working. Oi.

Ironic that this should take place while I am on a retreat in Bali. 

I am enrolled in the Panca Mahabhuta retreat at fivelements. fivelements is a holistic integrative program that combines traditional Balinese-inspired therapies, living foods nutrition, and sacred arts programming. I have been interested in doing a retreat for quite some time now, and this Thanksgiving holiday seemed like the perfect time to try it out. (Bali has been my Thanksgiving hideout since moving to Singapore. You might remember seeing this Batik come to life here, or how much fun I had rafting through the countryside here.) 

My initial interest in fivelements came about in my online research when I happened upon a retreat they were holding called Finding Center. Finding Center focuses on clay—specific to wheelthrowing—as a metaphor for whole body awareness. Unfortunately they weren’t holding this particular retreat during this Thanksgiving weekend, but I felt that the Panca Mahabhuta offered a more rounded or whole-body experience, one that is designed to tune-in on the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels allowing an organic healing process to naturally unfold. Upon suggestion that I look into attending this retreat, I happily obliged.

I arrived in Bali at 8:30pm on Wednesday, November 27th. And one thing that I did differently upon arrival than the first time I came to Bali was that I paid just a few bucks extra and jumped the immigration line. This was the most fabulous luxury I could have ever afforded. If I could do this every time I landed in a new country, I totally would. An airport employee met me at the gate and basically took all of my paperwork and my passport and escorted me through the airport and out to my driver. Took literally two seconds. It was incredible. I would totally do this again in a heartbeat.

My driver was dressed in traditional Balinese dress, wearing a sarong and udeng (head cloth). He pulled the car around, loaded my one piece of luggage, and then handed me a hand towel and the coldest water I have ever had to drink—in a glass bottle. He told me it would take close to 1.5 hours to get to fivelements. I was a bit groggy, but happy to be on holiday. So I was excited and didn’t mind the long jaunt (even though it was half of the plane trip I just took from Singapore: ha!).

We pulled up to fivelements around 10:15pm. The driver and a new person escorted me to my room where I laid my eyes on the most beautiful (and comfortable) bed ever, ever, ever. It was draped in mosquito nets and looked absolutely princess-y. I was in heaven. Heaven in the shape of a grass roof hut.

My room was one giant square and included a couch, a table and two chairs, my bed, and two wardrobes. The toilet, shower, and vanity were on the other side of two pocket doors. And they were essentially outdoors. Nothing but a very thin, beautiful curtain separated me and nature. And the shower itself was completely outside, surrounded by rocks and plants. It was gorgeous! The very next day I found a full snakeskin hanging on the rocks that had been freshly shed. My bathtub was outside two other pocket doors on the other side of the room. It was in a little room that was open on all sides out on a porch that over looked a roaring river. It was a glow-in-the-dark tub that I could change the colors of. So one day I had it glowing blue, another day red, another day purple, etc. All of the lights, inside and outside this entire grass roof hut (including the tub), were controlled by a Mediacom tablet that said Welcome Ms. Lindsey Bailey on the home screen. I could live here . . .

I finally went to bed and when I woke up, I got to see everything in the daylight. I wasn't sure it could get any better, but it did. I went off to breakfast, skipping down the path. The path being a series of large stepping stones guiding my way, complete with a narrow stone bridge over a little Koi-filled waterway. It was then that I realized I was staying in an adult-sized Smurf village. All of these grass roof huts clumped together . . . And I was almost entirely alone, except for the staff. So I could conceivably play like I was an actual Smurf and nobody would even notice.  

Then came the food. Oh my goodness the food!! I had forgotten to read about the food, but knew that all of my meals were covered with my stay. It was all vegan and about 85% raw. Each meal consisted of a juice of my choice, an appetizer, a main course, and some sort of side dish. There was SO MUCH FOOD! And all of it was incredible and fresh and flavorful and plentiful. I always felt satiated. Three meals per day and four juices. And it was beautifully presented on top of being incredibly tasty. Absolute 5 star . . . All the way: top notch.

Since this retreat was considered a personal journey, I was assigned a guide to sort of direct me in my stay. His name was Janur (see above). He attended some of my “events” with me, but mainly he was there as a sounding board: someone who could talk to me about my experiences and how I felt after each treatment. While most of the programs I completed were included with my stay, I felt like they were definitely catered to my personal needs and what my intention for my retreat was. Janur put together my itinerary and did an excellent job. 

My first experience was a welcoming ceremony led by a priest. Janur took a series of short videos of this event for me, which can be seen below. This ceremony was about the commitment that I was making to myself to enjoy and trust in the forthcoming weekend, what this retreat might hold for me . . . What changes might take place. The priest started the fire, but it was my job to feed the fire and keep it going; another metaphor symbolizing my inner fire. I fed the fire ghee, rice balls, and brown sugar. I was supposed to also feed the fire a coconut, symbolizing my ego. I was to have broken the coconut and feed the two halves to the fire. Sadly I received a bad coconut, which made me concerned that maybe I have a bad ego . . . Hmmmm. I pondered this for a while as I continued feeding the fire.

At the end of my welcoming ceremony, the priest gave me this bracelet to help me remember the commitment I made to myself: the red thread stands for the god Brahma (creation), the black thread stands for the god Vishnu (sustainability of life), and the white thread stands for the god Shiva (death).

After my welcoming ceremony, I ate lunch. And just look at my gorgeous lunch . . . The salad had cashew cheese on it. CASHEW CHEESE! It was so good! And live lasagna! LIVE! My favorite! I ended up meeting the chef and told him that I wanted him to come and live with me in Singapore. 

Following lunch, I was taken to a healer. He balanced my chakras, scanning and clearing the aura of imbalances present in my body. Have you ever had a Reiki session? It feels sort of like that . . . He waved his hands all over my body, but never really touched me. He would chant and hold his hands over areas that might be active or needing alignment . . . He held his hands over my head for a long, long time. Um, a super-long time. (Yikes.)

After that, I was taken to a lady who gave me a fabulous massage and body scrub. Before my massage, she soaked and rubbed my feet. Each treatment began with this foot ritual. She would put salt, limes, and flowers in the water. And she would always say, “limes for energizing and flowers for harmonizing”. (I liked that.) For my body scrub, I chose a coffee and cinnamon concoction. It was intoxicating . . . 

When I got back to my room, a bath was prepared for me (with salt, lime, flowers, the whole energizing and harmonizing nine yards). It was dark out, so I set up my computer and watched Elf as I soaked outside by the roaring river in my flower-filled, glow-in-the-dark tub.

After dinner I went to bed, at once exhausted and rejuvenated.

The next morning I began the day bright and early with 7:30am Yin yoga. It was just the instructor and I, in an enormous grass roof hut. She was excellent at getting me to isolate movements. It was amazing to me how she could pinpoint parts of my body that needed work and actually focused on those parts—parts I didn’t really even know I had . . . It’s always curious to me to do yoga outside of my normal routine of Bikram, but she provided me with a rigorous practice and ideas for how to continue this practice at home in Singapore.

After yoga, I had another fabulous meat-and-dairy-less meal. This time a tofu scramble, fruit and vegan yogurt, and a mixed fruit juice. Following this breakfast, I rode the shuttle into Ubud where I picked up a few Christmas gifts for family members. My next session wasn’t until 3pm, so I had some time on my hands. My hope was to work on some things that needed to get done—I had made a whole to-do list for Bali—but I wasn’t feeling it. My head wasn’t in the right space. I figured if I was going to do this retreat properly, then I would need to leave my Singapore/Baltimore life out of it. So aside from posting images on Instagram and FB, I pretty much did no more. 

Lunch was incredible . . . Again: SO MUCH FOOD! And everything so healthy and full of amazing flavors and taste sensations!

My final experience for Friday was with Susan. Susan is a storyteller, puppeteer, and dansKinetics instructor. She is inspired through play, which I instantly connected to . . . She and I danced separately for an hour together. We talked about all sorts of things, and just let movement direct our bodies. It was really fun and invigorating. Something new that I had never really experienced before. What’s funny is that I think I have directed workshops like this, but have never been a participant in one. So it was a role reversal for me; which was exciting, nerve wrecking, and challenging. At the end of our session, she had me draw out what my experience was like, with color. I basically just drew out my dance patterns. What I held most precious about this experience was the connection I had with Susan and the conversations we shared.

After a quick evening dip in the pool, I scampered back to my hut, took a bubble bath, and went to bed.

More soon . . .