Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Just like riding a bike

A couple of years ago I entered a short course triathlon, more for the experience than anything else. The thing that freaked me out the most was the cycling leg - mainly because I hadn't been on a bike since I was a kid. Needless to say, getting back on a bike is really one of those things that you don't forget.

After a minute or so you get your balance back and you're back into it. Getting your confidence on the road or bike track is another matter, but riding a bike is one of those things that you never forget.

It was like when I got behind the wheel of a car after four years of living in London without one. It comes back in an instance.

I'm in between jobs at the moment so I'm doing a few things that I don't normally get to do at the moment. I've been going into these situations with some trepidation, but it appears that there are some things you just don't forget.

Here's a few of the things I've worked out I can still do quite happily.

Use a sewing machine:

I've been blessed with a chest which requires industrial scaffolding to allow me to walk, let alone run comfortably. As you can imagine, industrial scaffolding doesn't come cheap. Another thing about industrial scaffolding is that two parts of the bra will go quickly - the underwires and the hooks and eyes that keep them strapped to your body.

In the weeks before I went to Bali, two of my favourite and most comfortable bras went at the back. To replace them would cost a lot. Having some time being between jobs, I contacted a friend of mine, Effie, who has a mending and embroidery store out in the suburbs. After scouting around a couple of sewing stores (never let me back into Lincraft or Spotlight again, seriously, I'll buy the place out)  I found some new fasteners, drove out to Effie's shop and she fixed them for me for a nominal fee, a coffee and a chat. I was thrilled with the result.

 (One of my bras - image courtesy of www.coloribus.com)

The next day I found another bra, a rather sorry looking sports bra, also gone at the hooks and eyes. A new back panel would give them a few more months of ware.

Rather than take them down to Effie, I traipsed back to Spotlight and found another panel and called Jonella. Could I borrow her sewing machine for ten minutes or so.

That night, I dropped around to Jonella's after the gym. I'd got everything ready, pinned on the new hooks and eyes ready to sew them on.

It was then I realised that the last time I used a sewing machine was at university.

Like riding a bike, it all came back easily. I used to make a lot of my own clothes at high school, it amazing how much muscle memory using a sewing machine uses.

The bras were fixed in five minutes, and I'm thinking about making things once again.


How often do you really look at the stars? In Bali I'd fallen into the habit floating in my private pool at the end of the holiday to check out the stars while skinny dipping at night. It was a fantastic thing to do.

On Sunday I was round at Blarney and Barney's. Blarney is back in Ireland at the moment after the passing of her mother, so I offered Barney to come round on Sunday night and make dinner for him and the boys. Ended he had a few friends over for a barbeque.

At the end of the night, after everybody had gone home I was talking to Barney, his mum (who's over helping him keep Chance and Lance in line) when something came up about stars. It was twilight by now.

"Hey, Lance, want to see if we can see some stars?"
"Okay." His chubby hand grabbed mine and we went out into the front yard."
We looked about and I spotted Venus over the roofs of Spotswood and pointed it out to him.
"Wow! Where are the rest of them?" he asked.
"Ah, it's a bit early. When it gets early they will come out. But there are clouds about, that hides them."
"I want to see more stars!"

By this time, a few more came out. Mars, Jupiter, Alpha Centauri came into view as the evening deepened. These were pointed out as well.

"Come on, inside. It's time for you two to have a bath and go to bed."
"We want to see more stars!"
"Not tonight, They're hiding behind the clouds."
"Why?" they asked in unison.
"Because there are clouds. When you go down to Grandpa's next, have a look at the stars down there. The stars are great down at Grandpa's." Grandpa live in Tasmania where the nights are darker than the Melbourne CBD. How can you explain a light leakage to a three-year-old?
"Where do the stars go in the day?" Asked one of them.
"They're always there. It's just too light to see them.
"But we saw stars tonight?"
"Actually, we saw Venus. Venus is a planet." I told them.

Happy with this, they went inside to tell Barney and his mum what they saw.

I've always been fascinated with astronomy (and astrology) It was so lovely to show the boys the night sky. It's one of those cute little moments that I treasure.

 (Van Gogh - Starry Night)

A few other things I've been doing now I'm off.

Spin class - or 45 minutes of sweaty torture on a stationary bike. I always think I can't do a class. Turns out I can. I'm fitter than Allan in this clip - thank goodness. I can walk afterwards without issue.


The girls at Sparks and Ladders used to call me Lady Lunchalot. I've been out to a lot of lunches with friends in the last two weeks. Thank goodness. I've missed being in the city, feeling alienated because I didn't have access to my friends.

(Image courtesy of www.paintersoflouisville.com)


Seven hours of sleep each night is doing me the world of good. I normally manage on six when I'm working. It's been a long time.

Working on Losing Weight

It's time to bite the bullet. Watching what I eat and exercising at the moment. After working out that I'm going to have to get myself into a French Maid's costume for a celebratory Rocky Horror performance I've been very, very good with my food.

Okay, I was born to be Magenta. Still, Magenta has never had back fat and bingo wings.

I have some work to do.

It's still to be decided if I turn up to Rocky Horror as I used to back in the mid-nineties. It's not the same if you don't throw rice at the wedding....

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Monuments Men

Movie Review: The Monuments Men

Despite some fairly dodgy reviews that came out saying that his was a bit like Dad's Army with Art, or Ocean's Eleven with Nazis, I took myself along to this on Friday afternoon. One of the wonderful things about being between jobs is that you can take yourself along to an afternoon movie.

Having my expectations lowered by a rather few bad reviews, I went along very happily as I had a free ticket up my sleeve. I don't mind seeing not so good films if they're discounted.

Regardless, I came away two hours later pleased I'd gone along.

Okay, I will attest to the the fact that I love movies and books about the second world war. I'm also a sucker for Matt Damon, George Clooney, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville and John Goodman. I'm also a sucker for art and art history.

The premise of the story, a crack team of art historians is called together to help save the great art of Europe which has been stolen and hidden away by Hitler at the back end of the second world war. These men, all over forty, get the call to go into battle zones in an attempt to find the lost treasures. Matt Damon's character is based in Paris, sent to gather information from Kate Blanchett's character, a gallery curator hell bent on saving the treasures.

Okay, it's a bit of a hotch-potch of a film, flipping from one mission to another as the group break apart to search for information on these great piece of art, including the Van Eyk altarpiece of Ghent. Most of these pieces had been buried in mines around Germany ready for inclusion in a planned Fuhrermuseum if the German's had won the war. Needless to say, this didn't happen and this team were sent to find the art before Hitler's men destroyed it all.

(The Ghent Altarpiece, courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are tragedies. There are some laughs. I found the whole film very entertaining, but then again, I'm somebody who 'visits' paintings as a matter of course on my holidays. I've made it to San Gimingnano to see frescoes in a church, just as I've spent hours scouring galleries, sitting in front of paintings thoroughly flummoxed, awe struck by the beauty in front of me. When in London, an afternoon is normally spent at the Sainsbury's wing gawping at the Da Vinci Cartoon. Amazing stuff, but this is my foible.

Some of the biggest tragedies, apart from the human tragedy of what happened during the second world war was the outright destruction of some of the world's greatest art at the hands of the Nazis.  The history surrounding this movie is fascinating and I'm keen to track down the book to find out more.

What was vaguely annoying about the film was some of the relationships the film chose to focus on - inparticular, the Bill Murray and Bob Balaban character grated at times. They played themselves, So be it. This was minor and forgivable as after some of these sections, the action hotted up.

What the movies lacks is a bit of cohesion. George Clooney loves climbing up on his soapbox at times and there are times when this film feels a little bit preachy. Personally, I don't mind this as it's things I'm interested in and to the most point agree with. I really do believe that Art is part of the make up of humanity. It provides a starting point to who we are. It reminds us that we are more than just flesh and blood. Art is VERY important to us all, no matter how many people have never set foot in an art gallery.

It was because of this that I really enjoyed the film. For most other people, I'd say get it out on DVD

I liked the very end of the film too,where a group of officials were asking Clooney if it was worth the waste of life to liberate these items. Clooney's father plays his older self in a cameo part believes that it was.

I agree with him entirely. I'm also looking forward to getting my hands on the book to find out more.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My March in March Melbourne

I've been to the occasional demonstration. In my university years I sat in the middle of North Terrace to demonstrate against the introduction of university fees. Yes, I went to university when it was free for the first two years of my course.

Since university, I've attended the odd gay pride march, joining friends in London, walking along Piccadilly with a feather boa around my neck amongst a group of friends, gay and straight. That was really cool.

I've been to the odd "Reclaim the Night" march, insisting that women have the right to be safe, no matter where, no matter when. It's something I truly believe in.

Another issue I will go and walk the streets for is abortion rights. I'm pro-choice and I always will be. This does not mean I believe that abortion should ever be used as a primary method of contraception and abortion after 12 weeks has to be strictly monitored, but having the right for safe, legal abortion to be taken away is as abhorrent as the death penalty to me. I've occasionally fronted the picket line outside the local abortion clinic. How dare they make one of the worst days of a person's life even more dreadful. It's none of their business.

Okay, lets crawl off my soap box.

When John Howard was about to thrust Australia into an armed conflict with Iran, I joined what felt like a million people down Swanston Street. Sam and I skipped out of work a bit early and we were floored by the number of people peacefully demonstrating, along with the demographics - elderly people, people with kids in prams, people in suits, families. It wasn't the "rent-a-crowd" lefty weirdos or high-vis and hard hat wearing builders who are normally on picket lines.

The 2001 anti-War march was the last demonstration I've attended. Have missed going to a number of other smaller ones in environmental issues.

What I'm saying is that I'm not one of the rent-a-crowd.

On Sunday, Jonella came to her first demonstration. Jay, my training buddy from the gym also came along. Jay's a middle aged suburban GP. Jonella and I are members of the professional working class. We're on decent salaries. We pay a fair whack of tax. We're not single parents, have kids in school, on the breadline, in manufacturing, resources or science.

The people at March in March were for the most part, people like us.

Normal people. People who care. Families. Office workers. Grandparents. Students. 

There wasn't a demographic.

This was a demonstration that was not organised by a political party or a union. It wasn't about one issue. You came if there was something concerning you about the way we are being currently governed. Jonella, Jay, myself and the 50,000 other people who came along all have major concerns. 

We gathered to show our dismay at the current Federal Government of Australia. March in March gave me, as well as everybody else who attended, an outlet to vent our concern, horror, dismay and disgust at the current regime.

For me, of particular concern:
  • The lack of fact-based decision making, especially around the environment
  • The lack of a Science Minister
  • The reliance on dogma rather than fact
  • The lack of a credible Minister for Women - having a misogynist as the Minister for Women is akin to having a vampire in charge of the blood bank
  • The lack of transparency from all departments in our current government
  • The treatment or should I say, the mistreatment of asylum seekers. It's wrong
  • What they're not doing for education
  • The fact they want to dump and dredge close to the Great Barrier Reef - this is just lunacy
  • The lack of support for renewable energy
My list continues - but needless to say, I'm not happy with what I'm seeing at all.

I'm lucky that my local MP represents my views, however as I'm represented by Adam Bandt of the Greens, I'm a bit under-represented. 

Jonella, Jay and I made it to the steps of the State Library at midday. I had a quick word to the cops who were standing quietly by. They were expecting no more than 500 people.... oops.

I felt a bit sorry for anybody trying to get through the city in a car on Sunday afternoon.

After some speeches, we started the slow walk down to Treasury Gardens. The crowd were orderly and respectful. There was no trouble. People with kids in prams, grandparents and grandkids, younger people, old people. You name it, they were there.

The thing that was really apparent was that people, lots of people, are very concerned about what our current government is doing in so many areas. The sign below is  good demonstration of this.

There has been some noise around the mainstream media that this was a rally for hooligans, run by hooligans.

It wasn't.

There were some great signs showing people's concern and disgust,

Here are a few from the march:

There's also be quite a bit of press around the anger addressed at Tony Abbott. I get why people are angry, but hating the man isn't going to get you anywhere.

Me, okay, I wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire, but I don't hate him. Rather feel sorry for him. I do, however very much dislike his and his parties general policies at the moment. This neo-conservative, Tea Party crap is not to my liking at all. 

I'm all for being economically rational. I'm for accountability - but not when it's implemented by secrecy, lies and misinformation. The last time I checked, Australia was not modeled on George Orwell's 1984.

Still - had a bit of a giggle at the following sign...

On reaching Treasury Gardens, Jonella, Jay and I didn't hang around, opting to all get some lunch. 

We were all very glad we participated. The right to peacefully demonstrate is a right. It may feel futile - it may even be futile, however, in the words of Deitrich Bonhoeffer, a great man who stood up against Hitler.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” 

I've taken that to heart recently, along with these words.

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” 

I shudder when I think about the kind of society this government thinks it's leaving for generations to come and it's because of this I will continue to peacefully protest.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Blessings and Cat Poo Coffee

One of the highlights of my Bali trip was a morning up in the mountains out to the water temple known as Tirta Empul. It was something I wanted to do on the last trip over but biology precluded me. This time, I had no such issues and the time and date was set with my driver, Made.

Interesting fact: Bali has a naming system in use. It was more popular in years gone by, but you still see it in place. The first born child in a Balinese family is often called Wayan. The second born, Made (pronounced Mah-day). Nyoman is the third in line and Ketut is the fourth born. As tradition flags a little, names change, but you see these names all over Bali.

Made collected me at 9 a.m. from reception. We'd settled on a price and a few arrangements were made. I needed a change of clothes for one thing. My hair had to be up, not loose. Offerings for the Gods were required.

The first two items were not an issue. Easy. I knew I was in for an immersion so I wore my bathing suit under modest clothes. The spare clothes were in a plastic bag at my feet. My hair was clipped up in a bun as it had been since I arrived at Bali. Made also brought along a sarong which was required to enter the waters. Easy.

I jumped in the van in the front seat. "Is this okay? I'd rather sit up front and chat than just look out the window." Made was good with this.

It's something I have trouble with where ever I go don't make me sit in the back - I like to sit up front and see where I'm going. The back seat doesn't feel right to me, especially when I know I'm going to be asking a lot of questions. I don't feel like I'm living in a little bubble up the front. Made also said that it was good for his English to chat - he only knew 'yes' and 'no' in English before he got his driving job two and a half years earlier. Made speaks great English and he was really enthusiastic about showing me a little bit of his country.

The first stop was the offerings shop. "Have you got 5000 on you?" asked Made. I handed over the equivalent of 50 cents. " If you go in there they'll charge you ten times the price. He came back a few minutes later with a plastic bag of stuff. Streamers, incense, flowers... you see these on the streets of Bali all the time. Being a Hindu island, every morning channa is put out for the gods to bring in luck and blessings and to give gratitude to the Gods. Flowers, incence, money, food are all left out in front of the shops. After half an hour they're stomped into the road, but they're a charming part of Bali life.

The drive up to the hills was lovely. Passing rice paddies and jungle, it was a gorgeous drive. Made explained a few things, such as the family temples will only ever be seen on  the left hand side of the road as the temple will always be found in the North East corner of the family compounds. We passed villages where not a tourist could be seen. Of the poverty you see in Bali, you also notice that the children around the place look clean, well fed and happy. People don't have much, but they have enough. I was humbled and a little troubled by my own apparent wealth. Going to Bali is a cheap option, but at what cost to the locals.

After half an hour, we reached our destination - a valley in the middle of some big hills. I payed the nominal entry fee for tourists (locals get in for free) and Made and I made our way to the change rooms.

The rules of Tirta Empul for women are simple. Long hair has to be up. You have to wear a sarong in the sanctuary, men in long pants can wear a sash around their waist. You can't go in if you're menstruating. No bathing suits only - keep yourself covered. I tied the sarong around my neck, kept my bathing suit and bike shorts on underneath and Made stated I was ready to go on, leave my offerings and get in the waters.

I like praying to somebody else's Gods.

After a quick prayer of thanks and peace I went into the waters. Made showed me the spigots to avoid as these special fountains were only to be used when you were at a cremation ceremony.

The water was cool, the stones underfoot smooth and slippery. I made my way to the first spigot. Hands in a prayer position, my head went under three times.

And so it continued.

In front of me were two local women, they took me under their wing and encouraged me to continue. I thanked them for their support. Though foreign to the country, I didn't feel out of place as I made my way under all the fountains.

Something I love about Hinduism - it encourages inclusion. So you're not a Hindu, you're their to pay your respects, good on you. You follow the protocol and come with a good heart - they take you on.

What Made didn't tell me about was the whopping great koi carp that were swimming around in the pools.

After 15 minutes I made my way out of the waters, feeling suitably cleansed and lighter. It's something I'm really glad I got to do.

The next stop on the way home was a coffee plantation. Made asked if I liked coffee - which like, of course I do. He said that there was a coffee that supplied Luwak coffee nearby. Luwak coffee - I'd never heard of it either.

See, what happens is this cat/possum like animal called the Luwak eats the coffee beans. After a while, the luwak poops the coffee beans out. The poop is then cleaned off, the beans inside are roasted and sold on at exorbitant price. Luwak coffee is supposed to be lower in caffeine.

We had a look around the plantation. Unlike western farming practices, everything is grown in together. Made knows his plants - I'd never seen a vanilla tree before.

Then we came across a part of the farm where they were processing the luwak coffee poop. This is where the outer shell of the poop is removed and the fermented coffee bean inside is processed (See, no poop is imbibed after all this happens.)

It's quite a manual process. We also got to watch them roast the beans.

After which, we went up and sampled some of the farm's wares.

I tried a cup of the luwak coffee. It was a bit bitter for my tastes, however the lemongrass tea and the vanilla coffee they sold were lovely, so I came home with some samples which ended a lovely morning trip out of Ubud.

I've come away from this trip feeling really grateful for my life. I've also come away refreshed, happy and feeling ready to start new challenges.

Now the fun part begins. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Take me to the River

It wasn't so much a want to come back to Bali, but a need. Something calling me from deep in my soul, telling me that it was necessary to return. There were things that needed to be faced and elements of myself that needed to be balmed, bandaged and healed and healed. The feeling started a few months ago as a whisper in the back of my mind and grew to a roar as the weeks past.

There are some times you just have to make the pilgrimage and Ubud appears to be my Canterbury, Mecca, Salem, Stonehenge, Graceland or Roswell, where ever your spot may be, depending on your faith and where you go to restore yourself to your full spiritual strength.

I've left Ubud now and I'm down in the madness that is Seminyak. It's a different beat and a different vibe. I'm half sorry that I didn't stay the full two weeks up there instead of breaking the trip in two. Having a villa with its own pool to myself is great in many respects, but not in others.

The vibe in Ubud is gentler, friendlier. The pace is slower. You don't get harassed on the street - the drivers ask, "Taxi?" as you go by. A smile and a shake of the head and they leave you alone. Here in Seminyak you're yelled at, tooted at, called over, whistled at..."Taxi? Transport? Come look at my shop!" Going for a walk down the road is annoying and tiring. It's takes a bit of effort not to raise a middle finger at the lot of them. This is not my country. Don't engage in eye contact, be polite, keep walking.

I'm missing just being able to go for a walk. Ah well, I'm back on Thursday.

The main reason I headed to Ubud was for the healing nature of the place. There are more healers than you can poke a stick at in Ubud, but this wasn't my reason for going there.

It was time to decompress, relax and explore myself - something that I haven't done for a long time.

Ubud is the perfect place to do this.

My room at the Best Exotic Frangipani Hotel backed on the Yoga Barn. (www.theyogabarn.com). I call this "Hippy Central", but really, it's just full of peaceful alternative people who are looking to stretch, breathe, learn and enjoy all that the place has to offer.

They don't only offer yoga on the packed schedule. There is Morning Flow, Laya yoga, Hatha yoga, Vinyasa yoga, Iyengar yoga, Anusara yoga, Kundalini yoga, Yin Yoga, Pranayama, Power yoga, Acro yoga, Yoga Nidra, Restorative yoga... like I thought that yoga was just yoga, but no.

For me, I did  couple of Yin Yoga sessions, lovely and gentle, long stretches in not to challenging positions. Yoga has always made me feel really inadequate - Yin yoga, which concentrates on the pelvis, thighs and lower spine was just my cup of tea.

The other things on the timetable that had my interest - Pilates -  a class I enjoy at my normal gym. It's something I can tease my body into and not feel too bad about it. Looking at the teacher - a sylph of a woman with hypermobile joints who took the class of women in the age range of 25-60 was a natural performer, as are all Pilates instructors. She was also a natural dancer, another trait of most Pilates instructors. Unlike the Pilates instructors at my gym, she didn't have a funny accent, with a generic Mid-West accent. I really enjoyed these classes and have made a pact with myself to try to get to Pilates at the gym more often.

Qi Gong was another experimental class I tried. Held early on a Thursday morning I rocked up, again, with a mix of people to be greeted by the teacher walking into class. He was reminiscent of Catweazle, barefoot with a dragon head carved into his walking stick.

Years of doing bodywork as prepped me well in the idiosyncrasies of healers. "How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?" is something I'm acquainted with. This fellow is still falling many years later.

The class was interesting, spasmodic and quirky - a bit like the teacher. Having Reiki II under my belt, it made a lot of sense. It's something I wouldn't mind looking into back home.

On my first night in town I made it to a Crystal Bowl Meditation sessions. I can't tell you much about it. After making myself comfortable on the floor I can only remember the first few chords - and the next thing I was aware of was being roused from a deep meditative state.

Meditation is something that's a part of my life - has been for ages. I'm used to ups and downs that come with it. There are times when you're sitting there compiling your shopping list. There are times when you're taken away to other places. Sometimes, you're aware of these places - other times you're not. All I can tell you is that I floated back to the Best Exotic Frangipani Hotel after this session. The feeling of peace that it left me with was incredible.

The Tibetan Bowl Meditation session a few nights later was akin to a performance piece. A popular session, you have to put your name on a list. Entering the session, you're asked to remain completely silent as you take your place. What follows is an hour of enchantment in the candlelit barn. The bells are run over you, swept over your prostrate body, the reverberations taking you to some amazing places. Like the Qi Gong, not completely unknown to me as I use temple bells as a part of my healing practice. This was an enlightening session, but without the impact of the crystal bowls.

One of the reasons I wanted to return to Ubud was to go to see a Sound Healer I'd met the last time I was there. Unfortunately he was off re-certifying while I was here, but the Sound Medicine sessions were still help by other members of the collective. As always these sessions left me feeling calm, relaxed and hopeful. There's something very wonderful about sacred music, toning, harmonising and drumming. I know about the joys of disappearing to music, it happens to me regularly, but these sessions pack so much into the 90 minute session. It has to be experienced. I'll be back for more.

The last session that literally took my breath away. There's a Sunday morning class called "The Alchemy of Breath". I was a little curious about this.

A friend of mine is a Mittendorf breath worker and I've heard a lot from Fiona about how powerful her modality can be. (www.liveinthebreath.com - I recommend you have a look into this - very powerful stuff.)

Not sure what was going on, I rocked up to a very full class, asking one of the facilitators if it was the same as the work Fiona did. The answer came, "Similar, but different."
The session proved one of the more live changing sessions I've had in years - and all I had to do was breathe. We were taken through a guided breathing session, with music and voice to support us.

The first part of the exercise was to wander around the room and slowly greet people in a Hawaiian fashion. Slowing walking around in a prayer position, when we met a person we had to look them straight in the eye, bow and come back, synchronising our breathing with the other person.

You don't realise how unsettling looking a person close up and straight in the eye can be. I first come into contact with one of the healing crew, a crone with the deepest, wisest, brownest eyes I've ever met. What got me was what was she seeing in return? It was unsettling, though not in a bad way. It was like being part of a Benetton ad from the eighties, with the close ups on people's faces. It got  y brain ticking.

After, the breathing section of the class started. Lay down on the mat, get comfortable, breathe in the required way (in and out through your mouth).  The effects were slow at first then came over me like a wave. Turmoil, pain, upset and finally a calming resolution over the hour we were being taken on this breath journey. Around me, people were screaming, sobbing, thrashing about. What impressed me was that there were a number of facilitating healers looking after those in need. At one point the woman and brown eyes stayed with me, hand on my telling me, "It's okay to feel." At another point, another of the facilitators dried some of my tears. By this stage, the worst of the heavy emotion was over - where it came from I don't know - replaced with a feeling of calm.

The takeaways from this class hasn't left me. I floated back to the hotel and sat down with another guest. She couldn't get over the changes in my appearance. "You've changed since I saw you at breakfast - it's phenomenal. You look beautiful."


She said that she couldn't pinpoint it, but there'd been a tectonic shift in my person in the previous two hours.

All I know is that I felt different and floated about for the next day.

The following Tuesday I went to another workshop on the breath work out at the facilitator's house. An amazing and powerful four hours. As a sacred space, I can't detail all that went on, but with twenty five other journey workers, we went and found spaces in ourselves that we'd never been to. For me, the journey wasn't as powerful as the first session, more a feeling of peace came over me. As the session ended, the rain came - and all that was left to do was to stand out on Anthony's balcony, barefoot and let the tropical rain wash over me - something if a baptism into a new world.

If you've got a free morning on a Tuesday and you're in Ubud, can't recommend this experience highly enough. (www.alchemyattharc.com). It's a bit out there, but something that will shift your consciousness for the better.

I'll leave my trip to Tirta Empul for another post - the other amazing experience of my time in Ubud.

Right, I have two hours left to enjoy my villa and the joys of my own private pool. The I have a few hours to go find a massage, pedicure and some lunch, then catch a flight back home.

Then the fun will begin.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Black Beetle Night

I'm woken by the dragging of a wheelie bin or the thrum of a hippy's moped as they make their way to morning yoga. That's if the local rooster hasn't started his morning call before all this happens. The sheets are soft and the teak doors leave the room with an earthy, sandalwood scent. I try and ignore the gentle hum of the air conditioner, my one luxury from the western world that is making a comfortable night bliss. Set to a reasonable 19 degrees, light duvet provides more comfort. The pillows are huge and cocoon me through the night.

I've had the best sleep I've had in months since I've been here. Going to bed early in the evening, sleeping through until this Indonesian version of Foghorn Leghorn decides that the neighbourhood should be woken. Bali, being a Hindu island is great - in other parts of Indonesia I'd be woken by the man in the minaret and his blasted tannoy.

On waking, it all about deciding what to do with the day. Yoga? Pilates? Mediation? Massage? Swim? Read. I've been here four days now and I haven't done much more than this. The days start with breakfast at the communal table. I've been making it to the 8.30 class next door - Pilates, is my drug of choice. I like Pilates - it doesn't threaten me like yoga.

After a swim after class it's deciding whether to lay on my day bed and read, or go to the swimming poll and read (between swimming or a bit) Then there's the afternoon massage. More swimming, following by lunch at the café next door.

Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, I've unwittingly turned vegetarian since I've been here.

The café at the Yoga Barn is all things blessedly hippy. Vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, ayurvedic... There are juices and raw vegan fare, scared raw vegan ice cream (which was absolutely amazing stuff - say she the ice cream junkie) I'm eating around the menu at the moment - it's all wonderful, but the Tofu and Veggie Burger is just divine. What ever the meal, it's washed down with a date and almond shake - with lots of ginger, vanilla and coconut.

Glorious food. If all vegetarian food was like this I'd happily stay vegetarian. Being an organic place helps as well You can feel the goodness permeate your being with every mouthful.

After lunch, more reading and swimming, maybe another yoga class. Slowly, my fear of my own body is abating and I'm learning to love the stretches and the sensations that yoga is allowing me to feel.

They also have some amazing evening classes here - I've completely zonked out to Crystal Bowl Meditations, the Tibetan Bowl Mediation was more about the experience and staying in silence. Tonight, I think I have to read and maybe write. There is a lot being processed at the moment.

And then to bed. A gin and tonic my sleeping draft of choice. Tanqueray 10, though lovely, is not quite Hendricks. Never to mind, one must not bicker over premium gin.

I wonder if the beetles will return soon. As a child, once or twice a year on really humid nights just before thunderstorms, we used to be inundated with black beetles. They only came out on these nights, once or twice a year. The beetles used to scare me. Where were they at other times? Why did they only come out before the storms?

Yesterday I found the largest black beetle I've ever seen on my front porch. Huge - about five centimetres in length. It didn't scare me in the slightest. I wasn't even too startled when we found a snake in the tree by the pool. Ah, it's Bali...

I wonder what the storms will be like, and I long for the rain. I'm waiting.

Ubud, for all it's shabbiness and alternative nature, is a healing place. I'm waiting for the rains to come and cleanse me. I'm waiting for the thunder to provide advice. I wait for the lightning to give me a spark to send me on a new direction.

Ubud's a bit like that. You grow as required, change and required and allowing your other self to flourish.

It's hard recognising myself. I just know that I need to be here at the moment. And I wish I could stay longer.