I've been seeking clarity in my life and a week in an ashram seemed like it was just what I needed. I looked around Bali and when I came across Shanti Toya Ashram it seemed like a great fit. A week of yoga, meditation, chakra clearing and discussions in a spiritual surrounding was just what I was looking for. When I got to Shanti Toya I was tired and uncertain but eager to take a good long look inside myself. As I was shown around I couldn't help but absorb the rustic beauty of the grounds. Huge trees, birds, even the giant(by my standards) spiders were impressive and inspiring. At the bottom of the grounds there was a natural spring fed, chlorine free pool, placed beside a creek among the lush jungle greens, bordered by palms and giant coconut trees. I couldn't wait to jump in. That night after a disappointing dinner, the food though vegetarian was neither good nor good for you, I settled in and got ready for the week. It became very clear very quickly that this was not a true ashram, it may be not for profit but it was not deep in spirituality. Though an inspirational environment, there was no guru found here. Meditations were guided by the yoga instructor and far fewer than I expected. Chakra clearing was a type of trance dance that just didn't resonate with me, I tried it a few times but never felt like I connected to it. The yoga classes, aside from the rank yoga mats that are long over due for a change, were great. Lead by a lovely Canadian woman, Jenny, on her own journey. Jenny was encouraging, had a great ability for explanation and led me into poses I didn't actually think I could do. Jenny gave me the encouragement to push my body to try new and old poses, correcting my posture with the slightest of pressure from her hands that had me to adoring her from the first moment she lead me deeper into my child's pose.
Side note** I suffer from a degenerative back and when I first had issues with a couple of slipped disks my Physio therapist asked me to stop doing yoga, I stopped for a couple of years until the specialist told be to go ahead and just accept that some things would cause me pain and though pain was going to be part of my life, it was not causing damage. At the time I stopped I was in so much pain I could not even touch my toes. It was such a struggle to get socks on I stopped wearing them unless I was in work boots. Before my herniated disks I could easily palm the ground in a forward bend and touch my forehead to my shins, when seated on the ground folding forward I could rest my head on my forearms. Now I am far from that and have lost a lot of other flexibility. I find this frustrating, like I lost an achievement, but I have to respect my body. I may or may not get back some of my flexibility, the goal is to have a healthy body and worship it as it is, always doing my best no matter how great that variance is.**
As an introvert I rarely make instant connections with people and it often takes a while for me to get to know them, or them to know me. At Shanti Toya I met some beautiful people. Two women in particular will be life long friends and I do wish I got more time with them but as life goes for solo travellers, we are all on our own paths and those paths often only align for short periods of time. We had most of our days free to use as we pleased, some would venture out as a group and some would do their own thing. I decided to use my time to explore parts of the island I had not yet been. I swam through beautiful canyons, rode the scooter through the mountains, stopped to visit with wild monkeys, trekked through the jungle, swam naked in a quiet waterfall far from tourists, felt the earth move as I sat on a stone in the river. This was when some clarity came to me, a moment that I realised how much mind space I had given my ego. That I truly was not bothered or hurt but my ego was attempting to manipulate me using the very same tactics that some men had used. When I sat and observed my ego I felt my true self at ease with no resentment, hurt, anger or sadness. A simple calm and peace, an awareness and connection that I had been missing the last few months. Claire and I spent one day getting our geek on birding. This is one woman I admire, she is strong, accomplished, inspirational and still growing on her journey, a woman with perspective, awareness, and a strong sense of self. A woman clear in what she wants. We had a lovely day full of beauty that was cut too short. I trust there will be others and now I have a reason to turn up in France. Shanti Toya may not have been what I was expecting but this merry band of misfits all in search of something in themselves was the group I needed. As we know the universe always provides us what we need.
In the last yin yoga class of the week I experienced something I had heard of but never actually thought would happen to me. As we sunk into pigeon pose, a hip opening position, I was feeling a lot of discomfort. This is common in yin and it's important to separate discomfort from pain, we can sit in discomfort but we don't want to hurt the body. I sat in this pose going deeper into the right hip. I felt a surge of discomfort that radiated from deep in my hip and just started to fill my body. It was an emotion flooding through me. Every part of me wanted to just pull out of the pose and stop the feeling. I had to stop myself by setting small goals, thirty more seconds then I can rest, ten more seconds. I took a good look at it and knew I was not in pain, that as much as I wanted to stop feeling this I had to. I had to let it out. Whatever this was it was old, far older than anything I can recognize. Something so old, so deeply seated in me that it has shaped me. I let the emotion flood through me and I started crying, tears streaming down my face. I kept telling myself not of pull back and stop it, that I had to feel it, I had to let this go. Just sit here Lani, this needs out, it finally has a way out, just sit here and feel it. I was glad to get out of the pose thinking 'thanks christ, I couldn't take any more of that, I'm a sobbing mess and that was a shit tone of feeling for this lady.. the left will be better'. When I went into the left and felt that similar discomfort, this time the path was paved and there was no hesitation. I felt that feeling from deep within as it filled every bit of me and I cried. I have no idea what it was or the origin of it nor do I feel I need to. I know it was old, something I've carried around far too long, something that has struggled to get out, something that has shaped who I am. It was an old emotion that I finally let go of. The next day I felt great. It was the last day of practice and we would all leave the next day. Though I still had no clue what I was doing with my life or which of my glorious ideas I want to sink my energy into, I felt amazing. The group wanted to go out after dinner for some drinks. This was something I didn't really want to do. I really wanted to spend time and connect with people, maybe even more so I was experiencing the fear of missing out. I had spent so much time alone in the months leading up to this, but I didn't want to drink. I had set out with the intention of just drinking water. Socializing isn't the easiest thing for me. I'm great in small groups, 4 or less, but I've never enjoyed crowds. In larger groups or environments I'm not used to I have a clear tendency to sit quietly and observe rather than engage, unless I'm drinking. I have used alcohol to assist me in socializing since I stopped doing drugs. This has been an ongoing struggle for me and I truly admire people who have no issue with it. I try to tell myself I'll only drink when it's something I enjoy, a nice glass of wine, a good bourbon, a delicious beer, something I'm really going to enjoy. Here the drinks are just ridiculously expensive like nearly $20 for a barely decent glass of wine (our Canadian dollar fucking sucks!). The water at this place was ridiculously expensive too, so I had a Bintang. An easy to drink beer that shares that skunky off taste of Heineken. But when it's hot and the beer is cold it goes down far too easy for me. Then two and three. Saturday morning I woke up feeling amazing and with only a few drinks Saturday night I threw that feeling away. I woke up Sunday feeling like shit, I would spend the next three days just trying to feel normal again. It doesn't even balance, I didn't drink that much. It was just too much for me. I hate myself for lacking the control. The 'I should have driven, that always stops me from drinking'. Why do I do this to myself. I know I don't respond well. Am I destined for a life of limited socialization? How do I learn to socialize without drinking? Can I have two drinks then stop? I know I can. I've done it before. I can't relax the rules I set for myself, I create them so I wake up every morning feeling good and motivated for my day. Do other people suffer as much as I do after drinking? I have great interactions with people when I'm sober. Not many, but those that I do are worth it. I don't want to never have another delicious beer or amazing glass of wine. But why am I drinking if I'm not enjoying it? Just to have enough nerve to join in on a conversation that has little value and I have little interest in? If there is a conversation happening that I have a valuable contribution to I will chime in when sober, but I'm not likely to join in on a conversation that doesn't matter to me. It's the small talk, standard social etiquette that I'm not good at, I have little interest in it and I don't do it well. It feels so false to me. Does it matter if people I hardly know think I'm an anti social cunt? No. Is it not more valuable for me to wake up every morning feeling good about myself, my choices and being ready to achieve something that day? Yes. I don't drink when I'm alone and it's not mandatory when I'm with friends. Is alcohol the shittiest social mask I could find? Is that how I pretend to be a person interested in something that's going on around me when I know I would much rather be alone. I would rather have an interesting conversation with one person on the deck while listening to music than be at a table full of people talking about things I don't care about and have no interest in while everyone fights for airtime. This might seem like a heavy response to a simple hangover but I would honestly prefer to live without them. My reaction to this is less about having a hangover and more about my awareness of the struggle I have with socializing and the comfort that alcohol and drugs have brought me throughout my life. I have managed to keep the drugs out of my life for many years and I currently rarely get drunk. I'm striving for better and I'm working on it. I am not without error. On any challenging journey there will be trips, falls and wrong turns. I'm not looking for a life without mistakes, I'm looking to learn from mine and grow.
That week I a few realizations about myself and gained the perspective I needed for that step of growth. Three pints and a cocktail can't take that away.
A journey worth taking is one that challenges you, pushes you to your limits, breaks through boundaries and gives you the strength and awareness to build new ones, providing the opportunity for growth all while bringing joy, excitement and a hunger for more. I'm not here for an easy stroll, I'm here to summit this mountain of life with strength and perseverance. To thrive in every challenge I face, to be the woman whom I admire most.