Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Letting Go of Western Rhythms

As I wrap up my month of vegetarianism, I'm reminded of another month without meat.  During the summer of 2008, I spent time in Bali studying yoga.  Here's something I wrote during that meatless time...

I don’t know what time it is. I’ve been in Bali 9 days living without a watch, without a cell phone, without a computer or T.V. I have to look for other direction to tell me when and where to go. I’m here for a month-long yoga retreat. I came to dive deeper into my practice and learn to let go. I never thought about what it would take to let go of time.

Day begins at sunrise. The night insects quiet their chirping to let the rooster holler and croak out his sound. We turn on the light and immediately the mosquitoes gather, followed by the geckos. They move along the bamboo border, cleaning up the ceiling, taking their breakfast as we wait for ours. The tray of black rice, fruit and coffee arrives. Wayan singing us a “hel-lo” as she rounds the corner. The ants march along the patio greeting each other as they pass on their route. I sneak looks into the yoga studio next door, waiting for the first person to enter. That’s my signal to gather my mat and water bottle and start the day.

As the evening session ends, we walk back to our cottage. My mind swirls with anatomy, sutras and poses. Dinner appears as dusk settles in. The sun sets behind the valley casting pink shadows off every surface. I press my palms together and say a silent prayer as grateful tears pool in my eyes. Once it’s too dark to see, we head inside chatting and eventually reading. We prepare for an early bedtime and an unreliable sleep. Every night he scurries up the pipe, enters through the bamboo-slatted window, hurries along its ledge with an alarming rattle and escapes back out the other side. Our rat friend is becoming yet another natural hour marker. Sniffing for food and making his entrance, we watch with fascination as he completes his routine. The bats, geckos, birds, bugs and rats dance around us like clockwork. The watch I didn’t bring doesn’t matter to them. They’re teaching me to tell a different kind of time.

I always learned to respect time, especially that of other people. Punctuality was an ingredient for success. I remember the eye rolls when my brother claimed he could tell time by the shadows of the trees like the Native Americans. “No wonder he always misses his flights home,” they’d said. Keeping track of time helps me be a reliable friend, daughter, teacher. I don’t know what it will feel like to put down that load for awhile. Put down my control, my responsibility, my nervous energy. Put it down.

In Bali I’ve entered a world where time is marked by rituals and prayers. Constructing elaborate offerings and going to temple are the landmarks of the day. Ceremonies based on the moon cycle, deaths and cremations- these are life’s true clock hands. My busy rushing has no place alongside this devotion.

I didn’t know how much I needed this time in Bali. Time to get healthy, to slow down, to process. Time to untie my wounded heart strings and time to reveal my new truths. Time off from high heels, traffic, hangovers. Time on me, on walking, on breathing and on prayer. Time to clean up. I’m holding onto this new freedom and releasing the grip of a clock that doesn’t serve me. I’m open to listen now as life directs me where and when to go.

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