Originally published October 2006 in The Bali Advertiser & thereafter in the Thai Spa Association UPDATE magazine.
January 2019 : London : a cloudy winter’s day where the sun is trying hard to make its presence felt.
I have just opened my emails to find one from a dear friend and spa colleague in Thailand asking if he could republish the following article. No such thing as coincidence as I was so blessed to have coffee this week here in my neighbourhood with Ayu, another wonderful friend and spa colleague from Bali and in the far ranging course of our conversation we talked about the Wellness Summit all those years ago in Hua Hin and how I stood barefoot onstage sharing the story below. We agreed that now, 13 years later, the need for balance is even greater and the experience I had on that day in Bali many moons ago is perhaps more relevant now than it was then.
How many times have you said to yourself,
“l would love to just have the time to sit and read for a while” or go for a walk or do some gardening or to just be alone.
In the pressurised world we live in time is of the essence and life often moves at a pace far greater than we would like. But is that really an excuse for not finding just a moment in the day to consider our wellbeing and take time for ourselves?
Wellness begins within, as many of the experts at the SpaAsia Wellness Summit in Hua Hin last month agreed. The responsibility for our individual wellness lies not with the doctors we may see or the therapists who might treat us: It lies with just one person-ourselves. It is up to us to find a way to balance the busy-ness of our lives with time and space for reflection and relaxation. The question is just how to do it?
So many people tell me they haven’t got time to meditate or practice yoga, Or they say they don’t know how . Others say there just isn’t enough time in the day to fit in a visit to the gym or a swim in the pool. Maybe we just need to think a little laterally … think out of the box, as it were. To find another way to integrate a few moments of peace into our lives that will contribute hugely to our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellness.
Maybe the answer lies in a true story I shared in a plenary session at the Wellness Summit
“Bali. Early August. A day of bright sunshine and happiness laughing in the air. A day that makes you feel so glad to be alive and the earth shimmers with joy.
At dawn the tendrils of cloud strung our across the heavens were a pastel palette of glowing colour. Dusky pink, soft peach, pale lavender, golden yellow. In no hurry as they drifted languidly across the silvery blueness of the sky. The silhouettes of Gunungs Agung, Abang and Batur stood sharp and clear against this angelic backdrop. At their feet endless fields of newly planted rice seedlings. A tapestry of vivid emerald green threaded together with mirrored reflections of the early morning light.
A cool breeze whispered over my body as I opened the mosquito net and looked out at the miracle of nature beyond my window . No matter how often I gaze out at this view it is never the same. Each new day brings with it its own image, personality and vibration. Even when cloudy or wet there is an immense beauty.
After so many months of rain the promise of a sunny day cast its magic over me in a moment. I needed to put on paper the thoughts I had been weaving for several weeks about a workshop I was due to give at a Wellness Summit in Thailand.
As is usually my wont when I write, the putting onto paper always comes at the last minute. The Summit was due to start in just a few days. The angel in my heart and the demon in my head engaged in battle as I vacillated between a much longed for trip to the beach and staying indoors to write. Needless to say the angel won. The beach it would be. But in the spirit of compromise I decided to take my notebook with me and at least make out that I was going to work.
The motorbike ride to the beach at Sanur on the south coast was wonderful. White sun blazing down from an unsullied sky, kissing the bare skin of my shoulders and arms. Heating the air that rushed over me. Sensory delight. I rode with a grin on my face, a smile in my soul and happiness in my heart.
Bike parked and safely locked I walked down to the beach through a narrow paved lane, its carved stone walls covered with cascades of multi-coloured bougainvillea. Waterfalls of flowers.
The sight that panned out before me as I stepped onto the beach took my breath away. Soft white sand shining bright in the sunlight. An indigo-turquoise sea stretching out to luminous frothy white breakers on the reef 500 metres or so offshore. A strong onshore wind ruffling its surface and tousling my hair leaving its salty touch on my skin and my lips as it passed by.
In the shallows stood tens of fishermen. And women. Line casting with poles, their bodies completely covered shielding them from the onslaught of the sun. On their heads rattan hats. Conical or round. All painted in bright strong colours. Red, royal blue, egg-yolk yellow, kingfisher green, stark white, fushia pink, rich purple. Some just a single colour. Others striped. Some with elaborate patterns. The Balinese love of aesthetic beauty to the fore once more. As I cast my eyes across them it was as if the sea was a pavement of glittering semi-precious stones. I turned and looked to the east across the bay. To my absolute surprise all three volcanoes stood tall and proud against the backdrop of a cerulean sky. Truly, truly stunning.
I settled on the sand, oiled my body, donned my hat and began to write. Words and ideas flowing from my pen. Fuelled by Nature’s inspiration. As I worked the thought ran through my mind that I was beyond privileged to have an ‘office’ in such beautiful surroundings.
“ Ibu, you want massage,” a friendly voice said into my ear, causing me to jump.
“No thank you ,” I said. Not once but several times as my presence attracted the massage therapists from the shadow of a large leafy tree to my side on the sand in the sun.
“ Mani-pedi then, Ibu.”
“ Look! I have already,” I said, flashing my pearly pink toenails, two with hand-painted flowers. Fascinated by the artistry, I was soon surrounded. I continued to write as a gaggle of lovely ladies inspected my feet. Such are the joys of Bali.
By noon hunger called. I meandered slowly up the beach. Maybe two kilometers or so, my soul out playing with the spirits of the land and the sea. Walking in a place beyond time and space. Meditation in motion.
A lazy lunch. Minutes slipped by into a couple of hours as I watched several fisherman ready their colourful outrigger boats for the sea.
Ambling back to my motorbike mid-afternoon my mind walked into a memory from my childhood. When I would go out into the fields during the summer, lie in the grass flat on my back and stare up into the infinite blueness of the sky.
“ Time to revisit that memory,” I thought to myself.
With the sun dipping behind the trees and gentleness returning to the air, I laid my sarong on the sand. There was no one in sight as I lay on my back, turned my palms skywards and began to gaze deep into the heavens.
My solitude didn’t last for long. In minutes I sensed a body lowering itself down on the sand maybe a metre or so to my right. In that moment I decided that as friendly as I normally am, I would not make eye contact with this person. Answer their inevitable questions, yes. But look at them, no.
“Hello Ibu.” A male voice. Young. Mid-twenties I guessed.
“Hello,” I replied non-committedly. There followed the usual repertoire of questions … where are you from, what do you do, what is your name, where do live in Bali, how long have you been here, and so on. I replied politely, fighting my natural urge to engage this delightfully friendly Balinese guy in conversation.
At last. After seemingly the longest of times that was probably only a few minutes, he fell silent, I breathed deeply, sunk into the sky above me and floated away. Until his voice slipped into my consciousness once more,
“Ibu, what are you doing?”
A simple question to which I gave a simple reply, “I’m busy.”
Another pause during which I sensed he rolled over on his side to face me. Then I heard him say,
“Aaah, Ibu. You are being Balinese busy.”
How absolutely perfect.
A smile spread across my face. So wide it almost hurt. I turned to look at my very perceptive friend. I was met by his radiant smile in a handsome face.
“You are right, So very, very right,” I said “ I am being Balinese busy.”
“Can I join you, Ibu?”
Only one answer to that, “Of course you can.”
In unison we rolled over onto our backs, palms upraised, eyes open and together we resumed being Balinese busy.
After about twenty minutes I was a little warm and decided I would head home. Beside me my new friend was being so very busy he was fast asleep . Glorious.
I wound my way up into the hills as the sun slipped slowly into the paddy fields. A cool wind lacing its fingers through my hair. A deep peace within and around me. As I rode I gave thought to the crazy busy-ness most of us have in our lives. That leads us into a space without balance. It got me to thinking that each and every one of us can weave a thread or two of Balinese busy-ness into our lives each and every day. No excuses. It takes no effort. For we do not need to be lying on a sandy beach gazing at the sky to be Balinese busy. We do not need to be sitting in the lotus position meditating or riding a horse across the hills. As wonderful as all these activities are Balinese busy-ness is simply about taking a moment for quiet reflection. We can do it as we eat our breakfasts, travel to the office, sit at our desks. Alone or together with family or friends. Or with the teams we work with.
Literally anytime, anyplace, anywhere. For as long or as short a time as we like.
Balance is essential if we want to embrace life to the full. It is vital to our health and wellness. On every level mental, emotional, spiritual and physical.
And being Balinese busy is one very easy, very enjoyable way of bringing balance into our lives.
So go on make the time to integrate this wonderful form of wellness into your life wherever you are. It’s worth it. I promise.”
© Jacqueline Le Sueur 2019