This past December, I walked across a university stage to get my Master’s degree. Also in December, I bought a solo plane ticket to the other side of the world.
In January, I did a day-trip to a few New England wineries so I could turn 30 in places where day drinking was considered acceptable. Also in January, I printed that plane ticket and boarded my flight (just kidding – who prints plane tickets anymore when you have apps?!)
In February, I returned home to South Florida.
Also in February, the unthinkable hit.
And this time, it was too close to home.
Let’s back up. For a post-graduate and also “shit I’m 30” trip, I specifically wanted to pick a place with so much culture and history that I wouldn’t know what to do with it all if it slapped me in the face. Fortunately, that’s what I got.
I traveled 24 hours on three different planes to get to an island where you’ll find none other than strong-nit communities that love and look out for each other. Within the different regions, there is a community system in place designed to devote energy to a higher self. They have strong spiritual connections to their villages and even stronger family ties. As a result, people don’t fall through the cracks.
When some people think of Bali, Indonesia, they picture party and nightlife. But thanks to the courtesy of other bloggers who passionately write and share their experiences, I knew to stay away from those places.
Many of the locals I met in Bali lived in huts on the sides of the road. And somehow, they seemed to be 100x happier than the average American.
Let that sink in.
Today is March 14th. One month ago, I was recovering (or trying to) from some serious jet lag after getting back to the States. Also one month ago today, five miles down the street from our home, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was shot up by a deeply disturbed individual in what should have been the safest community in Florida.
May the 17 angels rest peacefully away from the dangers of this world. ♥
I pray for our country.
For those who do not believe in the energy of prayer and/or meditation, a plane ticket to Bali cost under $500 out of New York.
There’s A LOT of flack online about “sending thoughts and prayers”. The criticism is based on the notion that just thinking about something isn’t going to make a difference. I get it, I do. You want to see action.
However, what if I told you that any mass-shooting incident in the history of these new-age tragedies has always begun with a THOUGHT. A thought of the shooter not feeling worthy enough, feeling unloved, feeling angry, feeling spiteful, feeling violent and reckless.
It’s so easy to rush into political views when these events occur, but I’m not going there, so stay with me. I’m at a different place right now. A place to talk about something we need so much more of:
Love for ourselves, love for our communities, love for our planet, love for those who seem not to have it.
I was only in Bali for two and a half weeks, so I can’t pretend that I’m an expert on their culture. And I can’t sit here and give you a history lesson.
But I can tell you how I FELT when I was there.
For one thing, I felt safe.
I felt safer walking the unfamiliar streets at night in Bali than I do on the familiar ones back home. (I comment on safety in foreign countries here.) In Bali, you walk by so many locals offering you big, beautiful smiles. Seriously, in a country where braces aren’t prevalent, I don’t understand how these people have the nicest smiles I’ve ever seen!
One day started off beautiful and sunny until the dark clouds rolled in (hi rainy season). I got caught in a rainstorm on my scooter without a poncho or glasses or anything that said, “I’m ready to get stuck in a rainstorm.” I pulled over on the side of the road to a small hut with two families and a full team of local men inside, whose volleyball game got disturbed just as my leisure stroll did. They waved me in and pulled up the last open chair.
The extent of their English started with “Where you from?” and ended with repeating “USA!”
I spent the next 20 minutes waiting out the storm with my new foreign friends that I couldn’t have a conversation with. The families were feeding the kids chicken kabobs off the grill. The men were laughing and teasing each other as any group of grown men do. When the rain let up, the women left with their children on the mopeds and the team returned back to their match. I thanked everyone and waved goodbye as I headed back to my homestay.
A few days before I learned how to drive the moped, I was exploring the dirt roads of the small islands off of Bali on bike, when the sun began to set faster than I wanted it to. Myself and my rented bicycle got lost in a maze of pitch-black side streets. A woman and her son rode by me on their moped and showed me the way. (They spoke zero English but recognized the word “hostel.” Not to mention they’re used to tourists, so I imagine she knew where the blonde girl wheeling around a squeaky bicycle was trying to get to.) People helping people is something I experienced daily in Bali.
I felt gratitude.
Locals practicing the Hindu religion (but different than the Indian Hinduism) make up about 85% of the country. The Balinese residents pray A LOT. One of the locals whose homestay I stayed at (you can check it out here, his name was Maclir) informed me how hard it is for them to leave the country because there’s always a ritual or ceremony going on.
Women participate in making offerings every day and walk around leaving them in streets, doorsteps, stairs.. anywhere you can think of. They give worship to the very earth they walk on, and to the fire, water, and the mountains. They give thanks to fertility and they give thanks to technology.
There are temples in every home, in every village, and in the rice fields, on the volcanoes, and on the beaches. Their devotion to a higher-self teaches them discipline and ultimately respect for one another. Like I said, I can’t sit here and pretend I know everything about their practices, but I FELT the peace in the air throughout the island just like we feel the tension in the air back home in the US.
I felt community.
I hired a local driver on the island of Nusa Penida to take me to some spots I thought were only made in dreams, and on our way back we waved hi to his friends through the different villages.
For the record, I was SHOCKED at how many small villages there are scattered throughout the middle of a tiny island (tourism is less abundant on Nusa Penida than the main island of Bali).
The strength of community can be seen with their irrigation system in place to keep the rice terraces plentiful. Each person has their own role and on a bigger scale, each village plays a role in maintaining the process. Without the contribution from everyone, the system fails. (And as a faithful queen of all carbs, I personally can’t imagine a world without rice.)
Point being, in our country, we’ve managed to reach a point where people fall through the cracks. People can get away without playing a role in anything, resulting in the complete destruction of their self-worth, and ultimately, the respect or regards to others.
We’ve allowed angry, young adults with physically or emotionally dead parents to have nowhere to turn. And we haven’t even been able to recognize that they’re that far gone.
We’re told we can do anything when we’re little but we’re not told that we have to work hard for it. As a result, disappointment and entitlement sneak in like bandits when we don’t get what we perceive life has only given others.
Today on March 14th, one month after the shooting, it is “National Walk Out” day, promoting a 17-minute walk out session in high schools across America. I have mixed feelings about the movement, but this post circulating the internet about the event resonated with me:
It’s time to think differently.
The “we need to do this because we’re right and you’re wrong” mentality has taken over both sides of the political aisle. And in my opinion, it’s an outdated way of thinking. “We need ACTION A, B, and C to happen and if you’re not 100% with us, you’re against us.” (I’m talking about both parties here folks.)
What we’re forgetting is that it all starts with the THOUGHTS.
Where are your thoughts coming from? Is it a spot of fear? Or a place of security? Are you agitated throughout your day? Or at a place of peace? Do you find yourself living under a dark cloud? Or are you shining your light to others around you?
With just one example of the power of the mind, yoga has added COUNTLESS mental and physical benefits to my life when practicing regularly (although I talk about 4 of the benefits here). With the help of the power of prayer and/or meditation generating positive energy, it in turn leaves less room for negative thoughts.
May we learn to treat ourselves, our communities, our planet, and our legacy as human beings better. Plot twist: It includes talking to those with opposing views with respect.
Spreading love is more important than “being right,” can we agree on that?
This post is dedicated to the victims of MSD Highschool. I didn’t know any of you, but I know the community misses you dearly.
Chris Hixon, 49
Aaron Feis, 37
Scott Beigel, 35
Meadow Pollack, 18
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Helena Ramsay, 17
Carmen Schentrup, 16
Luke Hoyer, 15
Peter Wang, 15
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
Martin Duque Anguiano, 14
Jamie Guttenberg, 14
Cara Loughran, 14
Gina Montalto, 14
Alaina Petty, 14
Alex Schachter, 14