As I sit at this marble-topped table, sipping a cool club soda, a tiny waterfall plashes behind me, and a gentle wood-hammered instrument, like a marimba, sends sweet tiny ploinks through the night. The easygoing but attentive wait staff sweep past with perfect posture and whispering steps. I am surrounded by images of God, who wears every imaginable face: an old woman with sagging breasts. A trusting long-ear dog. A stout young man with a curling mustache, holding a cape up high to one shoulder. A fanged monkey-creature. A serene Buddha.
To be on this island is one of the gentlest experiences of my wonderfully varied and fortunate life. As soon as I disembarked from the wild ride from the airport—Anah and I emitting tiny screams while Khan and Dewa chuckled, careering past thousands of motorcyclists, scooters, bicycling children, and other cars on the shoulderless two-lane road—the soft air enfolded me in this gentleness, and I have been at peace.
Everywhere there are flowers—red, pink, white, yellow, orange, purple—and the rest is green green growth, wood, and stone. At sunrise, small clouds of mist cover the hollows of things. Outside my door, square tiers of planted rice— shallows of mud evenly dotted with shoots of purest green. The wet air brings a delicious texture to my skin (if not my hair!) and I feel deeply rehydrated and suffused with life. Often, my gratitude spills over into tears.
Already, I have felt this island’s softness release a profoundly hidden tight grip I have held for…how long? Who can say how these things—too deep to be named—get started in the first place? When did I begin to enshrine my separateness? I just know that as soon as I stepped onto the stone pathways of these grounds, I began to recognize how much I wanted to just be quiet. And see.
I spend plenty of time alone, within myself, but this experience is altogether different. I am surrounded at all times: by Balinese, by dear hoop brothers and sisters, by other travelers, and by the faces of god—and yet, I am somehow more deeply within myself, being surrounded and supported my so many levels of Community. I can feel the presence of the hundreds of years of a Way being practiced here—a Way that has yielded such beauty, such wealth in the smallest details of daily life.
And held even more tightly around me, like a warm fleece, is the circle of my hoop community: the women and men who have gathered together in this sacred space to open to what is to be found here. My roommate and enduring hoop buddy Khan and I tend to laugh ourselves to sleep at night. A new friend held me when my tears rushed out one night, having only met me 24 hours before. There is little fear here, and a surplus of kindness.
Tonight’s hoop jam begins in a few minutes. I think of all of you, and bring your spirits here to dance with me.