I've been living in Bali for the past 3 months and can safely report one thing. It smells a lot like California circa-1967 except the acid-laden music festival casualties wearing tie-dye shirts have been replaced by shirt-less hulks (and their bra-less, flowy dress wearing female counterparts) that practice unusual and experimental forms of tantric yoga and fuel themselves off copious amounts of cacao.
Cacao, the ancient meso-American ritual beverage is claimed to open the heart and energize the imbiber, elating them to semi-mystical states of realization. I'm not sure that is the case when it is gulped down with palm sugar, cashew milk and a side of gluten-free apple tart while staring at inspiring facebook quotes hunched over on your smartphone - however, I full-heartedly admit I could be wrong!
I really don't have much attachment to cacao other than pointing out that it has helped partially curbed my caffeine habit and that it does indeed energize me when I need it most (i.e. 8 pm when an impromptu work meeting was called at 9 pm)!
There is a very lovely vibe to this island. I feel it is due to the centuries of dedication that the locals have given in the form of daily ritual offerings, repeated with the utmost care and diligence. If you walk down the main strip (named after the Hindu monkey-god, Hanoman) in Ubud at 6 pm you can't help but smell the glorious waft of incense. It even covers up the smell of expensive essential oils worn by the yogis and yoginis that stroll the drag with their mala beads proudly showing!
Which brings me to my next point, spirituality is not something you wear.
Somehow many of my western compatriots missed that memo. So many of them come here looking for something deeper to connect with, but unfortunately, carry the wrong mood: Seeking.
Yes, seeking is always a problem because it involves grasping at things that we have no bother grasping at. It is born from a deep-seated feeling of not being complete, whole and in sovereign control of our lives. When we engage life with this pervasive mood of seeking, we are susceptible to all sorts of charlatanry and tend to over-compensate for our insecurities by dressing like we just stepped out of a 20-day holy pilgrimage in Varanasi!
The problem with seeking is that we will tend to act from a very weak place of insecurity and confusion which leads us to believe all sorts of miraculous promises that are packaged with the right kind of pseudo-enlightened marketing.
It all comes back to the first thing I posted on this website: KNOW THYSELF.
Really, there's no harm in this advice. Except that it may be an uncomfortable process getting in touch with some of the neglected shadow parts. But that is pennies to pay for the alchemical gold that is produced from acting in full alignment with your thoughts and feelings.
The key word here is 'alignment'. When we are in alignment, there is no seeking. There cannot be. There's no grinding effort either. It's solely action that is inspired by the desire to maintain alignment. And alignment can only occur when we have reconciled our inner feelings with our outer expression and our heart is no longer in conflict with the mind.
The degree to which we know ourselves is the degree to which we can find depth in our alignment. I would say that most people I have met have experienced a time in their adult lives (kids live in alignment WAY more often) where things just worked: they were at the right place at the right time and the right thing happened. Money was never an issue and everyone got along great.
Then something changed and they woke up to beer bottles and an empty house - the party was over. Everyone left and they went back into some form of a mechanical routine that involved grinding WAY too hard away for some payoff that didn't even matter.
The thing that changed was the status of the person's alignment. It went from pretty good to not-at-all. When we are first getting to know ourselves, we love those moments when everything works out great and it feels like no effort is required. But unfortunately we attach to the FORM of these occurrences instead of following the energy that precedes the form.
Form ALWAYS follows energy.
In physics, matter is just condensed energy but that energy had to come from somewhere - remember that!
Seekers have a real problem with finding alignment because they are looking for a 'thing'. Alignment is no-thing. It is a particular pathway to 'becoming'. You have a personal alignment and humanity has a collective alignment.
The nice part is that you have slightly more control to choose to stay in your alignment than you do ensuring humanity stays in its alignment.
You also have control over which alignment you may choose. Whenever you make a major decision in life, you've essentially committed to a particular path for a period of time. If you chose to move to California instead of Paris, well, there's a different destiny related to each although you may learn the same lessons in the process!
I'll talk more about alignment once I've gotten some cacao into my system which will likely be a follow-up post but I will leave you with this. Staying in alignment is a matter of surrendering to the process that is unfolding. Choosing your alignment requires careful contemplation, clarity and inspired action!
Go forth, don't seek and stay tuned for more of these!