By Elisa Novick
Ah, the wonders and woes of being asked to write weekly. Here in Asia, as a newcomer, I take in so much information on so many levels, on a daily basis, it doesn’t easily get digested into a coherent form to present before more is coming in. I feel that I have to say something inspiring and illuminating when at times I feel I am just hanging by my thumbs. I keep reminding myself that this is the adventure of a lifetime and that the work of the Light is being done through me no matter what. Very reassuring when I am lying in bed with a fever and a wracking cough, poisoned with black mold, with ants biting my face!
Right now I am in Singapore, which is helping me have some perspective on the time I’ve been living in Bali, so I’ll take this as an opening.
I’ve been in Ubud, a town in Bali, Indonesia, most of the time since mid-September, not because I like it the best, but because I can make a life here. My client and friend Karali helped me learn my way around. She and her partner Max and others she has introduced me to have been wonderfully helpful.
I can get food and juices delivered from several health food and raw food restaurants, whereas in other places I’ve been the food is not healthy for me, especially in the use of MSG and wheat, pork, fried everything, nightshades, GMO rice and sugar. I especially like the jamu, which can be made in various formulas. Wayan’s Coconut Juice Bar juices large handfuls of fresh turmeric and ginger, scraped limes mixed into fresh coconut water. I can get large bottles of fruit smoothie and vegetable juice.
I also have my favorite drivers here (I can’t ride a motorcycle like most people do here) and I am receiving assistance with my health by a sweet German naturopath. I know my way around, which is comforting.
I’ve now taught in Bali and Malaysia and Singapore and I’ve been in Java. Plans are in the works for the Thriving Planet World Tour to go to Australia and Japan. I keep up with my clients and friends via Skype. Maintaining my body and energy in these new cultures, while learning and integrating so much new information is a full-time job, but I do best when I am doing my work.
Bali is a mysterious culture that I find myself pondering as I learn how to be in it. The process of trying to understand takes a lot of internal processing power. It is like a complex puzzle with an inner secret, and I find that most of the ex-pats (bule) living in Bali spend years trying to plumb its depths. They live the dilemma of people who are the exploiters, enjoying the benefits of cheap labor, while wanting so much to be respectful of Balinese culture. They can be extremely protective of the Balinese, even to the point of excoriating those who they feel are being disrespectful, while speaking disparagingly of jobs done poorly by their Balinese employees and the endless hassles of dealing with political inefficiency and corruption. The most frequent complaint is that you cannot depend on employees to show up because they seem to be almost continuously in ceremony. (And to a large extent, that is true.) As a result of these tensions, you have to wear heavy armor to traverse the often vicious Ubud Community Facebook page.
This happens in part because the Balinese do not, for the most part, let you know if you are offending them. Being nice, acting peaceful, is built into the culture. As I also have found in other places, notably Mexico, there is no clear “yes” and “no.” So they always try to say “yes.” But unlike Mexico, they will usually try to follow through, whether they can or want to or know how to, often with less than satisfactory results.
The people are beautiful, kind and generous and respond to smiles, a bow, a few words of greeting in their language(s). They seem to be kind to their children. Family is everything; marriage and children are almost impossible to avoid. Despite many warnings I saw posted on the web, I feel quite safe in Bali. Men don’t leer. I’m told that if someone steals your purse and you yell out “maling” (thief), that person if caught can be beaten to death. Yet I’ve been uncomfortable on many levels.
Many people say this is a very spiritual place. The island is like a giant prayer machine, covered with temples, the people devoted to their ceremonies and offerings. This is what comprises much of their community life. Most of their earnings go to building and decorating the temples, buying the materials for offerings and beautiful clothes for the ceremonies, and of course, to the priests. So they have little for anything else, most notably managing garbage.
In the cosmology I use to discern the vibratory rate, their religious world operates at a not very high level. The rituals and music and art, though complex and masterful, after a while all look and sound the same to me. In the effort to balance good and evil, a lot of the rituals, from what I understand, are about appeasing evil spirits and comprise what they call black magic. I can see the beauty of their clothes and decoration and offerings and be fascinated with the stories they act out, but have little inner response of enjoyment. They are not uplifting to me (nor to anyone else as far as I can discern using either my guidance to check their spiritual levels or by any outward evidence of the sparkle of the soul), and the society is highly constrained by customs and beliefs. Yes, I know all of this is true of every society, but here I’ve come to appreciate the many dimensions of culture shock.
As a result, I feel fond of Bali and its people, appreciating the beauty and artistry and devotion they bring to much of what they do, while finding it hard to not judge as well — the cockfighting, the burning of garbage, the lack of original thought, the treatment of certain animals, the political corruption. There are people I’ve met whom I love and who seem to love and care for me. I don’t like to complain of anything because they want so much for me to be pleased.
I’ve noticed that when I feel judgment it stems from my own discomfort. I rented a beautiful house in the rice fields, but was plagued by the bites of mosquitoes, tiny red ants and especially scary, a very bad spider bite. Termite swarms left the house covered in millions of termite wings and the subsequent millions of marching ants trying to clean up the mess. Rats, and rat and lizard shit everywhere require constant management. There are enormous spiders, which while not all dangerous need to be avoided, and the noise of motorbikes, construction, dogs and roosters and other screaming birds, loud lizards, frogs, and crickets, and the asphyxiating smells of burning garbage, including plastic, complete the negative aspects of living in my beautiful Javanese joglo in the rice fields. The Internet is always problematic. Just as I was packing to leave, I opened my fruit smoothie which had fermented when I lost refrigeration in a long electricity outage, and it exploded all over me and the entire kitchen. (One of those experiences that you know will be funny later so you try to laugh now, not very convincingly.)
I so admire those who’ve learned to how live gracefully here (sigh).
Somehow in the midst of all of this, I have been growing, learning, shedding, and widening my world view. I’ve worked with the effects of group mind for years, but I am understanding group mind so much more personally from living in a culture more like a hive than any I’ve experienced before. And, as nothing is simple, within that I’ve been touched deeply by individuals as well. There are people I am meeting here in Asia that I will always carry in my heart. My life will never be the same.
To listen to and read past conversations with Elisa Novick on Planet Waves, plus her articles, please use this link. You’re invited to visit her website and Facebook page to view more photos of Bali and leave comments.
Elisa Novick, MSS does profound work as a healer, teacher, counselor, coach, minister, and facilitator of workshops and trainings in personal, professional, and spiritual development. She can assist you to clear personal, karmic and genetic patterns that have limited you and teach you exquisite attunement skills so you can become the magnificent master of life and Light that all of us are destined to be. Elisa has been assisting people in their growth since 1982 through her counseling practice and in facilitating over 1,000 workshops in holistic health, human development, family constellation, systemic constellation, organizational dynamics, planetary healing and spiritual awareness. You may email her directly at elisanovick [at] thrivingplanet [dot] org.