I’ve just returned from my first real solo pilgrimage- 3 weeks in Bali. (I attempted one 8 years ago to Australia and New Zealand, but met a guy the first day and spent the whole time with him, so that doesn’t really count.)
If I could sum Bali in one word, it would be REMEMBERING. A great remembering of who I am when I’m at my best. And my hope is that by reading this, you’ll side step the (two) scooter accidents I had, and cruise straight to remembering of who you are when you’re at YOUR BEST!
When I arrived in Ubud, the cultural capital of Bali, the (not as little as you’d expect) town was abuzz people from China, Japan, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, America, and of course the local Balinese people themselves.
My first day, (which felt less Eat, Pray, Love and a more NYC traffic jam on a rainy summer afternoon) I was faced with a decision that would definitively shape the entire rest of my trip.
I had to choose between believing my rational mind, that did a damn good job convincing me that last thing I should do is ride a motor scooter (for the first time) around in the rain, in a country where I don’t speak the language, especially since I have no idea where I am or where I’m going, and I have to drive on the opposite side of the street.
I could listen to the (very) faint but determined call of my heart that whispered… “Hey you? Remember that thing you decided a few years ago? That being The Beginner is the path to creating most fun, adventurous, and fulfilling life? Yeah, why don’t you just give that a try?”
Something tells me, you have an idea who I chose to listen to….
Scooting around Ubud felt like being in a video game. My dad used to take us to Roundtable Pizza every Friday night where he’d fork over a couple twenties for video games so he could drink beer and read the paper in peace for a few hours. There, I mastered “That Driving Game,” a staple in pizza parlors everywhere circa 1984-1989.
“That Driving Game” – a deep bow. I had no idea you were going to be one of the “dots” Steve Jobs said I’d look back on and understand the trajectory of my life.
Back to “That Scootin’ Game,” (Only $100,000 Rupiah to play/day- that’s about 10$)
Level One: Scoot to meet Rick Cowley, the leader of the Surf Life retreat I’m going on later in my trip.
I map it before I leave the house, do a few practice circles in the grass, and when I decide I’m as good as I’m gonna be not having actual experience on the streets of Ubud.
Pulling out into the long drive, shaking more than I care to admit, I pull back on the handle bar (gas) and venture onto the road. The place I’m renting is up road called Sri Wedari, which is beautiful, and not as congested as the narrow streets of Ubud. The warm breeze tickles my face and rustles through my gauzy dress. A faint smell of incense, exhaust and basa genep (a Balinese spice I later come to love) fill my nostrils, as bugs meet an immediate death on the face of my ray bans.
I wind through a lush canopy of tropical plants and flowers, quickly picking up how locals navigate the blind turns with a friendly little beep of the horn to notify you they’re on the other side. I immediately get a bold sensation of freedom, independence, and sheer exhilaration I haven’t felt in a very, very long time.
Merging on the main road is tricky but manageable. I emulate the locals, lowering my left leg for support when traffic slows, and am secretly proud of myself for looking like I know what I’m doing. For a minute or two I feel pretty cool.
Fear creeps in when I glance down at my directions written on my hand, and see that my next move is an obtuse angle up a VERY steep hill. I attempt to ride the momentum of the people in front of me, but clearly they have some intel on this turn that I don’t. I don’t hook the turn hard enough, find myself barely dodging a passing car, losing my balance, and heading straight for a dirt embankment. In a futile attempt to slow down, I drag my foot, bust off my flip flop, and obliterate my second toe.
The good news I’m not going very fast so when I crash into the embankment. I still have my limbs and teeth. At least five Balinese people scurry around, lifting the bike off me and making sure I’m OK, (which is my first and slightly awkward introduction the unparalleled beauty of these heart-centered people).
My foot is THROBBING. Like it has it’s own heartbeat and it just ran a 5k in 5 minutes. I keep looking down at it to make sure it’s not hanging off the bone because that’s what it feels like. Nope, still there. Although, now challenged with starting my bike on this steep hill with only one shoe.
Breathe. You can do this. Be the Beginner. Again. Breathe.
I manage to make it to the café to meet Rick, and then to the grocery store where they sell flip flops.
Traveling has a magical way of heightening how you feel and accelerating growth. And Bali, (especially Ubud) with its many energy vortexes, is like a steamy cauldron of person transformation, whether you’re looking for that or not.
I did come looking … in fact my intention for the trip was to let go all that no longer serves me.
And that is how I find myself in a foreign country with a only a vague idea of where I am, and what I’m doing, hobbling through the Ubud’s version of a mega grocery store, my one sole, braving the elements. I created that scenario to REMEMBER.
I REMEMBERED that I have to actively put myself in situations that scare me a little, so I can stretch beyond the confines of my comfort zone, and reconnect with my wild, untamed, courageous spirit.
I remembered that being scared and doing it anyway is what courage is! And COURAGE is the seed that growth (and aliveness) stems from. When we take one courageous step, no matter what the consequences, it becomes easier to take another. We expand on an energy level, which in turn allows our world around us to expand.
As my trip unfolds and I continue to give myself permission to be the beginner, I progress to many levels of “That Scootin’ Game” – levels I wouldn’t dare attempt on that first day.
Level 2: Scootin’ at night.
Level 3: Scootin’ at night down a one way street (the wrong way). Standard MOA in Ubud.
Level 4: Scootin’ at night in a torrential downpour on Christmas Eve, getting really get lost, and hiring a scooter taxi driver to lead me to my hotel.
Level 5: Scootin’ with a passenger on the back in the rain. It’s official (I’ve found my scoot-legs!)
Level 6: Scootin’ on dirt roads, on an island off and island of Bali, in a torrential downpour, plowing through 3 foot ravines and across windy bridges. (Second accident goes down here).
It involves getting lost, a vegetable garden and confused looks from Balinese people. Not because I crash, and get stuck in the mud, but because underneath my poncho (that is now practically strangling me), I’m only wearing a bikini (just finished surfing), and my glasses are mangled on my face. But possibly most alarming, I’m laughing so hard I can’t even breathe. Damn it feels good to laugh with complete and total reckless abandon. Yep, I’m almost positive they’ve never this before.
Here’s are the top three things I remembered from my Bali scootin’ diaries:
Accessing each new level was possible because I had a powerful tool in my belt: the ability to grant myself permission to Be The Beginner again, and again and again. With each level I gained greater belief that I could handle more.
Completely believing in ourselves is one of the most difficult feats we can ever accomplish, but with each new foray to the edge of your comfort zone, you deposit another golden nugget of belief into your account.
You also have access to this tool 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.
Being the Beginner is the password to your freedom and the key to your growth (in every area of your life).
There is a feeling of exhilaration that only comes from venturing outside your comfort zone.
Each time I went anywhere I was simultaneously excited and terrified. And that made me feel ALIVE!
We are all living beings, but when was the last time you felt truly ALIVE?
Turns out easy, breezy, light and free are feelings that make my heart want to boogie on like a reggae woman. I’m at my best when I’m goofy and playful. I feel like the whole world is singing, laughing, and grooving alongside me. Beginners are very playful. And even though I teach the benefits of being The Beginner, I too am pulled by the cultural and societal pressures to be perfect, be the expert, be right or I am not enough.
I remembered that kind of thinking doesn’t get me closer to the ways I want to feel and the woman I want to be.
I remembered that Being The Beginner, in many ways, is a radical act in our culture. And such an act reaps immeasurable rewards. Being the beginner is where the giggles, the joy, the amusement come from. It’s where learning, growth, magic and synchronicity live.
Being The Beginner allowed me laugh, instead of curse, riding in the rain. My first accident was a funny story and my detour into the Balinese vegetable garden was a downright hilarious adventure, not traumatic failure.
Being The Beginner means no blame and no shame to the person that matters most in your world- YOU! When you feel good about you, it’s easier for other people to feel good about you too.
Keep an eye out for the next two great remembrances coming to you over the next couple of weeks. In the mean time, tell me in the comments tell me… is there anywhere in your life that you are being The Beginner right now?