“Buddhism declares that in this world there is nothing that is fixed and permanent. Everything is subject to change and alteration.
According to teachings of Buddha, life is comparable to a river. It is a progressive moment, a successive series of different moments, joining together to give the impression of one continuous flow. The river of yesterday is not the same as the river of today. The river of this moment is not going to be the same as the river of the next moment. So does life. It changes continuously, becomes something or the other from moment to moment.” (1)
Two weeks ago, I found myself for once, in a bar here in Ubud. It is a local bar near where I live that has an open mic night on Thursdays. It usually involves a range of performances, from local poets and stand up comedy, to bands playing reggae and samba, to solo acts singing and playing everything and anything under the sun!
The Thursday open mic is always popular and the bar usually gets crowded. I went there quite late, after I had spent the day in my writing-bubble, and watched an interview with an author that I love, over dinner.
I made an effort to go since, I most admit that I don’t go out particular much here in Ubud.. Or to be honest, not at all really..! Well, I do, but not to bars and clubs. Rather to things like the festivals, ecstatic dance and yoga classes. I feel as though I have filled my quota for bars and beer for a while after my years in Rio de Janeiro. Also, there are so many other things here that excites me – such as waking up early! And fresh! Ready for yoga and meditation, never hang over since I don’t drink alcohol here (the days during the weekends seem so much longer here in Ubud in comparison to Rio.. In Rio my weekend days could be rather short, meanwhile the nights were looong. Here, I happily just sleep the weekend nights away..) .
When I came into the bar it was already busy and buzzing of people, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.
“Drinking beer..? ” I thought ” No, no I don’t fancy that.. have they got coconut water? Smoking cigarettes..! Yuk, can’t stand the smell of the smoke near me..” I felt rather uncomfortable in there and did not quite know what to do with myself, since the music was not calling me to dance, and I didn’t feel like having a beer, probably the last thing I wanted to do!
Somewhere around here I suddenly remember that the night before, I had been in a dance class in the yoga studio where I practice. A studio full of people and it was so hot that I was dancing around in my yoga shorts and a sports bra (yes, practically naked..or at least in something looking more like a beach-gear than actual clothes..). We were told to dance leading with our heads, then with our hearts (what ever that means!?) and our hips. I had no idea what I was doing but went all in, and when we were told to stop and look one other person in the eyes silently for a couple of minutes, I did that without hesitation (sounds uncomfortable to stare a stranger in the eyes? Yes, it is very intimidating to look a person in the eyes for minutes, you feel like you are totally exposing yourself. You have nothing to escape to a part from looking deeply into each others eyes without saying a word, feeling as your inner soul and all you secrets are being shared with the person right there in front of you ..).
There in the smoky bar, I remembered the night before, with all the heart-leading dancing in yoga pants and sport-top and looking strangers in the eyes, “..and That” I thought to myself, “didn’t make you feel uncomfortable!? But THIS does!? A few people smoking cigarettes around you and having a few beers!? Since when is alcohol and cigarettes strange to you!?”
Catching myself in these thoughts, made me laugh. What happened!? Since when did alcohol and bars become strange? Living in Rio de Janeiro and Dublin for years, smoky bars has always been a part of my regular social scene, and I would usually not mind having a drink.
But life is in constant changing right!? So at least is Buddhism teaching us. That life is a river where each moment is never the same, we live in an illusion that we are a certain way, behave a certain way or have habits that we can’t change. Or for that matter, that what we like wouldn’t change.
Here in Ubud my life has nothing to do with alcohol and bars so it didn’t take too long before that feels unfamiliar. A reason for why I decided to come here was that I wanted to escape the social pressure of meeting friends and going out. Perhaps more the social pressure that I would put on myself to do these things, and instead allow myself to drop the expectations of myself of what I usually like or what I usually do.
I find that it is easier to change your habits when you remove yourself from your normal environment and allow yourself to be emerged and inspired by a completely different energy and a new set of people. The beauty of living in a different place with radical different energy, is how you may discover new sides that you did not even know that you had!
I have as far as I can remember, always been a night person. I usually work late, like to write at night,go out late and generally stay active at night. I would prefer to work until early hours than to get up early to finish something. But not anymore! Or at least, not right now! Not in this part of the flowing river..
Here I find myself start to wake up when the sun comes out, around 6, and most days I wake up naturally around 7 and my mind is actually alert and ready to go then. What!? Who!? Me!? Had I never lived in Ubud I would have claimed with certainty that I would never be able to wake up naturally at 7!
Certainly, these changes in life and within yourself can happen naturally or progressively over time. However, it becomes so evident, how my habits have shifted radically in this move from Rio to Ubud. Currently my habits are very different from my life in Rio de Janiero. In Rio, life was always fast past and my weeks a mish-mash of fully packed schedule going from one place to the next to teach, work, train, going out, seeing friends.. And spiced up with beers, carnaval-bands, running along the beaches and a sneaky caipirinha here and there – always in motion, always so much impressions, music and colors everywhere! Intense.. that is the word for Rio-living. And here in Ubud, between rice-fields and yoga studios, I am very content to stay in my writing-bubble and only stick my head out the garden to go for a bike ride or yoga class..
Even more evident about my current different scene was when a number of my old friends from Edinburgh came to Bali to participate in a capoeira event. Imagine! My old friends came all the way to play capoeira and travel around Bali, could it get any better!?
Well, believe it all not, I stayed put in Ubud, near my computer and beloved desk in my adored house, with my temples in the garden, when they traveled around Bali to train in beautiful places and swim in waterfalls. I was content to stay here, cause right now, all the magic I need is Right Here. (However I did join in the weekend event! So I did get to play some capoeira and see my old friends for a couple of days, at least! 😉
However, it amuses me, that I actually prefer, just like Ferdinand, to stay put here, not under an oak tree, but close to my garden-temples and only get out of here for some dancing, yoga or a bike-ride .. who would have thought!?
Certainly not me! But it is a blessing, a huge blessing, to embrace life just like this, for now, and see what changes it might have in store for me in the future!
I hope that you are equally enjoying all changes that life may through your way!
Thank you for listening