Friday, 26 June 2015

In Search Of The One Hand Clapping

Or, The Question With No Answer.

In March of this year, as many of you reading this may know, I went on a dream trip to Bali. I went to this remarkable place following a repeated 'soul calling' to be there; you may call it one of those inexplicable yet powerful knowings we sometimes have in life that we are so certainly meant to be somewhere other than where we are right now.

In the past, I've had this sort of feeling but it has manifested as a kind of restlessness or dissatisfaction with what I have, what I'm doing or who I am, only this time it wasn't the same somehow. Content with where I was, I just knew that some part of my soul had a deep longing to go there, to find this mystical place that had been a part of my 'dreams' since childhood.

As a young child growing up, I'd often found myself immersed in the world of my mother's dreams. She read us Greek and Roman mythology as bedtime stories, and she watched endless Hollywood musicals, mainly of the old Rogers and Hammerstein variety; one of her favourites was the film South Pacific. I would watch, listen and absorb the visual feast that was Indonesia and Bali on the screen, fascinated by the flowers, the landscapes and the juxtaposition of the war and the beauty of the place. Enrique and Nellie entranced me; I wanted that love!

But as I grew older, visiting Bali was no longer about the love…or so I thought. 

No, I was looking for a teacher, a mentor, a spiritual guru if you like, so in spontaneously deciding one spring morning whilst our for my run, to 'just do it', I booked my flights that same day. I thought I was moving closer to discovering my 'teacher' but the reality was that I had no idea at all what Bali had in store for me. 

Arriving on this stunning island I was immediately struck by the beauty of the place; the landscape, the colour, the smells (the air is permanently full of incense from all the daily offerings); the cultural presence. I had found a place that made sense to me on every level of my being. A lover of ritual, I understood the daily practices, which seemed to come from a sacred place rather than a superstitious one. I understood the importance of honouring the roots and origins of things, the inherent spirit in things, and I respected that too. One of my current spiritual teachers places great importance on treating everything we touch, do and come into contact with as if it has feelings, to find the 'quality' of everything, the unique essential nature of it. He teaches one to learn to walk in the true spirit of beauty, awake in every moment, delicate in your footstep.

So I arrived in Bali, quickly to find myself immersed in the spirit of this incredible place, and I was 'at home' here, yet I was also here searching for something outside of myself, my 'teacher' for life. Because of this, I awoke each day with a sense of anticipation…would it be today I met him or her? Would Great Spirit orchestrate this person showing up for me and spark a lifelong pilgrimage or tutelage on this divine island? Or would their teachings begin there and then take me elsewhere? I had no answers but many questions! I saw every person as a possible teacher because I did not want to miss 'the one' by being too presumptuous about what a 'guru' should look like.

One day, whilst attending an amazing cleansing and purifying ritual at a place called Tirta Empul, I met a guide there. We struck up conversation and for a while, I thought maybe this lovely man was my teacher. He shared lots of incredible insights with me and we made a loose plan to go up a mountain one night after midnight to meet his teachers at a sacred spot there. Oddly enough perhaps, I had no fear about ascending a mountain after dark with a relative stranger. He said he could see in me a seriousness about my quest. We didn't make it up that mountain, but we remain in contact still.

So then I had two meetings with other possible teachers, one an almost 90 year old Balinese shaman by the name of Tjokordo Rai, and one with a wonderful Balinese Priestess named Ibu Ratu. Both told me amazing things about my spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health. I looked at both as potential teachers, especially when Ibu Ratu told me I had 'strong gifts from spirit' and she got quite excited about that! Her excitement naturally excited me, but I had my sessions, I left, and there was no indicator I would be going back for more teachings of any kind. And so, as my time progressed, I began to wonder if this person whom I was totally convinced I would meet there would show up at all, and I admit that I began to feel a little despondent about that.

I carried on with my visit, I sat and daydreamed and wrote in raw vegan cafes, I meditated in sacred sites and power places in nature. I talked to people; locals and visitors, business owners and motorbike drivers, and I met up with old friends and I made new ones, until the day came to leave.

What I noticed in this moment prior to departure was that just about every encounter I'd had there had left its mark on me. Every person had somehow intrigued me and left me thoughtful, every place had piqued my curiosity to know more. I could recall it all with more insight than any place I'd ever been to before, and then in that place of illumination I realised something absolutely crucial, I was the teacher I was looking for! It was like some big cosmic joke! It was me who was the only person ever going to be able to allow me to transform the teachings of life - teachings that are ever present, ever accessible but only ever possible to be processed via my own experience of them, for how someone else looks at things will never be the same as how I look at them. So then I realised that what I do with that understanding is the key, and I was the key holder, and in this realisation I found deep peace and an end to my relentless searching for something outside of myself.

And so of course, as my life re-settles into its routines and to my ordinary day-to-day reality (which is often far from ordinary actually), I learn one thing; that whilst I respect teachers who pass on their own hard earned knowledge and wisdom teachings, and that whilst I accept I may learn from others and indeed be mentored by those I admire, I am the teacher I was looking for and the greatest student ever, for I am a student of life, of my life, and of my soul's journey, and for my life, I am deeply grateful.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti - peace be everyones and may love permeate all!