Friday, 7 October 2016

I know that I know nothing...

Since my blog about beginning my journey from the driven corporate laboratory manager to the top of a sacred mountain in the centre of the Island of the Gods, I have hummed and haa-ed about getting into the next chapters. Wow – that’s an old term!

It seems that I can get an out-line of the next steps in the journey. The chapters have great titles like “Breakfast in Paris”, “Hitting the F…-it Button”, “Mamma Mia”, “Samothraki Mysteries”, “Take the Key to Saint Joseph”, “Messenger of the Crystal Skull”, “Planning my Freedom”, “Journey to the Spiritual Mountain”, “Transplanted like Rice” and “Siwa Sakti, keeping the balance”. They all feel deeply personal, and my efforts to procrastinate are impressing even me, but still they are not getting written.

Actually writing the titles down like that makes me want to hear them as well! Yes, of course, I will be listening to how I tell this story!   We all tell our stories differently for each audience, for the particular emphasis they want to hear, or that we want to tell. This time I am going to be telling my spirit journey, not just my human journey – that is a huge difference. My knowing is that these are not the same.  If the focus is only on my human story, then that could be cathartic, but what’s the point? I already am comfortable that I am perfectly imperfect, like everyone else on this great adventure, we call life... What I want is a deeper sense of the journey that my soul has taken in this lifetime, and others, and why...

In the old days, I would have just pushed myself to complete this 15 day challenge in the strictest sense, because feeling good about myself was wrapped up in being a high achiever. Everyone around me would have had to suffer my antics as I pushed to get it done! Now I have a gentler, more balanced view on life. I know that if I really want to tell this story, and I have checked that I am not doing it to bolster my ego, I must trust, and then it will flow effortlessly.

Apparently it was the Greek Philosopher Socrates who said “I know that I know nothing”. On this journey, I know enough to know that I have a long way to go.

I got such great feedback from the first three blogs. I am grateful that you were all so kind and supportive particularly with the third one that got way more personal.  It seems that this writing thing may actually continue. So, I have taken a few days to conjugate on what is my purpose in writing this blog/story/book?

I hope that perhaps my ramblings can serve as an encouragement to follow your own feet, take your own steps along your own path. Your path will twist and turn like mine, appear to stop, and even at times go backwards. But I have learnt that sometimes the best step forward is a step backwards. I have also come to accept that my mind is chaordic – you know - where you let it drift out into chaos to play, and then bring it back to order. I can’t promise that any of the other chapters will ever get written, but I can promise that I will continue to lead a full expansive life and feed you snippets.

Monday, 3 October 2016

The journey begins...

Well I am confused – as usual I started out with great intent to produce a blog everyday for 15 days, and here I am – Day 3, and I although I have a GAZILLION topics running around in my mind, every time I decide to start one, the old monkey mind steps in, and starts hammering me! Who do you think you are – some sort of expert on Balinese culture after only a few short months in one place in Bali? – Well it’s been 9 months and I have travelled around a bit – but you get my drift.
I have been living a quiet life far removed from my previous life in Australia, and now I am writing, and if you like “exposing” myself to you all, my old familiar responses are creeping back in. The “I’m not good enough” voice has appeared again. I always combated this with lots of hard work, manual and mental!
I will try to briefly describe my journey. The whole story may emerge as snippets, or as a whole book, or may never be told – we will see. These days I am able to calmly say with gladness in my heart, “I am not in control”.
For as long as I can remember, I have said “I just want to go sit on a mountain”, and so being transplanted into a mystical mountain in the middle of Bali was an answer to this prayer! Of course years ago, I would never have described this as prayer – that would be admitting to the existence of God, and that was all tied into my post-protestant trauma!
I am a recovering control freak, and doing this blog almost led to a relapse! Actually I fall all the time, but I am very tolerant of my own humanness now. As Laboratory Manager for Dairy Farmers milk factory, we used to handle about 22,000 pieces of data a day, and all the bosses really wanted to know was that no bad product was out there to hurt anyone, and at the end of the month – how much it cost to maintain this level of control. So I was in charge of making sure all the standard procedures were followed, all the instruments calibrated, all the factory workers were trained in hygiene and quality control, and the farmers and factory received accurate reliable results whenever and in whatever format they needed them. I used to reduce that data to two charts for the monthly management review! I was working an average of 80 hours a week, studying Total Quality Management at night, bringing up two gorgeous girls in a large home in the country. My life was rockin’ and rollin’ – I was high on this level of control.
Nearly 15 years ago, I finished my third university degree, an MBA with the only high distinction in the final class (of course). I took a redundancy, left all of the committees and organisations that I had been leading, and focused my energies on getting to know my teenage daughter, so I could help her walk through a really tough patch that she was going through (while I was busy being supermum). I can sincerely say that her illness was my greatest gift, as it forced me to stop, just stop.
At this stage, my 25year marriage broke down, both my parents had recently died after long battles with cancer, and I was living far removed from my sisters and other family. I had no close friends in my life – I had been busy, trying to be superwoman, and trying to control everything…  During these tough times I felt very isolated, and very alone. I realized I could not control everything that was happening to me and my loved ones and everything around us.
One night when I did not sleep, I stayed out on my verandah, with numerous pots of tea, lots of crystals and candles, my tarot cards, a diary and a full moon. I was spent! I had no answers! I finally surrendered at about 4am! I asked for guidance and help to a “something” that was “bigger” than me and I received that help in the form of messages that I was open to, that started to lead my life out of the hole I had fallen into. They said to me that if I asked for help with a pure heart, not for ego, and check that I was not hurting anyone, that their help would always be available to me. And so the journey began…
I started to open my mind beyond science, business and control. I had rejected mainstream Christianity when as a teenager, I was expelled from the religious instruction class for asking too many questions! I was top of the class in everything else – expelled – as if!!!  So now, in my mid-forties, as the perfect family I had tried so hard to create, collapsed around me, I started reading philosophy, books on what other people believed around the world, ancient and modern religions. I studied the internet for any esoteric (outside Christianity) topic I could find, I read about other cultures, chaos theory, quantum science, art, literature, and music, opening and broadening my intellectual ideas. I found it imperative to balance this new information by filtering it through my country Queensland lens! At this stage I had never had a passport. I had seen a fair bit of Australia, and after two years at university in Brisbane, decided that my heart belonged in the country, and that cities were great for three or four days, but I wouldn’t like to live there again.
The right books starting appearing in front of me, given to me free or cheap, because after the redundancy with a big mortgage, a sick child and a divorce looking likely, money became very tight. Louise Hays book “You can heal your life” literally jumped off a sale table onto the floor at Brisbane Central Railway Station after I had been flown down to HR to receive news about my redundancy.  Carolyn Myss’s Fulfilling your Sacred Contracts CD’s played for years in my car, when I wasn’t listening to country music especially Beccy Cole’s raunchy album Wild at Heart! As my life twisted and turned, I began driving hundreds of kilometers every week. I would love nothing better than to belt out a loud and sometimes tearful rendition of “Too strong to break”!
People with an open view on the mysteries of life started appearing in my life. Offers of guided meditations, healings, past lives and even exorcisms helped me build a connection to what I called “the Universe” and slowly I started to walk my own path to “I didn’t know what”
Om Swastiastu

To be continued… hopefully J

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Bali everyday food…

Bali is a magical place with food dishes that are so deeply connected with their culture and worship, that preparation and sharing of ceremonial food is almost ritualistic. Regardless of whether it is special or every day, Bali has a strong food culture that involves a real labour of love.

If food is not prepared with love, then it has no flavor… Balinese saying

I will do a later post on the special ceremony foods, but today’s post will be about one of the ordinary everyday foods, Nasi Campur.  Nasi (rice) Campur (mix), a good cupful or two of rice with delightfully spicy side dishes that is prepared once a day, and eaten all day long - breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In Balinese households, there are very few fridges or freezers as they call them. This is because the local markets that are teaming with fresh produce open every day (except religious holidays) between 2 and 4 o’clock in the morning. By 8am every household has been and bought their daily supplies of fresh vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish, meats or tofu and tempeh. Tofu and tempeh are made from soybeans and more likely to be eaten on a regular day than fish (ibek) or chicken (ayam). Duck (bebek) or pork (babi) usually only appear on ceremony days.

Most families still have a garden and will use what they can harvest there first before buying anything. The rainforests here are more like food forests – where every tree bears some sort of food, coconut, banana, papaya, mango, mangosteen, durian, with gingers, turmeric, lemongrass, ferns, vegetables and much more growing underneath. Grasses, vegetation and even small trees are cut and taken home for the chickens, cow or a pig or two. Most families still grow their own rice which is the mainstay of the Balinese diet.

What has been gathered, or shared or purchased is prepared early each morning and cooked in a good quality coconut oil immediately. The best tasting rice is steamed over a boiling pot on a small ceramic wood stove, but many now have a modern electric rice cooker for convenience.

Most Balinese dishes involve a good dose of garlic, tiny little red onions, fat red chillis, fresh bright orange turmeric, fragrant gingers (often more than one variety) cumin, coriander, and ground two handed in a large flat stone mortar into a paste. Balinese cooking is an amazing amalgam of sweet, sour, spicy and aromatics like lemongrass and kaffir lime that is lovingly prepared from the finest raw ingredients.

Some of Bali’s best kept secrets are the home-made produce, which are just being discovered by the outside world. Like the nectar of the coconut flower gathered while it is still high up in the coconut tree made by one village that specializes in boiling this nectar down to a thick toffee like consistency, setting it in half coconut shells and calling it palm sugar! This sugar adds a complex sweetness to balance the seasalt evaporated on the black sands of Bali. The cooking process and the salt, sugar, acid and spices are natural preservatives, so food is cooked only once a day, and then whenever you are hungry, you can eat. Salamat makan - good eating...

It is not customary to have a “mealtime” and all sit down together. Meals are eaten quickly with your right hand. As soon asyou are finished eating, you get up, wash your hands and face, clear away anything that will attract flies or ants. Then you can relax to share stories, have fun and plan the next temple ceremony or family celebration. The men will have a kopi (Bali sweet black coffee) and a cigarette, and the women will pull out the palm and banana leaves and work communally to make offerings while they chat.  

Bali is still a third world country in many ways. Thankfully few will have nothing to eat, as rice is cheap and nearly always available.  A woman in the “Tourist markets” trying to sell something late in the day may say forlornly “Please Mum, just one sarong. I no sell all day. If you no buy, then there will be no flavor on the rice tonight”