Last week as I trekked to a temple ceremony deep in the jungle, the concept of being ‘fit for life’ became abundantly clear.
Wrapped in my favourite sarong and kebaya, thongs on my feet, I moved freely down the steep, muddy path along with everyone from the village. I arrived with sarong, hair, makeup and dignity intact. That may not sound like a big deal, but I have vivid memories of my first ceremony at this temple a few years ago.
I did not arrive in a state of grace.
I need to set the scene… the sounds of preparing for temple started early in the morning. There is a bustle in the air. The women are finalising elaborate offerings, I hear the sounds of water splashing in the mandi, a sign that everyone is getting ready to put on their finest temple gear.
Women are squeezing into tight kebayas. Hair and makeup done. Kids are dressed and I don’t know how they do it, but the young boys always seem to have sparkling white shirts. Its important to arrive at temple cleansed, well groomed, wearing traditional sarongs, shirts, scarves and for the guys, headgear. It’s a sign of respect.
I’ve been up since 5am, ready for an early start as instructed last night by my ceremony advisor, Komang. ‘Be ready by 7am’ she says in her bossy 8 year-old way. Turns out that the 7am start time was Komang’s way of making sure her Mum (our much loved Ibu Kabal) had her ready by 7am. Sure enough Ibu Kabal had Komang dressed and hair done to Komang’s satisfaction on time, ready to be picked up by her little friends. They had coked up plans to meet up and head off into the jungle path by themselves. The plan worked. The adults weren’t ready so they got to scamper off. Smart.
I can see people starting to move towards the path that starts below our rice paddies. Ibu Kabal gracefully places our basket of offerings on her head and we are ready to go. Cantik is under my feet, jumping all over me, determined to join what he thinks is going to be a little adventure. It takes some convincing for him to stay behind with Arni. As a new mother Arni must wait three months before she can resume temple ceremonies. Sorry Cantik, you have to sit this one out.
Trekking on a muddy, precariously steep path in a tight sarong is no easy feat. I cast my eye over our rattan walking sticks. Usually my best friend on any trek, today I resist grabbing my favourite one. I want to do this using my own balance.
I join the procession through the jungle. There’s plenty of laughter and gossip along the way. I’ve mentally switched off for the day. No thoughts of emails, business or jobs that need doing. As the only ‘tamu’ (foreigner or guest) I know I am always being looked out for. There’s always a helping hand or a guiding gesture when I am about to make one of my cultural faux pas. This year I can hear the chatter up and down the path as they comment I am “masih kuat” (very strong).
Flash back to my first year of this annual ceremony…..stumbling along with a walking stick, I felt like an accident waiting to happen. The dirty patch on my sarong proof that I had landed on my backside more than once, hair dishevelled and makeup smeared with sweat. And I only had to get myself there; everyone else was balancing a basket of offerings on their head and/or a child on their back.
Dignity had disappeared within the first hundred metres or so.
It was a stressful event that left me doubting my ability to fit into
village life for so many reasons.
The test continues once we arrive at the temple… We all squat or sit on the ground for hours whilst the ceremony takes place. There’s no space to extend one’s legs, no comfy cushions. Previously I would have squirmed and shuffled around to get comfortable, now I too can happily sit, bent at the knees, in a very small space for a very long time!
This year the steep trek home in the hot sun kinda felt effortless. I even opened my umbrella to keep the sun off me for the last few hundred metres. How’s that for grace?
I arrived home feeling relaxed, at one with my life in the village.
You would think I would have no excuse when it comes to being ‘fit for life’. I run fitness retreats! Sure my training kicks in, but I now think much more about balance, core strength and range of movement.
This is what I have learnt:
Technique pays. Get the moves right until they become natural. Yep. This means listening to your trainer. Bad technique = injuries. Mix it up – trying something new keeps your body and mind guessing. Get outdoors – move on uneven ground, lift natural objects, tackle real hills. Life is not about perfect conditions. Have fun – train for a marathon if you love it, but don’t forget to throw a frisbee, play in the ocean or ride your bike at a cruise pace. Listen to your body – some days it’s ok to do no more than walk the dog or stay in child’s pose.
The big one…. Be flexible. Being ‘fit for life’ isn’t the same for everyone and changes as you progress through life.
I may not be the fittest or the fastest but I do feel ‘fit for life’ and that has been my lesson since living my Sharing Bali way of life.
I am no ninja, but…
I can race through the rice paddies to rescue Cantik from his pursuit of Bali dogs. I can schlep my own bags when travelling. I will always say yes to a trek to a beautiful place anywhere in the world. I say pfft! to stair handrails. My balance has improved. (it took some work!) It takes work.
I’m so much more confident and carefree, especially in the outdoors. I know my limits and trust in my body’s abilities.
The first task my Five Minute Journal gives me every morning is ‘write 3 things you are grateful for’. Not a day goes past without the ability to be ‘fit for life’ getting a mention. Grateful. You bet!