What I left behind in Bali

Sunrise in Sanur, Bali

What I left behind in Bali

One day, the idea of traveling to Bali crept into my conscious and took hold. It may have been in my subconscious for even longer, as I almost felt called to Bali on a spiritual quest.

Sunset View from Blue Earth in Amed, Bali

I knew it would likely be a solo trip, but I inquired if any friends wanted to join me. Of course, they said yes at first, but over time they were unable to join for one reason or another. It didn’t bother me so much as I’ve done a lot of solo travel, and this was really about my desire after all.

I saved for several years, and then finally decided to plan the trip for December 2019. At first I thought I’d go for 2-3 weeks, and maybe tack on a trip to Thailand. I eventually changed my mind and decided to spend 30 days (including travel time) on my journey to Bali only. I had never been away from home, work, or my dog for this long, but I figured after 30 days I’d be fully rested/recharged and would hopefully have built up some habits that I had not been able to build while at home in my regular routine (despite my best efforts).

Dragon fruit smoothie bowl for breakfast.
Some people would call me crazy for traveling around the world by myself (many have since called me brave). I was actually calling it “responsibly running away from my life.”

I had a return ticket (required by Indonesia) and every intention of returning home (I do love my business and clients, and I have a dog), but the point was to get to boredom. It was also to have fun and go on an adventure. After all, Adventure is my 2020 theme word, and Bali offered several adventures all in one.
Flowers stating: LOVE UBUD
In Bali, I wanted to just be; to just simply exist with no agenda. I wanted to go with the flow and figure things out in the moment. Quite the opposite of my life as a professional organizer, which is very structured and scheduled. I wanted to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to go on a great adventure, with a lot of little ones included. And I wanted to return so relaxed that I’d be ready to come home fully refreshed and grateful for my life (not that I wasn’t already, but just reminded of the fact).

SPOILER ALERT: I did accomplish all of that, but that wasn’t the lesson in the end.

It turns out I was called to Bali regarding a death.

Purple lotus flower
The last few years I have been working on my own personal and spiritual growth. Before you decided to close your web browser tab on this blog post, give me just a moment. I’m not here to preach and I am certainly not a religious person. But I’ve learned I am a spiritual one (meaning I’m open to something bigger out there, and believe we are more similar than we are different).

Somewhere along the lines, societal conditioning and a focus on religion in my Catholic or Episcopal schools made me confuse spirituality with religion and see it as a bad thing. So I decided to opt out. My spiritual side went into hibernation, but it was still there, yearning to come out when the time was right.

I can’t pinpoint when it came back exactly, but that tiny whisper of a voice wanted to remind me it was there. When working with a life coach the voice got a little stronger. It spoke to me in dreams and guided me to this grand plan of a trip to Bali.

Sign at the Denpasar Airport: I am in Bali
Once I was on the island, time felt different. It didn’t stand still or drag, but it certainly moved at a slower pace than time back home. The energy was different, too. Like a good organizer, having checked everything off my to do list before I left, I was able for the first time in my life to just be. It was incredible. I realize now the effects stress can have on a person, and what a luxury it was to simply exist with nothing else on the agenda.

One of the things I was most excited about on my trip was a yoga retreat during Christmas week. The retreat was located on the north coast of Bali in a small village that doesn’t receive a lot of tourists. In this sanctuary, everything was taken care of for us (a lightly structured schedule of meals, yoga, meditation, healing workshops, self-care through massages, tea and readings, a few activities offsite in nature, and of course connection with likeminded people), which allowed us a safe space to work on ourselves.

We followed a pod of wild dolphins while the sun rose in northern Bali

On the first night of the retreat, the owner and leader of the sanctuary, Renate, asked us what we hoped to take away when we left Bali. Instead, I shared what I hoped to leave behind.

“I realized I’ve come to Bali to bury my ego,” I said, surprised as the words escaped my lips. And that’s when I finally realized it: I was here because of a death – a death of the ego.

I’m not referring to Freud’s ego, but that negative voice in our heads that often keeps us in fear mode, and keeps the spiritual higher self locked up. It was that spiritual higher self that had called me to Bali to help me leave the ego behind. And what a nice life it would have here!

I didn’t end up burying the ego on the retreat, as more work needed to be done to release anger and old wounds (which were released through journaling and meditation). I still had about two weeks left to deal with the ego and find a nice resting place for it. I promised it a good life there, where it could just relax and be on vacation forever. And when I took off from the Denpasar Airport on the evening of January 10, 2020, during a sunset on a full moon, I looked out the window of seat 6F and said goodbye to my ego as we flew away from the island.

Sunrise reflecting on a full moon over San Francisco

Of course, I couldn’t exactly leave my ego behind because it is always with me. But the symbolism of leaving it on Bali will help me when it struggles to get control again. “Wait a minute, that can’t be you, Ego. I left you in Bali.” It will help me to reframe and quiet the inner critic/fearful voice down. It’s a mindset shift back towards the higher self (or consciousness). As Gabby Bernstein, Marianne Williamson, and A Course in Miracles teach, this shift in mindset is the miracle.

So like many fictional and religious figures, I had set out on a journey that resulted in facing (inner) demons, and choosing consciousness and love over fear and hate. On my journey, I met guides to connect with and who taught me lessons. My first was in the San Francisco Airport, who gave me a phrase to use when things didn’t go the way I had planned: I was hoping that would happen! This helped me to reframe several times on the trip, and even since returning home.

Laughing Buddha Statue
While in Bali I oscillated between total excitement of the unknown and adventure that awaited, and utter fear of “what have I gotten myself into?!” In the end, I know I chose it – that it would get me out of my comfort zone – and that it would help me transcend more fully into the light.

So Bali ended up being more than a vacation, or a goal to get to boredom. It was a place where I could take the time to work on my own inner struggles; to release grudges and old fears that were not serving me (and I now realize never did). It was a place to practice accepting love over fear, and listening to my own inner guide. It was a place for deep reflection, especially when in awe of the tremendous beauty I witnessed in the sunrises and sunsets. It was a chance to connect, even on the smallest scale, with strangers through a smile, through sharing an umbrella in a downpour, through sharing a ride through the countryside, and through fully being my authentic self – maybe for the first time ever – and (more importantly) being accepted.

Rice paddies outside of Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

The adventure isn’t over now that I’m home and settling into the regular routine. In fact, as Renate said, “The real work begins when you return home,” and she was right. Time does seem to be moving a bit more quickly here, but when I start to feel overwhelmed or stressed, or the fear starts to creep back in, I close my eyes for a few moments of stillness and travel in my mind back to Bali and remember the lessons I learned there.

Lauren Mang
  • Jennifer Nakahara
    Posted at 16:53h, 16 February Reply

    What a wonderful blog post Lauren! Thank you for sharing your insights and experience! I am so happy for you that you WENT! I could really relate-I did a similar trip and it was truly life altering!

    • Lauren Mang
      Posted at 04:26h, 18 February Reply

      Thank you Jennifer so much for reading and for the positive feedback. I’d love to hear more about your trip!

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