A Life of No Regret

 

I ran across this poem recently:

What I Regret
By Nina Cassian

. . . never having heard the voice of the Dodo bird . . .
. . . never having smelled the Japanese cherry trees . . .
. . . never having punished the lovers and friends that
deserted me . . .
. . . never having asked for honours that I deserved . . .
. . . never having composed a Mozart sonata . . .
. . . never having realised that I’d live long enough to
regret all the above . . .
. . . and much, much more . . .

What a heartbreaking indictment, a tragic litany for a final act.

At some point in my fifties I realized that if I continued my trajectory, I would die with huge regrets. The picture was graphic: I saw myself on my death bed. I felt the agony of an unlived life but it was more than that. I was ashamed. Why had I undervalued myself? Why hadn’t I followed my dream of travel, my love of adventure? Why had I squandered the gift of years? I was smart, strong, healthy, and capable right up to the end. I could have changed my circumstances at any time. But seeing the shrunken disillusioned shell I’d become, it was obvious I hadn’t.

The vision terrified me. But it prompted action: a slow steady turning of the barge midstream to head toward the waterfall, and conquering that, to the sea beyond.

What I know now that I didn’t know then is a basic condition of my character: I have the capacity for unfathomable darkness and I’m hard-wired for adventure. It’s in my DNA. But if I don’t get healthy excitement, and if the darkness isn’t deliberate it will come out sideways, corrupted, and dysfunctional. In my life, it had done just that.

People thought I was nuts to move to the other side of the globe alone, to a place where I knew no one and had only been once for a two-week vacation. But there are times when knowing settles into the bones; times when you realize that listening to the crazy voices in your head will save you.

People have asked me, “How did you summon the courage to do it?”

Courage? Ha! It was terror, pure and simple. I was terrified of the alternative and fear is by far the most powerful motivator there is.

That short visit was enough for me to know that Bali’s energy was different, that there was something there for me.

The culture is rich, deep, and ancient. Shamanistic rituals maintain the balance between darkness and light.

There are world-class events: the Ubud Writers Festival, the Food Festival, the Jazz Festival, the Bali Spirit Festival, the Kite Festival, the Arts Festival, that challenge and entertain.

There are natural disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, that provide enough trauma for several lifetimes.

There are problems: illiteracy, pollution, poverty, which create boundless opportunities to get involved and help. Bali, by nature, provides everything I need and allows me to be fully who I am, effortlessly. And maybe that’s the key: the lack of striving.

I hope you aren’t tired of hearing this from me. I know it’s a recurring theme. But I can’t emphasize enough the importance of living a fulfilled life. I hitched myself along for the ride on someone else’s dream many times. It’s a spirit-shattering business. Nobody but you can live your life. Nobody but you can nourish your soul.

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Yoga, Intention, and Geocaching!

There are heart-opening poses in yoga. Some are quite easy, others require a mind-over-matter approach! There is also the opportunity to set an intention for the day. I set my intention this morning to allow my heart to be open to new opportunities in whatever form they presented. I held my intention through the poses which leaned decidedly toward the more strenuous.

(The following pbotos were taken from the Bing search engine.)

We did a lot of this only our arms are outstretched reaching, lifting, holding in front of the body.

And a lot of this, holding, holding…

And the full sun salute series 6 times on each side.

The one pose that was over-the-top doesn’t have a photo anywhere on the internet! Picture this: Stretch out full length on your stomach, legs together. Stretch your right arm straight out from the shoulder, perpendicular to your body. Roll your entire body to the left toward that arm as far as you can keeping the right arm extended. Bend your left knee and bring your left foot close to your left hip but keep it on the floor. Bend your right knee and bring it up beside your left. Now raise your left arm toward the ceiling and then stretch it back as far as you can toward your right arm. Then hold the pose for 2 – 5 minutes. Your shoulders crunch, your heart opens! Wallah!

I walk back home and sit down in the little cafe for breakfast after greeting the others already assembled there. Pulling out my notebook I start working on the next piece of writing when I overhear a conversation between two tables at my left. The man from the Netherlands is explaining to the couple from Canada about his travels geocaching. As I eavesdrop I learn that “treasure boxes” are hidden all over the world with specific GPS coordinates for locating them. They are placed by individuals who have an interest in or love for a particular place. There are actually three right here in Ubud, he says. By then I am shamelessly listening and asking questions. The one he plans to see this morning is in a school for handicapped children. Then the invitation, did I want to come along?

Cause and effect is a reliable force. Here was an opportunity presenting itself not more than a half hour from the time I’d set my intention in the heart-opening yoga class. I ask a few initial questions then accept. We head out, Rob from the Netherlands with GPS in hand, and me, open-hearted, opportunity-seeking adventurer. Twenty minutes later we enter the huge open main floor area of the school. It is spotlessly clean with some structures that appear to be built for large motor skill development. Then we’re directed up the stairs. Three-quarters of the way up Rob exclaims, “There it is!” and picks up a brightly-colored woven basket sitting on the ledge by the stairway. He opens it and removes a notebook and pen, writes his name and the date and something else in Dutch, and returns the notebook and the basket. Then he shows me his phone slash GPS and the button to push indicating he found the treasure.

Wonders never cease. We then observed two classrooms. In one the children are singing, beautifully. In the other they are paying close attention to their teacher. She gives an instruction and they perform the task, then she issues another instruction. A woman tells us that there are children with Downs Syndrome, Attention Deficit, Hyperactivity, Autism and other disabilities. At 10:00 they will be downstairs in the gymnasium for exercise…that is what I saw coming into the building…and we can watch.

The school has a restaurant and is attempting to be self-supporting. All the children and everyone I see working there is Balinese however the school (and orphanage) was founded by Europeans. This is not a tourist destination so information is a little tougher to come by, nor did I find a website.

We thank them and leave, conversing congenially as we walk back. Rob catches his motorbike taxi to the next treasure location. I retire to to my balcony to once again share the events of the day with you swearing never again to underestimate the power of intention.

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