As we travel on, we are constantly destroying and rebuilding ourselves and who we are.- Paulo Coellho

Dear Friends,

1) Yesterday evening, my friend H and I went to Bar Luna on Main Street for an evening of play readings by Australian playwrights. Four plays were read, but the one that really stood out to me was about two expat men living in France who are having a conversation about their  lives as strangers in a foreign land. In their conversation, the younger of the two laments about how much he misses home, and the elder replies that though he will adjust, he will forever be a “permanent stranger.” The older man points out that the green of the leaves in France are not the same shade of green as the leaves back home; the shadows the sun creates are different; everything is different, because the men, themselves, are different in this new land.

The conversation about “home”, (in a play in which I can’t remember the name), struck a chord. Immediately, I thought about life in Japan, and how despite having lived there for almost three years, it hasn’t felt like home. I think I could live there for thirty more years, and it would be a place that I appreciated for many reasons, but it wouldn’t be my mine. As a permanent stranger in Japan, the questions would continue to be: When did you come to Japan? Why did you choose Japan? Do you like Japan? What do you think of Japan? And, to all those questions, I would have no clear-cut answers. So, the question of home hovers in the air. On a previous blog, three years ago, I wrote that home was Jamaica; but, that reality has changed.

2) In Ubud, incense smokes all day. The smoke never clears, but drifts and spices the air. Nature abounds and flourishes; one never looks up without seeing a tree, flowers, birds, mosquitos, swaying branches. Occasionally Balinese men have pointed out that my skin is brown like theirs; they have told me that they like my face and my “strong” hair. They speak to me like a  family member. Thus, sinking into Ubud is like sinking into a cushioned couch after a grueling day at work; but here, as in Japan, I’m a stranger. Even if I learned Balinese and Bahasa, wore a flower behind my ear, filed my canine teeth down to the perfect smile, and bought a beautiful sarong and wore it to ceremony days at the temple, I would still be a stranger, just a more acclimated one.

Though I say this now, I know “home” isn’t about nationality or ethnicity, but where one feels loved, safe, and comfortable. Home is the place where the cloak of Otherness must naturally be discarded. The place where not only the heart is, but where one is. And, I question is home even a place?

3) K, the man who took care of my visa extension, told me the other day that he thinks yoga is bs. He doesn’t understand why people go to a class to do things that we all do naturally (and for free)–i.e, breathing, moving, etc., and though I disagree with his overall assessment of the practice, I do agree with his final conclusion that, “Heaven is here.” His words perfectly align with Alan Watts’s that “we already have what we want.” Imagine–we already have what we want. If heaven is here, and I have what I want, it’s true that within each of us rests (or burns) love, peace, happiness, harmony– every message on the stones presented to me daily at the studio. Having what we already want within us also means that we’re not only atoms of one whole, but also the whole– this idea has been the hardest thing to understand and accept.

4) When you’re ready to wake up, you’re going to wake up. And, if you’re not ready, you’re going to stay pretending that you’re just a poor little me.”. – Alan Watts    

Bali’s midday sun is relentless. Often I stop into cafes to shelter myself from the rays, and likewise I escape unpleasant thoughts by seeking refuge in the most shaded areas of my mind. A guy recently told me that I need to be more honest with myself, and “do the work.” He’s right. The work: to accept. The work: to be vulnerable. The work: to release. The work: to not say everything is “okay,” or “fine,” when feelings are otherwise. It’s great to feel wonderful, but it’s also fine to say, “I’m not okay.” The work: to trust others. The work: to know I am the world, and not of it.  The work: to stop looking for home, and realize I am home. Like a baby chick, it’s time to chip away from the old shell, and stand awake, without expectations, gleaming and ready for what lies ahead. There are 108 prayer beads on my chain, and with each bead, with each chant, home becomes closer.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7blUYJm6i-c]

Take care,

Val