• Jonas Plass

Leaps of Faith. One Year in Bali

Today marks exactly one year of our permanent relocation to Bali. On the outside nothing has changed too much: we still live in the same little village a bit north of busy Canggu, teach the same amount of weekly hours at the Practice, spend a lot of our time on the Scoopy scouting for new places to eat at, and use every single free minute once the sun has stopped blasting to enjoy time in nature with Buddhi.

Still, a few major inner changes have been unfolding over the past few months that I had not anticipated and that, I must admit, I’m absolutely thankful for. Indeed, 2019 has been a year of new beginnings in many ways and with that can sometimes come the feeling of insecurity and doubt. Will this turn out to be the right decision for us? Will I live up to my own and other people’s expectations in taking up this new position? Can I become a great teacher? Will I adapt to life overseas? Happily, most of those new beginnings have been for the best, forcing me to explore facets of myself I didn’t know were there, as well as new territories I had never considered.

Perhaps one of the toughest, and at the same time, most rewarding lessons of this past year has been learning to separate the meaning of what I do professionally to myself, from the meaning that what I do seems to have to others. Working in a hip and busy studio in the heart of a tourist destination has many upsides. For starters, there’s the constant inflow of new students from all over the world curious about the teachings, the tradition, and all things Yoga in general, as well as the opportunity to teach a variety of sessions in open or private classes, workshops, or teacher trainings to a very varied audience. And yet, it is precisely this variety that was the hardest for me to get used to at the beginning. Because, in the end, try as you may, you can never reach everybody. You can never satisfy everybody. You can never live up to the expectations of people from such varied walks of life.

It took me several months to realize that, sometimes, students coming to practice at the studio are not yet ready for the teachings despite my best efforts or their own personal opinion, even when they like the stuff, and to also get used to the kind of more physical, social media hype that sometimes brings people to the mat. Some of my frustration with my own teaching at the beginning was at times derived from this and not necessarily the reflection of any type of personal shortcoming as a teacher, as I was often all too quick to diagnose. Once I learnt to accept this simple piece of wisdom –that we all learn what we need to learn when we’re ripe for the lesson, right?– teaching became a lot more fun and second nature.

The second highlight of this year on the island has been of an emotional nature. Somehow, the time here in Bali has helped me come to terms even more still with the nature of some of my most deeply set dreams, longings, and emotions and begin to fully understand their origin. I know this may seem very simple to others because, to many out there, emotional debriefing comes easy, but for me it has been a progressive unfolding and a clear highlight of this particular year. Blame it on my daily commitment to my practice, on the jaw-dropping sunsets, on welcoming Buddhi as a new member of the household with all the ups that having a dog brings into one’s life, or on any of the super real and mind-bending conversations that I’ve had with any of the incredible humans I’ve crossed paths with here, the question is that I find myself more and more comfortable and at home with that tender part of myself I always knew I possessed, yet wasn’t always able to get in touch with. So I'm really happy about this subtle change.

Aside of this, of course, I have to also reckon the pronounced learning curve I’ve undergone when it comes to all things Yoga over the past year. I’ve grown so much as a student. I can only hope that I’ve also grown as much as a teacher. My mind-world is now bigger, brighter, and better than the one I was living in a mere five years ago thanks to all the trainings and studying I've done. This has been partly so because of the support I’ve received from my boss and fellow teachers at the Practice, who have been super encouraging with regards to exploring new topics, organizing events and continuing my studies, as well as open to share all their knowledge and know-how with such a 'freshman' as me. 

Finally –but just because I don’t want to bore you all to death with an over-the-top post!– I’d say that this year abroad, in a developing country, has also already taught me a great deal about my own privilege, and not just as a white male. Mostly, it has made me realize even more how lucky I’ve been to be born in the place and family I was born into considering nobody ever gets to choose where they land. We Yogis do have a somewhat different theory about exactly how this happens, but we leave this for another time!

The thing is that, though I haven’t always thought about it, I’ve been really fortunate to enjoy many of the social welfare measures that I’ve otherwise taken for granted for years. From public health insurance, to free higher education, unemployment security, paid leave, a small stipend for my family up until I was 18 just by virtue of being born into my country of origin, or a long list of little, but incredibly important things such as running (hot) water, optic fiber internet almost anywhere, rules that people follow and respect for things, or rain-proof ceilings for that matter. The list is long.

Life here in Indonesia never hesitates to provide me with plenty of opportunities to test my privilege (and my patience) and surprise me with its absolute craziness and spontaneity. To say that ‘anything goes’ is a real understatement sometimes! But there's beauty in it also, and I'm learning to just roll with it. So, all in all, this has been a very positive year of transformation and growth in qualitative, and not just quantitative ways. Though there’ve been a few setbacks and moments of doubt and hesitation in the midst, so far these never last too long.