As you may have gathered from some of our entries in the past few weeks, a bit before the end of 2018 I was offered a position as a yoga teacher at The Practice Bali —the school in Indonesia where I have completed my training as an RYT500 Hatha Yoga Teacher. And so, here I am, at the end of my first week at The Practice, after a lot of changes have happened in a very short timespan.
With the first few yoga classes in the books, it still feels weird to somehow call Canggu ‘my home away from home.’ And this is probably so because, for some of us, change doesn’t always come in naturally. It demands quite a bit from us, which is precisely what this entry today is about.
Stable yet fluid, and then unstable but fluid...
Indeed, most of you don’t know this, but sometime last year, Alba and me made the decision to leave Berlin as soon as possible and find a better place to live. We didn’t really know where to head to or when exactly to leave the city, but the plan was set on stone and we were absolutely sure we’d follow through with it.
Alba had quit her job at the end of September to gain some perspective on her life and have as much time as needed to be herself beyond the identity provided by a job. The plan was for us to head to Bali for our respective teacher trainings at the end of October and, once back, see how we were feeling about leaving Berlin behind and moving our entire lives some place else. And so, it all seemed pretty stable yet fluid, which is the way we normally like things to go anyways. I had a job but enough time off to travel. Alba had no job and a lot of time off. Life was just pretty perfect. But a week before our departure to Bali, I was informed by the startup I was working for in Berlin of a change of plans on their part that would leave me as jobless as Alba upon our return. The news really threw me off. As someone used to being very organized and plan ahead —I am a bit 'German' like that sometimes— I didn’t quite like the feeling of having no time whatsoever to digest the news before I was supposed to be off.
On the one hand, I had a job until the end of January and some time to think while in Bali about what I really wanted. On the other, I knew I would be away and busy 24/7 for two entire months and too immersed in my training to really look for a new job. So, being entirely honest, this turn of events really didn’t make me all that happy. I had to grapple with the most security-driven and rational part of myself to gain some measure of tranquility and freedom and make things work given the circumstances. But we made it to the island and managed to focus on being present in our respective presents, simply allowing life’s magic to unfold. Que sera sera, goes the song. So it was truly quite serendipitous to see how, towards the end of my 6-week training, I was approached by the owners of The Practice and offered a position beginning exactly when I was supposed to lose my Berlin job.
Either you bend or you break, it's really your choice
Changing your life overnight is not something you’re always particularly ready for, but somehow in this occasion, both for me and for Alba the decision required very little afterthought. I would be off to Bali from end of January on, and that was that. This left me with a little less than 5 weeks —Christmas and New Year’s break included— to see to everything I needed to have settled and ready to leave Germany without too much hassle. And that’s where the going really got tough…
I mean, if I were asked to define myself, I would say that I am something of a minimalist. I don’t need too much to live well and I’m not too attached to most of the stuff I own. But it was quite shocking to discover how the structure of the life I had in Berlin, minimalist or not, really had quite the solid hold. Indeed, some stuff even seemed to have acquired a life of its own. All of a sudden, there were insurances I had to get rid off, some new ones I needed to research and obtain, contracts I couldn’t get out of, subscriptions to cancel, and numberless meetings with the bank, tax agency, or the administration before I was able to leave. There were multiple phone calls to sort out questions and problems that needed solution before my departure, an apartment to organize and get ready for moving day, the procedure of application and approval of a work visa, as well as the sad faces of friends and family who, though very happy for me, just loved me too much to see me going so far for so long.
I had never thought of it before but, the lives we live, even when conscious, minimalist, and ready to be ‘on the go,’ have a delicately complex structure that binds us in ways exceeding the purely material. There’s an entirely social-bureaucratical dimension —the dimension of the very practicalities of a life lived in a modern society with the standards of the modern world— that I had failed to anticipate or even think of up until my return. And so, it was only after saying yes to this amazing opportunity in Bali, once back in Germany for Christmas, that I got to realize how much this was truly so.
Of course, now that I have managed to see to almost everything and I have basically packed my entire life in a trolley for the next twenty four months or more, I feel freer than ever. Still, as I’m sure you can imagine, this feeling of freedom can only last for so long. In Bali, there are the practicalities of life too to see to, of course. You still need a SIM Card and a scooter to get around safely, even if you manage to make do without a fixed contact. You need a place to sleep in and some friends to hang out with; a place to call home and also a surfboard ––well, the latter you only need if, like me, you want to use the hours you would otherwise be investing on long-distance training to explore how living a new life on the other side of the world can truly feel like! And there are the rest of small little things you need as well to make life feel comfy, even if that’s just some oatmeal every morning and pile of interesting books!
What has been most surprising to realize, though, is that, of all the things important to make life livable for me anywhere, that home-like feeling you only get after some time has passed is at the same time the most relevant 'something' and the one I have less of an ability to control. That has been both humbling and incredible to discover. So, though I’m enjoying my time in Canggu at the moment, it will really take for me to find proper housing and let the days and weeks go by slowly to really feel at home.
The beginner's mind
In general, life seems intent in having me somehow live the present moment with what's known as Shoshin (初心) in Zen Buddhism or 'the beginner's mind.' And this is also true of my yoga teaching. By now, I have taught a few classes in our big Shala here and, though I’ve quite enjoyed it, this here feels much different than teaching back ‘at home.’ For starters, being the latest addition to a team of incredibly skilled and knowledgeable teachers where classes average 25+ students sets the bar quite high. So I can only hope to do the best job I can whenever I teach and learn as much as possible from whatever mistakes I make in the weeks and months to come.
But aside from this, and up until now, I have taught most of my yoga classes in German only. I know that to many of you this may seem no big deal; and yet, for me, it is. Which is precisely the type of challenge I was looking for in choosing to come and teach here. To find both smaller and bigger hiccups different from those I could find in my life back in Berlin, and grow in a different direction precisely because of this. Joseph Campbell says that “when you come to the end of one time and the beginning of a new one, it’s a period of tremendous pain and turmoil” (1991, p. 21), and I really agree with him. But shunning away from change is also really never the solution. In my own experience, it’s always been those changes and challenges that have come when I least expected it, that have actually pushed me to grow the most. So, in this new adventure here in Bali, I'm choosing to stay with 'the beginner's mindset' and be open to not feeling fully and entirely in control of my life and what it will bring; to simply roll with it. In the end, these are really some of the ups of changing, and life would just be too boring without a bit of this!