“Watch for snakes!” the taxi driver shouted from the comfort of his driver’s seat. “What?!” I yelled back through the heavy downpour of rain. “Snakes! I saw a big one in the water. Be careful with your feet.” He noticed I was wading through the water barefoot since my shoes were in my hand. The water on the streets was now up to my pockets and I was even more terrified than before. Snakes in the flooded waters? How did this day take such a sudden turn?
I've been on my own here in Ubud, Bali. I finished the volunteering program, and I find myself alone in this small city known for its healing, vegetarianism, yoga, and greenery. My first few days here were filled with a strange sense of boredom and uncertainty, but things have certainly changed as of today.
Today was a powerful day. It began when I lost myself in yoga and deep relaxation meditations. I spent the entire day at Yoga Barn (a greatly admired yoga facility) looking to heal the various fragments of my life that had come undone in recent years (mainly mind and body though -- nothing major).
After four transformative, consecutive morning and afternoon classes (each 90 minutes long) I decided to stick around for one more session in the evening called 'Tibetan Bowl Meditation' session (with no idea what to expect).
The setting was dark and mysterious now that the sun had set. On the upper floor of the open-air yoga floor was a scene of a woman in the centre of the dimly lit room, sitting in front of candles and incense, and around her in circles were two rows of yoga mats. 55 people were in attendance. Each mat was precisely placed along with a pillow and heavy yoga blanket. Our instructions were to lay down in a comfortable state on our backs under the blankets for the remainder of the session. I couldn’t hear much else from the instructor since the rain began to pour heavier than I’d heard before. It rains differently in the tropics. And in a jungle setting, the rain seems ever more mighty and powerful.
We rested in a meditative state while she rang various bells that echoed across the room. Every now and then she’d come up behind us with the bells and the vibrations felt like they were circling my mind, and then vanishing just as quickly into the distance.
When the session ended, I certainly felt more relaxed, but also exhausted from a day of heavy contemplation and tranquility. It had been a long day at Yoga Barn. After all, this was my fifth class of the day. It was time for sleep.
As the group slowly headed to the stairwell down from the yoga loft/ treehouse-like structure, we realized that the rain was far heavier than we anticipated. Thunder roared and the sky turned white again and again from the cracks of lightning in the distance. I stayed around for about 30 minutes with the hopes that the rain would let up. I made small talk with some girls from Ireland, but when I realized the rain wasn’t stopping, I figured I had to finally make a run for it.
The escape from Yoga Barn was tricky. The dark alley was not well lit and it was hard to pull out my light while holding my umbrella. The already choppy streets of Ubud (cracked pavement, potholes, missing sidewalk entirely) were now covered in water, so I couldn’t see what I was stepping into. I feared at any moment stepping into one of those mammoth holes in the sidewalk that Ubud is so well known for. When I made it to the street I realized how bad things were. The streets were completely flooded and cars and motor bikes were stuck. People tried pushing their motor bikes through the water, and cars tried their best to free themselves. I had no choice but to descend into the flooded mess and head back to my place.
At one point I took a step off the sidewalk and my leg completely disappeared into the water below, all the way up to my pockets. I checked to make sure my phone wasn’t submerged in its pocket and realized I had little time to get through this flood before I was completely soaked. It continued to rain heavily, thunder loudly, and the sky was constantly lit by lightning. In my sleepy state I felt myself waking up to the reality that it would take more effort than usual to get to bed.
I felt my shoe break apart below me in the thick, dark current of water, and I reached down to grab it before I lost it completely. I took this as a chance to take off both shoes. That’s when the man told me to watch for snakes. That’s when I got worried. Water I could deal with. Snakes I could not. He told me he saw a big one move under his car just a minute ago.
I waded through the water terrified of the snakes. I had no idea what was below me in the dark water, and I certainly didn’t want to stick around to find out. I was now in the middle of a dip in the road and realized I was only halfway through. The only way out was to continue through.
I finally made it to an elevated sidewalk and sprinted barefoot down the slippery sidewalks of Ubud with my umbrella overhead, shaking wildly. I heard stray dogs whimpering from somewhere in the dark. This is one night that the streets of Ubud were not filled with those roaming dogs. I nearly ran right past the alleyway that my accommodations were located on. Ducking into the alley, I saw the owner of my home-stay peeling a mango from her shop.
“Daniel!” she said. “What are you doing there?” I looked at her and told her that it was raining, as though this was something she might have missed while preparing her evening mango. She smiled and told me I made it. I smiled back and ran up the stairs to my room.
Today was one of the strangest days. I spent it in the most zen-like, blissed-out, relaxed, state of mind I'd ever experienced. And today, at the end of it all, this massive rainfall greeted me. I was waiting for it to rain in Bali for over two months. Isn’t that what I wanted? Somehow I find it hard to believe that this heavy rainfall coincided with this bizarre day of tranquility that I had. Of course it’s likely. Of course probability says it was in the forecast since the rainy season is just starting. Yet still the timing of it all comes as an interesting surprise.
The hours I spent in deep relaxation and euphoria in the morning were temporary. I acknowledged in those moments that I was there in the present, enjoying the time exactly as it was. But every now and then my mind raced ahead with thoughts of, ‘I hope I can sustain this. I hope I can stay feeling this way forever.’ - But this is a common trap, thinking ahead to the future when I should be have just been enjoying the moment. When it was over I prepared myself for the understanding that I might not feel this at ease for a while. And I was ok with that.
I was reminded of that old adage, 'This too shall pass'. The happy moments will pass, but so too will the sad ones. It's not meant to bring you up or down, the saying is just meant to teach us that everything is in motion and things do not remain static. Learning to be ok with that has been an important lesson for me in life.
Sometimes the good comes with the bad. Sometimes we find ourselves in a beautiful state of mind, completely at peace with the world, only to be in the danger of snakes in flooded waters hours later. It’s the nature of life. These dualities are all around us in the world. Good and bad, calm and tense, up and down, happy and sad. Positive moments may drift into negative ones, but they will drift back to positive again. Sometimes the drifts are slow, sometimes fast. None of these sudden changes alter the fact that I had an absolutely astounding and equally perplexing day.
Sometimes in the presence of tranquil states and hidden snakes, it's just worth reminding ourselves -- this too shall pass.
What are you desperately clinging onto?