Indonesian Company….Ubud & The Yogabarn

Is that the hum of a juice blender I hear or the Om of the latest yoga class finishing up?

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Chances are strong it’s either one. As I sit here in the Yogabarn in the heart of Ubud, Bali, in the middle of monsoon season with the rain pelting down on the bamboo and banana leaf- awning overheard, I can’t help but wonder at myself and at how far I’ve actually come in the past few months. Not just physically and in the ‘other-side-of-the-world’ sense, but mentally, spiritually, metaphysically…I’ll stop before I get too airy fairy altogether.

Up until now my blog has served as a way of keeping track of my journey – my literal journey, starting in Cambodia and continuing on up through Vietnam, all the way back down again and through a painful yet fascinating 30-hour stopover in Singapore as I headed on towards Indonesia. I’ve documented various aspects of places I’ve travelled, aspects of travelling alone, travelling with a group, travelling as someone who never thought she’d be able to and praciticing yoga along the way, whilst also trying to be funny and lighthearted in whatever way I can to keep people at home engaged and informed, instead of merely using the blog as a platform to show-off pictures and stories of faraway lands and living through the medium of social-media ‘likes’.

Since arriving in Bali, however, I haven’t posted a single thing. Zilch. Zero. Less than that. I’ve yet to string a sentence together to sufficiently describe this place; the atmosphere; the people; the food; the attitude and general way of living; the sheer contentedness and ease and peace of mind I’ve felt….even this description falls short. I don’t even know where I’m going with any of this.

Do I have to be going anywhere? Bali has shown me that I don’t. Yoga in Bali has helped me call this into question, and realise that instead of constantly looking forward, aiming to get somewhere, do something, be something and somewhere other than what and where I am right now, I have every right and capability to occupy my current space, to be where and who I am in each moment and to stop wishing otherwise.

I’m here, I’m now, I’m content… that’s all I can be sure of.

After spending a week at Serenity Eco-Guesthouse and Yoga, I genuinely didn’t want or feel the need to leave Canggu and the surrounding areas in any way. The three main beaches and surfing spots I grew to love are easily accessible via various narrow, windy streets that are best navigated by motorbike, which are available to rent from reception at Serenity and also from a huge array of places along the mainstreets. I would happily have stayed there exploring as I did every day after my yoga class, swim, or surf lesson, settling in different chillout spots and cafés for the remaining two weeks of my travels, yet Ubud and the Yogabarn were calling, as so many of my recent new aquaintances and Google Search results had recommended.

Ubud is…the Templebar of Bali. Without the booze. The ‘creative’ and ‘artsy’ centre of the small island is renowned historically for it’s temples, arts and crafts and traditional fare, yet more recently for it’s yoga, holistic, and healing retreat centres, the more expensive of which embody everything you’d imagine from a soul-searching American tourist desperate to follow Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat. Pray. Love. kind of spiritual path in a tendency to lean towards the excessively naff and moneymaking kind of superficiality.

That being said, the Yogabarn is actually the most incredible place I’ve ever stepped foot in. For any yoga practitioner (I still find it difficult to use the word ‘yogi’ without thinking of Star Wars), no visit to Bali would be complete without at least coming to see it. The grounds themselves are enormous, and have a commune-like atmosphere and positive, healthy vibe that is honestly as infectious as the chants and repetitive mantras I encountered in my first Kirtan Yoga session the other day (more on that experience later). This variety in itself is one reason to visit and stop in for at the very least a class or two, the going rate to stay here being slightly overpriced for anyone on a budget such as mine. Again however, I seem to have struck lucky in my choice of accomodation. Despite the lack of wifi in Detri Inn hostel, it’s cheap, cheerful, clean, and more importantly is situated literally twenty metres away from the entrance to the Yogabarn, a happy accident that I still refuse to believe happened by chance.

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The Yogabarn restaurant Garden Kafé is a must to try during any stay here too, every single option packed to the brim of the coconut-bowl servings with nutrients and health foods so fresh you nearly have to clean the organic compost from them yourself. Atman Café located a few minutes walk away too is also an extremely delicious and yet again healthy option, and has totally revolutionized the way I think about porridge for good – something I genuinely never thought could ever happen. I’ll be returning home with a wealth of knowledge on making healthy, raw and vegetarian dishes aswell as new ideas and motivation to make them.

I feel Serenity Guesthouse in Canggu was also a gold mine of a find accomodation-wise, as it included everything and more that the Yogabarn in Ubud has to offer, at a fraction of the price, whilst also providing a balanced choice of nightlife versus retreat and holistic medicinal pracitices, classes, and information all within walking and biking distance of a beautiful beach. Honestly, the only reason I left Canggu was to experience Ubud, and I’m already looking into ways to get back there…

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I leave Ubud in the morning to meet a family member down in Seminyak, and while I’ll be sad to leave the soothing and medatitive environment that is my current proximity to the Yogabarn, I’ll be sure to take with me the lessons and experiences I’ve had there and around the Monkey-laden streets and lively centre of Ubud. Until then….

Useful Links
Serenity Eco Guesthouse & Yoga
The Yogabarn Ubud
Yogabarn Garden Kafé
Atman Kafé Ubud Facebook

Mind Over Masters ..

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I graduated with a Masters’ degree yesterday. Congratulatory well-wishes, hugs and handshakes aside, even before the ceremony and in the days preceding it I really had been (and still am) feeling a lot of love coming from all angles around me.

A love for life; a love for choosing life and friends and family and to be happy and healthy; a love for enjoyment and appreciation of the good things that I have, instead of buying into and believing warped and twisted thoughts and behaviours that constantly present themselves as options in my head. For so long I was used to just letting the negative win and succumbing to the same old rotation of self-hatred and deprecating thoughts – it was easy to fall into the rut of familiarity and stay there. Once I decided to focus my attention on reversing through the negativity, instead of flailing around blindly within it because it was ‘comfortable’ (and to be honest I just didn’t have the energy to fight it), I began to see that we really and truly are the sum of all our actions and thoughts over time. This attention had formerly been sucked up by the happiness-draining effort it took to uselessly attempt to control my surroundings.

A friend of mine once described it as a drip of water being fed to a plant. One drip of poison is not going to kill it, but a steady, continued flow of poisonous feed and negative thought accompanying it will inevitably have longterm effects, and more than likely kill it. Similarly, one drop of clean water is not going to have an immediate positive effect. It takes the same sort of steady and consistent stream of care and good, natural nourishment before the plant can start to stand up tall again by itself.

Our bodies and minds are these plants. If we continually tell ourselves something, over and over again repeatedly believing something we have declared to be true – we become it. ‘You Are What You Eat’ has never rung so true as it does in this sense. A repeated diet of the same foods results in the same as repeated thoughts – we literally, physically become what we eat. We become what we believe. I’ve finally been practicing the positives and believing the good stuff long enough now for me to really start to see and feel the benefits of self-care, and baffle myself as to why I never made it a priority before. I’ve finally made the transition from being able to recognise the thoughts and behaviours for the damaging ghosts that they are, to being able to ward them off by myself, to use their power and strength against themselves and channel that energy into bettering myself. We are always going to be presented with the negative option. It’s how we get around it and harness the time that would have been spent worrying and fretting over it’s potential enormity to turn it on it’s head and ask how exactly can we look at it in a more positive way that’s important.

In graduating from the initial stages of recognising the negatives for what they are, to actually becoming capable of avoiding them completely and living a life without the constant self-doubt, racing thoughts and worry, there is a liberation and sense of achievement bigger than even receiving my MA yesterday could have captured. It’s a constant work in progress, but I know once I remain aware and consistently vigilant against the potential spoilers of thoughts that seem to just pop to the forefront of my consciousness every now and again, for once I know, and this is a big deal for me to say, because this time I really and truly believe it; this time,

I know for sure that everything is actually going to be okay.

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European Vs Irish Music Festival – What We’re Missing Out On

Okay, so it’s not as if I’m pretending to be an expert or hardcore attendee of music festivals all over the world, but I like my music, I like my festivals, and I just thought I’d express some opinions and realisations I’ve had here after attending Sziget festival in Budapest last week.
As someone whose general vision and experience of music festivals has up until now included multiple layers of clothing, umbrellas, ponchos, muck, and copious amounts of alcohol, the differences between this European festival and the likes of Electric Picnic or Forbidden Fruit at home were something that hit me at every single colourfully signposted and culturally unique corner.

 First of all, and probably most obviously; the weather. Having gone from being a total newbie to the interrailing lifestyle, my opinion of European climates ranging from varying extremities of heat to cold and ‘home’ as a default becoming all jumbled up in my head all meant I hadn’t given the temperature much thought before I left. Luckily my instincts overpowered at this point as the word ‘holiday’ seems to have been engrained upon my brain, triggering an unconscious reaction to pack only Summer clothes.
The weather in Budapest at Sziget this year rarely dropped below 30 degrees, something which makes or breaks a pale ginger Irish fresh-air junkie such as myself, especially considering the lack of air conditioning available whilst camping (I’ll give you a guess – there’s none!!). Not to mention the constant battle with our neighbouring ant colony to keep the tents clean and cool enough to actually provide some sort of respite from the blaring midday heat. I’ve gotten to the stage now where I know better than to even try to withstand a sun like that for longer than a few minutes at a time, and dreams of attaining an actual tan from it are frankly laughable, so my bottle of factor 40 came with me everywhere I went.
My one main complaint with festivals at home has always been simply that it has been too cold. There’s only so many times you can justify standing waiting for one of your favourite bands, shivering beneath layers of soaked plastic ‘waterproof’ jackets and squelching along miserably back to a tent that may or may not yet have been flooded, trampled on, or worse – inhabited by unknown drunkards mistakenly thinking they’ve found their own resting hovels. Of course, this may be where the tendency to over-indulge in alcohol comes into play at Irish festivals – any excuse to keep warm and be able to sleep somewhere you usually wouldn’t put your dog to rest is surely going to sound like a good option after dutifully standing in wait for hours in unpredictable and rowdy crowds at varying levels of intoxication.
But this is what I mean. The good weather lent itself to every aspect of the festival abroad. Not only did it allow us to enjoy the daytime activities and decorative features for what they really were – a makeshift ‘beach’ and volleyball courts adding hugely to the ‘holiday’ feel of the place – but the sun and warm weather put everyone around in a good mood, and generally just brought out the best in everything. In that heat, tolerance for alcohol is down, so one or two drinks is all that was necessary to obtain a good buzz; even at that there were days where I completely avoided the bars, not by choice, just by sheer preoccupation with the amount of things there were to do and see around me. This in itself is a huge contrast to any festival at home, where the general consensus once entry has been successfully gained and tents hurridly pitched is to ‘head for the bar’ or ‘meet back here for pints’. Starting as you mean to go on only really works when the festival itself only lasts a day or two – a week of that kind of debauchery would be enough to cripple even the most seasoned festival-drinker.
Even so, it was amazing to see all those different walks of life and nationalities merging together in one place like a giant Noah’s Ark, as representatives of each country arrived and set up camp in twos and threes. All this in the love of music, life, and having a good time really succeeded in cementing in my head that life is for living, enjoyment, and sharing that love through a balance of art, music, and a general understanding of one another.

If there is one thing human beings from all corners of the globe love more than anything, it’s having a good fucking time and enjoying the fuck out of what little time we have here.

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The experience of the likes of a week-long festival such as Sziget being condensed down into a 3-day pissup in a field in Laois is something which really opened my eyes to the state of Irish festivals and our attitude towards them in general. Although Sziget is very much a limbo kind of paradise in that many travellers attend as a stop-off on an interrailing trip, it still manages to stand alone as an ‘Island of Freedom’, as they call it, and I spent a few content mornings alone wandering the island as the sun came up and many of the hardcore stragglers stumbled home or collapsed under various trees and bushes dotted in the mainstage area – none of the bars or DJs in the arena stopped until 5.30am, something we sadly discovered after setting up camp less than 50 metres away from one.
This closing time is something that in Ireland would only tempt fate and end badly, yet here it somehow worked with such a culturally diverse crowd of attendees merely looking to meet new people and share in the delights of such a positive and interesting atmosphere. Again, this idea of music and the arts bringing people together is more successfully executed and appreciated due to a better attitude towards alcohol comsumption and social norms – people actually talked to one another in these ‘clubs’, and I found the best place to make new friends was literally – anywhere you wanted to do so. All you had to do was look around, smile, and ask someone where they were from. Of course, this might just have been the incredible holiday-atmosphere and general happiness of everyone in attendance, but it’s difficult to imagine getting a similar reaction everytime at a festival in Ireland – people would think you’re either extremely drunk or just really creepy.

Of course a lot of this is all a massive generalization, as I’m still 100% going to attend Electric Picnic again this year, and more than likely enjoy it immensely. The main difference will be that this time I’ll be making sure to keep a broader mind when it comes to evaluating my understanding and appreciation for it, and hopefully experience more of the cultural and artistic side of things than I have before. Maybe this time I’ll also try to be aware of the various nationalities that (I’m sure) are always in attendance. Sziget has opened my eyes to the world through musical and creative displays of individuality, yet contrastingly has also helped me draw many parallels between myself and other human beings; this European melting pot (in 39 degree heat, this sometimes became literal!) and hub of life, activity, and 200,000 people roaming about a field in their own filth and excessive food and drink consumption, all just silently in search of love or some other form of connection with someone else – because in the end that is what we all seek, is it not? Not necessarily love, or a partner, or a means of procreation – it is merely companionship; likeminded souls who share a similar disposition and understanding of our situations, regardless of background, heritage, culture, or previous successes or failures. These are all just things which become wrapped up in negative and unecessary tension. They do not really matter. For a week on end I shared a common location, contentment, and various experiences with walks of life I never could have dreamed of encountering were it not for this fantastic festival.

As eye-opening as most travel can be in this respect, there was something extra special about the context in which people came together at Sziget. It wasn’t just to satisfy a niggling wanderlust, or to escape from a hometown or a job for the weekend, or even just an exuse to get drunk – it was out of a genuine love for music, life, and a celebration of all the good things there are to be had from this combination if we just do it right and balance it out. While it differed immensely from my experiences of music festivals at home, I’m certain now that when I next attend an Irish festival, I will do so with a completely different attitude, between expectations, enjoyment, and ability to sit back and enjoy the show, the acts, and the surroundings – even if the Irish weather is promised to put a dampener on everything!

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In memory of a time when the most technologically advanced item to be found in the yard was a Tamagotchi that had died 4 times already that week from shitting itself (and even then you told us to hide it in our pocket).

When billy roll and lunchables were the envy of the whole classroom, and anyone opening their Spice Girls lunch bag to discover the wonderous shiny wrapper of a Kellogg’s Winder inside was subject to gobsmacked-stares and whispered glances as green as the ever-coveted apple-lollies that counted down the days to Friday as intently as I do now from my office desk, sitting patiently in their plastic container on the shelf behind the teacher.

When the ten-minute walk to school alone was a thrill beyond any we had ever experienced, and although you followed cautiously at a distance behind, clearly worried out of your mind that the two road-crossings in between the house and the school would prove lethal just that one time when you weren’t there to make us ‘look-up-and-down’, we pretended not to see.

When you passed your driving test with flying colours and we made a cake as if it was your birthday and sang songs and although the importance of it didn’t resonate with my young and selfish mind at the time, the house was full of excitement and pride with how genuinely happy you were, and I knew this was a good thing. A very good thing.

When bringing us along to Dunnes Stores or Crazy Prices promised an inevitable return laden down with at least one extra shopping bag containing Barney-shaped crisps, Fruit Pastille Icepops, Andrex-Puppy toilet roll and ‘No More Tears’ L’Oreal shampoo (no more tears, my arse!) or Iced Gems – sugar rushes we certainly didn’t need, but that were better than the ‘teeth-rotting’ Pushup Pops that you downright refused to be associated with.

In Summer when we’d stop on the bridge and race our finished ice-pop sticks down the river to see whose was quickest, and cheer them on until they disappeared out of sight, lost forever to the swirling rapids of the River Liffey.

When you never once complained about the fact that my curly, matted hair added an extra forty-five minutes on to the time we spent getting changed after swimming, instead devoting the time to removing each and every knot – in hindsight, a completely fruitless and unecessary venture – curly hair is curly hair, it’s gonna’ knot! – but you tried your best.

When a trip to town at Christmas wasn’t complete without posting Santa’s letter carefully in the G.P.O, always followed by a half an hour gazing longingly at the display in Clery’s windows across the way, the vast expanse of O’Connell Street at our age seeming like the distance between two cities.

When Mother’s Day fell on your birthday, and this seemed to us to be the most wonderful thing that could ever happen – a double celebration; double the flowers; double the presents, and lots of cake. ‘Today’, I announced proudly, ‘you’re not allowed to get out of bed’, not even considering Dad’s lack of culinary skills, and that you might be necessary to figure out how to turn on the cooker.

When a chapter of Harry Potter became a necessity at bedtime, instilling in me the drive to learn how to read by myself – up until then ‘The Enormous Turnip’ having been the extent of my read-alone achievements. These nights quickly became the most attentive hours of my day, giving me a love and a passion for all things magical, literary, and opening my mind to the world of possibility that exists within books. For this, I am most grateful.

For these things, and for many many more that have escaped the random-selective memory of this overactive mind on this early morning, I thank you, Mum.

The little things never went unnoticed. They never were forgotten. They just get glossed under ‘things that happened’ and ‘things that were’, which is natural. But sometimes it’s nice to take a second and remember them; to remember you enjoying, as I prepare it now, your dry, butterless toast with tea on a Sunday morning– a preference of yours that I never understood. It’s nice now to be able to express my appreciation in words that I didn’t have at the time.

Because I do appreciate it. Every little thing. Even though it may not always seem obvious.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mum <3.

Heard Melodies

At the risk of sounding overly sappy, I live for passion. I live for those moments where you just feel. Where nothing on the outside matters, purely because inside is so brimming with potential and prospect for what is to immediately come or what is currently taking place, so much so that you sometimes get lost in the heat of it all and come shakily back down to where you originally stood, shivering at the ghost of the pure emotion that just rushed through you, and craving it’s power again.

I’m currently in a limbo between things that make me feel. Whether it’s a song, a person, a memory, a night, – whatever it is. That tingly kind of ‘I know I shouldn’t be so excited but this feels so damn good and I am twenty-two so why the fuck not just let myself FEEL it’ kind of buzz  is what makes life worthwhile. I’m not saying I feel nothing at other times, or in between buzzes, but there’s an excitement that your heart and soul reserve for only certain, special things – things I don’t want to ruin by listing here and risking their frivolity for you – and that’s what keeps me going.

The thing with art is that it lets you know that feeling, no matter how good or bad or unexplained, is always real and justified. Through art, we see people’s truths. People can express their BUZZES through a medium which is more widely accepted than an excited non-sensical text message trying to describe exactly how much something means to you;
‘omggggggggg have you HEARD Mumford& Sons new song omg omg omgaeohaeja akejrttttagndflgkadkfajrgejka LOVE’

It shows humankind for what we really are, and helps us to understand that we are all as bare and naked and lost as each other, following only the things that makes us feel most strongly as we move ceaslessly forward.
That it is possible for us to look at or be with another and feel such justification and purpose is enough sometimes to keep me going, knowing that truth is possible…..that feeling is real…we just need to give it a chance and let it take shape. The fact that I have yet to experience this is only a minor deterrent. I have come close, very close – close enough to appreciate it, and recognise the potential. Close enough to actually feel some of that ever- elusive buzz. In a way I suppose you could say that I have experienced the best of it. The lead-up. The potential. The uncertainty. The risk. 

“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard Are sweeter;
therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees,thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!”
John Keats

It will happen again…someday. Art dilutes the condensed, uncontrollable and overpowering feelings that life sometimes shoves at us. The undiluted may taste nicer for a time, allow us to indulge in the potential of things – but ultimately it is unhealthy, omnipotent, and damaging to our systems. My favourite way to deal with the urge to splurge on emotions, is to use my art, or somebody elses, or turn anything I see into some form of something that is art, and to simply buzz.