Am I really here in Bali?
I must be here. I can see the ants crawling all over the table. (They don’t bother me.)
Awan, one of the staff at Uluwatu Surf Villas where my husband and I are taking a (very belated) honeymoon after my retreat in Ubud, just brought us our morning eggs. My husband gets the toast and the weird fluorescent jam. We both drink the coffee. I normally go in for the second and third cup. Robert, always the moderate one, taking one cup and sipping it slowly.
I hear the sound of the waves crashing, one of the rare occasions the ringing from the tinnitus in my ears is lessened.
Am I really here in Bali?
I must be.
So it’s established: Here I am.
Is it the being here or the memory of being here that I am after?
Is it the having had it happen or the ability to write about it in such a way that I can make you feel as if it happened for you, too?
Memory is the process by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved.
I am equally in love with floating in the pool naked, a light rain falling, and an almost full moon above as I am with the drinking of a Bintang and the being able to tell you about it in words that will (I hope) last forever, longer than the sea. Longer even than me.
I know there are different types of people. I get that. The types of people that are so present, who wouldn’t dream of the moment meaning anything than what it was.
You’d think I would be that way, being a yoga teacher and everything.
I strive to be present, but there is something in me that screams, “Hey! This is your dharma. You were meant to share this. Who are you to keep this locked in your mind? Go! Go now and write!”
So I am here, indeed. I am here with every intention to send my experiences out in capsules for you to open and discover what it is you want to share. What it is you want to feel. Where it is you want to go.
People often ask me how I have such a steel-trap memory. (Although, as I have aged, my memory has become less steel-like and more sponge-like.)
Here’s the thing: when you lose a parent so young, all you have are your memories of him bringing you home chocolate covered marshmallows and carving magic wands out of sticks and seesaws by the Cooper River Park in the rain.
That is all you have, so you preserve them and seal them so they can never disintegrate into I don’t remembers. You become an expert memory maker. You have no choice, really, because how else could you survive?
Your imagination must have someplace to call home.
My imagination is calling this home: The rain clicking its heels on the swimming pool here in Bali. The nothing to do-ness that comes with being on vacation and just how inspiring that nothing to do-ness can be. Floating on a surfboard in the Indian Ocean, the red sun a character in your life like an ex-lover or a grandfather with its legendary personality. The twin girls dancing a traditional Balinese dance, moving their fingers precisely, elegantly, in a way my stubby hands could never coordinate themselves to do on their own. Their eyes darting left and right, each sharp movement a story with a beginning, middle, and end. The sky opening up and letting in color that no camera can talk about. Not even on a good day. Secret colors and gestures that fall apart when an iPhone tries to lock them in.
The happiness here. The happiness here is where I am calling home. It is getting placed next to my father eating his nightly chocolate ice cream in between two waffles with powdered sugar on top and my summer at Bucknell University churning out poems before bed like they were sleeping pills. I will place it next to my retreat last February in Mexico—the last time I saw my dear friend Steve Bridges before he died and how close our eyes were there, for that long moment above the beach there in Puerta Vallarta as he told me he could never leave the earth before having a family and how we became that family because he did leave the earth. Too suddenly and too soon, not a month later, and that moment we shared was the best conversation and the most treasured I have ever had with anyone. So as I sit here in the rain in Bali, I am placing this pool and this palm tree and these offerings for the gods right there next to Steve.
My imagination is that large. It can hold it all.
That line above makes me feel Whitman-esque: Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.
Who can explain why the value of something increases, decreases? Or what we choose to store as memories?
Why we fall in love with someone as quickly as the pressing of your face into their shoulder blade as you ride on the back of their motorcycle, the wind slapping you with confirmation Yes! This is love! Or a moment like the one when you watch them sleep and a surge of protectiveness knocks you awake. You want to make sure they take the next breath and the next.
You want to watch them forever.
We never know where we will find our history, where we will discover what has formed us, what we will find in the rice paddies. Exhuming beauty from the soil, excavating remains.
The unearthing of things long forgotten.
Part of the way memory works is by being able to locate it and return it to our consciousness. How can we do that if we haven’t saved it? What are your ways of saving it? What, in fact, are you saving?
This is an important question. Think hard before you respond. What are you storing up in there? I hope it isn’t traffic jams and being pissed off and upset and gossip, although, hey, I am not perfect, and I have some of that up there.
I am making room though. I am pushing it aside and making room for this watermelon and these flowers and my husband at Padang Padang Beach in Bali and what it feels like to have achieved a dream like this.
And what does it feel like?
It feels like a sigh. It feels like dropping the shoulders down away from the ears and returning as well as a departure. It feels like a bumpy car ride along the Balinese countryside, and it also feels like my sofa at home with a glass of wine in my hand. It feels like all of me and also a part I have yet to know. Or rather, yet to remember.
Because it has always been there, hasn’t it?
It has always been there next to my father and my grandmother and my little three-year-old nephew showing me how he “drops in” on the skateboard ramp and all the other memories I have sought out to bring back into consciousness.
It has always been there, but like the red sun, I thought it was a myth. I did not believe it until I saw it and felt it and reached up into the sky to call it mine before sending it back into the world.
I would love to hear what you are storing up there in your memory bank. Please share your favorite memory or a few of your favorite memories below. This is the way we stay alive. I cannot wait to read them, my beloved Tribe. xo jen
Jennifer Pastiloff was recently featured on Good Morning America. She is a yoga teacher, writer, and advocate for children with special needs based in L.A. She is also the creator of Manifestation Yoga® and leads retreats and workshops all over the world. Jennifer is currently writing a book and has a popular daily blog called Manifestation Station. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and take one of her yoga classes online at Yogis Anonymous.
Jen will be leading a Manifestation Writing/Yoga retreat Labor Day Weekend, 2013 in Ojai, California as well as a writing/yoga retreat with bestselling author Emily Rapp (whom TIME magazine voted as having one of the best twenty-five blogs of 2012).
*Image by Simplereminders.com.