Seated on our green cotton bolsters in the yoga shala or yoga room, the goddesses are assembled in a circle ready for our group meditation. Loose light clothing and the obligatory mosquito repellent to scent my ankles and neck and I’m ready to send love and good vibes to my compadres. Laura, our yoga goddess, looks calm and relaxed in her stretch leggings and loose singlet. Pale blonde hair pulled back off her face, she is the epitome of a yoga teacher. Tall and slim her lithe limbs appear so at home in poses that confuse and elude me though she continues to encourage us “no matter what body turned up for you on the mat this morning.” This morning to finish off our week’s retreat, we have an OM circle. This mantra chanting is supposed to provide vibrational healing both mentally and emotionally.
Laura explains how the session will run with a short personal meditation then the OM circle with the use of mala beads. Mala beads are a string of 108 beads and a central ‘sumeru’ or summit bead. Essentially the string of beads is a tool to keep the mind on the meditation practice. Made from woods, seeds or crystals, the beads are held in the right hand, rotating them around the circle but never across the summit bead. As to why there are 108 beads on a string of mala beads? Well, there are no doubt 108 answers to this question, most playing with the mathematics of the numerals and how they intersect with the universe.
We each will chant ‘OM’ as a group 108 times. At each interval of 5, one goddess will lay down in the centre of the circle face up with arms outstretched palms upwards. Each will experience the circle differently. No expectations and no pre-conceptions .Focussing on my breath and centring my mind, I get better at the whole omming thing as the chant progresses. When I’m tapped gently on the knee, it’s my turn in the centre. I feel the cool hard floorboards beneath me. Across my skin I sense the breeze from the fan or as I like to think of it the breath of the divine Goddess blowing her healing energy into my abdomen. The work of Papa Bagus yesterday is supported by the Goddess circle this morning. There’s no pain in my intestinal region only a strong awareness of this area.
When we’ve reached the final bead, we are lead through a short prayer and an awakening ritual ready to prepare us for the day ahead. Hands together palms touching at heart centre and gently rub them together to warm then place over our closed eyes, let the early morning light filter in as I slowly blink my eyes open. Stretching the limbs and we all wander over the few paces to our breakfast table.
Platters of brightly coloured tropical fruits are offered up each morning for our viewing and consuming pleasure. Dragonfuit of such a strong shade of fuchsia with tiny black seeds that it looks like a child coloured it in. Snake fruit with scaly brown skin and an off white fibrous perfumed flesh. Mango is less creamy and sweet than I’m used and slightly astringent. Papaya perfectly ripe and not the least bit funky. Mangosteen is a delight once you cut through the thick skin and reveal its sweet white flesh. There are also the tastiest eggs poached or scrambled as you like, seedy brown bread and juices in new combinations each day.
Sitting here at the table, I think about how I’m going to miss having a selection of tasty healthy foods prepared freshly for me at each meal. There will be no limitless spa treatments at my disposal. I, personally, will miss Yeni’s strong fingers tracing the muscles of my back. My white cotton sheets won’t be changed each day with the corner turned down and a small inspirational affirmation card on my pillow. The lyrical sounds of the housekeeping staff talking to each in Balinese will no longer be a soundtrack to my afternoons lazing on the couches in the lounge.
Good thing I’m looking forward to going home.