5 (OF MANY) THINGS I LEARNT ON A SABBATICAL IN BALI
Four years ago, an Unsettled promo video appeared on my timeline (apt targeting). I was sold at first watch. ‘One day is one day’ I promised myself. Fast forward to June 2019 I was in Bali with what were 22 strangers at the time but now some of the most impactful beings I have met in my life.
1. an intentional break from the norm to refocus, refresh and re-energize yourself…and boy was I in for that and so much more.
I specifically opted to do this in Bali because I had never been to the east. Most places before I had visited had similar beliefs, cultures, food, and language. Because I wanted a different perspective on life, Bali appealed to me. I wanted to unwind, uncomform, unlearn, unadult, basically un-everything. To use the words of the guys responsible for organising the retreat, I wanted to “be unsettled”.
It’s been a few weeks since I returned home from the trip and I am still struggling to put the surreal experience to words and thanks to a friend who pushed me to write, this is my first attempt at capturing some of the learnings.
My first blog. Here goes…
HUMILITY — Every morning I was greeted with a new offering (canang sari) on my doorstep, made to praise their gods. The offerings are made to give thanks and chase away the bad spirits. This gave me a huge sense of grounding before I stepped out of the villa. Every step that followed was filled with so much gratitude for the experience and life in general.
The Balinese culture is based on the tri hita karana philosophy, which essentially means maintaining balance and harmony between the gods, the environment and the community (the latter is the close to what we call ubuntu in South Africa). Only with this balance, the Balinese believe, can you achieve happiness and peace. And they exude happiness, it’s infectious.
Even their traditional wear is humbling. Men wear a kamen (traditional cloth) around their waist with a pointed tip that touches the ground a symbol of respect for Mother Earth.
If there is one thing, I hope to take with for the rest of my life from the Bali experience it is humility. To the Balinese people, suksma (thank you)!
SELF CARE IS A DIVINE RESPONSIBILITY — we exist within different relationships, communities, and settings — partners, colleagues, friends, family, the rat race, etc and sometimes our identity is based on how much we do, care, help others around us. To the extent we put ourselves second or last depending on the people/things one ‘takes care’ of. We are so good at putting maximum effort at taking care of others and nurturing relationships and don’t get me wrong, that is commendable. The issue is when we don’t pay that much attention to ourselves. How much do you know about yourself, your emotional being, do you ask yourself what you need out of life and the relationships you are in, can you spend a day in the company of your thoughts and have thorough conversations to form a relationship with self?
The $7 massages in Bali are one way of how you can tune into yourself on the island. You could have one every day, to be honest. And that’s one of the many moments of solitude where I could be at one with myself, probe my emotional state, re-evaluate my relationships, notice how different things and people affect my energy levels. I understand myself better and putting myself first is not selfish — it is critical to creating long-lasting relationships by giving people the best version of me.
Meditation. Yoga. Exercise. Solo dates. Hike. Go watch the sunset. Don’t eat at your work desk. Whatever.
Schedule some me-time. Regularly.
PURPOSE (IKIGAI) — As a marketer by profession, pushing brands to find their ‘why’ is one of the things I do regularly. I had never particularly invested time to find out my why. One of the benefits of the structured sabbatical arranged by Unsettled was the regular workshops we had where we discussed different topics. The session on finding one’s life purpose hit home. Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” The word “ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. The word translated to English roughly means “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.” We did an exercise to find our “why” and it opened me up to a lot of things — a life treasure map.
Figure out what you like and what you good at…and find a way to make a living out of it. It’s your critical path to happiness.
THE FUTURE IS FEMALE — When I was first told the June intake would have an unusual gender split of 3 males out 23 participants, I was worried about the gender imbalance. I wanted the trip to be very diverse and this triggered a few doubts. How will this affect group dynamics? I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of strangers to spend the whole month with and grow to be friends. “Girls just want to have fun”, and yes, we had a lot of fun but that wasn’t my key takeaway. The way the girls on the trip embraced vulnerability, empowered each other, promoted each other strengths and supported each other was inspiring. I was nestled in a bag of leaders and badasses. Their conversations were genuine and nurturing, their interactions were intentional and their will to win was admirable. I didn’t feel out of place nor did I feel I was overwhelmed by girls. I learned that to be able to progress one has to be truly honest about self — the good, the bad and the ugly — and seeking help is ok.
WE ALL NEED TO HEAL — Hurt people hurt people. It could be as extreme as being part of a toxic relationship, foul working environment, unhealed wounds from the past, grudges we hold against certain people, deep-rooted failures or as small as bad coffee in the morning, awful early morning commute or feeling ill. Bad energy drags down more than yourself, it can be the one ingredient to spoil a dish. Deal with it as early as possible. Bali is a very spiritual place and having a great balance is everything to the Balinese. The place is blessed with different options for one to cleanse their soul — meditation places, temples, sound healing, yoga spots, spiritual healers to name a few. An array of opportunities to nurture your mind, body, and soul. We also had an energy healing workshop as part of our group sessions led by one of the participants, and it is amazing how much burden we carry around and how great it feels to let go of it.
Just like you breathe out to let fresh air in, heal to allow yourself to grow. Let go.
PAUSE. REFRESH. RESET. REFOCUS. GROW.