“This year I do not want the dark to leave me. I need its wrap of silent stillness, its cloak of long-lasting embrace. Let the dawns come late, let the sunsets arrive early, let the evenings extend themselves while I lean into the abyss of my being,” Joyce Rupp, Winter’s Cloak
IN summer, we learn to live again. In winter, we learn about ourselves. And the presence of a wild snake on one’s back deck is, arguably, one of life’s great teachers. I used to be scared of snakes, having grown up in country Queensland where scorching summers were punctuated by frequent snake sightings. Red Belly Blacks and King Browns were the order of the day out there, the type of rebellious reptiles that could easily kill a small child. And so I learned to fear those slithering serpents of my youth. But several years ago, when I first spotted a carpet snake on my back deck, I decided to finally face my fear. On the one hand, this was made much easier by the fact it’s a harmless common Eastern Australian carpet python. On the other hand, a snake is still a snake.
Anastasia arrived first, who departed only to be replaced by Sylvia, who grew from a one-metre juvenile in the first year, into a three-metre monster by her third. Too fat to fit back into the ceiling cavity, she departed, only to be replaced by Saskia, who arrived about a year ago. Saskia, like Sylvia, was also slim, but with a ready diet of bush rats and possums right out the back, she too has grown. And now she’s possibly the fattest snake I’ve ever seen. My anaconda girl also measures about three metres long, but sports the beer belly of a Brisbane bogan. Lay off the possums, I want to advise, particularly given I gain great comfort from their roaring thunder along my timber roof late at night. To me, that’s the soundtrack to living in Brisbane, and I love it.
So, what have I learned from my snake this winter? The first lesson is that it’s important to slow down. While my snake is still surprisingly active, even in winter, she moves at a slower pace. She basks on the back deck in the winter sunshine, that I, too crave. Learn to love the softer light, she seems to whisper to me. Take the time to laze. Stretch. Sleep. We need these seasons to rejuvenate. Reflect. Retreat inwards. For in a place like Brisbane, where the summers are long and lusty, it’s too easy to keep running. And run out of steam.
My sassy Saskia has also taught me while it’s important to eat, don’t eat too much. Fuelled by her latest possum catch, and a ridiculously distended belly, she tried and failed many times to return to her ceiling cavity the other afternoon as the sun signalled its early afternoon departure. She crawled and wiggled and pretty much looked like I do every winter when it comes to trying on that first pair of jeans. Eventually, she gave up. And whether she will return is anyone’s guess. I’ve learned to grow OK with that too.
She’s taught me to shed my skin a little. Be vulnerable. And she’s taught me to face my fears. In an ideal world, there would be no wild snakes on my back deck. But history has taught me that not long after one has departed, another one arrives. They are territorial like that. And so, I must embrace this paradigm. Just as winter follows autumn, the seasons will keep on changing. I used to hate winter too. The short days, the cold mornings, being constrained by too many clothes. By nature I’m a summer frock girl who loves being in the water. Those beautiful balmy evenings, bare feet and ice-cold beer. But I’m slowly learning that life is also about embracing the shadow side. Not only in nature, but in myself and others. Instead of rejecting the things I dislike about myself, learning to acknowledge them as a part of a greater sum.
I’m back on the yoga mat this winter, a nourishing alternative when the water is too cold in which to swim, and last week we celebrated the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. The days are starting to grow longer and pretty soon, they will grow warmer again. But for now, I’m going to relish the words of Joyce Rupp: “Let me lie in the cave of my soul, for too much light blinds me, steals the source of revelation. Let me seek solace in the empty places of winter’s passage, those vast dark nights that never fail to shelter me.” Wherever you are in the world, whatever the season of your soul, I hope you find solace too.
Capturing my Kavorka
I’VE packed my passport, swimsuit and sarong but somehow I’ve lost my kavorka by the time I arrive in Bali. But if ever there was a destination in which to rediscover my animal magnetism, or kavorka as it is explained to me, Indonesia’s Islands of the Gods is the place to come. For this is a land of rice paddies and romance. Of medicine men and mysterious healers. Of traditions, secrets and sensory overload where poverty and generosity co-exist. Of surprises and sunrises. And I’m on an escape which captures it all. I’m experiencing Bali with Eat Pray Live.
Eat Pray Live operator Nicole Long specialises in helping women rediscover their kavorka, that sensual part which exists in every woman, on her bespoke holiday experience in her villa which offers a home away from home. This is not a spiritual retreat, rather, an authentic Balinese escape where like-minded people are introduced to Bali’s best dining, shopping, spas, and local healing experiences.
This particular journey begins at Kadangu where I meet the family of Nicole’s assistant Putu who has asked us to join them in a sacred Hindu temple ceremony at Tabanan. Dressed in traditional Balinese sarongs and sashes borrowed from Putu’s mother we walk down a sliver of stairs. First we join several other Balinese in a ceremony which involves a series of prayers combining smoke from incense and flowers in a small basket we each possess. An elderly priest blesses us in holy water and we select a pinch of rice which we stick to our foreheads, hearts and sprinkle over our heads. We head over to a second section where we cleanse ourselves in water before the third and final prayers at another part of the temple. Days later we learn that Putu’s seven-year-old daughter Gita has asked her mother how we western girls sleep. Gita is concerned that we sleep with our eyes open.
Two days later we undergo a cleansing at a waterfall near Ubud, trekking down some 300 stairs in our tight sarongs, sashes and white shirts. A similar process to the temple ceremony is repeated before we walk, fully clothed into a gushing cold spring. Here we must focus on letting go of our bad experiences of the past, and embracing the new as the water pounds our bodies. I focus on forgiveness and moving forward. I ask the Gods to help me find true love. Just as I turn my back towards the water and lift my face to the sky, the sun comes out. I smile.
On the way home we visit Cekorda, a respected medicine man, a high priest from the highest caste. Cekorda is 85. “How old are you?” he asks as I sit with my back against his knees, his wiry fingers probing my skull.
“43,” I respond.
“Not so young,” he mutters to himself.
He then asks me my problems.
“I have a broken heart,” I reply.
I lay down on a mat and he presses between my toes with a stick. My third toe on my left foot hurts and I yelp.
“Your broken heart is healed. It is your mind. You have self doubt.”
Cekorda then stands above me and traces his magical stick over my body to clear my aura, before announcing that I no longer have a problem.
He turns to an Western bystander who speaks Indonesian.
“Women are very complex,” the bystander translates for Cekorda.
On my final day, I undertake a session with Intuitive Healer Paula Shaw, a Gold Coast woman who went to Ubud, fell in love, and hasn’t left Bali since. The fan overhead clucks like a gecko as Paula interprets my birth chart in her heavenly husky voice. Paula specialises in sharmanic astrology. She knows nothing about my career as a travel writer or The Global Goddess.
“You are looking for more spiritual journeys and asking yourself ‘how can I be more sacred?’. You are going to share more of your personal experiences. You can be quite funny and you really don’t take yourself seriously,” she says.
“You can put a spin on things that is really palatable to the Australian market in general. Your biggest learning in this world is from where you share your wounds. There are no rules for you and that’s really liberating.”
I have a mozzie bite itch to ask Paula about what she sees for my love life just as she asks me to shuffle, split and select a series of tarot cards.
“You can be attracted to the bad boy, but you need a man that is really sacred, very intelligent and a little aloof. You need a very sensual man, that’s very important,” she says.
“To find a man to be with you will be difficult as you are going against the patriarchy with your career. You are taking one for the team by being this woman but being The Goddess will pull them in.
“You will have a busy 12 months with travel, a new business partnership and healing around love. The universe is setting you up so when a man comes along you won’t give yourself over completely. But love is coming.”
While I wait for my sacred, sensual, intelligent and aloof man, I’m going to take Cekorda’s advice. And I may even sleep with my eyes open.
Want to capture your kavorka? The Global Goddess is delighted to announce she will be working with Eat Pray Live and holding regular writing retreats up in Bali. Eat Pray Live – What’s Your Story with The Global Goddess will teach guests everything from how to write a book or blog, engaging in an entertaining manner on facebook and twitter, and even becoming a travel writer. Join The Global Goddess for her morning practical Heavenly Hour session, partake in Eat Pray Live activities, and come back for a Happy Hour session to discuss and pen your experiences. The Global Goddess and Eat Pray Live are on hand to guide you and introduce you to the best of Bali and most of all, to help you rediscover yourself.
Eat Pray Live – What’s Your Story retreat with The Global Goddess will be held from April 20 to 27. This 7 day/6 night retreat in private villa accommodation costs $1715 for a shared room or $1900 for a private room and includes:
• Return Airport transfers
• Breakfast daily
• Welcome drink on arrival
• Eat Pray Live Personal Concierge
• Eat Pray Live “welcome gift pack” (bag, sarong, products and other goodies)
• 1 x 1 hour “in villa” massage
• Manicure and Pedicure, Hair conditioning “cream bath” treatment with head, neck and shoulder massage (per person)
• Transport fees for scheduled trips
• Cleansing ceremony in the holy waters of a Balinese temple, to heal your past and energize your future
• Visit a medicine man / healer, (a small personal donation at the time of visit is required)
• 5 luncheons & 1 in-villa dinner
• Free Wifi
• 24 hour security
• Complete housekeeping services
• 10 minutes walk from the beach
• Situated in a typical Balinese street away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist areas
For more info go to: http://www.eatpraylive.com.au. For bookings please contact Christine Retschlag: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 0437 655 525