Category Archives: Bali Life

Food of the gods on the island of the gods….

Chocolate truffles at Alchemy, photograph courtesy Suki Zoe

The magical world of raw chocolate

A few years ago my  friends had a ‘decadent dessert party’ and we all took along a dessert of our choice, not surprisingly there was a lot of chocolate – including my own triple chocolate cheesecake. What had started as a very chilled affair suddenly turned into a mad crazy night of dancing, I assumed we were all on a  sugar rush, it only occurred to me recently that we were more likely high on chocolate.

Few foods can evoke such passion, sensuality, comfort and addiction.  What is it that makes chocolate so special?

Legend has it that the first cacao beans came from paradise and lent wisdom and power to the person that ate them.  Deep in the tropical rainforests of central America, ancient Mayans  used ground cocoa beans in wedding rituals and for healing magic. To the Aztecs it was known as the food of the gods; and it is said that the  god Quetzalcoatl, was  kicked out of paradise for giving chocolate to the human race.

Most of us have experienced the ‘feel good factor’ of chocolate, its smooth exotic taste known to induce feelings of euphoria, even its aroma is enough to promote feelings of well being and happiness.  But if you are reading this while munching on a Mars Bar, its time to think again. While mass produced store bought confectionery might taste good and have a small amount of nutritional benefits,  this is sadly outweighed by vast amounts of chemicals, refined fats and sugars.

Raw chocolate, on the other hand provides a dose of pure natural goodness and is packed with magnesium, antioxidants and  a taste far superior to anything you will find on a supermarket shelf. In its purest form chocolate contains  an abundance of Tryptophan, a substance which triggers a reaction in the brain and creates a feeling of elation and giddiness. It is also packed with  Anandamide a name derived from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means bliss. Also known as the love chemical, Anandamide induces feelings of euphoria…. just like falling in love. While cooking and processing chocolate destroys much of its natural goodness, raw chocolate is healthy for the mind, body and soul.

Raw Chocolate cake at Alchemy, photograph courtesy of Suki Zoe

A number of places in Bali are now making raw chocolate, but Alchemy, a quirky health cafe in Ubud has the best,  with its  gleaming refrigerator shelves stocked with a dazzling display of cakes, candy and chocolates that don’t just taste good, they are good for you. The slabs of dense chewy chocolate bars are seriously ‘to die for’ (or at least to ‘drive to Ubud for….’) I also love the homemade bounty bars filled with fresh shredded coconut, the dark peppermint infused Stevia Mint Drops and the coconut dusted truffles. Bali Buddha also has a good selection, including lovely heart-shaped chocolate truffles, while Desa Seni serves up a tasty range of energy balls – just the thing after a yoga session. The raw chocolate dream pie at Clear Cafe in Ubud also deserves a mention – it is positively dreamy! It is also worth paying a visit to Five Elements in Mambal, a divine eco retreat offering gourmet raw cusisine that provides one of the most profound dining experiences on the island. Actually, the first time I tried raw chocolate was here and it was a moment I will never forget.

One of the newest venues on Bali’s raw chocolate scene is the inspiring Bamboo Chocolate Factory, also in Mambal (just near the Green School.) The soaring bamboo building rises from a sea of tropical forests and has been created by Big Tree farms who work with local farmers to produce organic ingredients such as salt and pepper, vanilla, cashews and honey.  You can join a tour of the factory, which starts with  a cup of thick and creamy organic hot chocolate to get you in the mood. A guide will then lead you along the labyrinth of bamboo hallways and cavernous rooms, following the trail of the humble cacao bean as it is transformed into a delicious chocolate bar. If images of oompa loompas and rivers of chocolate are flowing through your mind, think again; but if you are remembering the movie ‘Chocolate’, with the beautiful Vianne sensually grinding beans on a stone you are a little closer, but still not thinking big enough.  Actually, the six tonne, 70-year-old Mélangeur is so big it has its own room – with two giant granite rollers that crush the cacao beans (fermented, not roasted) into a thick paste.  Twelve hours later the paste is ready for the conche which turns it into a smooth liquid, while a cold press separates the butter. In the cashew sorting room, nuts are hand selected and trimmed, before making their way into chocolate bars.  Back in the tasting room you can try the fresh slabs of 70% bitter chocolate, which is also on sale, along with cold processed cacao powder, and cashew chocolate nibs. Chocolate-making workshops are planned to start from August so you will be able to create your own sublime concoctions.

cocoa dusted truffles at Alchemy, photograph courtesy Suki Zoe

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Desa Seni Magic

 

At  Desa Seni  the path to well being is scattered with flowers…..

As my friend and resident Kundalini yoga teacher Daphna says, “It’s a place of peace and joy, from the moment you enter any stress evaporates…. it’s a happy place.”

Desa Seni has been keeping me sane for the past two years, a sanctuary that is most certainly my happy place, where I can escape from work and every day pressures, and  lose myself in the beauty of my surroundings and in the ancient practice of yoga. At early morning classes  I  watch the flowers unfurl as I stretch into sun salutations, while sunset classes are filled with the golden glow of dusk and the flickering light of candles against a crimson streaked sky.

I always feel like I am stepping into a fairy tale as I follow the stepping stones that lead through colourful vegetable patches and heavily laden fruit trees. Everywhere I look there is something of beauty that has been thoughtfully placed to create joy ; a quaint wooden bridge, an  ancient dug out canoe filled with flowers, a wooden statue decorated with frangipani, or a carefully labelled tree or plant.

I once spent a weekend at Desa Seni staying in one of the charming antique wooden houses gathered from across the Indonesian archipelago. My beautiful house came with a  written story that detailed its origins, and that of all the antiques that filled it. In the afternoon one of the staff dropped by with fresh fruit and herbal tea and when I woke in the morning there was a traditional Balinese offering placed on my verandah with a card explaining how to make the offering to my own small temple.

Tom, the ever-inspiring man behind Desa Seni describes how he saw the island “blooming and growing” but felt that no one was staying true to Bali. His vision incorporated farming, yoga, unlimited potential for creativity, and integration with the local community. His founding belief , “If we all give back, educate, inspire and nurture, the world will be a better place.” I love that Tom is a man of his word and Desa Seni gives back to the community on so many levels, from being organic and green, to free English and yoga classes for the staff, to organising beach clean ups and to sponsoring worthy organisations such as Sacred Childhood Organisation http://www.sacredchildhoods.org/ and initiatives such as Ayu Kita Bicara which raises awareness about AIDS in the community.  Through Kula magazine Desa Seni continues to spread the word and promote like minded people and businesses on the island.

Desa Seni reminds me to always take a little time for myself to reconnect with the magic and beauty of life – something that I sometimes forget. Here I see positive vibrations leading to action, and remember that we can make a difference. Love certainly isn’t all you need – but it’s a great place to start!

www.desaseni.com

Can Crystals heal?

ImageThe human connection to crystals and stones spans time, cultures, continents and religions. Ancient Sumerians included crystals in their magic formulas; Egyptian pharaohs had their headdresses lined with malachite in the belief that it helped to rule wisely; while native American shamans used them for divination and healing. Their curative properties are mentioned repeatedly in ancient Vedic Hindu texts and referred to in the Old Testament of the Bible; while the mysterious black stone at Mecca (possibly a meteorite) forms an intrinsic part of the Islamic pilgrimage.

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The Black Stone of Mecca

In 1880 Jacques and Pierre Curie discovered the piezoelectric property of quartz  – when squeezed or stretched, a voltage is produced across the crystal’s face. These days crystals are utilized in almost every form of technology. Liquid Crystal brings us the clarity in our computer screens, quartz keeps watches ticking, and electronic grade crystals are used in cell phones, clocks, games, television receivers, radios, computers and navigational instruments. But although science readily accepts the vibrational qualities of crystals, when it comes to the less tangible realms of crystal   therapy,   the suggested positive vibrations of gemstones is often relegated to the fringe of ‘new age;’  even though it is a tradition that is about as ‘old age’ as you can get.  We have been communing with stones in one way or another for as long as we have roamed the earth.

Like many before me, I have a fondness for adorning myself with gemstones and jewels and this story starts with my discovery of Atlantis, a shop in Seminyak filled with glittering gemstones, gleaming jewel encrusted silver bracelets, shimmering druzy pendants and crystals in all shapes and forms.  I left wearing a striking pendant of amethyst wrapped in a silver serpent.   I loved the way it felt on my skin, the way it shimmered in the sunlight and I started to wonder why we are so drawn to stones and crystals. Is it because we are naturally attracted to that which is beautiful? Is it a primal connection with something that is formed deep within the earth’s crust, or is it something more; could it be possible that stones hold some sort of therapeutic power? So I decided to try and find some answers. I had no expectations, just an open mind, a touch of skepticism and an abundance of natural curiosity.

The story became quite a journey that led to interesting people, places and experiences, I learned a lot about crystals, physics and geology, and I learned a lot about myself and my own belief system. My encounters with crystal therapy in various guises were thought provoking, sometimes profound, and always left with me a smile.  I can’t claim to have found all the answers I went looking for, or to have been miraculously ‘healed’ (thankfully I have no major ailments,) but I can share my experiences and the findings of those far more knowledgeable than myself.

Meeting Momo

As this story started with my newly acquired crystal pendant, I figured its creator might help shed some light on the power of crystals. I was right, Momo of Mercurious Designs, turns out to be a veritable mine of knowledge on the subject.   Atlantis is temporarily closed while he looks for new premises, so I visit his home, filled with crystal treasures; giant clusters of quartz and amethyst, translucent crystal balls, gleaming pyrite and ancient fossils. He discovered early on that, “There is much more to the world than what’s on the surface,” and as a kid would spend his time squeezing through tunnels emerging into caves full of sparkling crystals. These explorations sparked a lifelong passion and Momo became a kind of modern day adventurer travelling to remote regions of the world collecting minerals, stones and knowledge. He introduces me to the concepts of piezoelectricity and jeweled movements; and points out strong animist traditions, including stone worship in Indonesia.  He describes how he is drawn to “The dance of life, the energy and movement that is revealed in gemstones.” Much of his unique jewelry range is inspired and created by sculpting these “Natural art forms into something out of this world.”  We chat about crystal healing which he describes as “An intuitive art – not a science,”   and adds, “everything that has energy vibrates, if you can tap into that it’s fine, if not that’s ok too.”

www.mercuriousdesigns.com

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Momo

Vibrations……..

The more I delve into the crystal realms, the more I come across this term. Is this the key – can the vibrations of crystals affect our bodies or our minds in some way? Quantum physics recognizes that everything vibrates, even the tiniest atom, but certain things, due to their composition will vibrate at a higher frequency.  For example, quartz which is 100% crystal, resonates clearly and harmoniously due to a highly organized molecular structure.   We have all experienced ‘good vibes’ and the  sense of harmony  experienced by  listening to music, visiting certain places or meeting someone that we feel in tune with; as  opposed to situations or people that create discord  and throw us off balance. Similarly when we are attacked by viruses or subjected to stress we feel out of sync. A holistic approach to therapy is all about restoring balance, so maybe the vibrations of certain crystals can help. This makes sense, but the link is still tenuous. Then I stumble across a book called “Hidden messages in water,” by Doctor Masar Emoto.  The book contains a series of astonishing photographs, in which single drops of water were frozen and the crystals they formed captured.  Fresh spring water produced beautifully formed crystals, whereas city water barely produced crystals at all. But here’s where it gets really interesting, when Bach was played to water, the resulting crystals were magnificent, but when heavy metal music was played to the same water, it produced badly formed crystals or none at all. Town water that had initially created ill formed crystals – suddenly made perfect formations after 500 people simultaneously prayed for it to be clean. The most beautiful of all crystals had been exposed to the words love and gratitude. In all these cases the structure of the water was fundamentally  altered due to the vibrations it was subjected to. As Humans bodies are comprised of over 70% water, is it possible that our physical process can be altered by positive vibrations?

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water crystal

Vogel and crystals

According to Marcel Vogel who spent much of his life conducting extensive research into quartz crystals, it means precisely this! Vogel was a highly respected research scientist who received over 100 patents during his 27 years working for IBM.  He discovered that he could fundamentally alter the structure of water by spinning it around a tuned crystal.  Using such a process, the ph levels of water could be sufficiently altered, the freezing point significantly lowered and the molecular patterns rearranged and restructured.

In the same way that the healthy water in Emoto’s experiments created beautiful well formed crystals; the water found in healthy tissue cells in our bodies is formed into organized, geometrically shaped molecule patterns. While unhealthy and cancerous cells feature ungeometric and disorganized water molecules. Vogel’s findings showed that the clear vibration resonating from crystals helps to organize the water in our tissues and cells, creating healthier cells.  Further to this, he pioneered the use of a precisely cut quartz crystal, the  ‘Vogel-cut®  which transmitted a high level of energy and produced a constant vibration of the same frequency as water in its purest state.  He also developed a protocol in which a crystal could act as an “energetic scalpel” to remove unwanted vibrations from a person in distress.

www.vogelcrystals.net

History of stones

Our history is inextricably entwined with stones. Stone age man carved primitive tools and amulets, stone walls have traditionally provided us with shelter and protection, and gem stones have always been potent symbols of power and beauty. Through the ages various megalithic cultures erected impressive standing stones, monuments and stone circles that became places of, worship, ritual and meditation. The early Indonesians were animists and worshipped natural features in a belief that all objects have a life, a soul force. Vestiges of this practice can still be found, particularly on islands such as Flores and Sumba  where ethnic traditions hold strong. In Lombok the ‘Stone of Worship’ at Batu Pujaan was erected over 3000 years ago, and is associated with rituals of magic, meditation and the concoction of herbal medicines.   Here in Bali, megalithic structures are still used for worship in a scattering of villages inhabited by the original Bali Aga people; while  Lingga (monuments) carved from gold, jewels and stones can also be found in Hindu temples across the island.

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Stone megaliths in Bena, Flores

These days our lives are increasingly removed from nature, so perhaps certain stones help us reconnect with the earth and our more essential selves. There are few things more grounding than minerals, so maybe wearing a crystal, collecting stones or indulging in gem therapy can help restore a sense of calm and balance. It all boils down to intent.  If you believe that wearing a crystal will empower you, it probably will; if you attend a crystal healing session with a strong intent to heal, then for sure you will feel some benefits. It’s all up to the individual.  Wear them, meditate with them, place them on the window sill, attempt to see the future, douse for water, summon spirits, admire them as objects of immense beauty. Or ignore them completely…… If crystals work for you on some level – that’s great, if not, that’s ok too – because crystals are totally optional.

If you do decide to explore the world of crystal therapy then Bali has plenty of choices.

 Crystal healing

Jelila provides my first healing session, and arrives at the door, blonde and fairylike bearing a guitar and a big bag of crystals.  She talks about the resonant vibration of crystals due to their highly organized molecular structure. “Having a positive person around you raises your vibrations –  it’s the same with the right combination of crystals.”

Jelila has a background in yoga, meditation and energy healing and you can join her classes at Yoga barn. She also practices crystal healing which she describes as “A complex art form, based on an intuitive sense of your present energy, aura and life. ” She adds that, “It is non invasive and harmless, the worse thing that can happen is nothing.”   We start with an aura reading, and each of my chakras is assigned colours, shapes and sounds. My rational mind does not understand, but her observations are unerringly accurate, and deep from my subconscious, where the demons lurk, she unearths an extremely irrational fear. Right she says we are going to fix this. She guides me through a visualization, or re programming as she calls it,   and then explains that she will use a combination of crystal energy and sound healing to integrate this transformation.   I close my eyes as she drapes strings of crystals over me, and become aware of a powerful tingly sensation around my head, it feels like my hair is standing on end. I assume Jelila is doing some kind of energy healing but when I sneak a peek I see she is busy placing crystals around my feet. The feeling is so intense I can’t help laughing – “What’s happening to my head,” I ask, “That would be the detoxifying crystals I put on your pillow,” she answers.   By now Jelila is softly playing the guitar and singing, her beautiful voice flutters around me. It’s extraordinarily soothing to be sung too and lulls me into a warm and cosy state. Afterwards I feel happy, calm and kind of floaty, more than anything I feel liberated from an irrational fear. No doubt I could have sat in an office with a psychiatrist and progressed to this point after weeks on the sofa talking about my childhood  – but therapy is  much more enjoyable when you are covered in crystals and sung to!  Jelila also designs healing necklaces and has recorded a range of CDs. http://jelila.wordpress.com/

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Jelila

The Crystal Light Bed

I find myself at a house on the outskirts of Ubud and am greeted by Tamara, an intuitive healer who also performs healing sessions utilizing a Crystal Light Bed.  This contraption was created by John of God, the famous Brazilian spiritual healer who is estimated to have healed hundreds of thousands of people. Science has no answer for this kind of healing in which John of God acts as a spirit medium, allowing  “entities” to take over his body and perform surgery while he is in a trance.  However, his work has been documented by medical teams from around the world, who confirm miraculous recoveries from AIDS, cancer and other illnesses that were deemed incurable. He developed The Crystal Light Bed as an adjunct to healing and it consists of 7 Vogel-cut Brazilian quartz crystals which are suspended over each of the seven major chakras.  Tamara explains that it is essentially a chromo graphic machine that combines energy, colour and light; the colored lights that beam through the crystals act as a magnifier of energy and intent for healing.  She explains that this is “Different from other forms of crystal healing in that it enables a specific current of John of God and his various healing spirit entities.” It sounds kind of wacky and my rational mind is screaming,  ‘How,’ but I apply my motto ‘Never try never know,”  and as I lie down she  tells me to say a prayer of intent. From the moment I shut my eyes I enter a state of deep blissful relaxation – at times it’s almost as if I am levitating and I sense the presence of others in the room. Perhaps it’s my imagination, perhaps not – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is a lovely experience that leaves me calm and peaceful. I ask Tamara if she can see an immediate change in people following the treatment, and she comments that I am sparkling…. ..When I look in the mirror I do seem to have a bit of a glow and my eyes are shining clear and bright. email tj@gaiaclinic.com

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crystal light

Crystal Sound

I first had the pleasure of Healing Sound Therapy at Bali Spirit Festival during a workshop led by Awa Hoshi, a statuesque, gently spoken woman of Cheyenne – Slovakian descent who plays silicon quartz crucibles (pure quartz carved into receptacles of various sizes.) A talented musician, Awa Hoshi pioneered the use of crystal sound therapy over two decades ago and her work has been well recognized across the world.  More than 100 of us were gathered that afternoon and as we stretched out on the floor we were instructed to visualize what we desired most at that point in time. Awa Hoshi  started to play, and the room was filled with  lingering, beautiful  waves of sound. Everything ceased to exist beyond the sound of crystal, and my vision of fully sustaining myself as a freelance writer. The sensation was not so much of hearing, but of feeling. Afterwards everything seemed incredibly clear and when I checked my emails I had two commissions from magazines to write about the festival, and have had a constant stream of work ever since. It’s not magic, I didn’t just blink my eyes and find I was suddenly  consumed with work,  but during that crystal sound filled afternoon I had given myself the space to realize what it was that I really wanted and from that time on focused my energy into achieving it. When I meet Awa  Hoshi again, she explained that sound therapy   helps us to   “ Crystallize an  intention, then magnetize that reality.” She adds that it, “Provides a foundation, it’s then up to us as to how we deal with it.”

Hearing is the first sense to develop in the womb, the most developed of all our senses, yet most of us only have a small amount of pure, clear sound in our lives, bird song, running streams, leaves rustling in the breeze are often drowned out by the hum of air conditioners, the roar of motor bikes, the incessant chatter of television. Awa Hoshi tells me that “The sound of pure tone crystal returns us to our natural state as beings of harmony – it is a sound that takes you beyond sound.” http://www.bali3000.com/crystalsound/

Picture 5 Awa Hoshi

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Sarinbuana Eco Lodge

At One With Nature

“The beauty of the  Eco Lodge is  that it can be enjoyed on so many levels , hide away from the world in a secluded mountain paradise, or put yourself out there as you immerse yourself in the nature, culture and  community.”

With a picturesque setting on the slopes of Mt Batakaru Bali Eco Lodge provides a genuine haven for those looking to immerse themselves  in nature and to experience the true essence of  Bali.Charming, secluded bungalows with names like Tree House and Jungle Lodge cling to the hillside, wooden verandas offer birds eye views of  steep valley walls blanketed in thick rain forest; far below you can see the sprawling coast of Kuta – so near,  yet  a world away. The first thing you will notice is the bird song– woodpeckers, kingfishers and  parrots are at play in the forest canopy, black eagles streak across the sky ,  the looming peak of  Mount Batakaru creates a dramatic backdrop. Natural building materials include local timber, like coconut and jack fruit,  while floors are made of hand crafted terracotta tiles. Fresh cut flowers, colourful woven textiles, and warm patchwork quilts (the nights are chilly!) create homely comforts.

Being Green

The lovechild of dedicated environmentalists, Linda and Norm Vant Hoff, the lodge is about as  ‘eco’ as it gets, with well documented  green credentials, including the ‘Responsible Tourism Award’ in 2007 and 2010 (www.wildasia.net) The tenets of sustainability, low impact building techniques , effective resource and waste management, are all faithfully adhered to, everything is in perfect balance with nature; but we sometimes forget that there is more to the environment than  physical factors.  From Norm and Linda’s point of view,  an eco lodge is “Sustainably connected to the natural, built and social environment”; and the lodge has become a valued  extension of the village and community of Sarinbuana. While you enjoy the magical surrounds, delicious healthy cuisine and a range of activities, you can also relax in the knowledge that   your stay  here contributes to the local economy on a number of levels: The lodge employs  26  staff from the village and have trained locals as trekking guides and massage therapists. Ongoing community projects include extensive tree planting, free English, martial art and football classes for village children, the sponsoring of a university student; and ongoing additions and  improvements to the school. It also  acts as a role model for responsible tourism; promoting low impact activities, with an emphasis on walking, bike riding, and swimming in the waterholes. Enormous value is placed on the preservation and promotion of  local culture, with popular workshops providing genuine insight into everyday life in Bali and the chance to learn traditional skills.   Learn Balinese Calligraphy, Indonesian language, and how to play a traditional instrument, or join the  village ladies who teach the art of  creating beautiful temple offerings, table settings, and cooking;  while Pak Ketut, a remarkable and inspired wood carver (responsible for  the ornate carvings in the bungalows) shares his craft and his wisdom.

A walk in the garden

When Norm and Linda first took over the property it was dominated by wild grass and coconut trees,  eighteen years on the gardens are flourishing with over 100 edible and medicinal plants. The garden tour is a   fascinating and informative journey with Manager, Putri, pointing out all manner of herbs, spices and plants, and explaining their traditional uses. Look out for the fiddletip ferns  – they make a great salad served with shredded coconut and Lombok chili, while the dainty  ginger flowers are equally tasty.  Much of the produce served in the restaurant is picked fresh from the garden, or sourced locally, including coffee and cacao, and home made ice cream is flavoured with the vanilla that grows here. A meandering path leads down to the water holes passing sweetly perfumed orange trees, dense thickets of mulberry  bushes ,  dangling passion fruit vines and a plethora of heliconia. Wooden benches and open air pavilions are scattered about the property, ideal for yoga, meditation and soaking up the silence. If you are feeling more energetic take an early morning hike up to the top of Batakaru, the track leads through the largest rainforest in Bali, home to luwak (civet) leopard cats and monkeys, emerging at a peak with  view stretching over to Lombok and Java .

The beauty of the  Eco Lodge is  that it can be enjoyed on so many levels , hide away from the world in a secluded mountain paradise, or put yourself out there as you immerse yourself in the nature, culture and  community.  Make sure you spend some time with Linda and Norm so you can learn about their various eco projects around the island, including saving the Bali Starling, permaculture, solar energy.  For Linda the Eco lodge has provided “A chance to give back” but she makes it clear that she gets back as much as she gives.  For her the greatest joy is, “To be connected to the environment, the people and the  land,  making a living and a life with local people who are incredibly talented.”  Here the Balinese concept of life, known as Tri Hata Karana is firmly in place – the three forces of happiness – harmony with god, harmony with man, harmony with nature.

Sarinbuana Eco Lodge

Mount Batakaru, Tabanan, Bali

www.baliecolodge.com

Daniel Aaron, Radiantly Alive

It is said that eyes are the windows of the soul, and the first thing I notice about Daniel Aaron are sparkling blue eyes that radiate calmness, compassion and knowingness. As the creator of Radiantly Alive, he aims to uplift our world through unique and powerfully transformative yoga experiences. But if you are picturing a white robed, long haired guru in sandalwood beads speaking in mantras, think again.  Daniel is very much a modern day yogi  (he prefers “human potential guide”) who also happens to make awesome raw chocolate, delves in astrology, runs yoga teacher training programs, and facilitates raw food chef courses. He has been keeping it real in Bali for the past five years with a teaching style and philosophy that is personable, relatable and hands on. This month sees the launch of his Radiantly Alive studio in Ubud.

In a moment of serendipity our meeting coincides with Bali Spirit Festival, Ubud’s annual holistic extravaganza that gathers presenters and participants from around the world in a 5-day celebration of yoga, music, dance. The  lush tropical gardens of the Purnati Arts Centre have been transformed into a hive of holistic activity. Amazing feats of balance are taking place in the acro yoga workshop, pure crystal sound resonates from the crystal bowl healing workshop, and down on the lawn people are practicing ‘Hoopnotica’ – the graceful art of hula hooping. I catch Daniel giving a talk in one of the pavilions. His subject is the benefits of a raw food diet, and he describes “Fresh coconuts, tropical fruits, organic salads and raw chocolate as the ideal nourishment for vibrant living.” He is warm and likeable with a tendency to say “y’all” a lot, in a way that is both embracing and endearing; he also has a natural gift for story telling which has the audience hanging on every word. “I have been playing around with stuff to feel better for a long time,” he tells us, tracing the origins of his transformation back 20 years. “I had a standard American sad diet with meat every meal…. I  was fat, depressed, and that was on a good day…… I started to think, this isn’t right, what can I do differently ?” Lightness dawned while writing a paper at college about the cruel practice of scientific experiments on animals, this led him into the world of vegetarianism, which became an ethical life choice. He likens this time to a crack in a windshield, which spread slowly but surely in a myriad of spiritual and health-driven directions as he journeyed across the globe, learning from dozens of teachers along the way, living his life luminously, consciously, with full purpose.

His talk over, we head out into the mid day sun in search of fresh drinking coconuts, and wind up immersed in lively conversation as we sink into two squishy white bean bags under the shade of a palm tree. Daniel tells me that intuition led him to Bali – after years of  travelling he had reached a crossroad, it was time to be in one place and a friend suggested Ubud. “I love the diversity of people, the fecundity of the land, the creativity that it inspires…. and I love coconuts,” he says. I ask if there was a cataclysmic moment that brought yoga into his life. He responds that a few years down the transformation road, a friend invited him to fire walk. Part of the preparation was a yoga class,  “I always thought yoga was for pansies,” he says “so I was surprised to find that I liked it.” He describes  Yoga as Alchemy, “You have to put in enough of a challenge and level of difficulty for it to work.” He has a reputation for inspiring people to go beyond what they thought was possible, and tells me that as a teacher he is motivated by “Making people feel more alive, more vibrant, encouraging them to discover, how good can it get?” Feeling good is obviously something that we all aspire to and this leads logically to our next subject. Chocolate! Not mass produced confectionary high in sugar and milk, but the pure, gooey, raw kind, which he makes himself, and has a multitude of health benefits. This is a whole story in itself,  suffice to say that when I ask if he has any chocolate with him, he smiles, digs into his bag and produces a container with some of his latest creations.  I choose a dainty truffle infused with a hint of cardamom. It’s delicious, so good in fact that I could happily eat the whole lot, but that would be rather cheeky, so I restrain myself and move onto the subject of astrology. “I got into this because I realised it was so powerful in helping me see into myself, the more I learned, the more natural it became to work with other people in it.”

There seems to be a lot of stuff going on in his life and I ask if he has one main focus. “My main passion is helping us all reach into our potential – how happy, alive, healthy, fun, delighted can we be? So all of these things that I am into contribute to that, as the way we do one thing is the way we do everything. We need a multi pronged approach that incorporates all parts of our lives. I love that reaching our potential is impossible, and yet the more we play toward it, the happier we are.”

The photographer arrives and we wander about the festival looking for the right backdrop; a west African dance workshop is underway and the tribal rhythms of the djembe create a lively soundtrack. While interviews can provide a glimpse into someone’s personality, real insight often comes in the unguarded moments when you are just hanging out, and Daniel is super chilled and easy going as we shoot in a number of locations. An initial shyness with the camera surprises me – or perhaps its not shyness, but rather a refreshing sense of humility – an increasing rarity these days when well known yogis are easily engulfed in a cult of celebrity. A sense of playfulness is revealed when he offers to climb into a tree and sit in lotus pose, it doesn’t look so comfortable, but he is committed to the shot and sees it though. I ask him to describe himself in three words and he comes up with “Inspiring” (yes, he has certainly inspired me,) “Quirky” (well, he is sitting in a tree,) and “Discerning” (obvious in his life choices.) I have just one last question;  what makes you happy? “Deep honesty, intimacy, being of genuine service, seeing people transform, my daughter, nature, belly laughs, quality, artistry…..”

A few days later I am doing some background research to fill in the gaps and discover that Daniel is also a writer. His thoughts,  favourite poems, and inspirational quotes can be found scattered about his blog and websites, I even spot some raw food recipes – including a rather divine looking chocolate smoothie.  And then I stumble upon this little gem that just says it all. “Our life is our project. It’s completely what we create. We can make it an exceptional canvas of dreams and inspirations. Everything that passes through us is a brushstroke: each thought, bite of food, every interaction, how we spend our time, where we live. Life is as vibrant, alive, juicy and beautiful as we choose.”

Fivelements

Fivelements, Puri Ahimsa sits at the end of a narrow country lane surrounded by rice paddys and fields of ripening corn. Thatched circular buildings with conical roofs reach for the sky, the gardens are filled with lush foliage, and the gushing of a fast flowing river  intermingles with birdsong. It is the ideal setting for a healing sanctuary and from the moment I enter the spacious grounds I am immediately aware of a shift of energy, a kind of higher vibration.

I have a traditional Balinese healing treatment that is a mix of reflexology and chakra balancing with Pak Dewa, a wonderful and powerful energy healer. At times the session is painful and I shed tears,  but by the end my spirit is soaring. Afterwards I sit on the verandah drinking ginger tea and reflecting on my life and my need to restore balance.

http://www.fivelements.org

DESA SENI

This led me to Desa Seni a boutique resort/arts village in Caggu that offers a variety of yoga classes. I have practiced yoga in many beautiful places around the world  but the Desa Seni experience is unique. Traditional wooden houses from all over Indonesia have been transplanted into a fairy tale like setting with pretty vegetable gardens, lush tropical foliage and an atmosphere that creates a sense of well being  from the moment you enter.

http://www.desaseni.com

Bombastic plastix

 

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They are handed out gleefully by cashiers the length and breadth of the island, used once and abandoned. Their fate − to float down rivers, ride the waves, wash up on the beaches or smolder in black smoky fires.…. In Bali there is no escaping  plastic bags.   But there is always hope, and a small company called Bombastic Plastix  is hard at work turning plastic trash into  funky fashion accessories.

Recycled products often get a bad wrap (no pun intended) because they are produced poorly with little thought for design. But Bombastic Plastix has turned recycling into an art form and their products – bags, purses, wallets,  are attractive in their own right, regardless of their ‘greenness’. Let’s face it, most of us want to do our bit to save the planet but there is nothing wrong with looking good while we are doing it.

It all started a few years ago, on Bombastic founder, Sam Miller’s kitchen floor. He was a man on a mission, armed with an environmental conscience, a keen sense of design, a heap of plastic bags and an iron. Through trial and error he discovered a way to fuse plastic bags into sheets of plastic fabric, which form the base of all his products.  “Its hardly like we are using all the plastic in the world,” he tells me, “but at least we are using some of it; and we are taking something that has a service life of 30 minutes  and converting in into something that lasts years.”

Check out the website, its great fun and really informative, and you will love Sam – he is one super cool dude!

http://www.bombasticsplastix.com