Just last week I was rushing around my villa in Ubud, Bali, finishing a work email, cleaning up gecko poop on my porch, and packing a change of clothes in my purse. I was hurrying to leave so that I could get in line at the Yoga Barn for Friday night ecstatic dance. See, you need to arrive two hours early for tickets (but it’s totally worth it).
As a New Yorker, even in paradise, I am perpetually living in a busy and neurotic state of mind. Or rather, how we New Yorker’s like to call ourselves, “productive.” I was so wrapped up in my tasks, in fact, that I’d forgotten about a coconut my Balinese landlord, Wiji, had opened for me earlier that morning that was still sitting on my table untouched.
Note: I fucking love coconuts. Highlight of this year’s trip to Bali, hands down, was the unlimited coconuts gifted to me daily from my landlord’s palm tree.
So, it was unusual that I’d let this one slip.
Just then, Wiji had entered my garden with a small machete with which to chop open the coconut for me…(the good stuff’s on this inside).
“Elliiee” he sang as he entered. He’s a small Balinese man: no shoes, always wearing the same t-shirt that says “Chicago” written across the front, un-kept hair and a huge smile.
Seeing him, I thought,“Shit! My coconut!”
I quickly grabbed the coconut and my bamboo straw and started chugging. (I’m sort of an expert coconut-chugger, and also I just really wanted the snack before dancing.)
Seeing me do this, Wiji laughed. “Ooooh,” he said, “No worry. Slowly, slowly!”
He then sat at the bottom of my steps, set down the mini machete and patiently waited for me to finish, looking silently off into the distance of the garden. And I sat at the top of the steps, still slurping. (Listen, it was a big coconut).
But then, quite suddenly, I stopped. You know when you unintentionally sort of drop into full awareness of the present moment? That happened. And, for the first time in quite some time, I released a long (yet still somewhat neurotic) exhale.
I observed Wiji and I, quietly sitting together, barefoot on the steps of a humble Balinese villa. The only common language we shared was a love of coconuts. Birds were chirping.
The Russian couple living across the fence were having their daily 5pm argument that always sounded more violent than [I’d like to think] it actually was. The sun was nearly setting. Wiji was in no rush, and I, well, envied him for it. In that moment, a wave of emotion surged in my gut, traveled to my eyes, and silently started to drip out of them in slow tears. (But I tried to play it cool, so, like, don’t tell Wiji, okay?)
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d allowed myself to “slow down.” See, I’ve spent the last decade hustling hard as an entrepreneur in New York City, working sleeplessly to figure out a sustainable way to earn a living via my only passions--performance and yoga. And, in a nutshell, what I’ve learned is that being a successful entrepreneur in performance and yoga boils down to one thing: Instagram.
It’s tragic, but true. Now as I work on building my digital platforms, I am constantly brainstorming Insta-worthy photos and intelligent captions that manage to achieve that sort of “oops-look-at-me-I’m-so-enlightened-but-sort-of-accidentally-sexy-at-the-same-time.”
Embarrassingly, even in that heartwarming moment with Wiji, I thought, “Oh, this would make a great blog post.”
Fast-forward to last night. I was struggling to fall asleep because of jet-lag, and so I got up to take a hot bath with some lavender oil, as this technique usually does the trick.
It was about 1am, and there was a blizzard outside. As such, there was a snowy thickness to the silence in my studio. The only sounds that I could hear, after I turned off the bathtub faucet, of course, were the sporadic scratching and squeaking of my apartment building’s old furnace pipes.
In this moment of solace--sans phone, or the energy to worry about much of anything--I found myself enjoying my own company. “Wait, what?” I asked myself. “You heard me,” I responded to myself. “You’re enjoying a quality moment with yourself, so deal with it.” (Jet lag + lavender oil = mild forms of multiple personality disorder).
Admittedly, it was a familiar feeling, (the enjoying myself part, not the personality disorder), because I used to sneak these moments all of the time: as a child, alone in my room reciting monologues to my sleeping cat that I’d make up from the perspective of my Spice Girl doll. In middle school, watching the sunset over the infinite expanse of Wisconsin farmland on my backyard trampoline while daydreaming about my boy crushes and getting cast as the lead in the school musical (the latter being of greater importance). And in high school, coming home late at night from one of my many luxurious summer jobs (washing dishes at a local brew pub, refilling the salad bar at Pizza Hut, and car-hopping at A&W). Smelling like grease and root beer, I’d lay face-up on the front yard picnic table to steal a long moment staring at the stars, blanketed by the warm summer air, and wondering if I’d still be able to see the stars when I moved to New York City. Even as a freshman at NYU, before I got my first smartphone, I would religiously finish my homework early (cough, nerd, cough cough) so I could spend hours on Sunday afternoons aimlessly wandering around the streets of Manhattan while listening to my iPod nano, loving everything about everything.
Now, when I occasionally have a moment to myself, I turn to my phone and open Instagram, so I can, ahem, “be productive.” Perhaps it is a habit, but, if I’m honest, it could also be out of fear of feeling. More often than not, it’s uncomfortable to be present, because, well, being human is uncomfortable.
Having had the privilege to be able to turn my passions into my career, I have clearly sacrificed the value of my own presence that I once revered so greatly.
Still, as a professional yoga teacher, it is my unfortunate duty to post competitive photos of me “practicing” and “preaching” yoga on social media.
But recently, sitting on those steps with Wiji, unexpected tears spilling out of my eyes (sshhhh!), I realized that if I don’t value quality time with myself, I’m living a rather wasted life.
Forgetting how to enjoy your own company won’t make living a life any less traumatic, but it will certainly make it less fulfilling.
So, the reflection is this: yogi or non-yogi, in order to live a fully awakened life--one of meaning and joy--we must learn to embody our experiences with full appreciation for all that being a human being entails. My advice? Challenge yourself to stop turning to your social media persona as an escape route, and take time to enjoy all of life’s coconuts--figuratively speaking.
...And also literally, if you’re in Bali.