I live in Bali.
The paradise Bali. The Eat, Pray, Love and happily-ever-after-finding-yourself Bali.
And I am confused. And…it’s not because I haven’t found myself.
I am confused because I feel angry. Angry toward the yogis, the tantricas, the hippies, and the healers.
What have they done to me? Who am I to judge those loving, peaceful people? Above all, I’m one of them!
Together we are drawn to yoga, healing, meditation, the life outside the cubicle, exploring a reality beyond what our society, parents, and teachers told us we should be like—together, we are drawn to finding answers and happiness.
Yup, eight years ago I came to Bali to do a yoga teacher training. I meditate and practice yoga daily. I have epic underwear dance parties in my bedroom. I pray to Lord Ganesh and Lakshmi. I did a juice fast over Christmas. As a matter of fact, I’m drinking a green juice right now! And to make it even better—I founded a yoga inspired jewelry and clothing brand.
How much more could one fit into the mold? Yes, I’m a white woman figuring out who she is and questioning it all.
So why do I suddenly feel such a disgust for this world that is home?
Because it feels pretentious!
It feels like you need to wear the gear, speak the language, and, most importantly, carry the vibration to fit in. “You, too, can be tapped into something higher,” they chant. “You can reach the bliss through our cacao ceremonies, tantric breathing, mastery of low emotions such as jealousy through open relationships, Ayahuasca ceremonies, kirtan, and, of course, with glitter, temporary gold tattoos, summer dresses, colorful beaded necklaces, and feathers in your hair. We embrace everyone—but, don’t you come with your mainstream outfits, negative thinking, computer jobs, politics, and structures. Don’t you bring down our vibe by questioning this big, flowery, love party. That means you’re just not ready yet to be embraced.”
Turns out, my anger stems from realizing how f*cked our world must be. It must be so bad that we abandon our own cultures and even our own homes. It must be so empty that we feel the need to dress up as the wisdom women and shamans of Peru, as the yogic masters of Rishikesh, as the temple dancers of Odissi. We are trying so hard to grasp and embody the practices that we weren’t born with, because they appear full, vibrant, free, genuine, and loving. Yes, because they represent all those things that we are starving for.
But something in us feels as if we are frauds. We know that—at least most of us as far as this lifetime goes—we weren’t born into a sage household in India or as the daughter of a shaman in the Peruvian Amazon. Most of us were born in Chicago, London, Munich, San Francisco, Moscow, Sydney, or a small town in the middle of Bavaria and are bored out of our minds by the lack of depth, culture, and genuine connection we were placed into. We grew up with Barbies and diets, high school popular girl drama, and credit card bills.
Who wouldn’t want out of that? Who wouldn’t want to feel special, vibrant, connected, and free? The promise is too good.
I get it! I’m here with you! I cheer on the courage and insight to finally break free! Because clearly there is something wrong with the way things are done in the places we are from. Our rates of depression, eating disorders, suicide, alcoholism, workaholism, divorce, cancer, and diabetes are off the charts!
What sane person would want to stay in that? At least, we have realized that that is not a world we want to live in. I certainly have—I was done with a world of anorexia, breast cancer, pressure to perform, and a pre-calculated life.
But is running away the answer? Are we now trapped on a tropical island? Forced to make this yoga teacher or healing career work? This paradise world still uses currencies after all. Because what is the alternative? Going back? If that was tough before, it feels unbearable now. Or does it?
Well, sorry to break the news: No ceremony, no kimono, no headband, or septum piercing will make you feel the vibrant, loving, free self you are searching for. Until we fully embrace who we are—with our origins and all—our feather outfits will clash hard with the fact that we live in a world where Trump got elected president.
I’m not saying we should stop the practices—the writing, the praying, the dancing, the rituals (if done in a respectful way)—whatever works for you to connect with that “divine inside,” that peace, that bliss, that feeling we are all seeking. Let us continue to question the chasing, the corporations, the manipulation, the depletion, the cutting throats, and back stabbing that we despise so much!
What I am saying is: Let’s be mindful to not replace the old version with a new one that—yet it has a far more sparkly appearance—still has similar qualities of elitism, requirements to fit in, arrogance toward “the less evolved,” and glorification of consumerism.
Let’s help create a world that we are excited to come home to, a world that genuinely is built on high values and respect. So that we can see the gems of being with our families, walking the lands we grew up in, and acknowledge the depth, the sweetness, the genius, and, yes, the problems present.
There is spirit in those lands—there are elders. There is work to do.
It is all right there.
Author: Christina Zipperlen
Image: Lena Bell/Unsplash
Editor: Leah Sugerman