Rice Fields & Waterfalls = Freedom

November 14, 2016

Bali’s beauty blows me away. It’s on display in a variety of places across it’s 2,200 square miles, but no more so to me than in its rice fields and waterfalls.

From our Jiwa Damai retreat center where I teach yoga I often walk through the nearby rice fields. The minute I enter and start walking the zig-zag path I’m in awe of the serenity and artistic layout of the rice stalks and flower plots. The gently flowing water gurgling along the path along with the pleasant breeze are often the only sounds.



When yoga teacher training brought in over 25 students from around the globe on October 30, 2016, I took a few of of them up to the rice fields during the afternoon of their first day. It was a hot day under a strong sun, but the wind flowing on us tempered it some.  Here’s a picture I took of Chantal (just arrived from New Hampshire), Kennett (Denmark) and Sydney (Virginia).


A few days later, Bernardo (from Brazil; the other yoga instructor with me at Jiwa Damai), and I used an off day to see the Nungnung waterfall located about an hour northwest of Ubud in the village of Plaga. On that day we meditated and practiced yoga with the teachers in training first thing in the morning. Next, after breakfast and helping clean up the dining area, we took off on the scooter, racing through small villages following the winding roads rising up toward the mountains. As we got closer to the falls I saw incredible rice terraces on both sides of the road.


Then we missed the road turning off to the falls. Young Balinese boys were walking down the street in Plaga. The first kid we asked about the falls didn’t understand our question so he pointed to his friend. This second boy spoke perfect English and told us where to go back and turn left. At the turn I still wasn’t sure it was the correct way but then we rolled down into the parking area. From there to the falls, well, that’s where the adventure really begins…500 or more steep steps adventure to be exact. I reminded myself to pay attention. A missed step here would not be fun. Three twenty-something blonde German girls passed us climbing back up. They were breathing loudly, sweating profusely and not really looking all that happy. After some small talk with them Bernardo and I descended on, eventually turning right to view one of the tallest waterfalls in Bali. A magnificent sight, with a loud, pounding cascade. The water was warm so I kicked off my Birkenstocks and walked toward the falls.


I love this photo not only because for some reason it’s hard to see my bald spot, but because I’ll always remember this day. Next, here’s a photo of Bernardo…and then I’ll write about why this day really etched itself in my memory.


Bernardo and I marched back up those 500 steps a lot quicker and easier than I feared we would (young German girls, what’s your problem!). Our clean living, organic vegetarian diet and daily yoga at the retreat center really was paying off.

Back on the scooter, cruising down now, raindrops start plopping onto our helmets so we pull off to enter an open air warung (a sort of locals cafe you find all over Bali serving inexpensive and delicious Indonesian food). We sit on wood planks. I stick my feet through a hole to dangle above water where fish swim slowly, lazily. The roof protects us from the rain. There are no walls to obstruct the views of the fields out back to my left, or the now quiet rain drenched road on the right. A young Balinese woman brings big plates of rice (Bernardo), noodles (me) with heaps of vegetables mixed in including chili peppers. I taste, I believe, garlic, coriander, cumin and Indonesian kecap manis, a sweet soy sauce. A fried egg sits on top. I like the egg on top part.

After this perfect lunch the rain picks up and the warung empties out. The family running the place disappeared into the kitchen. I joked with Bernardo. “Dude, wake me up when the check gets here.” I drop back to lay down on the planks, listening to the rain on the roof…and actually really fall asleep for a few minutes. Waking, I ease up, wanting to ask about paying the bill and if we should try to get going, but Bernardo is nowhere to be seen.  Where did he go? I stand up, looking around. Just a couple locals still here. Wait! Here he is, wrapped up in that blanket he got in India, napping down below.


“How are you doing down there?” I ask.

“We’re free,” he responds with his cool Brazilian accent.


“Today, man. Today, this is what freedom feels like.”

The rain subsides. We pay our bills. Back on the road I feel light and at ease, not in a hurry, but making good time nonetheless. When we get back to Jiwa Damai we’re still in time to help set up the dinner tables for all the yoga teacher training guests. At each table, after setting plates, glasses and silverware, I light candles floating in coconut oil. In the twilight, the place looks nice.

The 28 future yoga teachers, all women but for Kennett, float in for dinner. Many still have wet hair from their showers. All have a healthful glow following a day of yoga practice. They’ve changed into nice summer dresses, a few just purchased here in Bali, or fashionable shorts and tank tops. Some have tropical flowers tucked behind an ear, or richly scented oils somewhere on their skin because I smell what I think is jasmine, or magnolia. Everyone, from places all over the world, follow the local custom of being barefoot in the dining area.  One woman from South Africa asks me, “Dave, what did you and Bernardo do today?”

“We went to an amazing waterfall.” I take out my iPhone. Several women gather close. I show them photos from the day. Photos of freedom.







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