After a light and delicious breakfast, our day began with a yoga class. I think it has been around 20 years since I last did yoga. In fact, it’s possibly longer! Our instructor was excellent, and I was surprised to discover that I did remember some of the poses and the movements. Equally, I was not surprised to discover that I have very little joint flexibility nowadays. I enjoyed the class, and it’s made me start to consider how I can practically incorporate more movement and flexibility training into my everyday life. Two of our group were able to do a incredible pose standing on one leg with one arm going backward over there shoulder to meet the other arm with the circle formed by their arms holding up their leg. Those of you who do yoga on a regular basis probably know the pose that I am attempting to describe. I felt like clapping them!
After yoga we headed to Threads Of Life in central Ubud for a lecture by William Ingram. Copied straight from their website: Threads of Life is a fair trade business that works with culture and conservation to alleviate poverty in rural indonesia. The heirloom-quality textiles and baskets we commission are made with local materials and natural dyes to an exquisite standard usually seen only in museums. We work directly with over 1,000 women on 11 islands across Indonesia, helping weavers to form independent cooperatives, to recover the skills of their ancestors, to manage their resources sustainably, and to express their culture identity while building their financial security.
William spoke to us for well over an hour (was it two? the time absolutely flew by) about the history of Indonesian textiles and their role in the community in practical, cultural and spiritual ways. Somehow he was able to interweave information about Balinese culture and religion into his talk in ways that gave me much greater understanding of the structures and beliefs from the perspective of the Balinese rather than from my own Western paradigms. I know that I have a very long way to go in that regard, but definitely felt a shift in the way that I process that information and attempt to make sense of it. I actually found it rather moving!
And of course, the stories of the textiles were fascinating. Indonesia, and especially the islands that William works with, has an extremely long history of producing and trading in textiles. He talked us through the meanings and evolutions of different patterns and how they changed over time in different locations. He also talked about the natural dyes that are used, and how they are gathered and produced by the different communities. The depth and breadth of knowledge that William has was astounding, as is the work that he has done to ensure that the traditional knowledge and customs around textiles can be maintained in ways that are also financially beneficial to communities. In addition to running the Threads of Life business, there is a foundation that among many other things works to gather knowledge on the plants that are used for dyeing and to identify them scientifically as well as by local names.
William also explained the double ikat process of weaving. I thought that I knew what ikat was, but really after listening to William I realised that I had absolutely no idea of the complexity, skill and time involved in doing the process well. There are some textiles that are actually multi-generational! One woman starts with dyeing the threads, knowing that it will be daughters or granddaughters who eventually weave the completed textile.
I can barely scratch the surface with what I am able to share about William’s lecture. Please take the time to read through the Threads Of Life website if you are at all interested in these textiles. The weavings we saw were absolutely beautiful, with their imperfections showing their humanity, as well as often being quite deliberate. All of the patterns have different meanings, and even though sometimes particular motifs are given names, the associated meaning is not always known to those outside of the community producing them.
And yes, I did purchase some textiles there. Two beautifully hand-dyed scarves, that I know will be worn with new appreciation of the processes involved in making and applying the natural dyes. And speaking of natural dyes, today half our group will be doing a class in indigo dyeing. The other half – me included – will be doing the class tomorrow.
Following our lecture we ate lunch at Casa Luna in Ubud. From their website: Casa Luna celebrated its 20-year anniversary in 2012. Since July 1992, Casa Luna has been serving wholesome, affordable food to discerning guests. Our Balinese-style Paella has become legendary, the lime tart has been named the best dessert in Bali, the coffee reigns supreme and our baked goods are famous. They are right. The food is delicious. I had five spiced duck on noodles, followed by an absolutely superb coffee. There is no doubt that I am indulging the sense of taste while I am here!
I had a quick wander through the markets in Ubud after lunch. My daughters had sent me to Bali with a list of DVDs to buy, so I got that job out of the way quite quickly. I bought them some simple shorts at a market stall, and also bought a sarong length of commercially printed batik patterned fabric that I really wasn’t intending to buy – for well under half the price it was initially quoted. I really don’t like bargaining, but always do it with a smile. However when I say no thank you, that is actually what I mean – it isn’t meant to be a finally bargaining chip! But in the end I felt sorry for the seller. I’m a pushover, but am happy to be one in these situations. Give me a fixed price shop any day! There are a number of beautiful shops in Bali selling quality hand-made goods and beautiful fabrics, so I hope to be able to avoid the markets from now on and pop in to some of those. However, I’m not really here to shop (although it is a pleasant side-effect).
I had a massage booked at Cantika Jasmine spa in the afternoon. The spa is reached by turning off a larger road and walking down a narrow lane through rice fields. I chose to have a combination of massage, scrub and flower bath. It was wonderful. It started by stripping down to those disposable undies that look and feel like a chux cloth with elastic, then me being like a little kid and figuring that if I kept my eyes closed and couldn’t see the masseur then she couldn’t see that I was pretty much naked. Oh, the delusion. I began face down while my back half was massaged with warm oils. The pressures were terrific – painful enough to be doing good (I often need remedial massages as I hold a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders) without causing me to grimace or hold my breath. The warm oil was following by a cooling scrub. I giggled at the contrast when it was first applied. Then I rolled over and the process was repeated on my front.
I eventually lay in a beautiful warm bath filled with flowers, herbs and leaves. My masseur bought me a drink of hot ginger tea, and I just lay there listening to the variety of birds, the occasional motorbike in the distance, the quiet chatter and laughter in Balinese of the women working at the spa, and sometimes a dog barking. I very rarely just stop and lie down and listen, but now I had no choice! Eventually as the water cooled to the temperature of the warm air around me, it was time to get out and shower. I emerged about an hour and three quarters after I entered the spa feeling refreshed and rested.
But then it was time to meet the rest of the group for cocktails again! We enjoyed our two for the price of one happy hour, then slowly walked back to the resort, popping in to visit some of the shops nearby. One that a number of us particularly enjoyed was Aku boutique. There will be more visits there before the week is over!
The day ended similarly to the previous one with dinner at Svarga Loka. There is always a great deal of conversation over dinner, on a variety of topics. We are blessed in the cohesion of our group and the way that we have bonded. Most of us didn’t know one another well at all before coming on the retreat, yet have found many commonalities and often discovered overlapping circles and connections between our lives. Everyone is able to do their own thing, yet usually there are a number of other people interested in doing similar. So fortunate. Well, it’s time for me to have breakfast before heading off on a cycling trip down a volcano! As you do!