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Suzen's Personal Journey - Chapters One and Two


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Chapter One: I am going to Bali. How did this happen?

Suzen_2.jpgBy: Suzen

There is really no concise or reasonable answer to this question, but I have been asked to give the best explanation that I can. So I will begin with January 13th, 2008. I had been invited by a friend to a VisionMapping workshop presented by Lore Raymond (www.loreraymond.com).  I went for my friend -- as I had only a mild interest in creating a "vision board."  So I respectfully listened to some Feng Shui principles, which I had been exploring on my own, and answered some rather sobering questions regarding values and "living life with no regrets." This is turning out to be much better than I anticipated! I thought to myself. As a bonus, I was surrounded by the vibrational energy of 18 powerful women and one very secure man.

Then, I sat on the floor like an 11 year-old with my poster board, glue and scissors. The middle of the room was piled high with an assortment of colorful and interesting magazines that we all contributed. We sat in a big circle and were invited to spend the next two hours finding our joy. Wow! We flipped through the magazines, and when a page spoke to us we ripped it out. After a couple of hours, we stopped ripping and began to sort through our images and to cut and paste the ones we truly couldn't resist onto our boards. There seemed to be no one in the room but me and the visual adventure of creating my world the way I wanted it to look.

My friend and I intended to leave at 1 pm, but didn't leave until after 5 pm -- and then reluctantly. We have had two reunions of our VisionMapping group since, to review our maps and reveal what wonderful changes are transpiring in our lives and what requests we have for ourselves and for the Universe/God.

My VisionMap evolved over the first couple of weeks. I cleaned it up a little to reflect more ofSunrise_East_Bali.jpg what I wanted to project. I replaced a couple of pictures and took out all but one word. It looked neat and clean and felt very peaceful and comfortable to me. Our teacher encouraged us to put our maps where we could see them every day.

(photograph- right- compliments of Susan Spilman- photograher and Bali guide)

Each day I gazed upon my VisionMap and meditated with my map in mind; each day, as I passed by the map and drew comfort from it, I began, in my mind, to understand what my heart was telling me. When I pasted the pictures and words on the board, my heart knew what I really wanted. But the road between my heart and head has always been a tough one to navigate. Fortunately, my VisionMap provided the path, the road, and the vehicle. After several weeks, my head started to get the message -- as I gazed at the pictures I was finally forced to realize ... ah, so this is what you want! It was a lifestyle change, an adventure, something different.  I wanted to do something new, something big and Bali fit the bill.

An added benefit from this VisionMapping workshop is the friendships I have made. These precious and valuable friends are now vital pieces of my journey. I could never have predicted this fortunate result, but the VisionMapping workshop is not a one-time event -- it is an ongoing relationship of individual journeys. All students receive inspiration and encouragement from each other. And I have no doubt that many of these friendships will be life-long!


I have been on an inward journey for a couple years now - although sometimes it is slow going, I have felt the forward motion.  Around the first of March, I decided to go on a three day silent meditation. I spend a lot of time alone on most weekends, so I thought that a weekend of meditation would be a breeze. I should have realized from the rules: "have all your food in house ... no driving or calling anyone," what I was in for.  Only two books were allowed: the one guiding me (I chose Susan Piver's "How Not To Be Afraid of Your Own Life") and one of a spiritual nature ("The Miracle of Mindfulness," from the Buddhist monk Thicht Nhat Hanh), along with a notebook and pen. The author of my guide book, Susan Piver, instructed me to set up a little altar with a candle and a special object. I chose a shell -- the shape reminds me of the swirl of the universe.

At 5 pm on Friday I commenced my weekend. I meditated, journaled -- with some help from guided questions -- and did free writing. In between meditation and writing, I took walks, read from my book and rested - and that was it! By Saturday afternoon I was restless, irritated, and could concentrate only on the glass of wine I wasn't allowed to have later that evening. I suddenly found how attached I was to the little distractions of every day life. CDs, radio, neighbors, and SHOPPING were all unavailable.  Introspection and quiet time was fine for me -- as long as I could say "when" and go make a phone call when I got bored. The discipline of pushing past the discomfort was not an easy task, or a pleasant one but this is where the value was found for me.

From Thict Hanh I learned the simple concept of "being completely in the moment." According to Hanh, if you are washing dishes and thinking only of your cup of tea when the dishes are done, you are not alive during the washing of the dishes. And, moreover, if you are not present while washing the dishes, you probably will not be present while drinking your tea.  "Thus we are sucked away into the future -- and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life."  I sat on my balcony, looking at a delicate green leaf -- one that I had "seen" hundreds of times -- hearing Thict's words echoing in the breeze: "It is autumn here and the golden leaves falling one by one are truly beautiful. Taking a 10 minute walk in the woods, watching my breath and maintaining mindfulness, I feel refreshed and restored. Like that, I can really enter into a communion with each leaf."

By Saturday evening, I had grown calm. I slept deeply.  journal.jpg

When I woke Sunday, feeling rested and cleansed, I wrote:

It is a day of new beginnings,
It is a day of intentions.
It is a day of my own.
It is a day to begin to follow my higher self--the eternal Susan--to places I have been afraid to dream of.
I want to align with my higher self
I will align with the eternal Susan.
I am aligned with my higher self--the eternal Susan.


However, the following week I became restless again -- I was frustrated, and didn't like myself very much. Two weeks later, I came down with a four-day fever. I am infrequently sick and rarely miss work, but found myself unable to work from Tuesday through Friday. On Friday, I cried all day -- not a hurting cry, but a releasing cry. My life flashed before me over an 8 hour period. I looked out the window and felt as I did when I was 8 years-old  and as the day progressed, I experienced life from other ages. All of this was misty and vague. What it meant I didn't know, and honestly, I didn't seek to know.

On Monday, I took a walk on the beach. I realized that over the past two weeks I had beach walk.jpgexperienced a "spiritual detox." Through meditation and reading, I had faced my old beliefs and confronted a few very familiar limitations that I had apparently chosen to live with rather than to grow from! I realized on this Monday that I had let go of some of the beliefs and limitations that restricted me over the years. I believe this is what the weeks of unpleasant feelings and the fever was all about -- representing a rather intense period of introspection. And then, release. I knew very clearly that now I had room for something new -- something big.

By the end of that week I had determined that I was moving to Bali. For how long? I still have no idea. But I knew where I wanted to go, and that was a start. I had read the article and ads by Susan Spilman in the Women Taking Care of Business website (WomenTCB.com) who lives in Bali and also has a home in St. Petersburg. I had never met Susan, but had friends that knew her. On Friday morning, I called her only to find that she was away until Monday. I had to live through the weekend KNOWING I was going to Bali but having yet to introduce myself to the person I was going with!  We met on the following Tuesday and immediately began to plan my move to Bali. 

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Everything has fallen into place in the most wonderful way -- I have had no fear and virtually no obstacles to overcome. My landlord has amiably and enthusiastically released me from my lease.  My boss has graciously accepted my notice. My family and friends have been supportive and encouraging.

And what about that group of dreamers, who met last January, as strangers, to create VisionMaps? They're now my dear friends and like-minded spiritual travelers, who send me off to Bali with their love and well wishes.

I am overcome with gratitude and joy. I AM TRULY LIVING MY LIFE WITH NO REGRETS!

Suzen leaves for Bali on May 14, 2008.  She is planning to cut her hair and leave with one suitcase, a backpack, computer and a camera. We will keep in touch with her and have established a Blog to document her travels and allow you to comment directly to Suzen or ask questions. 

Photo right- Suzen's new hairstyle! Just before leaving for Bali.



Chapter Two: Arrival in Bali
By: Suzen

I have safely arrived in Bali! My senses are overloaded and I may be over stimulated for quite a while! The 27-hour flight was pleasant; no layover time may have helped, one hour in Chicago and one hour in Tokyo. Suzen_On_the_way.jpg

photo right- Suzen leaving Tampa International airport

We flew north over Canada and above Alaska and the Arctic Sea. High over the Bearing Sea I crossed the international dateline flying west until I was east. Then just before 10pm, about an hour from Denpassar, Bali, I crossed south over the equator.

I arrived at 11pm Thursday night Bali time...11am our time...how easy, I didn't even have to change my watch!! From Immigration and bag search I walked out into the warm Bali night and immediately saw a familiar face...otherwise I may still be wandering around the Denpasar airport! Susan Spilman and a hired driver loaded up my things and we drove about an hour north.

Just before 2am we got to Susan's house where I had a shower and immediately fell into a semi-coma in her guestroom. 6:30 the next morning the roosters and daylight woke me up. I sat on the porch facing the rice fields and had delicious Balinese coffee, truly the best coffee I have ever had. About an hour later, Gek, the wife of the family in Susan's compound brought 2 huge bowls of fruit...baby banana slices, papaya, melons, and pineapple. Yum!! The papaya and little bananas are grown right there in the backyard.


Susan has a house in a compound, which is a walled plot with 2 or more houses and a family alter. Her compound has 2 little houses, hers and a Balinese family's, with 2 beautiful kids, Lucy 10 and Ketuk 6. Foreigners can only own property in Bali with a Balinese. Susan's place is in a quiet little village of rice farmers. The area is beautiful but I am eager to get to Ubud and on my own.

One of Susan's friends from Ubud came over on Friday for lunch, my first full day in Bali. She invited us back to Ubud to hear a Balinese singer and guitarist play at the Opera Bar & Grill. This artist name is Balawan and he is a fantastic guitar player, his band is called a Batuan Ethnic Fusion, combining traditional Balinese gamelon music with jazz fusion. He is an international artist but we had him to ourselves in a cozy local bar, maybe 50 people total, which his brother owns. Check him out on Wikipedia...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Wayan_Balawan.  The group there that night was from all over the world, as I will discover most of non-Balinese Ubud is.

That night I stayed in Ubud overnight, in the guesthouse (Gandra House) where I plan to get a room once the Swedish guy moves out and makes room for me. The room I stayed overnight in has cold water only; the room I want has hot and cold! Spoiled, I know.


Photo above- Lane to Gandra's House

Here is how we got from Susan's village, Bona to Ubud. First with my messenger bag (with my MacBook and clothes and toiletries) in front of meSuzen_first_bike_ride.jpg and my sling bag slung over my back, I rode on the back of a motorbike 2 villages away to catch a bus called the Bemo. (I was just short of terrified! I can only imagine how the poor boy driving the bike felt with this white woman clinging to him like a baby monkey!) They drive on the wrong side of the road and there are innumerable numbers of these bikes, plus cars and trucks! No one drives very fast, you can't, there are 2 lanes and the bikes pass on either side, or often between other vehicles. (It is nothing short of amazing to see what is carried on these motorbikes. I have seen whole families, 2 adults and the kids!! 10 foot sticks of lumber and what looked like a small mattress strapped on the driver's back and babies of all ages sitting or standing with their little hands perched on the front or holding onto the mirrors!)

Turns out the Bemo is a tiny old van with benches across the sides...no door! This is when I Suzen_B-Mo.jpgknew, for sure, I am in Bali. However on this Bemo ride, Susan, her friend and I were the only passengers, they were saying and laughing that it was a charter! What? OK. On Monday, I discovered the harsh truth of the Bemo...I went to Ubud on my own...enough of the quiet countryside for me! I needed action. Well, I asked for it.  Gek took me to Gianyar on the motorbike, a 10-minute ride (feels like longer!!) to where I could get a Bemo. The one I got on was smaller, shaped like a miniature VW bus, vinyl bench on either side, no door of course...this one only had push out windows that opened about 2 inches. There was one woman on the Bemo when I got on. Cool. Then a teenager and little girl got on. We waited. I was just taking in all the activity, noticing an old woman carrying 2 big chickens by the feet. Alive or not I couldn't tell! Oh, she is coming our way...sure enough she & the chickens climb on the Bemo...then 2 other old women with HUGE sacks that took up all of the space and then a man with a duck which was alive for sure. As we pulled out onto the road I thought how long will this 20-minute ride seem? Two minutes later the driver stops...What?! A man with a HUGE crate on his head gets on, with the crate! I don't yet know how...I was mushed up against the back hatch, hoping it didn't fly open...then two more minutes and he stops again. No way. There are 2 seats up front, one with the driver and the other with the guy and his duck. A woman gets on and squeezes in with the man and duck! One more stop and a tiny (thank god) woman and a little boy get on to replace one who got off. All together eleven of us rode this tiny van into Ubud with very little air and 2 chickens and one duck! Wow, welcome to a new world...By the way, I got off the Bemo in front of Ralph Lauren of Ubud! See why I have sensory overload!

Tuesday morning, it's cloudy today but there is Bali coffee, fruit, boiled bananas with coconut...yummy. Now it is raining, steady beautiful Bali rain, bouncing off the green leaves of bougainvillea and frangipani, bringing the rice fields to maturity.

The friend of Susan's I mentioned earlier lives at Gandra's House. She is a Canadian retiree from Alberta (and social butterfly) who stays at Gandra's 6 months every year and has for the past 20 years, since backpacking through China and Southeast Asia in 1986. She introduced me to Gandra and to some of the other people there. My new home is a small room with a bath and a porch looking straight into a garden of orchids and bougainvillea with caged birds!! AndSuzen_Orchid.jpg we have a huge white rabbit that hops around the property and likes to be petted.  Just a small example of Balinese magic!! My room rate of $7 per night includes sheets, a towel and a full breakfast. This morning I had pancakes (a large crepe with banana & coconut and palm sugar)...yuuuuuum...and a huge bowl of fruit and coffee. I could have had eggs and toast! All served on your own veranda by a very cute smiling houseboy. It seems everyone in Bali has a big smile.

Wednesday morning I woke up at 6 when the roosters started at daybreak and immediately saw the full moon in descent in the western sky and said wow, how lucky I am!! And the next Suzen_My_houseboy_Ningha_on_coffee_break.jpgthought was one of a bit of loneliness...But then after my houseboy brought me coffee I began to revive J!

Photo left- Houseboy Ningha on coffee break 

At around 7 am that morning came the highlight of my trip thus far. My next door neighbor from Canada took me on a bike (bicycle) ride uphill through the rice fields...stunning beauty early in the morning. Now I am remembering why I am here!! The bike ride wound up into the hills where the terraced rice fields are flooded with a simple yet ingenious water system and Banyan trees grow to astonishing sizes. The Balinese consider these trees to be sacred.  We saw flocks of Balinese ducks that are trained by a duck herder with a long pole with colored flags attached. They are herded like sheep! We wound through villages and on the way back we stopped in at the Ubud fitness center, which looks like any western gym, except for the floor to ceiling windows looking out into a rain Suzen_Morning_Bike_Ride.jpgforest!!  One hundred American dollars for a full membership for 3 months. Next we walked our bikes through several blocks of the Ubud Outdoor Market, an assault of colors and smiles and the permeating smell of incense and the constant warning beeps of the motor bikes. It is a food market early in the morning and then a craft market after 10am.

photo left taken during bike ride

Today is Thursday, ending my first full week in Bali. Last night I went out with my Canadian friend from Gandra's House to dinner at Casa Luna where a very nice soothing Brazilian Band was playing. Then afterwards we went to the Jazz Café for drinks and to hear this great Latin band of drums and guitars and a saxophone and watch some very good dancers! There were a couple of gorgeous Balinese men dance instructors with their white western women clients dancing and at the end of the evening they danced with each other. It was beautiful, in many ways! Just like Bali.




photo above- Suzen on uphill bike ride through the rice fields


Photo above- Ubud outdoor market


photo above- Ubud outdoor market at 6AM

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