It’s difficult to put into words what this experience has meant to and done for me, particularly because I’ve just recently closed out a week full of mostly silence, without reading and writing. I feel cleansed, thanks to the Sacred Water Temple. I feel I’ve shed a skin, I have a lovely mark on my stomach to prove it. I feel beautiful, and I’m no longer afraid to say it.
This last week studying Yoga in Bali had me exploring deeper within myself than I’d yet to go, even here, where I’ve excavated years of fossilized baggage from my psyche, stress in my underbelly, disbelief in my heart. I truly feel I’ve washed it all away. I sit here back in Los Angeles filled with resounding hope, truly thrilled to take what I’ve learned, along with my renewed self into the teaching world.
In our last week at Soulshine, me and my fellow Mukti yogis practiced Kriya Yoga. Dating back as old as Yoga itself, there isn’t much written or known about Kriya, except to those who’ve delved into it. It is intended to be a very personal experience, the discipline of Kriya taking you deeper into yourself, your karmas, and ultimately, deeper into your awakening. I felt so grateful to have this experience in Bali, and to be led so beautifully by my teacher, Julie Rader.
Our group of yogis at Soulshine were so jovial and energetic. We laughed constantly and grew in our practice with the help of discussion, self deprecation, and encouragement. The Kriyas required a quiet and calm focus most of us weren’t used to, along with some fascinating practices most weren’t even familiar. Naturally, with the unfamiliar comes discomfort, a desperate need to make sense of what we were doing, to understand the whys and hows, even though we weren’t yet ready to know.
So in discussing these issues with our fellow students and teachers, we were reminded the Kriyas are not spoken, nor are they written. They’re passed down from teacher to student, open practitioner from wise master. A part of the journey is going in, seeking answers from no other source but our own, not needing to express and project every experience we have, but instead, allowing the stillness within to reveal solutions to the challenges that arise.
Being a bit of a jokester, needing myself and others to feel at ease, to feel grounded, I couldn’t help but joke, “This is totally the yoga fight club. First rule, you don’t talk about kriya club. That’s the second rule too. Shut up and Be.” It’s certainly not as harsh as I make it out, it’s quite amazing actually, but I found the silence and solitude portion of this practice most humbling and most enlightening.
This was our last week in Ubud, our last week together, this new group falling in hard love with each other, the intensive experience creating stronger bonds many of us didn’t even feel with some family, so the silence was both a great challenge and a magnificent gift. We were able to connect deeply through eye contact, subtle touch, a conscious understanding, without needing to cloud it all with language and letters.
A particular joy during that week was Julie’s 1 year old, Samson. Already the buddha baby, the cutest fricken thing you’d ever lay eyes on, he had a wisdom in his eyes and a calmness in his being. And he’s a baby! He had many loving caretakers in Bali, each taking turns holding him, feeding him, singing to him. It was during our silent meals that Samson seemed the most lively, picking up on our unusually quiet energy, he made strong efforts to make us all laugh. Targeting us one by one, with eye contact, a cute little wave, the most peculiar and adorable noises, he’d have us all in the giggles, an awesome reminder not to take ourselves too seriously.
Samson and one of my favorite men in Bali, Paht Tang Gu
I had to constantly remind myself, just because I’m silent, doesn’t mean I’m depressed or stoic. If anything, I should emote even more than I already do! I just beam my smile from one end of the sky to the other, flail my hands and arms bigger, lift my eyebrows higher, dance weirder, hop around like a crazy person. The point of the silence and stillness was to become more alert, more aware, increase the quality of my sense perceptions and feel MORE. And that’s precisely what happened.
A 430 wake up call sent us all to our neti pots, up to the studio for a little warm up, some pranayama, and whatever else we needed to prepare for the Kriya practice. The sky still pitch black, the earth quiet except for the echoing sounds of nature, we delved right in. Over two hours later, we were finished. Having about an hour until breakfast, we each silently left the studio on our own time and proceeded to meander about the grounds of Soulshine absorbing our surroundings. We saw things we weren’t keyed into before, heard sounds as if they were brand new, felt textures our skin had never touched. It was poignant, the difference was palpable.
We were able to speak in the afternoon and up until we finished our dinner, many of us choosing to set a rule that silence began only when you left the table, so we’d linger for a few extra minutes, sometimes hours, to treasure the conversation and laughter together. That last week was so special. We were revealing truths about ourselves, our fears, our circumstances, that we’d yet to even utter to anyone, feeling the catharsis and release from the simple expression, and the connection with each other.
I’d sneak in naps during our mid morning break. I couldn’t manage to fall asleep before midnight that week, something about wanting to savor every waking moment in Bali before it ended. I spent a couple more afternoons at Seniman, making friends with fellow cafe patrons, the very amenable staff, and my muse. I spent one of my last evenings in Bali riding on the back of a motorcycle for the first time, visiting a large wood carving gallery that amazed and humbled me, watching shooting stars at night on a desolate beach, and capturing the essence of the Balinese and the Bali way of life so I could perhaps bring some of that magic back to the States.
Our last day together was one of the most special in my life. The last Kriya practice was transformative, the last Classical Sivananda practice led by Julie was so grounding, and our last playful class with Christy so uplifting. The day was warm and bright, not to sound corny but there was some legit love in the air, and just a tiny bit of sadness over the impending end. I sincerely did not want to leave, my mind was bargaining, somehow finding ways I could stay, completely forgetting the life and loved ones waiting for me back home. Bali was so transformative and life altering, it had me saying fuck it to my past, I can start over here!
Some Mandala Yogini Warrior 3 Love
Our closing ceremonies together were nothing short of momentous. I’d never experienced the joyful explosion of a Love Bomb before, from either end, but I was fortunate to that day. We all sat mandala style, side by side in a circle of love, while one of our fellow yoginis lay in svasana in the middle. With no rhyme, reason, or order, we just expressed words that came to mind when thinking of that person. Shouting love bombs popcorn style, we’d engulf our friend in a sea of love, appreciation and support. Most of us couldn’t escape this without tears.
Sealing the beauty and the training in, our teachers lovingly placed a bindi on each of our 3rd eyes, after which we walked and stood in front of each yogi, one by one saying to the other, “I AM a Teacher,” with the other lovingly acknowledging, “You ARE a Teacher.” We leaned in and touched bindis, third eye to third eye, our consciousness hugging. It was so monumentally powerful, soul shattering, no bullshit. I cannot escape this memory still. It will live in me forever.
Each one of our turns in the love bomb and bindi circle was unique, as each one of us are distinct women in our own right. My experience was particularly emotional. My personality is naturally dynamic, vocal, expressive, and passionate. I am confident in many aspects of myself but have real trouble believing I deserve love, security and abundance 100% of the time. I resist out of guilt, out of worry the universe will see my confidence as arrogance, out of fear of shining my own light.
During one very therapeutic circle earlier in the training, we each took turns sharing our intentions, one by one my fellow yogis shared with courage their specific struggles, and their hopes for transcendence beyond Bali. It was during this powerful conversation that the famous piece from Marianne Williamson was read, the passage below:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I’d heard this before, read this before, but only now, in Bali, surrounded by encouraging teachers, friends, a circle of trust I suppose, that I recognized my cycle. I am afraid of my own power. I see so much good in myself, I see so much light in my being, I see so much uniqueness in me, but something in me holds me back from really living it out loud. I share fragments, I indulge in facets, but I have yet to allow the totality of my being radiate the joy, love, and the pure exuberance I feel I carry, the full woman I AM.
So I shared my intention. I said, “I think I’m a badass, but I’m afraid to really live it. There’s so much I want to do. I know I’m an excellent, creative teacher, but even now, it feels weird to say it aloud. I want to lead retreats, teach more and more people, share what I have to give. I want to write a book. I want to travel and spread all this energy I have within. I want to embrace myself fully, with love and sincere confidence, without doubt, without question, and I want to feel I deserve to feel that way.”
So I entered my love bomb truly not knowing what I’d hear, expecting my fellow yogis and friends to shower me with kindness, but still not quite aware of how they saw me, only feeling what it was like to live within my skin. I knew I’d helped people, my students in Chicago and Italy appreciated me, that felt great, but I still couldn’t fully accept their love for some reason. I’ve written in my previous pieces about this, and as I sit in a cafe in LA after a week spent visiting studios, trying to find work in this strange and competitive city, I find these lessons repeating themselves. I’m making sense of them, trying to sink them in, trying desperately to BELIEVE.
My personal intention for Bali, for 2013, for my life, is to fucking BELIEVE, believe I am worthy, believe in my light, believe I deserve the abundance I’ve already received and believe I deserve the abundance I yearn for in the future, BELIEVE in ME. Fuck, why is it so difficult? I write this with tears in my eyes, an ache in my gut, and shelter over my heart. I write this to release it. I make a promise to you, whoever you are, and to me, whoever the fuck I am, to let it go, for good. I will progress having truly shed the skin, shed the last four letters of my name. I AM DANI. I AM AWESOME. I AM LOVE. AND THAT’S OKAY!
I laid in the middle of my friends, closed my eyes, felt my heart race in anticipation, having watched these beautiful yogis receive before me, feeling the end of this experience upon me, the shift in me already occurring, digging for the courage to continue, hoping to make my friends and teachers proud. The experience was too overwhelming to handle, the tears fell immediately. The love and generosity was too powerful to even comprehend. I could barely hear the words, I just felt sincere LOVE, and I needed to not only believe it, but find it within myself.
The words I recall hearing from multiple sources were VIBRANT, POWERFUL, PASSIONATE, ENTHUSIASTIC, INSPIRING, LOVING, COURAGEOUS, HUMBLE, a dear friend broke the love with some humor and said SENIMAN!, loved that, then I heard FUTURE MOTHER, I cried further, then I heard DESERVING, and I dissolved. I shed more tears now just at the memory. I owe it to them to carry their belief within me. And I hope they do as well.
I sobbed as I met the eyes of my peers and proclaimed that I AM A TEACHER, each one lovingly affirming, YOU ARE A TEACHER. I hugged my teachers tight, soiling their shirts with my tears, returned to my mat so full, so alive, so abundant. I must take this with me. They all deserve for me to carry on the Mukti love, and I deserve it too.
I drew the photo below during our 2nd week, it's supposed to be a visual representation of my intention, my heart surrounded by yogis. I realized recently how this already came to fruition, because this precisely represents the Love Bomb experience.
Our teachers gave us some wise suggestions as to how to healthily transition back home. I experienced some jaded feelings after returning from Haiti, seeing the States as selfish, consumerist, competitive, negative. And we are, not to be negative as well, but we so are. We are a society predicated on individualism, one, rather than oneness. But there are rising pockets of positivity, of collaboration, of connectedness, and the yoga community is filled with them!
They also encouraged us to keep some stories for ourselves, to share the many extraordinary experiences with our loved ones but to keep some for us. So beyond the Kriyas, which I will continue to be vague and not really speak about, I also come back with some truly special Balinese memories that I’ll hold close to my heart forever. All I can feel now is how I’m meant to go back, to teach there, to absorb more of their beauty, culture and LOVE. And that’s exactly what I’ll do, in Bali, Cali and beyond.
I have a lot to give, I am but a humble work in progress. Much of my teachings involve sharing my flaws and challenges with my students to maybe help them deal with their own, to show them they’re not alone, and as awesome as I am, and as wonderful as many teachers and leaders are, they are human too. No one needs to idolize or copy anyone else. At the end of the day, we all poop. Even Oprah and Brad Pitt have bouts of diarrhea, and that’s what keeps me going on days when I feel inadequate. We all poop, friends. Be Free.
You are beneath no one. My path is unique. So is yours. I will encourage you along your path and trust myself in mine. I am grateful for each human being, for even the worst is a teacher along my way. I am worthy. I am deserving. So are you.
Thank you, Bali. You’ll never know what you’ve meant. I move forward hoping to carry a fraction of your genuine goodness and peace within my heart. I’ll never be the same and I’m so so grateful. Thank you, Julie and Christy. Thank you, Mukti Yoga. Thank you, Mukti friends and yogis. Thank you, Yoga. Thank you, Me, for doing the dirty work, and at least being honest on this weird journey. Thank you, loved ones, readers, students, humans. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.