I listen to the drone of the plane's engine. Outside the window blue haze suggests another reality. I'm not in this world any more, I'm hanging in the sky. I'm nowhere--an in between place where I don't have to do anything. A slight hiccup followed by a wobble brings me to the edge of my seat. Wide awake now, I wonder if this is the time I will go down in a fiery crash. As the plane bumps and settles I close my eyes. The adrenaline rush has sapped me.
Too soon the plane banks, circling through puffy white clouds to reveal the verdant landscape below. Bali, the only Hindu island of Indonesia. My internal clock has just given into sleep as we taxi toward the gate. I collect my things from under the seat.
My yoga teacher is there when I come off the plane. I haven't seen her for twenty years and she's aged, her skin dark from daily worship at the feet of the sun god. After we embrace she says, "You haven't changed much." I smile, nod, aware of the many new lines on both our faces, but somehow she seems to wear the years more gracefully than I.
We do yoga twice a day and I watch my teacher bend herself into a pretzel. As she pushes the twelve of us to new heights, I look around, competing with those more flexible or stronger than I am. Sweating, I twist and shove my body into painful positions. Is this what yoga is all about?
In the morning I meditate alone in the garden. The wall next to me holds a plate of flowers and rice, offerings to the Hindu gods. Out of the corner of my eye I see a macaque approach the plate. I try to concentrate on my breath but I'm enthralled. He eats the rice and is gone, melting into the jungle surrounding the retreat center.
During the morning yoga session I keep seeing the monkey, his deep-set brown eyes blinking under bushy brows, wary of me. I smile, bend forward, place my hands and push back into downward dog, my breath even and deep. Swinging into upward dog, I extend my neck to look at the sky. Effortless. The monkey stays with me, his eyes windows into something more. The smell of flowers fills my nostrils, sweat trickles down my back, insects drone by in the heavy humid air. On my back I lie rooted and relaxed, eyes closed. Yoga.