Elevate Week – Lessons and key practices from a week of immersion and reflection in Bali

It is the start of a new year and the start of a new decade. While I had achieved much in the last decade, I lacked clarity on my overall vision and purpose. How were my actions driving me in the direction that I wanted my life to head? Were my current actions bringing me closer to the life I wanted to create? I had a feeling that they were not.

I wanted to spend time to reflect on my life thus far and to come up with a courageous plan of action for 2020 and beyond. The best way to do so would be to take me away from my current environment (rushed, stressed and full of worry) to a nurturing environment (slow pace, relaxed and full of wonder). My coach, Tal Gur, suggested that I come experience Elevate Week in Bali. It would be an opportunity to get an experience of the daily practices, mindset and life of someone that I want to emulate. And with that I dived into Elevate Week.

Here are some of my key experiences and lessons from my week in Bali:

A nurturing environment

The environment we choose makes a big impact – who we are and what we do in one environment is very different from who we are and what we do in another. I’ve aspired to have an environment that is nurturing – where everyone is not in a rush, where everyone is not caught up in a sea of consumption, where healthy food is easily accessible (and affordable), where there is a sense of calm about the place. Ubud is the setting for that nurturing environment with its amazing co-working spaces, greenery, meditation spots and vegan / vegetarian food options galore.

The beautiful island of Bali (specifically Ubud) – I’ve always been fascinated by the lush greenery in the northern part of the island. I am drawn to nature and Ubud offered me that. Nature’s symphony surrounds me here – from the sound of the river’s water falling over the rocks, to the singing of insects, the leaves of the trees rustling in the wind and the myriad of birds chirping. This experience was not just confined to one location but to most of the places that I visited.

The co-working space with a view so lush that I wouldn’t blame you if you got distracted – Outpost Ubud is a co-working space from which I would do all my work from. Their second floor without air-conditioning (just like how I like it) is surrounded by greenery. It is a calming environment to work from.

Living in a house within a Balinese Family compound – The Balinese live in a housing compound within which there is a temple and individual houses of the extended family. I am staying within this compound. Every morning I wake up to the greenery right at my door step. At night when I go to sleep – an orchestra of crickets, toads, geckos and the rustling of leaves lull me to sleep.

The vegetarian and vegan restaurants – With Ubud being at the centre of wellness and meditation in Bali, there is a myriad options for high quality vegetarian and vegan food. I took on being vegetarian for my stay here and was surprised that I did not have any craving for meat.

The Practices

A winning morning routine begins the night before

I took on the practice of being harsh with my electronics curfew. Every night I practice putting my phone away at 9.30pm. With my phone put away, I can focus on my daily journal. I pen my wins, challenges and lessons for the day. Tal helped me free my thoughts around reflection. I always used to think that a daily journal is confined to the happenings of that particular day. Its not. I can write about anything, I can have conversations with anyone – my future self and my stomach even.

Reflecting helps me slowly ease into sleep and I go to bed by 1030pm.

The winning morning routine

I let my body’s natural wisdom guide my waking up each morning. I do have an alarm clock set for 7am but I find myself waking up by 5.36am each morning. I feel well rested and ready to go. I have a glass of water and then I roll off bed and knock out 20 pushups (the goal is 50 pushups at one go and I’ll write about it once I get there). I take a quick cold shower (to wake myself up fully and to avoid the laziness of wanting to go back in bed).

This gives me a winning start to the day and I feel positive about the day ahead.

Weaning myself off coffee / milk tea

I love a warm glass of local coffee / milk tea. Back in Singapore, I’ll have a cup of chai before leaving home. And on my way to work, I find myself tempted by the many coffeeshops that I walk by and end up with another cup of coffee. Two sugared milky drinks consumed even before I begin the work day. I counted that I drink 5 cups of coffee each day on average. Its no wonder that my waistline is everexpanding.

During my week in Bali I take on not having coffee. I replace my coffees with a cup of hot rosella tea. I am still able to work productively without needing to feed my addiction. Giving up coffee makes me feel free – I can kickstart my day without relying on a caffeine kick.

Intermittent Fasting

I’ve always thought that intermittent fasting would cause me to be lethargic and unproductive till my first meal at 12pm. The practice of intermittent fasting during my stay teaches me otherwise. I fast and find myself to be more energetic and driven. The increased energy probably stems from my digestive system having to do less work (since I’m not eating till 12pm) and this unused energy is driving me. I feel driven. Knowing that I won at my night time ritual and rocked my morning routine plus fasting gives me a winning feeling. And that winning feeling spills into the other areas of my day.

The Experiences

Letting go of unlikely fears that prevent me from fully experiencing

I’m at a spa by the river. Going down to the river and sitting in its flowing water is part of the spa experience. I sit on a flat rock in the river with its cold water passing over my lower body. The clear river is in a small valley with lush greenery on both sides. It is quiet other than the sound of the small waterfalls further downriver. Instead of enjoying the moment, a flurry of thoughts run through my head.

“What if there is a snake that bites me?”
“What if there is a crocodile?”
“What if there is a ghost / spirit that pulls me under water?”

In that moment, I can choose to engage in those unlikely fears. This would impact my experience of the river spa from a joyful one to a fearful one. I let go of the thoughts and shift the focus to empowering thoughts of how nice the water feels and how I feel so relaxed.

Trusting your intuition

Our car has come to a stop. We are almost about to alight at the famous Tirta Empul Temple. My intuition suggests otherwise. The massive carpark packed with cars and buses suggest to me that I will not enjoy the experience here. “Lets go to the other temple.” And we head off to the Pura Gunung Kawi. This 11th century temple has awe-inspiring carvings in the rock face. The place gives me a sense of calm. As with the many places in Ubud, there is a river that runs near the temple. As we look to stand under what is barely a waterfall, a local gestures to us. “Waterfall. Big. 10 minutes.” We take him up on his offer.

We walk along beautiful paddy fields and scramble up the slippery terraces. Ten minutes in, we are greeted by a roaring waterfall. It is both calming and awe-inspiring. I overcome my fear of sitting under a waterfall. The water landing on my head and back feels like a natural massage. The reverberating sound of the waterfall adds to the calm. The waterfall experience reminds me of the importance of trusting my intuition. By changing my mind, we came to this temple and bumped into this local and the experience expanded to something beyond just a temple visit.
The key lesson here was to trust your intuition

Forging a deeper connection with my inner self

We descend many concrete steps. A dense jungle is ahead of us. A right turn and more steps take us deeper into the valley. The sound of falling water gets stronger and stronger. The temple comes into view and we are greeted by a wrinkled priest who is delighted to see us. I would be if I were in his place as well. There is no one else here but us. The temple rests at the bottom of a valley with a stream that runs alongside it. We are here to participate in the Balinese purification ritual of melukat – a spiritual cleansing to purify the body and soul.

Water forms a key basis of Balinese worship. Flowing water is sacred and revered for its ability to cleanse and purify. I descend to the gentle stream and take a dip in the cool waters. As I dip, I’m told to let go of the doubts that hold me back, to let the water wash away my doubts and limiting beliefs. With the subsequent dip, I visualize being complete and in control of my life. It is a deeply symbolic experience.

Thinking that I’m done, I head back out of the stream. My experience here is only just beginning. I am guided to three different waterfalls – each with their own unique character. Waterfalls are regarded to have healing and purifying powers with positive energy. I stand under each waterfall letting the roaring water wash away my fears and the negativity that burdens me.

I leave this magical place deeply moved and re-energized.

The Lessons

Shift from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset

I’ve just finished an amazing spa experience and am having dinner at one of Bali’s finest vegetarian restaurants. However on a scale of 10, my happiness level is only at a 6. What was keeping me from attaining a 10? This question made me aware of two things. Firstly, I was not in the present. Hence instead of being in the moment, I was thinking about later / tomorrow. The second thing is that the script running in the background of my mind was constantly reminding me of what I lack. “Oh, you don’t have enough money.” “Oh you don’t have enough this and that”. This internal script was a scarcity based one.

The key lesson was to stop when these thoughts come. Then to shift the focus to abundance by focussing on what I have instead of what I lack.

Unconscious consumption to conscious consumption

On my commute to work and before I sleep, I find myself mindlessly scrolling through instagram / facebook / youtube – in search of the next interesting thing to watch / read. I now have 500 tabs open on my phone browser that I will get around to reading later (which I definitely won’t be getting round to). This practice contributes to my 8hrs of screentime per day! That is most of my waking hours.

The key lesson is to convert unconscious consumption to conscious consumption. This means picking the content that I want to consume on a regular basis. Inspiring, valuable content that moves me in the direction of my dreams. I’ve chosen to create a list of sources from which to consume content from and also to limit my consumption to at most 45 minutes per day.

Move from information to action

I read a lot. I watch multiple videos. I attend multiple courses and seminars. I’m stuck in a loop of constantly consuming more and more information. The reason why I’m doing this is to most likely delay taking action and doing the work. By taking the action today, I communicate to myself that I take my dream seriously.

Am I an Expert or am I Expert Enough?

I’ve dreamt of writing content on this website for the past 7 years. One of the things holding me back was the thought that I’m not an expert in any of the topics. Likewise for giving talks, I’d ask myself if I was an expert and then decide that since I’m not an expert, I’ll decline the opportunity.

The lesson here was that I need to ask myself if I’m expert enough. Asking if I’m expert enough gives me the option to shift the thought to one where I think if I can contribute.

Thinking in terms of “expert enough” will give me the power to create more content around the topics that I am interested in.

Knowing about something intellectually can never compete with experiencing it yourself. This is something that I need to always remind myself about. Elevate Week gave me the opportunity to immerse myself into the life that I want to create – with simple practices and daily rituals that guide me on my path to fulfilment. These simple practices that I incorporated into each day of Elevate Week will now be incorporated into my daily life. The powerful lessons and insights that I gained during the week of reflection, immersion and action will definitely elevate my next decade.