As I write this, sitting in my little wooden hut on retreat in Bali, I feel a distinct sense of peace. What I’ve witnessed over the last few days is that the Balinese, have a lot to offer when it comes to achieving a state of peace.
Meet Artur. He’s the smiling Balinese man in the photo below. I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with Artur as he drove me from Ubud down to Canngu in Bali. Artur had much wisdom to share with me on Balinese culture and I’m going to share this with you today, because I believe the Balinese have got it sorted when it comes to living a peaceful, happy life.
One of the things that strikes you first when you arrive in Bali, is the sense of time slowing right down. No one is in a rush. No one is frustrated. No one is trying to force life along faster than it wants to go.
The amusing thing is watching the westerners trying to get to grips with this alien concept. Everywhere you go there are frustrated, impatient holiday makers used to timely schedules, feeling highly unjustified that they have been made to wait a whole 5 minutes.
But the Balinese operate differently. They have no expectations that things will go a certain way. In-fact they are completely open to what might happen in the future. And I guess that’s just the point; they live life in the present, not the future.
As westerners, we are trained to be constantly thinking of the future with deadlines and schedules and appointments. In Bali, things operate on a much freer schedule…in-fact the schedule is, that there is no schedule. I believe we have much to learn from this. If we stopped planning for a moment and trying to control every single outcome, perhaps we could take a second to enjoy life and the present moment.
And so after 30 minutes of Balinese traffic, I turned to my cheerful driver, Artur and asked him “Why don’t Balinese people get angry when there is traffic?” If you haven’t been to Bali before, it’s a tiny island, with ridiculously narrow roads filled with cars and an insane amount of motorbikes. So, there is usually a fair amount of traffic.
Artur turned and looked at me as if I was a crazy woman. He laughed hysterically and replied: “What’s the point in getting angry at traffic?” It was as if I’d asked the most ridiculous question he had ever heard. And he has a point right? What is it about us westerners that makes us believe that there is something to gain from getting frustrated or angry at situations that we can’t control (such as traffic)? Just what do we think the anger will achieve? Will the traffic suddenly free up as soon as we express our anger? Nice thought, but it’s never gonna happen. It’s sheer craziness if you ask me.
You see, the Balinese know how to do one thing very, very well; they know how to go with the flow. They don’t worry too much about whether or not there will be traffic, or if they might be late. As a culture they know how to let go, and let life take the reigns.
Now I’m not saying we should abandon our schedules in the west and just rock up to work whenever we feel like it, but I do believe there is room to compromise our controlling behavior a little. Especially when it comes to those situations that we can’t control.
And as I sit here, in my little hut, preparing for my early morning yoga class, I wonder how much happier we would be in the west, if every now and then we were to just let go and go with the flow.
Simple Life Strategy: How to go with the Flow
1. Notice the next time you get frustrated with a situation that you can’t control
2. Take a moment to consider: what is the point of you getting angry or frustrated? What will this achieve?
3. Remember Artur and if you can, have a little chuckle at the ridiculousness of getting angry at a situation that is beyond your control
4. Take a deep breath and make a conscious decision to let go of trying to control the situation
5. Allow yourself to go with the flow, who knows, things might just turn out better than you could have ever planned!
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Great post thank you! I was in Bali over xmas and New Year 2012/13 and experienced this too. Life in the fast lane is not all it’s cracked up to be that’s for sure, we could all learn many lessons from letting go more 🙂
Thanks for your comment Sandra!
Great to hear you enjoyed a slice of heaven in Bali 🙂
Letting go is definitely a bit of an alien concept for us westerners…we have much to learn from the east!
Anyway, I’m off to ‘let go’ in my first yoga class of the day,
Have a great day,
This is sooo Latin America too 🙂 I was watching an episode of Midwives yesterday and they had a hospital that stood in the middle of a very poor area of England and a very wealthy area. The women who had babies from the poor area were often young and uneducated and just took becoming mothers in their stride.
The women who had babies from the wealthy area were much older, well educated, had successful careers and many spent the whole pregnancy worrying! And they were much more stressed when the baby came as they were so used to being in control that the experience of just living day by day with a non-conforming newborn was very distressing to them.
I am so happy that I have been able to sample both worlds, but the simple life is very appealing 🙂
Good to hear we’re on the same page Mike!
Great blog: I agree with you that it would be beneficial for the west to start letting go of situations that are out of our control. We are creating unnecessary high stress levels and illnesses by reacting to everything by anger and upset. I have been practicing going with the flow for some years now and it has immensely changed my life.
you only live once and getting stressed will get you nowhere, right?
“What is it about us westerners that makes us believe that there is something to gain from getting frustrated or angry at situations that we can’t control (such as traffic)? Just what do we think the anger will achieve?”
I don’t think “westerners” believe they there is anything to gain from getting frustrated or angry in such situations. At the point of being cross in say, the traffic, we are not in a rational mindset.
The fact that there is no positive outcome from an emotion, doesn’t stop or the emotion or prevent it occurring. Thinking differently about the situation does that.
The point is true, letting go is good for us, but this is way too simplistic a comparison. I wonder if Balinese culture would’ve evolved differently if its climate was that of say a northern european city, where it’s cold, rainy and grey for 6 months of the year, prompting the roof over ones head to be to be a vital – and grossly overpriced – necessity, rather than a sunny, humid tropical 30 degrees year round, if the balinese couldn’t rely exclusively on tourism, had to generate income to live in other ways: as they have in Singapore..oops, back we are to fast paced western city culture.
One thing I’ve always struggled with is anxiety. I’m always stressed and anxious about ”what-ifs”. Always stressing about the future.
I’m currently jobless and moving in about 3 days. Do I have a reason to be stressed? Yes. Can I control the situation? Not really! The only thing I can do is apply for jobs but I can’t control whether or not someone hires me. I can only play my part. If something bad happens, something bad happens. I can’t control other people’s decisions and this is something I’ve been coming to terms with.
Thank you! Grateful to have come across your post!