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The Balinese Life (a.k.a. how to be mindful)

Balinese gratitude

I am sitting on the floor in my beautiful room. Water is streaming in the background, palms are swaying in the breeze and the sun is shining through my door. Smiley women, adorned in their Balinese sarongs, are chatting in the driveway. Birds are chirping away in the daylight as a few frangipanis drop from their mother tree.

I take a moment to look at my surroundings. An open suitcase lies in front of me, with a batch of clothes for all seasons ready for folding. A book, a laptop, a cell phone and a bag of cashews sit on my bed. These possessions are all that will accompany me in the 24-hour trip that will take me home. From peaceful, exotic, luscious Bali all the way back to loud, vibrant, colorful Italy.

I become aware of the intensity of the sounds, colors and smells. And I realize that over the past weeks I have flown thousands of miles and crossed all possible time zones. I have also met more inspiring souls than I could have ever imagined. And I’ve had an unforgettable glimpse of the extent of Mother Earth’s astounding countenance. Why have I done all of this, you may rightly ask?

I arrived to this side of the world with a very clear mission – that of trying to be more mindful in life. How could I continue to juggle days made up of homework and kids’ birthday parties, while wanting to dedicate enough time to a new passion project and embarking on the adventure of a digital career? How could I keep everybody happy (dog included!) while not losing sight of myself? Would I ever have time to learn more about mindfulness and meditation, while working and being a mom?

A flood of thoughts and questions ushered me into Bali. But when I stepped off the plane here a month ago, I instantly knew I would find my way. I still attribute this very clear intuition to the first breath taken in this land. A breath of flowers, offerings of gratitude, traffic and smiles mingled with heavy, hot, humid air. With a feeling of immediate belonging and familiarity, though, came an understanding. I had to learn to practice a few basic principles before being able to call myself a beginner at mindfulness. Some of these I learned the hard way, some were a little easier. And here they are.

First of all, comes the letting go. Letting go of the necessity to be busy every minute of the day, to keep up with the latest social media post. Letting go, slowly but surely, of the guilt that accompanies most mothers that travel for work. And letting go of the controlling, the organizing. This to me, was the hardest lesson to get through.

Once over this hurdle, comes the learning how to go with the flow. How to glide on the waves of life, without thinking too much or planning every second of the day. Learning to be grateful for the moment and feeling it through. Stopping to smell the coffee, to savor food, to lock gazes and smiles with a stranger.

Third, come the acknowledgement and the affirmation. Of the surroundings, of the possibility that everything can and will change. And, with the knowledge that dreams can become reality if the belief is strong enough to make them happen, of the chance to make things better, to improve, to grow.

And last but not least, comes the importance of having a positive spirit. With this, nearly anything can be accomplished.

So now, as I get ready to go, I tell myself that I will do my best to continue living the Balinese life when I get home. As I learned in my weeks here, I will wake up with a smile. I will take a deep breath, be thankful for the sunrise and take time to brew my coffee. I will hug my daughters often, knowing that when I say goodbye on the way to my next assignment it is to bring them back the best of gifts. A mindful, content heart that takes its time to love and be loved.


Stay tuned for the upcoming post on how I got to Bali in the first place. Hint, hint: looking to live an Unsettled life.

Michelle Calcatelli

Michelle Calcatelli

Hi there! My name is Michelle. I'm an American living in Italy, mom of two girls, a lover of travel, music and good food shared with loved ones. I am a freelance grant writer and a former agricultural development practitioner, having worked mostly in rural Africa for 18 years. I look forward to creating a space here - with your help - where we can exchange dreams, ideas and kindness to start shaping a better tomorrow.

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