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Finding serenity at White Lotus meditation studio in Ubud, Bali. (PETER JANISZEWSKI/PETER JANISZEWSKI)
Finding serenity at White Lotus meditation studio in Ubud, Bali. (PETER JANISZEWSKI/PETER JANISZEWSKI)

Why was it so frustrating trying to find inner peace? Add to ...

Sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor of a luxury yoga studio in Ubud, Bali, I try to decipher the rambling of our scraggly-bearded Balinese meditation teacher.

“Kundalini is God. Buddha is God. Jesus is God. You is God... ,” he concludes as his eyes widen, and he pauses for dramatic effect.

I dare not meet his gaze as he scans the group for a confirmation that we are following his derailed train of thought. To my left, I notice my partner, Marina, is fidgeting; apparently the red ants have found her. After what seems like an eternity of non-sequiturs in broken English, punctuated only by rolling Rs, we understand nothing about Kundalini meditation, the topic of our session.

Who knew it would be this challenging to learn to meditate in the epicentre of Indonesia’s new-age movement?

Perhaps finally sensing our incomprehension, or more palatably our boredom, our teacher announces: “Now we begin Kundalini meditation.” Following a confusing mixture of ill-timed breathing exercises, some talk of chakras, and a lot of ant bites, he concludes by yelling, “I love you boh-dee!!!” and enthusiastically hugs himself.

Feeling defeated, Marina and I head out for a walk. As we wander through Ubud’s cobbled stone streets, I can’t stop thinking about our missed opportunity.

Then something forces me to turn around. I can’t believe what I see.

“Marina! I found White Lotus!”

Before our last-minute flight to Bali, I searched online for the perfect place to learn to meditate. Although I found reviews of a meditation studio called White Lotus, which sounded ideal, no contact information was available. All I knew was that it was near the path leading to the rice terraces and was owned by a woman named Sandeh. After several passes to and from the rice terraces without a sight of the White Lotus, I had nearly given up hope.

Four days later....

For the first time in my life, my mind is silent. Although it lasts for only a second, the experience is remarkable.

As I slowly open my eyes, I become aware of our environment. Marina is sitting to my left. Across from us is Sandeh, our meditation teacher. As she meditates in silence, the rays of the setting sun pierce her long silver hair, giving her an otherworldly appearance.

The three of us are seated in the open-air, roof-top studio. Above the tall palm trees, the sky is painted with broad, overlapping strokes of orange, red and purple. To the northeast, the peak of a volcano is visible above the tree line. The smell of burning incense permeates the air, as distant sounds of traditional Balinese music come and go with the passing breeze.

Though this moment would make Elizabeth Gilbert jealous, it’s verging on comical: a Polish-Canadian and Russian-Canadian learning to meditate from an Italian-German in Bali. And yet, I wouldn’t change a thing. Through some stroke of luck we made a connection with a kindred spirit who was a stranger only days before. Our nightly meditation lessons at White Lotus were easily the highlight of four months in Southeast Asia.

When I later inquired why Sandeh kept the White Lotus so elusive, she replied with a smile, “The right people always manage to find me.”

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