The Excellent Death of Mr. Happy

Ubud, Bali: Musings on the alphabet piano

So it’s been a while… about a year? But I have good news friends!  The best! You won’t believe it! I am happy, sitting at a hand-carved Timorese writing desk, with my rescue kitten triplets bashing themselves up amid a tumble of fallen frangipanis by the pool, to report that after three full years (and 1 month, exactly) of wrangling with side-winders and ferrets, lost causes and lame burros, missed connections, bedbugs, avalanches, hallucinogens, conjunctivitis, stinking yoga mats, nymphomaniacs and narcissists, I finally found my guru!

“Yuk!” You’re probably thinking. “I hate it when people say flaky crap like that.”

I know what you mean. There is a thing we did in Ubud sometimes where we sit together in a circle after class and say how we are. In a word. What I hate is when people say, “Awesome!”

For one thing, it’s culturally insensitive to Australians who are wired to say “Good, mate.” whether they’ve won the lottery or slammed their fingers in the car door. For another thing, it’s just mean-spirited.

When a guy says, “Ooorrsaaaaam,” with that self satisfied grin, and those dilated pupils, he might as well have said Royal Flush people. This game is OVER! And punched his arm at the air. It’s a very competitive thing to say. If I say ‘good’ and he says ‘awesome’, well, that pretty much puts me in the dust. And if what I really want to say is ‘confused, lost, angry, cynical, menstrual, borderline depressed with severe anxiety over the International Situation’ etc, then he has so effectively cancelled out my pathetic state of being with his pronouncement of being, yes, folks, not great but actually awesome, that I usually revert to my backup word, ‘flexible’. Though I might start using acerbic.

Awesome, in fact, is a war word. All the Schwarz-guys knew that, all Americans know that, and the Iraqis have recently experienced it. So this particular awesome guy, lets call him Mr Happy, when he does this little number, it feels to me like he’s adding to the problem, stirring the scum from the bottom of the melting pot, making it an act of rivalry to simply say how you feel. He creates what is being called ‘Pressure for Emotional Performance’, in scientific circles, and confusion about whether happy, and just good, or doing fine, or relaxing into it, say, are actually warnings that you’re headed in the wrong direction totally, when there are people right next to you who are ‘Awesome!’. He legitimises ‘Awesome’ as a normal state for a skinnier than average human being, while the truth is we’re all really only just recovering from the myth of being happy. He is not my guru.

Happiness is currently estimated to be worth a staggering $50 billion on is planet. Tragic, isn’t it? Considering everybody knows we can’t buy it. But just as orgasmic is the new organic, and Scoopys are the new Vespas, Awesome is the new happy and it is worth an estimated $26 billion already. It’s a more stable market than gold. And if you can trade in awesome, you’re up there with booze and tobacco and porn and casinos if the economy chokes on a bone. People who aspire to be happy are like those who bought Beta when videos were born. Check out what the London Times says: … this article, Why the Happiness Industry Can Only Lead to Misery, argues that ‘moderate pessimism’ creates a longer life, better choices and freedom from addiction. Psychologists call it ‘depressive realism’ and evolutionary scientists believe the slight advantage that depressive, hypochondriacal cave-dwellers had over their happy-go-lucky neighbours meant that, over millions of years, the anxious survived, while the carefree lolled about grinning as their wounds festered, their crops died and bears ate their kids. Possibly cavemen who dabbled in being awesome were clubbed to death by irritated neighbours or evolved on the spot, as they are always raving on about doing here in Ubud.

The author reminds us of the 15th-century German monk Thomas à Kempis, urging his flock to stamp out self-worth or be damned: “If I cast away all my self-esteem and reduce myself to the dust that I really am, then grace will come to me; thus will the last trace of self-esteem be engulfed in the depth of my own nothingness.” So that would rule ‘Awesome!’ right out of the picture, then?

 Nevertheless, Awesome is the latest iphone, the Dom Perignon, the goji berry of this awkward new millennium, and it’s not good.

 I met a young author here in Ubud commissioned to write a tell-tale novel about life in Bali by Harpers Collins. She was wearing a surprising amount of indigo eyeliner. The first thing she said when she arrived was, “Oh, I thought you’d be a man.” Her indigo teetered for a dangerous moment on the knife-edge of her lashes, then we got onto the miserable business of comparing notes from our various expeditions on the cusp of the consciousness evolution on the world’s most spiritual island (TM).

Becky hates yoga. It’s a vicious, toxic, spiteful malice that brewed itself up inside her unexpectedly at the Yoga Barn, anointed its gills with notes of rage, irritation, disbelief, frustration and pointed itself in a gurgling, seething, dangerous way at the teacher. She said she thought she had hidden it quite well. I said I thought I doubted it.

“But then at the end, he just went too far,” she continued, locking my gaze with her indigo lassoes. “We made it through the hour or whatever, I was glad it was over, and then he says, in this horrible accent, in this slimy sort of way, ‘namaste’.” She sneered it out, in American; “naamastayyyy… Give me a break! I just Hate that!”


I hate that word. She said.


Becky said she found life in Ubud fake and irritating and hopelessly devoid of eligible men. I said, “hmmm,” because you know when I get started I can be quite opinionated on such matters. The facebook profile photo of one of Ubud’s most recent long-stop-over spiritual-seekers turned guru-yoga-miester-mountaineer-bachelors flashed horribly before me: the high balding forehead, the far, far, faaar too white teeth, the latte-curdling grin and the daily slithers of his garden-variety wisdom which cluttered up my wall and attracted dozens of women to prostrate themselves back at him and encourage his piffle with laments for his genius. “The more outrageous the dreams and the hopes and the actions of those who dare to let their deepest sparks ignite into flame, the more outrage they will encounter from those who are most frightened by the consuming fires of change. When you encounter outrage – know that you’re [sic] most outrageous dreams are fanning the necessary flames of destruction. Destruction of that which imprisons the dreams of others,” he wrote recently. “Yes, or maybe it’s a sign that you’re being annoying?”  I replied, knowing that while Boeing-loads of Americans are arriving here in this far, far away land feeling they can do Bali, it’s safe to say none of them can do irony.

Anyhow, yes, Ubud is a man-desert. I have also heard it called an international shelter for emotional refugees. I am one of those, most likely. In a kind of frangipani fringed rescue and recovery centre after all my time scrabbling around the world trying to get new emotions, better ones, ones with a more domestic future.

There are lots of workshops and activities in this centre, lots of what they call enrichment in zoos, for all the trapped animals. Some are offered for money and known as yoga and some are exchanged for sexual attention, which has become known here lately as Tantra. None of them seem to involve good looking, stable men with a sense of humour or the kind of aura that leads one to believe he would be safe on his own with a match. There are no bbq’s here at which to witness a man’s skills with either fire or bottle opener, since in Ubud it’s a lot to do with being a vegetarian, and not a lot to do with fermented beverages other than one involving a mushroom. Which I do not recommend.

“So, Becky,” I venture, stirring the folds of deliciousness into my latte, “it could just be that you’ve tapped into something there that really needs to come out,” I offer. “It could just be that it’s not about him?”

“Ha Ha!” she said, crinkling her blue-ringed octopi. “ha HA!”

I call Ubud a spiritual laundromat. There is no doubt that the more workshoppery I do here, the more crap comes out of me, and it’s not always nice to look at. I am reminded of something I came up with after a psychic told me I’d been a washerwoman in my past life (which was not the incarnation I’d been hoping for, since most of my friends were witches and Medieval warriors and Inca kings and suchlike). I had thought then of how in order to create luminosity in the sheets, one has to make a bucket of filthy water somewhere – so in the end I accepted that the more yoga I did in the beginning the more cranky and hostile and nasty I sometimes became. Besides, judging by some of what I have seen in yoga atriums around the world, it’s actually part of the scene.

My first article about it was called Yoga Bitch.

I came to yoga after a year or so in the jungle drinking the vine of the dead and getting pretty irritated in the end with the flotsam and jetsam with whom I found myself having to share the cup. Ayahuasca is a gruesome nectar. That’s why they call it the vine of the dead. Contrary to common traveller antics, it is not an experience designed to be used as a platform for ponsing about the world telling everybody you’re a shaman or on the brink of evolution, or the foundation for funked up fashions like attaching the tail feathers of rare songbirds as ornaments to your ipod. It’s supposed to feel like dying and that is supposed to, you know, snap you out of it. However, en masse and in droves tourists of shamanic arts are mainly using whatever ancient sacraments are on offer to prop up their pre-existing delusions of superiority rather than allow all that to collapse along with the dollar and actually give us some peace on this planet.

A shame. My currandero thought so too. He said the situation with Westerners was pretty hopeless. “Most of them are kind of brain damaged,” he’d decided. “If we show them something beautiful they just want to sell it.”

He could have been my guru, I loved him and had already followed him through the psychotropic caves and kaleidoscopes of madness, the death of my children, my rotting corpse, visions of gangs of fairies hoola dancing through my capillaries singing freaky African lullabies to hip-hop beats, uncontrollable vomiting and shitting, delirious and naked, in a small pink bucket in a room full of Peruvians while he played the harp in pursuit of happiness together! However, certain practicalities prevented it:

A – in four months he nearly killed me three times, which was once more than my ex, and a pattern I had been seeking to break.

B – his place was full of rats.

C – he loved his Yamaha more than me.

But it is because of our time together (and partly because of the several hundred hours I have spent at the Yoga Barn lately) that I looked calmly at Becky and thought to myself about how sometimes those things that seem to hurt us are the very ones that cause us to open, to live beyond our limits, to let the life in.

I bore my friends half to death, I think, with the wisdom of the bud. Wrapped up tight in there, never knowing anything but darkness, the sense of potential and frustration, with suspicions of a world beyond its skin, the bud must get a terrible shock when nature within, and forces without begin to tear at that scaffolding to let the flower out. Might put that on facebook.

But then again, sometimes those things that hurt us are heralds of trouble and need to be clutched at the throat, snapped at the cervical vertebra and dashed against a rock ‘til their brains spill out. My Swami told me that. He said that was part of my spiritual lesson: to kill pests off quickly and without any remorse. I recall floating around the swimming pool as a child at night in Africa, weeping as I scooped at the drowning elfin forms of mayflies, ants, moths and other casualties of the blue. I’d go there at night only to rescue the bugs, never realising it was the light by which I swam on my chlorinated rescues that caused them to lose sight of the moon and die in its wobbly reflection.

The Swami was very fat. He looked like another man I know who is also fat, but is so ambitious and self-infatuated that it works. People don’t dare think of him as fat. It’s his own little secret. The Swami floats about like a heavy cloud, in an orange moo moo that disguises his perimeters. He also has sex with the pretty new things at his Tantric Yoga school. He’s famous for it. When the teachers in his lineage challenged him recently about the adventures of his penis in the fertile fields of fresh new spiritual seekers, he gazed away at the Sea of Siam and said, “It is an honour to be initiated by a Master.”

In my own view, the little Tantra-babies had been flat-out Tan-tricked, you could see it in the way they offered themselves around the place, like hors de erves. You could see it in their propensity to moan and grind and flash their genital giblets about in class… this was known in Tantra as sure evidence of the rise of their special magic. It was known in my treehouse as a sign that some very silly girls had fallen through a kind of Bermuda Triangle created by a confluence of peculiar angles in undulations of the feminist movement, the spiritual movement, the yoga movement and the Sun in Pisces, and were in need of a hot bath, clean sheets and a ticket home.

After these informative failures my need for a spiritual teacher was amplified by the miserable collapse of my certainty that a spiritual path has a spiritual destination. Apparently that is the 101 dumb assumption of a person questing in this world. Der! However, after giving up everything to find a skerik of something meaningful and dependable and simple in life and ending up passing though zero only to find myself pretty much where I began (except with less furniture and more batik), I began to get really desperate about what it would take to make me feel like life was even vaguely meaningful, let alone awesome!

Perhaps that’s why I did it. In the trainwreck of my relationship, having been robbed, abandoned, beaten and degraded by various situations and watched several people actually exploit me in those circumstances for a taste of it, I booked myself into the Radiantly Alive teacher training in Bali to do what I said I would never do: learn to teach yoga.

A basic promise of life is this: when you are ready, the teacher appears. I have found this to be a dubious pledge. I’d like to see a chain of evidence on that. There is no doubt that by the time I got to the Teacher Training near Ubud, which did, I admit, promise to change my life forever (but not necessarily in a good way – if you read the small print) I was readier than a ready thing to be ‘living my own magnificence’, like they said in the brochure. I was fit to burst: petals in all directions! I was battered to break-open point and there was no fight in me, not enough to create a hiccup.

I was greeted at reception by a beautiful seraphim who said, “you’re in the right place”. And then a woman who looked like chuppa chup with a grin like a piano screamed “HeeeeyYiiiii, Jiiieeeeaaaayyd. Here’s your name badge.” in that way that confirms to any sensible person that they are most certainly not.

I was sharing my villa with a bulimic with a boob job, a feeder, a co-dependent and the most veracious addict I have met in my life. When I arrived they were photographing each other in their well-oiled bikinis with their legs behind their heads by the pool. I spied on them from behind the curtain, wondering if they were yoga entrepreneurs, shooting a porn calendar based on the sacred asana. I hid my bikini in the back of my drawer and saw Caroline Myss’ book Why People Don’t Heal on one of their beds.

I was going to live here, like this, for a month, eating a completely raw diet (which is a sure sign of being more highly evolved and a guaranteed way to be more radiant and alive, according to the handbook), getting up at 5am to meditate, practicing yoga with a ‘faculty’ of teachers who had flown from all over Earth to support our spiritual quests, in person, as we were stretched, flushed, brow-beaten and chanted out of our illusions so we would come out luminous, like fresh sheets, radiating a halo of blue-white shimmer in the world, being more conscious and spiritually evolved, like our great teachers said they were, when we re-entered it: pure, raw and with enviable asses.

They estimated it would take at least 200 hours to get us fixed up. We had to promise to do everything they said. Including drink the nasty health juices full of noni, fungi, weeds and extractions that would make us beautiful between the endless lectures, the sweaty yoga, the noisy meditations, the movies and the deconstruction of our old selves into ones that were in Union with the divine and had a certificate to show it. We had to agree to do the funky chicken if they told us to, to say what we didn’t like about each other in front of other people, sit in poses that aggravated our injuries and turn up whether we were food poisoned from their fizzy coconuts or had trodden on deadly toad fish on our day trip. We had to understand that if we got sick or tired or constipated from the radical diet or the schedule this would be known as ‘detoxing’, and we would, under no circumstances, rest or complain. Most importantly, we had to accept that if we had a problem with any of this, it meant we had a problem in life, in general, and should go take a hardlookatourselves to see why we were ‘projecting’ our crap on others. We were taught things about yoga, things we had to be able to repeat for the test, and we were taught things about NLP just in case our yoga teaching was crap and we had to resort to psycho-linguistic manipulation to keep those yoga dollars rollin’.

When the teacher appeared I knew I was in trouble straight away. He had that look about him. A sort of darkness. He had bad teeth. He was short. Never a good combination in a man. He said, “If you think of me sometimes as an asshole, then that’s when you know you are really doing the work.” The room of 38 students, each having laid down their $7,000 for this experience, twittered and beamed and flashed their nipples and camel-toes. I thought of him as an asshole, and rang my insurance company.

It was a combination of things that worked against me, really.

  1. The insurers were online dealers who immediately put a nurse on the line who demanded my entire medical history and psychiatric assessments before even asking why I’d called, leaving me in no doubt that they did not have my back.
  1. By day 4, sleep deprivation and 10 hours of ranting, raving, warrior one-ing and eating only lettuce and coconut in various costumes, my sense of reality was beginning to warp.
  1. By day 7 in my villa, with its sounds of the bulimic vomiting and crying, the feeder rustling with contra-ban pizza deliveries, the addict sloshing herself with oils, potions and gurgling green juices to fire-up her adrenals, then crashing hopelessly into self doubt and confusion when the chlorophyll wore off, I was slipping into my own opening scene from Apocalypse Now.
  1. I had found, over time, that it is true that sometimes those who seem like the bad guys are really the good guys, you just have stick with them. So I refused to just quit, thinking maybe I was just ‘projecting’ afterall.
  1. Then, other times, while waiting for the good guy to emerge out of the rotting pupa of a bad guy, one can get disoriented and forget which is which, so I tried to ‘be good’, and wait for my spirituality to get better so I could be magnificent, like the teacher said he was, in the brochure.
  1. I had not yet submitted to the fact that there are in this world, assholes. Plain and simple. Ass-holery, while sometimes associated with people who can push and provoke us to great heights in life, is no guarantee. I had yet to get totally clear on that. But I am now.

“Don’t lose those vibrations,” smiled the Bhakti yoga teacher, bouncing her ringlets after leading the group through a dubiously researched lecture on the logic of karma, followed by devotional singing in praise of the splendour of the divine spark in all life. She said we should learn and sing in Sanskrit because “it is the only language on Earth that holds a spiritual resonance”. I wrote her a question with my eyes, “Err, isn’t that total horse shit?” She didn’t like me after that. Her Bhakti glow went quite frosty.

I didn’t like her either. She was over-laying one of the world’s most ancient lineages of human thought and investigation with some nasty elitist California pop-wisdom and infecting 38 new yoga teachers with it.

 “Don’t lose those vibrations,” she cooed. It was like a sort of jingle. And every time she said it, she shattered the lingering goodness of our heartsong, collapsing the sine waves from the sacred songs into a staccato fizz of New York accent mixed with a genetically engineered sweetness. I got bored of Bhakti. I lived to dance on Sundays at the Yoga Barn where I could follow all the vibrations, sweat out my frustration, stamp my injured feet and cry on the floor in a hopeless puddle at the end.

“There is nothing more sinister, more dangerous, more evil and vicious in this world,” said Edward Clark who taught us Tripsichore yoga in week two, “than the smile of a yoga teacher.”

“Beware!” he threatened. “Beware!” he leered. The stitching tightened around the fake boobs, and nervous giggles shook the camel-toes. I liked him the best. Even though his gums had receded horribly. I had been feeling like a pig at a fairy party all along, and while the other yoginis were showing off their Lulu Lemons and their jutting nipples and all, I had been getting the creeping feeling that this just wasn’t my kind of yoga. I had been getting the creeping feeling that there were more important, more valuable, more decent things to be doing in life than obsessing over smoothies and ways to work with coconut meat and whether any hideous cooked food had infiltrated your diet. My yoga was not improving. My knees and wrists were giving more pain than when I climbed Kilimanjaro, the lectures were long and shallow and I began to feel I was at a kind of eating disorder festival for Bimbogis.

We were asked to list what we had come here seeking. I wrote things like: “I have come for an activation in Manipura.” (yes, yes, I know..) Also, I wrote, “I have come to let go of grief, to learn to wake up happy, to ditch the cigarettes and the patterns that get me hopeless men, that leave me feeling bad about myself and cause me to write in ways people call acerbic.” I wrote it all down, “I have come to change the way I eat, change the way I think, change the way I feel, change my attitude, improve my confidence, be kinder, lose 4 kilos (not off my face), deepen my creativity, make friends who inspire me, and change my whole direction in life (again).”

I wrote about how I had seen all the lovely, hairy, happy people eating their raw pasta, opening successful businesses, getting laid, having orgasms all over the place because life is just that amazing, and saying things like, “It’s just love! It’s all love. There’s no other thing that’s real. Open up to love and Let Go.” I knew there was something very wrong with me because:

A – I secretly don’t believe them.

B – Secretly, they actually irritate me.

C – I am not having orgasms at the organic section of the supermarket, or even at Sunday Dance.

D – The idea of getting laid by the white teeth guy with the balding forehead just makes me feel nauseous.

E – Sometimes I honestly think I have heard more sense at Happy Hour at the Bundeena Bowling Club, just before the meat plate gets raffled.

Once I rented a villa from one of them, and she moved a girlfriend of hers in to the room above mine who was a cranio-sacral therapist. They are both yoga-types and have discovered recently that if one wants to manifest abundance (otherwise known as cash dollar), one needs to not only network, but be of service so that the universe will reward you with money. The therapist offers her sacred healing art in exchange for cold cash, but gives her great wisdom about all life for free. She was extremely frazzled by the prospect of getting her self and her belongings across the island to move in. I had taken about a dozen calls from her in order to achieve this 2hour journey and supply her a key when she said she felt exhausted by it all; the traffic, the bargaining, the pollution, the noise. I was gazing across the rice paddies listening, and said, “well, it will all be over soon, right here at the house it is peaceful and gorgeous – there are two little children running though the rice this very moment, trailing a red kite above them into the tropical sky.”

“Oh, I’ve seen that before,” she huffed.

On her second night there I was driving home by motorbike when I saw a small dark shape stretched out in the road. “Oh no,” I thought. “Kitten.” I slowed down to honour the little corpse and noticed, with horror, it was breathing! Long, slow, steady breaths. Almost invisible. But it was breathing and it was going to be mowed over in its death journey if it stayed here like this.

Two guys dressed in the feathery yoga tradition were saying their goodbyes at a nearby villa so I called them over, ‘Hey! Do you guys speak English? This cat! It’s alive.”

The guys strolled over, their mats and their drums over their shoulders and said, “Yeah, we know. It’s sad. Just kick it to the side.” 

“Kick it to the side? Is there a vet here? Wouldn’t it be better to just kill it?

“Leave it,” they said. “It’ll die anyway.”

“Pick it up,” I commanded. “And put it across my legs. I’ll take it home. Try to keep it flat.”

They lifted the broken cat, and laid its frozen body across my lap and called out, ‘You’re an angle” as we took off carefully into the night. “I am a human being!” I yelled into the darkness. At the house, I knew, there was a slightly neurotic cranio-sacral therapist seeking dividends from good deeds, so even if the cat was going to die, at least between us, we could contribute something, some witnessing, compassion and a way to lay out the struggling body that might make it easier for her to die. “Paula,” I called, gently placing the bleeding body on a blanket in my room. “Can you come and help me? It’s a cat. Badly injured.”

There was no reply.

I went up to her room and tapped on the door. “Paula, please come and help me. There’s a kitten here with a horrible head injury. Please have a look and tell me how to lay her down.”

“No.” She said.

“I’m tired.” She said.

I stared at the darkness of the unopening door. Dumb-struck.

You muthafukinlayzeearsedselfishgodambitch!” I thought. And lay awake until 4am with the kitten which raised from its slow rhythmic breathing, writhed its otherwise absolutely still body and howled three chilling, heart-shattering screams at the black world before dying as I watched her, crying.

Paula, doing her stretches all over the lounge in our living room in the morning, mused about the kitten. “I checked in with its spirit and it was happy to go,” she told me, helpfully. “Yeah? Well I’ve checked in with mine and we’d be happy if you did the same thing,” I told her back. So Paula took her healing arts and trundled off to peddle them elsewhere and my Bali staff and I buried the kitten with incense and flowers and offerings of toast, which was the best I could do at the time.

It was a pivotal moment, when I realised that some people are just not here to give. Some people are here to take. Which I think I heard somewhere before, was it on Facebook? Or in a Christmas cracker? I thought about Mr Happy. Was he giving us anything with his ‘Awesome!” or was he stealing something from us when he said that? I thought about my currandero, who fed me poisoned liana juices and stood over me, with my life on his harpstrings, to bring me back to health. I thought about the yoga teacher training and how they sucked me dry there, spat me out and left no visible trace on my world except their corporate account details on my credit card. I thought about the baby that died in February and whether by carrying it dead for four months like that I had lost something or gained something precious? I thought about my guru, and how she managed to change my life by neither giving, nor taking, but by placing the power of my life in the palm of my own hands.

She was an unlikely candidate for the role, an Indian woman working in an awkward crevasse at the echoy hospital of a remote, dehydrated bush town in New South Wales. Dressed neatly in synthetics, she sat at the same tired and cheap configuration of desk, computer, plastic gynaecological model, easy peel note pad, vinyl chair and smudged off-white walls that are the ceremonial setting for family doctors the world over. Nothing about her, there with her old telephone, sensible shoes and navy socks suggested she was to be more significant to me than any person I’d met in the last decade, at least. But within five minutes she was to achieve the miracle I’d been seeking. I received it like a smack in the head with a frozen fish. I felt myself lifted from my drudgery of everyday despair and flung with a magnificent furiosity against the cheap, waxy painted wall, then smeared in a slow ooze down, down and down toward the faraway miracle of the carpet. The windows remained at right angles. And a little blue sheet of paper with red writing in bold letters did not move a millimetre, even as it exploded the architecture of my existence into a trillion cascading units of binary detail. The woman had been amazed that I would cry. ‘It’s nothing,” she had said.

And that’s true. We’re all going to die one day.

Back in Bali, on week 3 of the yoga course some of the students were looking to rebel. Most decided to just let their disappointment float over the top of things. “I’m sure he knows lots of cool yogis and everything, and undoubtedly he’s read quite a lot of books and that – but I just can’t look him in the eye.” said one. “It’s not your fault, it’s the best they can do,” said a teacher. “This is not yoga. Just take what you can salvage and observe the rest.” One of my roommates came up to me and said, ‘I really admire you for not walking out. He has been at you from the start. He is your nemesis. He’s in your way. You will have to get past him.”

I re-wrote my list of what I wanted to achieve, “I am here to get a yoga bum.” It was my greatest breakthrough. A realistic expectation.

I decided my best course of action  was to convert this entire experience into a scientific study. Learn the ways of the asshole by observing him in his habitat, study his victims and how they allowed themselves to overcome, forgive myself for wanting to be magnificent in the first place and then boil of the courage to tell this guy, eventually, that he was not a highly evolved being who was changing my life. He was a Dickhead, who was misleading helpless lost yoga babies and pushing me to the brink of stabbing him with a lemongrass skewer at the buffet.

That day I overheard a conversation between one of the course mentors and a young English rose.

The mentor asked, “How are you today, Cordellia?”

“I’m really fine, thank you,” she smiled.

“Well, can’t you say brilliant then?” snapped the mentor.

It’s silent day. The teacher opens our lecture ranting and raving about imprisonment. “Yoga is just like prison,” he says, darkly. All the nipples quiver. “Many, many studies have shown how imprisonment can lead to greater freedom.” And then we’re on to essential oils which he is distilling and selling for a fortune. “Yoga is just like extracting the essences from plants. We take the materials; petals, barks, roots and stems, we put them in a vessel, much like the human torso, and apply the perfect amount of heat to reveal the perfect essences of life. This is yoga.” Then we’re extracting poison. ‘In yoga we are squeezing out impurities.” Then we are all about projections. “If you are thinking you can’t handle more of this and that I’m just a Mother F*&%$*@$, just realise that’s really how you feel about yourself.” My ears are getting ready to bleed. My teeth are verging on shattering. I feel I might go down with tonsillitis, even though my tonsils are long gone. One of the women says she thinks we are on a reality show and that the fireflies are hidden cameras and the audience will vote off only the ones they like, to save them from the torture. Another one says we’re all in a psychiatric hospital, and have forgotten that we’re mad. Another one, with a lazy eye, from Wisconsin, flits through the yoga room, singing, “Isn’t it all just, you know, like … awesome!?”

6 thoughts on “The Excellent Death of Mr. Happy

  1. I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by
    him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble.

    You’re amazing! Thanks!

  2. this post is awesome! *oops, sorry 😀
    quick question: aside of the price gap, which one is the least pretentious place to learn yoga?
    i mean, which one would you reccomend, yoga barn or radiantly alive?
    thanks 🙂

  3. Hi Jade…have you really jumped ship? Where are ya? Take good care of all of you…difficult bitch…Goddess…writer…adventurer…bold soul. I think you get my drift. Love, Roger.

  4. OMG. I don’t know if you get to read this. I hope so because I just want you to know that I have just spent any spare hour over the few days since the new year, reading many of your postings, starting with the Fly Cafe blog. Can’t get enough of the Bali/yoga writings. I am here for a few more months with my wife, who happens to be a yoga teacher, and we too are appalled at much of what goes on here, but amused at the same time. And so, so in tune with how you appear to view things here. My wife and I talk about “being grounded”, which we believe we are. Yoga does have a lot to offer, but unfortunately, so many seem to believe it is dollars only. Looking forward to more of your posts. Meantime, thanks for being so erudite and entertaining about such a complex topic, life.

  5. Apparently, ‘being grounded’ is the new ‘being awesome’ 🙂
    Does it ever end?
    Thank you for such a bright, chirpy message, and for reading along. Yes, yoga does have a lot to offer. I was thinking the very same thing last night. I was thinking about how much it has to offer, just what that boils down to, and how the basics of yoga are good enough – why add the glitter and the pom poms??? Oh! Yes… that’s right – for the $$$$$ bling!
    It feels to me that the heroic role in all this is very much left to the consumer. Where we put our dollars has become where we show our vote in this madcap ‘marketplace’ for healing, driven by dizzy ‘entrepreneurs’ (if that is the right word) who are notoriously savage competitors, know zero accountability, and zero boundaries. We, the questers on these beautiful little paths toward better health, clearer minds, stronger bodies, freer hearts and deeper love for all of love need to firmly set our feet in the Ordinary of all that, and resist the charms and wiles of those who predate on the alternative scene. Of which there are many. And who it is so very hard to pick, since they are experts at mimicry and manipulation. oh very deary me…. !

  6. Honestly??? mmmmmmm…. I can’t think of any!
    It’s a matter of turning up, ignoring the displays of genitalia and soft porn that the armada of students are doing around Ubud, and seeing if you can just learn to simplify, feel and peel off layers, wherever you find yourself.
    Most teachers have something special to offer. But there seem to be a growing number who claim to be not just yoga teachers, but shamanic breath working kundalini whispering cousins of Christ. I would avoid them like the plague.

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