Bali Spirit Festival, Ubud Bali May 7-11th, 2025

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Opening Our Hearts to Gratitude

How do you thank the person who really opened your heart to gratitude as a way of life? How do you thank the person who helped you to see that life was filled with blessings, from the sun peeking through the curtains beginning the day through to the first smiles you receive as you enter the kitchen to the food in the fridge, the frogs on the floor (yes, I live in Bali) and even that knot in the neck is a blessing, and that once we open our hearts to gratitude life opens up even more, rains blessings down upon us. 

For me, the incredible Kundalini yoga teacher Rebecca Pflaum was the person who helped me understand this, and it happened in the first workshop of hers that I attended at the BSF three years ago. I am not exaggerating when I say that since that time my life has never been so good.

“It’s all about connection – if the connection is not there nothing works” Rebecca said on Saturday morning to a packed room, her ability to connect straight away with her students, directly with their hearts the reason why people were three deep up the incline behind the lawn pavilion, shaking their butts to release the old and caterwhauling their way through those ever-challenging kundalini yoga arm exercises.

Rebecca shared with the group her experience of the devastating earthquake in Tokyo, her place of residence, earlier this month:

“What happens to one of us in some way happens to all of us” Rebecca reminded us. “It can be detrimental to pretend you’re not fearful – things happen in life that are scary. So many things we take for granted truly are an illusion. Everything can change in a second. …It was impossible to feel stable after the earthquake, it was like standing in moving water. We were frightened, and we had to sit with that fear. Feel it. This is when we have to step into the Divine – that which is steady – step into the Divine because it is steady.“

Rebecca’s gift, which she shares with thousands of people around the globe, is her ability to talk with heartfelt depth and meaning about the values of yoga – universal values – and to do it in a way that grabs you by the heart, squeezes it to make sure you are awake, releasing it to see you go out, eyes open, heart bursting, changed.

I have a burgeoning theory about Kundalini yoga, how the intensity of the practice, those awe-inspiring arms raises, the continual pushing pushing pushing ‘till you can do nothing other than laugh and hoot and shriek your way through the last 60 seconds of a movement, the pushing of yourself beyond limits until there are no more limits, just the bliss to be had on the other side – this liberates us, actively brings us to a space where borders, boundaries and personal space, solipsism, are no more.

In that sort of space we join with the universe, in a workshop in pure delight with all of those around us, at home with the trees that look down upon us as we don’t give up, the breeze that cools our face, the clouds that gaze benevolently back.

“We need to serve” Rebecca told us later “to roll our sleeves up and serve. If for no other reason do it selfishly – because it makes you feel better! One of the laws of the universe is that you get what you give. There are no more excuses. Everybody needs everything that you’ve got. “

I spoke about community in my last post, asked – what does it truly mean? Rebecca gave concrete examples, brought it back to the individual, what part we can play:

“People like us can help people that have not been fortunate enough to have things like yoga – we really have the responsibility to share this knowledge. What is the point of receiving all of this information if you don’t share it – how dare we not share it!”

She continued:

“As human beings we are wired to be compassionate. We do not need to learn to be compassionate, we just need to tap into it and share it. We always have a choice: how are we going to respond to what the world presents us with? The time of the lone wolf is over – gather yourselves. ‘Now is the hour’ ” she quoted to us as we sat, rapt, one focus: “ ‘It is time to speak your truth… do not look outside yourself for the leader…’”

We are the leaders, and Rebecca reminded us of that over and over, planted that seed firmly in our hearts, leaving it to germinate and bloom in our daily lives. As she said towards the end, after their had been many tears, much laughter, song and sweat:

“Its great to come to Bali, to go to the Himalayas, to Tibet, but really the journey is only 18 inches long – it is from the mind straight down into the heart.”

Om Mani Padme Hum

Written By : Harriet Gaffney


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