18 spiritual and life lessons I learnt from living in Bali

Away from “civilisation” and loving it!

Many of you will know that on December 22nd 2012 (yes, the day after the world was supposed to end) I quit my job in London and moved to Bali for a year. Nothing was planned and I was living day by day, trusting that the Universe would give me everything I needed.

During that year away from “civilisation”, I learnt many things about the life and myself. I would like to share some things with you, I hope they will come as close to your heart as they did to mine.

Hati Hati

Hati in Indonesian means “heart”, emphasising the spiritual meaning, more so than your actual heart. Hati hati means “watch your heart” or in other words, “take care”, “watch out” or “take it easy”.

I’ve heard it used mostly in the context of “slow down”. In our modern lives we rush everywhere, we rush to get up in the morning, we rush our lunches or even worse, we eat lunch at our desks or whilst walking on the streets, we drive fast to get somewhere quickly just to rush through that activity too. When do we ever slow down??

In Bali everything is hati hati. I was once watching a local girl make breakfast and it was fascinating. She took an egg, slowly and gracefully. Looked at it slowly. Broke it into the frying pan. Looked at it again. Smiled. Meditated for a moment. Took another egg. Looked at it lovingly. Broke it into the pan. And just enjoyed watching the eggs fry with a smile until they were done.

Everything is done mindfully, there is no rushing. Even if the roads are clear, I’ve never seen a Balinese driver drive faster than 40km/hr. It really helps keep you in the present moment and stress-free.

Walk barefoot

How often do you touch the Earth? Once a month, once a week or every day?

The modern term for touching the Earth is called grounding or earthing and there have been many experiments to prove why it is good for us to do so, from improving sleep and increasing energy to improving blood pressure and relieving muscle tension.

For me personally, it’s mostly about connecting with nature, I immediately feel relaxed and at peace, as all my worries flow out from my body and into the ground.

We usually have too many positive electrons in our bodies. By physically touching the ground, negative electrons that are found in the soil, mud or grass pass into your body, balancing out the ratio between positive and negative electrons. These electrons have antioxidant effects and can therefore help protect you from many diseases.

For those who rarely have access to nature, there are grounding /earthing mats, socks and the like, for people who live in big cities.

Take time for spiritual practices and ceremonies

One thing most foreigners will notice straight away is how devoted the Balinese are to their spiritual practices. Their ceremonies are sacred and they will take time off work to go to temple. Every single house they own needs to be blessed each morning, so they will come round and place offerings at the break of dawn.

They never get tired or miss doing an offering, but its not just that. Their spirituality can be seen deep inside them from the way they act and talk. They live in harmony with everything around them and see spiritual meanings behind every small act.

Share what you have and don’t be greedy, money isn’t everything

Those who have been to Asian countries will no doubt tell you that no matter what the locals have, even if it’s just a handful of rice to their name, they will share it with you.

On my very first day when I arrived to Bali, I was greeted by the owner of the house where I was to be staying, who gave me a bunch of mangosteen and bananas. Then he brought me a bunch of other stuff, like toothbrushes and sponges, even though he absolutely didn’t need to, and wouldn’t take money for it.

Live simply, yet beautifully

The Balinese are very simple people, most of them are rather poor…but they make everything they do pretty, and they do it all with love. If you get a massage, they will put frangipani flowers under your massage table so you have something nice to look at, if they bring you tea, it will have a pretty bird made out of banana leaves sitting in it, if they make your bed, they will decorate it with flowers and bring you fresh papaya in the morning.

It is a pleasure just being around them! People say to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself, well I want to put banana leaf birdies into everyone’s teas because it makes you feel so special. Take the time to love yourself!

Making someone smile is the most important thing you can do in your day

It was in my first few months in Ubud, I was still settling in and didn’t know many locals. I was asked to speak to some Javanese children at a school in Denpasar and found myself being driven there by 3 Balinese guys who were organising it. That was my first experience of the local people and the most unforgettable one.

They were normal guys, maybe late twenties, but the amount of deep spiritual knowledge they had compared to no one I have met before. One guy was chatty in particular and was telling me how Balinese people are brought up, he said “if you make someone smile, then that’s all you needed to have done that day, you did the most important thing”.

He proceeded to then tell me about Balinese magic and how he knows people who can fly, to him it was the most normal thing in world, like yeah everyone knows the people who can fly, but they don’t show themselves to the tourists.

I learnt a lot about their culture that day, but what struck out for me was that I need to make people smile, at least one person a day.

Respect your traditions and ancestors

This goes back to their spirituality, the Balinese are still to this day very traditional. They wear ceremonial outfits every time there is a ceremony, which is practically every week and the offerings they put outside your house every day are to their ancestors.

When I went to China a few years ago, I noticed a rather fascinating ritual. A family was at a temple, burning paper money, mopeds and clothes, all the size of a playing card. I asked our guide what they were doing and he told me: “they’re sending mopeds and money to their ancestors so they can use it in the afterlife”.

Another example is the picture above – that was taken on Lembongan island, just off the coast of Bali. They put umbrellas over gravestones because the sun is so strong. That’s really caring for your ancestors!

Eco housing is the way of the future (and past)

Meet Green School, in my opinion the best example of how you can build a huge school using all natural materials and being totally environment-friendly, down to water-less toilets!

I was lucky enough to spend 2 week there doing a Yoga for Kids Teacher Training with Beta Lisboa (great teacher by the way, would highly recommend her) and I walked around open-mouthed, wondering why there aren’t more buildings like this on Earth! And the best part – it totally works. Bamboo sticks aren’t falling on your heads, the toilets don’t smell and they grow their own vegetables and teach people about permaculture. If this isn’t the future, I don’t want to know what is. Here’s a guide on how to get there if you’d like to go for a visit.

Trust and don’t steal

Doors are always open in Bali. Guests are always welcome and no one walks around clutching their bags. You can sense a feeling of security and trust all around.

I was amazed by this the first time I went to Bali, back in 2004. We wanted to buy something but had no money with us at the time. The woman told us to keep the thing we wanted and come back and give her the money later. I was young then but really remembered how nice that felt.

I’m glad that hasn’t changed much in 10 years (perhaps a little in the South though, where the tourists are), when I last went to a water temple in 2014, I asked a random stranger to hold my brand new iPhone whilst I went to do the ceremony in the pool. I’m not saying that there is no theft at all, but they are very much against it and the punishment is severe. Would you trust someone in your country to hold your phone?

 Take your shoes off before entering other people’s homes

Wearing flip flops whilst paragliding in Nusa Dua, Bali

Having grown up in Russia, taking your shoes off before entering someone else’s house is the most normal thing in the world, and the host will always have a pair of slippers for you to put on.

For the most part, I’ve lived in European countries where this isn’t done so much and I personally much prefer the Eastern ways, for me it’s a sign of respect for the person’s house you’re entering. The Balinese will leave their shoes outside before even stepping onto your porch and it’s also common practice in many restaurants.

Use natural remedies, beauty products and materials

Most things in Bali are made from natural products. Sure, chemical junk is more expensive for them, but you can see they try to preserve their original ways by promoting a natural lifestyle.

For example, I loved Cantika’s beauty products in Ubud. They have shampoos, soaps and other things, and they show you exactly what it’s made of and even give you workshops on how to make it. “Natural” shampoos in the Western world are ok, but you can still see that they’re not 100% real. Cantika’s shampoo went off in about a month or so, and that to me proved that it was all good stuff.

The picture above was taken at Tejakula, in North Bali, where they showed us how they make batik using traditional methods. All materials were natural (cotton) and dye was obtained through different leaves, coconut bark, and flowers. It was fascinating!

It’s ok to eat fruit straight from the market

Anya Andreeva from Live Love Raw with bananas on head

We are so obsessed with being clean. We wash everything and are completely paranoid about eating fruit that you picked off a tree or eating an apple that has a brown dent in it. I personally grew up eating vegetables straight from the garden and I never got sick.

What you think, is what you attract. Thats my opinion anyway, so if you stop worrying about what you can catch if you eat a yummy mangosteen from the woman on the side of the road and just eat it, you won’t catch anything.

Like I said, I lived in Bali for a year and ate anything and everything (well apart from meat) and never got ill. I picked up tamarinds off the floor, ate jackfruit that was given to me with dirty hands, I just thanked the Universe for giving me such amazing fruit and knew it was all going to be ok. By the way, if you want to know how to cut jackfruit, see the video here.

Don’t worry so much, surrender, trust the Universe and have no plans

The Balinese are so hati hati that I think they never have a plan, they always just seem to go with the flow! When I went there, I also had no plan, and by being in harmony with everything around me, it totally worked! Everything was absolutely perfect from day 1, and even if there were some challenges, I learnt something valuable from it all.

Don’t spend all your free time on the internet

Very rarely do you see a local person in Indonesia just sitting all day on Facebook, and I’m talking about the ones who can afford and have a laptop. They would rather be doing something more useful, like planting a durian tree or making coconut oil.

The photo above – I took that photo at Gili Air (Lombok). Does anyone else find this incredible? You’re sitting in a pool at a beautiful dive resort, the water is warm, the sun is shining…and you’re staring at an electronic object, which you can do in your cold flat back home, instead of looking at that beautiful garden and swimming…

Eat seasonally and locally

Mother Earth gives us exactly what you need at a particular time of the year for the particular climate that you are in, so by eating locally and seasonally, you are helping your body fight off diseases and improve your immune system. Did you know that season fruit and vegetables have so many more antioxidants than imported food?

The Balinese eat what the land gives them, why import avocados that cost $10 a piece if you can just wait a few months for them to grow on the tree in your garden? They’re more likely to be organic that way too.

Give back and meet the locals when you travel

It doesn’t matter what you do, just try to do something nice for someone. There are so many projects going on in Bali – cleaning up beaches, banning plastic bags, teaching people about recycling. It’s amazing! When I went to talk to that class of Javanese kids, that was one of the most wonderful things I’d done. They were all sooo lovely and it made me want to do more things like that.

Also, whenever you go on holiday or especially if you move to another country – meet the local people! They are so much more fascinating than the tourists you will see at your hotel. Who else will teach you how to properly make coconut oil, or make a plate out of banana leaves?

Clean up after yourself

If you eat something and leave a bit of food in the kitchen – you will find bugs in it. If you leave clothes unfolded on the sofa, you can guarantee that a gecko will have pooped on it. So in Bali you have no choice but to clean up after yourself, which is a good habit for us all to get used to.

Wake up early and watch the sunrise

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Balinese person sleep in late. No matter that time you are up, even if you’re on a super early flight and are leaving the house at 4am looking like a zombie…they will be in the garden, picking weeds or looking after the chickens!

The early bird gets the worm? The Balinese sure live by that principle. If you want to get good food at the market (for local prices), you should get there from 5:00-6:30am.

If they have this much energy to sleep just a couple hours a day, be happy and kind to everyone, then they must be doing something right!!

A final blessing for Ayu Mahetri

Ayu and Made were our Balinese “family” during our time in Ubud. Sadly, Ayu lost both her husband and one of her sons to cancer soon after we left, and so I dedicate this post to her. She taught me many things and her wonderful smile made my day every morning. If you are ever in Ubud, she has lovely guest houses called Coco Alami, and she will be the most amazing host you can imagine. Say hi from Anya if you go.


This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Bernard Johannes Sleijster

    Very well-written article, gave me a lot to think about. Absolutely love your photos too, Bali seems like a magical place, you should get paid to write these, way too many bloggers put so much effort into writing really valuable pieces like this and never get seen. I will donate something to you now, please keep doing what you’re doing – we appreciate it!
    ~ Bernard Sleijster

  2. Chiara

    ANya im here in Lovina now reading your post and I’m travelling by myself and I’m really seeing and especially feeling all those things I am most of the time with locals and they always teach you a lot about the spirit the body and the mind how to stay stress free and they always have this big smile on them ! I was looking for an answer and the question was “should I trust Balinese ?” As a local from Lovina asked me if I wanted a tour of Lovina anda he was gonna bring me around and then he told me he was gonna bring me to his house and meet his wife and kids and cook for me amd he was saying that he was gonna teach me meditation and yoga and I could teach him how to take picture because he has a camera amd he said we are sharing 🙂 this is our culture and I found it so beautiful and unreal ! But as I’m by myself I was just a bit worried also if I had such a beautiful vibe and energy from this man and thought he could teach me even more then just yoga and meditation but about life ..but my mind kept asking “should I really trust him or go with a guide from the hotel?” …and you just Answered my question ! I can’t wait for my local experience tomorrow !! Thanks for sharing Anya you’re a beautiful soul !

    1. Anya Andreeva

      Hi Chiara, thank you for your message, how was your experience?? There are of course cases where things can go wrong, but it’s about trusting your gut instinct in my opinion. I’ve been travelling mostly alone for quite a number of years now, and I’ve ended up in the craziest situations, from hiking for 4 days in the Nepal with a stranger, to walking through Delhi alone in the middle of the night, to sleeping on the floor in Mumbai with a family I met the day before, and each time I felt in my heart that I would be safe. Sometimes, the right people come into our lives and show us a wonderful world where we can all trust each other and live in harmony…and other times it can go sour, but I’m sure you’ll feel it in advance. I hope you are having a beautiful time in Bali, enjoy your trip! Big hugs x

  3. Steve

    Hi Anya. Such a beautiful post. I am visiting Bali and Lombok next week… hopefully…. Mount Rinjani currently has her own idea and is forcing the local airports to close. I truly hope I’m lucky enough to spend some hati hati time with the Balinese people, and feel my feet against the ground. If not, I’m sure life will have an equally abundant experience planned. You’re a beautiful writer with an earthly soul. I trust you’re making people smile wherever you are. Thanks again for the thoughtful insight. 🙂

    1. Anya Andreeva

      Aww thank you Steve, what a beautiful comment, you made my day 🙂 Yeah I’ve seen a lot of my friends stuck in Bali this week because of the eruption, I hope your trip goes well! Bali is a magical place that will give you exactly what you need, so as long as you’re open to it, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time!! Blessings

  4. Elena

    Anya! Wonderful, wonderful post! Thank you for sharing <3
    Especially the 'make other people smile' part. Plus: I love, love, love Bali
    An explanation about Europeans not-taking-off-shoes: it's not out of dis-respect, trust me. It's just that we have another 'custom'.. shoes must remain on! :))) I would never ask someone visiting my home to take off their shoes: that would be akward, and privacy-aggressive…:))) I know that sounds strange, but it's the way it is. For us the act of taking off our shoes outside is strange. And we force to do it in foreign countries that have this custom, out of respect, but it's still strange to us :)))

  5. Dave

    We have been to Bali 3 times now and have booked for next year. After reading your blog I realised that what you say is true, the Balinese really are lovely people. We will keep on going back, hopefully to see more than just the tourism stuff. We have made quite a few Balinese friends last time, we love it.

    1. Anya

      Thats wonderful 🙂 yeah Bali is the kind of place you just want to keep coming back to!

  6. superrmanos

    interesting, touching, beautiful! I want to go to Bali!
    Keep sharing, Anya!

    1. Anya

      Thank you 🙂 it’s really a magical place!

  7. Kathleen Hampton

    I love your post! you put a smile on my face as intended! and I believe in all that you shared here … so happy for you and you are such a delight to follow! <3

  8. Jef

    wow.. wonderful words for everyone. I appreciate it.

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