For a few days we surfed, sunbathed and shopped with the hordes in Kuta’s meat market and then Seminyak’s version – the only difference being the layers of make-up – politely declining offers of transport, huge phallic carvings, sarongs, drugs and yet another ‘special’ massage from bevies of toothless senior citizens. Eventually, we imploded and headed inland to walk among the rice paddies and rain forests.
Nearly a decade had passed since my last trip here, and I was surprised with the increase in prices, tourist numbers and infrastructure. A local taxi driver complained that the Indonesian government was taking nearly all of the tourist dollars back to Jakarta, and that the majority of Balinese were as poor as ever. And then there were the growing number of expats, tearing up rice paddies to build their own chunk of exotic paradise. I wondered if they even cared about the Balinese way of life, or were more interested in shaping it around their own idealism. Overall, my impression was that Bali appeared to be struggling to keep its identity through all the demand.
The Power of Now centre flier states that ‘the most noble thing you can do is to help others.’ Theo is fond of quotes, and frequently uses them to illustrate his views: ‘If you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true meaning of life. The key point is to have a genuine sense of universal responsibility. That’s from His Holiness the Dalai Lama,’ Theo explained. ‘Makes sense, doesn’t it?’
‘Yet we forget to do it,’ he continued. ‘We get tied up in our egos, our own negative thoughts.’
I asked Theo whether yoga and meditation helped with his surfing.
‘Certainly,’ he replied. ‘There’s the physical side to it. I have more flexibility and strength. But it’s the awareness of my surroundings that has had more impact. I feel connected to the ocean. I feel the energy of it through my hands when I’m paddling. Sure, I still have bad surfs from time to time. Maybe my ego is too strong on those days. But other days my surfing feels fully switched on.’
Theo’s love for the ocean has seen him progress to other water activities. ‘I need to go in the water every day,’ he said. ‘Whether kite surfing, tow surfing, stand up or whatever, I’m looking for that connection.’
Theo still thinks of New Zealand as home, and looks forward to one day returning to the Otago coastline to chase the chilly waves there. But for now, he and Chris have plans to extend the centre, and maybe start another so they can broaden their positive influence on others.
‘Wealth is the ability to be generous,’ Theo said.
‘The Dalai Lama, again?’ I asked.
‘No, it’s a mixture of mine and this spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle.’