When Your World Shakes: Coping with Bali’s Earthquakes

By Suzanne Wentley

My driver delivered me from the airport to my home in Ubud, Bali Sunday, and I was exhausted. I dropped my heavy pack, laid down on my bed and let out a big sigh. My exhale was filled with the scramble of my travels from South Korea – catching the train to the airport just in time, waiting in the long ticketing line, and holding my breath through the turbulent skies. For the moment, it was all over: I had arrived. That’s when my bed started to shake. It felt as what I would imagine one of those cheap motel beds, where you put a coin in a machine and it moves the bed around in a sleazy, bizarre way. It took me a second to realize that I was experiencing my first earthquake in Bali.

I jumped out of shaking bed and went out my door. The ground was clearly moving. In a daze, I walked over to the pool and watched the water splashing back and forth on its own. One of my neighbors was nearby. We looked at each other, and his eyes confirmed that this wasn’t just in my head.




This was a 6.9 Earthquake

As quickly as it started, it all stopped. While there was no damage or death reported in Bali, it was a different story in the nearby island of Lombok, where it was centered. They, along with the Gili Islands, were hit hard. The earth rose by nearly a foot, destroying tens of thousands of homes and killing more than 400.

Aftershocks continued throughout the week. I felt the strong shakes again when I happened to be at my guesthouse home. The staff grabbed me and scurried the rest of us along to the road. Children began to cry. And then, once more, it was over.

Again and again, crisis comes. It is terrifying, and then it passes.

Coping with the Indonesia Earthquake

And yet, this is exactly why I came to Bali: As a yoga teacher who has taught on four continents and throughout the Caribbean, I view my world through the yogic teachings I studied over the years. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, a primarily Muslim country, the vast majority of Bali residents follow Hinduism, where spiritual teachings are intertwined with yogic practices. It is based on the simple concept of living in the moment, accepting what comes and letting it pass. Being content in the now is something I am always working on strengthening in my day-to-day life.

It’s not easy moving through crisis situations, especially when chaos surrounds you. After the earthquake, people evacuated from the Gili Islands and Northern Lombok. They haggled with boat owners and left behind comforts lost in just a moment’s time. However, when you realize you have the power to maintain a steady peace from deep within, you learn to focus on getting through the crisis. You are wading through a swamp but with the confidence that, eventually, you’ll shower and wash off the muck.

You don’t have to take the crisis in.

Simply put, nothing is the end of the world until, inevitably, your world really does end. No doubt though, it’s challenging when your world shakes (literally or figuratively), but what can you learn from it?




Finding a Yoga Mindset Off the Mat

Choosing calm in the midst of chaos is a coping method that takes practice and determination. I practice it every day. Consider the traffic in Ubud during peak season. Sitting on my scooter, my main objective, aside getting to yoga class on time, is making sure no one runs over my toes. The roads are that tight! And still, these same Balinese local riders smile right along with me. No one is cross. No one is taking the craziness and tension of the congestion to heart. We were moving through the crisis, knowing that eventually, things will change, traffic will flow, and we’ll once again feel the wind in our face.

Suzanne W II

In yoga class, we practice breathing deeply and finding our peace within.  When we’re in the quiet confines of the yoga studio, that’s pretty easy. But when you feel a Bali earthquake, that’s another matter! How do you cope? Do you let your emotions and feelings overcome you, or do you transform them into the stepping stones to help you move forward? It’s OK to feel scared in a scary moment. Breathe deeply when you are overwhelmed, and you will discover that those moments contain the same deep breath you can find in yoga. Always come back to your peaceful center. It is the best way to let go of fear, and the best way to prepare yourself to help others.

This is the essence of living your yoga off the mat.

Yes, your world will shake like a cheap motel bed. Your walls may even crumble around you. Hard work may lie ahead to get yourself back to where you were. Loved ones may no longer be here. Life may be changed forever. If you live in the moment with peace and accept what comes, you will find comfort in your own calm center. You will no longer be ruled by fear or emotions. With just a little effort, you can feel free and be content with the challenges of life.

Helping Others Cope with the Earthquake Aftermath

By keeping peace within, you allow yourself space and energy to improve the world around you and those in need. The people in Lombok are still moving through their crisis. They don’t have access to fresh drinking water and shelter from the frequent rains. You can help. Transform your anxiety into action today. Giving and supporting those in need is the right thing to do, but remember the old airplane wisdom: Put your own oxygen mask on first. Cultivating your own inner peace, through yoga, meditation or any other practice, will prepare you for when your world shakes, as it eventually will.




How You Can Help

If you are in Bali, join us on September 6th at the Fat Mermaid in Canggu for our Love For Lombok fundraising event. RSVP before tickets run out! WhileinBali.com is a proud sponsor. Suzanne Wentley along with Elisa, founder of WhileinBali.com, will be there to welcome guests and support the cause.

Not yet in Bali? We welcome donations from all over the world. Please visit Project Karma to support the devasted. www.mycause.com.au/lombok

LFL SoMe_All info

About Suzanne

The creator of The Lovelight Project, Suzanne seeks to inspire, encourage and serve others through her work as a yoga teacher, Reiki master, life coach, professional writer, and marketing consultant. She has been a full-time traveler for the last four years, having lived and taught yoga in North, Central and South Americas, Oceania, Asia and throughout the Caribbean. She is published in a wide variety of newspapers, international magazines, and blogs, and she is the author of a humorous, music festival memoir entitled “Operation Big Fun: The Fest Life Guide.” To learn more about her work or to connect, log on to www.thelovelightproject.com.

2 thoughts on “When Your World Shakes: Coping with Bali’s Earthquakes

  1. Hello Suzanne,
    We are a senior couple living in Canada and became very close to a Balinese waiter while on our Christmas cruise in the Caribbean. He’s close to 40 years old, with two 7 or 8 year old sons who he loves dearly, but sees only every 8 months.
    We like direct charity and would be glad to help this lovely man and his family in some way. Can you guide us through the Balinese sensitivities about charity, how we might provide help in some other manner and when their major festive celebrations occur. I noticed somewhere that they don’t celebrate Christmas but do have a celebration on or around December 21st.
    I know we’re well off your usual topic of lifestyle and yoga etc, but it sounds like you care about these people and we really would appreciate your guidance.
    With kindness, Colin and Josephine.

    1. Hi Colin, absolutely I would love to help. It is so kind of you to want to help this Balinese man out. Let me do some digging around and see if there are any charitable sensitivies and when is their next festive celebration for them to accept such a donation.

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