Walking down the street on my first day in Ubud, Bali, I felt overwhelmed by this uplifting energy.

There was a deep sense of peace in the air. Everything seemed perfect, except for these small interruptions. Local taxi drivers called out, “Taxi? Taxi?” to me and others as we walked by.

“No, thank you.”

I felt annoyed at having to decline so many times, or worse, ignore them.

Is this the reality I want to create? No, I want to feel connection and warmth as much as I can. So I began to smile at them warmly and really look them in the eyes.

It’s okay to slow down and have a conversation. The more I slowed down, the more I saw the kindness in people’s eyes. And in just a few days, we began to greet each other by name.

At first, it felt awkward to smile at strangers, but by now it has become my natural instinct. When they meet my smile, warmth spreads in my chest.

You are me. I am you. I see the light in you. And I love you. If only they knew I said these words in my head, but they can feel it all the same.

I’ve been here for about two weeks, and my soul caught fire with a few friends I met along the way. “I recognize you. I feel like I’ve met you before.” It’s an instant connection.

We welcome each other with open acceptance, carrying few barriers and pretenses. Here, you can just be yourself. Wear what you like, dance how you like, and be how you like.

“Thank you for your Mettā today,” a new friend tells me with a hug goodbye.

“What’s Mettā?”

“It’s means unconditional loving-kindness, from Buddhism.”

There are no accidents, the people you meet in this lifetime. Even if your paths cross and dance for just a moment, just a blip in time – or if they intertwine for longer – it’s a gift. You’re my brother, you’re my sister. I see you. We’re in this lifetime together.

I feel grateful to be here, grateful for each magical interaction and simple moment. I can feel my heart expanding, bathing in a sea of gentleness. Sometimes, it moves me to tears.  

A local neighbor greets me. “Do you do yoga? Your eyes sparkle like someone who does yoga.”

“A bit,” I smile, knowing that by ‘yoga’, she sees this peace and liveliness I have found. “Your eyes sparkle like someone with an open heart,” I say to her.

A stranger on the opposite side of the road walks with a lightness in his step, smiling to himself. I catch myself smiling too. I wave, and he waves back. No words need to be exchanged, but we both know we’re sharing the same inner joy.

Can I carry this peace with me when I leave this place? Can I keep living from my heart?

Yes, I must create peace within me first. I cannot be dependent on my environment or the people surrounding me. I’m learning to embody peace, love, and joy from within myself so it can then radiate to the universe.

We are the universe, we create it from within. And so, we create peace wherever we are.

Let me see the magic in today. Let me see the light in others, no matter how shrouded by their masks.

Let me honor my boundaries and lovingly transform what I can no longer allow in my reality: fear, control, and disrespect. If something, or someone, in my environment triggers an emotion in me, it’s something I’ve created and need to first heal within myself.

No matter how stressful my circumstances, let me remember that I can invest in creating this peace – every morning, every day. There are countless gifts that help me return to stillness: meditation, gratitude, music, reading, friends, writing.

Whenever I am down, let me feel my emotions fully so I can release them. And without judging myself, surrender. 

Above all, let me remember the importance of perspective. I want to see challenges as another mountain I’m meant to climb on my path, savor each moment as it’s meant to be, and remember that I’m never alone.

Cultivating this inner peace – how I feel – is my highest priority. This is not selfish. From this place of peace, I can be my most loving self. I cannot fully love others until I unconditionally love myself.

After all, this is just another dream within dreams. Let’s make it a beautiful dream. And inhale awe for the world with every breath.

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