The left hand side of the carved gate at Kuta beach in Bali. The sky rages from pale blue to burnt orange as the sun sets.

Great Love or great suffering

“Self care takes effort. It doesn’t just happen.

The body and mind need to be maintained. Similar to a garden, without effort, weeds will pop up and overtake everything.

With a bit of consistent pruning, the results can be beautiful.”

James Clear

Father Richard Rohr says we grow from either great suffering or great love.

For a long time I’ve pondered why it is that we wait for the shite to hit the fan before we make important changes in life (like important healing or start therapy or exercise or eating better.) Dr Joe Dispenza says we can grow and learn from joy and enthusiasm just as well as we can from pain and suffering but so often life is just busy and we don’t make the effort to look at our inner life. Then one lousy damn day, suffering comes along to push us into it.

Truth is, we’re often completely unaware of the need to change until everything goes pear-shaped. I love that self-care has become this buzz word but it’s also been turned into nothing more than a marketing campaign or an excuse for indulgence instead of an opportunity to work on ourselves. James Clear’s lovely quote above evokes a gardening metaphor. I love that he mentions pruning. Modern ideas of self-care usually don’t suggest taking a good hard look at what could be removed, chopped back, burnt like medical waste. They seem to want us to endlessly plant out, to fertilise, to water.

But just like cutting back a hedge that is blocking the light deep personal work isn’t a lot of fun sometimes but it’s always worthwhile. Great love as a guide is the goal but we can’t run from the suffering. Buddhism has a lot to say about suffering.

The Four Noble Truths are the Essence of Gautama Buddha‘s Teachings, which say that suffering is caused by ignorance, and can be overcome by following these teachings.

  • Dukkha: Suffering exists: Life is suffering. Suffering is real and almost universal. Suffering has many causes: loss, sickness, pain, failure, and the impermanence of pleasure. (Sounds familiar)
  • Samudaya: There is a cause of suffering. Suffering is due to attachment. It is the desire to have and control things. It can take many forms: craving of sensual pleasures; the desire for fame; the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations, like fear, anger or jealousy. (So much of what we call self-care these days is really just the avoidance of unpleasant sensations.)
  • Nirodha: There is an end to suffering. Attachment can be overcome. Suffering ceases with the final liberation of Nirvana (Nibbana). The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving. (Easier said that done!)
  • Magga: In order to end suffering, follow the Eightfold Path.

The only way out is through…the obstacle is the path. We sit in meditation, write in our journals, do the damn work, and maybe one day where there was grasping and attachment and suffering, we will have glimpses of the divine.


We decided to head south on our recent Bali trip and spent two days at a clifftop resort at Uluwatu. We got off to a shaky start as our driver wasn’t at the airport to meet us. I called the resort and they said I hadn’t confirmed. I had but there was no point forwarding them my email at this point.

We jumped in a taxi and after bumping around in the back of a warm, smelly car for nearly an hour, we arrived. The views were as spectacular as we hoped.

If you want to see the view from the top of the mountain, you have to climb it, I guess. We didn’t do much climbing but we were thrilled that car ride was over.

That’s our own private pool!

It was lovely to be back in Bali again but the resort seemed to suffer from that new disease called Instagramitis. It was all style and no substance and full of people taking photos of themselves doing silly things like pretending to have sex in the main pool, or mundane things like eating. No one seemed to be able to just eat breakfast. They had to pose with their phones on specially made tripods and talk loudly to the camera. Did they have a million fans watching or just mum and dad at home?

It was all a bit weird.

There was little privacy in the resort, people smoked everywhere, and I noticed on the second day that there were no ritual offerings that are normally everywhere in Bali, even in resorts and villas. I was in Bali but also somehow not in Bali.

It wasn’t a bad experience – don’t get me wrong. I had a massage in a little hut overlooking the sea. We enjoyed a couple of days of winding down (well I enjoyed that more. Hubby almost lost his mind from having nothing to do and nowhere to go, so I’m glad it was only 2 nights!)

When Friday rolled around, we were glad to move north, closer to the action, well closer to the Padel tennis club anyway.

Our driver was completely nuts. It was pouring rain and he drove like a man possessed. We were so relieved to arrive in one piece at our accommodation in Canggu, closer to plenty of things to do for Hubby but in a private house – a little haven of calm for me. But you know what? The whole town of Canggu suffers from Intagramitis to some extent. It’s full of Digital Nomads and influencers, tap, tapping away on their laptops and phones all over the place, videoing themselves, but there are loads of great restaurants and plenty to do.

But a strange thing happened while we were there. We both made the decision, separately but simultaneously, to go somewhere else for our next holiday and maybe…perhaps…not plan to retire to Bali after all.

We still love Bali, but it’s crazy busy. Like nutso. And yeah, we’re just two more tourists clogging up the streets and whining about how much better is was back in the day. Waaaahhhhh.

It bothered us, too, that in all the years we’ve been going there we have never found a really great driver that we would hire each time. We’d had a run of crazy drivers, hungover drivers, late and no-show drivers. Until this time, oddly enough, when we hired Wayan to take us from Canggu to Legian and then a few days later to the airport, and we felt like we’d found at least one missing piece to this puzzle.

Who knows where the next few years may take us? There’s so much of the world to see and we’ve always gone back and forth to Bali because it’s close, it’s in the same time zone give or take a few hours… and it’s always spoken to our souls.

The disconnection this time made me sad. It doesn’t feel like the same place any more because it’s obviously not. How selfish of me to want it to still be that series of sleepy villages hugging palm-tree fringed beaches.

Change is hard to accept but it’s the only thing we’re guaranteed (apart from death and taxes?)

a small pot plant beside a pin board that reads Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations