It was one of those solo travel moments that had the potential to go very badly or be an exhilaratingly wonderful, opening experience. In my mind, there was no in-between.
My best tip for solo travellers seeking conscious connections is to seek out a vegan or vegetarian café and park yourself there to observe and slowly enjoy the atmosphere, food and people. I was doing just this at one of Ubud, Bali’s many vegan spots, Kafe, when Bassam Younes caught my eye and we began chatting across our respective tables. He was working on his website copy, and, as it had been about a week since I had done any of my digital or marketing jobs on my Asia trip, I was happy to jump in and help him brainstorm. He invited me to his table, and, as I had no set plan for the rest of my night except to find a place to sleep, I hauled my bag over, tucked it under the table and continued interviewing Bassam to learn more.
“I was born in Lebanon,” he shared as I tried not to let my uneasiness surface. Growing up in a conservative Jewish household, I was engrained in my Dad’s opinion that every country surrounding Israel was dangerous and possibly 99% filled with Arab terrorists. I shook that feeling away. Bassam continued.
“I have been traveling for decades, I know not a city as home…”
We then noted that here he was, working on his homepage. This was a space where he was defining what he brings to the world, this was home for Bassam.
The universality of it intrigued me and I pressed on. He explained that he was a Meditation teacher and also taught “Rebirthing.” I’d never heard of this and I asked, “Rebirthing? It’s a meditation technique?” I assumed he’d demonstrate it for me in some way, right there.
“Rebirthing is powerful,” he shared, then explained that it is a simple and natural energy breathing technique that heals ‘breathing-dysfunctions’ held since childhood. It connects us to our own source energy and can lead to spontaneous awakening.
A world traveller and teacher of this technique, Bassam spoke of the struggle he sees amongst everyone he meets, continent to continent and city to city. "We’re trained to see ourselves as “lacking” something from the outside to fulfil us, or complete us, denying the divinity that manifests in us as peace, joy and happiness. These are our starting points not an end results; we are here to celebrate them not achieve them.”
Bassam teaches that it isn’t change we are looking for but healing. A fundamental point that can make all the difference...
“Show me how rebirthing is done?” I inquired.
“Right now?” He asked, seemingly surprised at my spontaneity, which was just that, laced with naivety. I had no idea what I was really requesting.
After considering his own time constraints for a few moments, he agreed, and then kindly offered to let me stay the night at the home he was renting. It was slightly out of town, but it had three bedrooms and I would have my own space.
I froze up considering it. Now I realized that a “rebirth” session wasn’t a twenty-minute meditation, it was a two or three hour journey. I was either going to saddle into this request I had made or hope it would work out another time while I went back to my safety zone at Artini 2 Cottages.
Travel has a way of tuning me into my inner guide. My critical mind that wants to intellectualize every option takes a rest as my spirit speaks louder toward the direction it wants to go. This process alone, of making a decision from spirit over mind, is healing, not to mention sensational.
Sensing the back and forth going on inside of me, Bassam sympathetically gave me an out, “If you don’t like it, I’ll take you back to town.”
And with that, I carefully balanced my 22-inch-just-small-enough-to-be-considered-carryon-luggage-dufflebag on my lap, with my backpack on my shoulders and all of my cash, credit cards, passport and electronics strapped in one place or another, I held onto Bassam as his motorbike took off for the next phase of this adventure.
A few miles outside of Ubud’s town center, he parked his motorbike down a long gravel driveway. We continued walking on a footpath around to the back of what looked to me like an old farmhouse. A few stray cats waited for Bassam on the back porch overlooking a sea of green rice patty land. He hurried to feed the cats as I asked for the wifi code.
“Do you need to use my phone?” He asked, “There isn’t wifi here, but I have a data plan that can connect.”
I realized my digital-neurosis, a need to connect to social media, but not even to any one in particular. I didn’t have anyone who was tracking my travels in Bali. Sure, I wrote to my parents and sister every few days, but the specifics were all up to me. And what would I tell them anyway? “Hey Mom & Dad, I met this nice Lebanese meditation teacher at a vegan café and now I’m at his place somewhere on the outskirts of Ubud down some long gravel pathways, not exactly sure where and not exactly sure what’s going to happen. Don’t be worried unless a few days go by. Love you!” No, you don’t send this message to your even-though-you’re-over-thirty-still-overprotective parents. The fear I had in this move to follow Bassam (for better or worse), was a seed planted by my parents. I wasn’t looking to them now for guidance, my mind longed to let go.
Bassam was serving just what the universe ordered - a chance to be reborn. So what is that?
He explained that rebirthing is a journey of around 10 sessions, focusing on wound dating back to the birth itself, including parental approval/disapproval syndrome, religious indoctrination, educational abuse, and more. Today, it’s all about the birth event. As far as first experiences go it doesn’t get bigger than this.
I lay in the dark bedroom. Bassam sat in a chair by the desk in the corner. He put a playlist of music on that was so relaxing it belonged in any movie scene where the characters go to “heaven.” He began to guide me through the experience, explaining and inspiring.
You know that feeling when you sit to meditate and you just can’t? You want to give up as you find yourself immersed in thought after another. It was that. And the thoughts were all fear, “Am I going to be robbed?” and, “This is really vulnerable,” and, “Is this how I die?”
Almost knowingly, I heard Bassam say, “When you’re ready, let go into the breathing. Take your time. You don’t have to let go right now.” How entirely patient he was, I thought. I think it had been at least 45 minutes into the experience when he offered that. It was what I needed.
“Jordana,” my inner voice began, “Everything bad that you fear will happen if it is supposed to happen. If not, you will deprive yourself of a remarkable and once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
I let go.
I let go of my need to control the outcome. I let go of my fear of death, of loneliness, of not being fully realized. I let go of where I’d come from and everything I wanted to “do.” I dove into pure presence with my breath. I began to fly. With every deep breath, more of me fluttered into this space that seemed to be flying between the lines of time and reality. It became more powerful and I began to soar, feeling my own limitlessness, yet a detachment from the body I had held onto so tightly for fear of death. I felt the energy of my Grandmother who had died two years prior and I became aware of what it might be like to let go into my own death.
It wasn’t scary. It was a space I didn’t want to leave. It was a state of ultimate serenity. The peace so palpable it permeated every cell in my body.
I came back to the dark farmhouse in a feeling similar to when Dorothy’s house landed in Oz: the music had stopped, the storm was over, the surroundings were the same, but the house had landed somewhere new.
With gratitude and a revived sense of self, I meditated, gazing into the rice patties the next morning. With the breathwork learned, I found myself rediscovering that feeling of limitlessness. My eyes, skin, mind and body captured that morning in my memory bank as Day 1, with peace, presence and a perspective-shifting 180.
Bassam, who I consider a dear friend, continues to travel the world over teaching meditation and breathwork. I’m excited to share these words from him, by way of his own life experience in the pursuit of his vision. You may want to print this one!
What was your life like before you began meditating?
I was raised in a war zone and at 12 I migrated to the west with my family. I felt uprooted throughout my youth. From moment to the next everything was changed, and unfamiliar, everything, social conventions, morality (especially pertaining to sexuality), manner of eating and so on.
By the time I found meditation, around 26, I had become deeply conflicted and confused, lacking direction and without sense of Self.
What were you up to?
I was working in fashion in Europe and the US. I discovered spirituality in a book in Paris, at 22, Making A New World, by John Bennett. It had a marked effect on me. In retrospect I can see that something in me had been stirred, even if I didn’t suspect it at the time.
How did meditation find you?
I didn’t start daily practice until 26. I discovered meditation in a magazine article in Thailand. I was already reading Eastern mysticism and had had a transcendent experience in Bali a year earlier, where I experienced peace for the first time. Hereon I practiced daily and never looked back.
How did your discovery of meditation change your path?
My daily practice turned my life around, and gave me a way of working things out for myself. I didn’t anything or anybody outside myself. It was slow going, the work of releasing falsities and conventions I held true about myself and the world at large.
At what point did you know that you wanted to teach?
I never set out to teach. It was just a natural development that was by necessity so to speak. I was always just trying to survive, doing something I didn’t mind doing…and that my intellect couldn’t negate or fault.
How would you say that the process of rebirthing might accelerate changes for someone looking to live differently?
The breath is the first and last thing we do. It holds the key to life’s mysteries and we take it for granted. It is the link between mind and body. It aligns the masculine and feminine forces inside us, serving to bridge the conscious and the unconscious, also containing vital forces the body needs to activate its higher centres responsible for joy, love, clarity and service.
But the majority of people don’t breathe. It’s not that they don’t want to, they no longer capable of it. They breathe to survive only.
The birth event, including the cutting of the umbilical cord, is experienced as a trauma by most of us. We learned to withhold our breath to protect ourselves, and, later conditioning, in regularly faulting us, cemented our restrictive breathing dysfunction.
Rebirthing Breathwork frees up our natural breath and allows us to breathe energy again. Along the way the body-mind are cleansed of longstanding emotional plaques acting as obstructions to our happiness.
You literally feel Alive, empowered, and assured.
I know you have a huge vision in the world - will you share it with us?
I’m motivated to excite people’s about their spiritual heritage. In the busy distractions of our lives we forget that before we were children of a father and a mother we were children of the universe, formless intelligence. Even science tells us today that we are 99.1% invisible and only .99% physical.
The trauma of birth shocks us into forgetfulness. Like waking at the wrong side of the bed we are born on the wrong side and are to contend with it without knowing the cause of our misery.
Negativity is not our natural state, it’s a sign that something is wrong. When you do away with negativity, what you find is not positivity but possibility.
Healing of the birth trauma is essential!
Is there something that you struggle with?
All my life I have been focused on realising spiritual maturity, or sobriety as I call it! Along the way I’ve observed a marked gift for translating the abstract to people. It’s what I do. I like to inspire people to tune so that they may come to realise their formless essence…. This stage of my life I’m trying to balance things by becoming worldly-wise.
If you could go back and share something with an earlier version of yourself, what would you share and how old is that earlier version of you?
It’s a practice I already do. I tell myself at 9, that someday someone will ask you to tell them about your secret! You’ll say, I realised that that life isn’t personal. The mind is. You don’t have to deserve the sun’s warmth, and you don’t have to deserve life’s blessings. Nothing else stands in your way!”
In times of personal turmoil, what’s an important thing to remember?
That all life manifests in our consciousness. We are points of awareness localised in space in time and nothing can diminish this. Only ignorance of this fact causes us to long for shadows. There are tools that can help us remember. And in that remembering there is peace, meaning, and joy. Meditation and Breathwork are two examples.