We have now been “living” in Bali since mid February. Almost nine months.
And while it’s offered us countless beautiful sunsets, memorable surfs, visits to the tropical jungles and waterfalls and time to kindle new friendships and renew old ones; it has also been a place where we have continuously shape-shifted to adapt our work to this current time – which has meant a constant and not always happy dialogue with technology as we move more and more of our yoga teaching online; financial worries in this time of a global pandemic; dealing with tropical flus, bugs; more heat and a few accidents, two of which were way too close for comfort.
In other words, we have been living life in all its colors here fully.
And perhaps there is something about being in a tropical country where everything feels like it is in technicolor – life is more vital and alive here in so many ways. Or maybe it’s just the way Bali tests you – something I have heard from countless Bali residents – and forces you to accept life in flow, so that we don’t resist the pain or suffering when it happens, but have faith that it will transmute and shift into another more benevolent aspect of life.
This is also the lesson of yoga.
To realize that when we are attached to a moment in time, we become stuck, but if we breathe into it we can let the experience and emotion of that moment, the intensity of that time; shift and move into the next moment; and then the next, until we are not grasping at life, but living with just enough detachment to be present yet not stuck.
Last week I decided that we needed to host a Balinese ritual blessing or cleansing ceremony at the villa we’re renting here for the year. I thought it would be a beautiful way of allowing the local culture that surrounds us to be in our very space so we can understand it better. As well, I wanted it to offer us a moment to reflect on the past few months, and let their intensity move through and out so we are more open to joy and lightness.
Two days ago my husband got hit by a rogue surfboard and left the beach for the clinic where we had eight stitches. He missed the fin by a few inches. The intensity of what happened felt surreal. I was struck again by the extreme fragility of life. And so so grateful that he was relatively ok and yes, ALIVE!
It felt like we needed this blessing ceremony! It was definitely the right time.
The priest arrived at 4:30 p.m. with his wife and her helpers, old ladies walking in their sarongs. They carried basket after basket of fruits, flowers, sweets (some wrapped in plastic :-(); some fried chicken that drove our puppy crazy; and bottles and cups in which to pour holy water. There were also palm leaf baskets filled with the scented flowers that grow here in careless abundance: white and pink plumeria and campaka (Magnolia Champak in English); a heady yellow flower that makes you want to stick your nose into its depths; and lots of young coconuts.
We wore the ceremonial Balinese outfits: sarongs for both men and women and even children; with colorful sashes around our waist. The men and boys also wore beautiful hats.
Then it was time to sit and hear the incantations from the priest. I recognized a few Sanskrit words but then lost myself in the drone of his voice; until the temple bell he held in his right hand rang loudly. The ladies sprinkled holy water with whisks made of coconut palm leaves all around the house, showering it with good luck. Then we were each doused with holy water; made to drink it three times in the cup of our hands; then rinsed our faces with it. Next we held our hands over the smoke burning from incense – representing the fire element – to cleanse ourselves. Finally, we clasped a flower for an offering – with our hands in prayer – while the priest chanted blessings. We did this three times; each time he motioned us to throw the flower down after the blessing. Finally we held just our hands up to the sky. The bell rang vigorously and then there was quiet.
It was almost dusk. The sky was heavy but no rain came. The scent of incense wafted through the open house and I thought about this moment and compared it to the religious ceremonies I had been to as a child in a mosque in India or at home. There were always coconuts to represent water and prosperity; but there were no flowers or incense, objects I love for their ability to help us to remember that we are not just flesh and blood and bone, but we are also connected to something more subtle, more energetic and that we must strengthen this aspect of ourself as well.
Perhaps these are some of the lessons our family is learning from this Bali sojourn this year. That we must keep honoring the elements of life, that we must look for illumination especially when things feel dark, heavy and sticky and we must believe that we are all growing through it all. And if there are flowers on the path to smell and hold, they make all of it so much easier.
I was happy we participated in this ritual as a family; glad for our son to experience the quiet and focus that rituals demand of us – in all cultures, in a time when life is too quick, chaotic and dissonant. Rituals help us to both mark time and then to allow it to move on as it should.
Sending you all blessings from the presence of this moment in time.