A Day of Forced Silence and Reflection

Nyepi or Balinese “day of silence” March 28 2017

Nyepi is a Hindu celebration of fasting and meditation, a day reserved for self reflection – anything that might interfere is restricted. 

I witnessed the first of the rituals on Saturday (3 days prior to Nyepi) called The Melasti Ritual. People in their village communities bring items belonging to temples to the sea to be purified. It was beautiful, hundreds of people dressed in traditional formal Balinese wear, mostly white. The men with the white head piece, white buttoned shirt and a type of sarong. The women also wore white shirts (sometimes yellow) and gorgeous sarongs. Around 10-20 men would carry structures hoisting the sacred objects and bring it to the beach, with the rest of their village in tow. They would march it right to the waters edge, some would run their hands through the water, then they would march it to the back of the the beach. Each community would sit down near their purified object. This went on all morning and evening, they spaced out groups of people so every village had a turn throughout the day. 

 Villagers bring sacred objects from their templates to purify by the sea
Over the past two weeks, I have seen hideous statues around different towns, being constructed and painted. They are called Ogoh-Ogoh. Devout Hindu Balinese villages create these demonic statues that symbolise negative elements or malevolent spirits. I noticed some looked like traditional dragons or beasts but then a lot looked like popular culture figures. Fat bogan tourists, a ‘scarlet’ woman in a short red revealing dress, even a very good impression of Heath Ledger’s The Joker with a beer in hand. It worried me about how the Balinese saw westerners. After the locals parade the Ogoh-Ogoh around the village they burn them. 

The third part of this Nyepi Ritual is the actual silent day. No lights, no working, no entertainment, no travelling and fasting. The hotel I’m staying in have taken some of the guidelines pretty seriously (then some fairly liberally1). I feel bad for the workers here as there are quite a few working (that probably don’t need to be). This morning the gym was open (I’m sure that doesn’t call for self-entertainment with the smashing I gave myself), no lights or music though (or air-conditioning, felt right at home at an Anytime really :)). All common areas have no lighting, it’s just the sun shining through windows providing light. They came through our rooms this morning and put garbage bags on the windows and locked the heavy curtains in place. It did feel a little Nazi invading or Apocolyse precaution setting at that point. Strangely, the pool is still open (I would call that entertainment) with guests yelling and splashing about with no regard. You don’t have to actually not speak, although some very devout Hindu Balinese wouldn’t. It was remarkably in two weeks not to hear one scooter, car or motorbike while I spent some time on the rooftop. The nation stops cable streaming but the hotel has provided three channels of movies for guests. There are limited (and expensive) food services on offer today but I have found it fun to prepare my own food creations with only a fridge and a kettle. It’s like glam-ping, but under a roof. 

The fourth part of the ritual is Yoga/ Brata, which basically goes all day. I have been sprouting mediation throughout my day and learning more about the practice in general. I’ve also been reading up and watching videos on key figures in the ‘industry’ as recommended by my healer from Ubud. Well, when the internet works that is, perhaps they switched that off too? 

The fifth ritual is performed by all Hindus to forgive each other and to welcome the new days to come. Then, finally. The Dharma Shanti rituals is performed (basically New Year’s Day). 

An offering made three times a day, a little raft of food, flowers and incense
I love the idea of shutting down the country, to give the nation a break, for self-reflection and down time. While my time in Bali has all been about self-reflection, it’s come at a good time to check-in.

Why did I come to Bali? 

I came to let go. I came to let go of so many past feelings, past versions of myself, past unhappiness that I was moving forward from. In Ubud I had a number of amazing meditation experiences. One of them, I almost didn’t go because the day before I had to leave my room because the chanting and screaming from that class was unbearable. Having the courage to show up, Punnu the leader informed us that we would each go on our individual journey, and to let whatever feelings out that you needed to. The group held hands in a circle, and you breathed your way through the shakras, big inhale, short fast exhale. Holding hands with the people next to me was really hard and I felt the tension rise up and down my arms as I didn’t want to impact their experiences. But I could feel through the breathing, energy was circling around my body. When one girl started to wail, I started crying. Uncontrollable, with a little sobbing. How could she be feeling such terrible emotions to let out a scream like that? I cried because I wanted to take that away from her. It made me feel compassionate towards others on their current journey, everything that I’d been going through, other people are going through their own stuff, sometimes much worse situations. I cried for them. I also gave myself some compassion. Let it go. I cried for myself because I just wanted to stop thinking how much of a mess I felt, how lonely and confused. I just wanted to stop feeling so lost and scared. It was ok to feel those feelings, but it was time to them them go and move on. I got a few blessings, where they touch you on the top of head. It was so reassuring and comforting. I finally stopped crying. I finally let it all go. 

I came to acknowledge that three months ago I made a huge change in my life and that I was committed to figuring out my life’s path. I switched off as much as I could from home and looking at anything from the past three months. I wanted to focus on the future and the vision I had for my life morning forward. What did that look like? What did I look like? 

I came to seek answers. I saw two healers and had my birth chart read. All three confirmed I was at a key point in my life that needed changing, (and thankfully) I was on the right path to turning things around. I received other advice on how to find my life’s path, understand my true identity, my inner truth and clear away all the confusion and over thinking going on. Much more surfaced too, which I am currently reading and working on, stuff I had no idea about, and truthfully it’s such a new thing to process, like the fact I have daddy issues, who knew (least of all me it seems).    

I came to do things opposite to how I had been doing them. Yoga, meditation, solo travelling, starting conversations with people, making new friends, climbing mountains, writing, exploring, eating alone in restaurants, taking the world in differently – not closed and anxious but open and curious. It’s been so nice to surround myself with other people on their own journey. It makes me feel less crazy than at home where I feel supported by friends and family but I guess I don’t feel they really get what, why or how I’ve had such a life crisis. 

Wow. I have done a lot in my two weeks so far. Go me. 

On the outside I feel like the same old me, I think people I know would see the same person. But on the inside there is so much transforming, I really do need to meditate frequently to stay in flow! No way do I have my life’s path figured out or know what I’m doing when I get home but…. 

What I have learnt so far and what I will be taking forward with me is this: 

  • Looking after the body soothes the mind. And recognising the integration of the body, mind and soul with the earth and universe. 
  • Showing appreciating and gratitude. For showing up to do any type of practice and for the amazing opportunities that are possible. 
  • Focusing on the breath to focus on the present. To alleviate the pull of the past and future, to reduce the over analysis I do internally. 
  • Making a decision. Stop battling things out in the mind, just do something! It’s so pointless and exhausting worrying about things that have never been or will never be. 
  • Stop worrying about what others will think. Stop taking on their perspectives and expectations as my own.
  • Go with the flow. Do the things you want to do. They pop up in your head for a reason. Or try things so you know you don’t like it. Just do something or don’t, but take the pressure of yourself and just see what happens.   

How would you spend a day of silence and what would you work on? 

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