Balinese day of rest
It was a wild afternoon at the end of March on the island of Bali, Indonesia. I was just applying the zinc to my nose to protect from burning in the hot late afternoon sun, strapping on the leash of my hand plane in preparation for body-surfing when I heard motorcycle horns tooting and the approaching sounds of traditional gamelan instruments, hand drums and xylophone sounding metallic chimes. As I walked out I found myself amongst a huge procession towards the beach, the local villagers all dressed in white clothes some carrying umbrellas others carrying the chariots housing spirit dolls.
This was Melasti. I was unaware of the significance of this day as I continued onward to the pull of the beautiful wild Ocean, the tide was rising and the currents and waves unpredictable to me at least. With divine timing after crossing the river mouth, the parade of people began to settle on the beach, numbering perhaps two hundred people exactly as I entered the surf.
Today the sea was behaving so different to any previous day that I had been in and she immediately showed me how strong she is, with a constant set of large waves greeting my entrance into her divine amphitheater. The first wave I attempted began building up towards me and I stared up it’s building face it seemed to call my name, catching it just a split second too late, the lip rolled me over and I got a taste of what it is like to be Superman for a moment flying through the air supported by a huge volume of water. Then came the landing, slam, legs over shoulders, you could feel as if your back was about to be snapped in half only to be somehow graciously caught in the loving hands of our mother ocean, held down and rolled in a whirlpool several times, then the released back to breathe in the prana filled air. Sometimes it is like being in a car wash, it sure wakes you up! You learn to respect the power of the Ocean. Now are you ready for more asks Yemanja!!!!
Meanwhile on the beach I noticed the ceremony was beginning, something shifted in the energy of the people, of the wind, of the sea and of the Surfers out in the Ocean, we all became part of something bigger, more beautiful, sacred, two different cultures somehow connecting, through of love, respect and awareness of the natural elements.
This 2 hours of body-surfing suddenly began a very spiritual experience. From my perspective I suddenly felt like Gladiators out there with the other surfers and the swells rolled in, sometimes struggling again currents, sometimes taking hits from a big set relentlessly, being so present that you duck dive as exactly the perfect moment so as not to get sucked by the powerful vortexes, joining exploding waves and get constantly pounded into the sandbanks.
I remember at one moment looking over at a fellow Surfer sat out on his board waiting for a good set to roll in and suddenly we heard tribal drums beating and then more accompanying traditional island instruments…. we both turned towards the beach and I know we were feeling that same vibe. It felt as if we were transported off to Polynesia or Hawaii and those strong islander energies, the big guys in the dugout out-rigged canoes surfing those huge beach breaks…. always a warrior spirit. Shortly after we were both hydro-planing down waves catching our rides to the sound of these ceremonial instruments… Truly amazing feeling I must say!
The currents were strong and it felt like the Ocean didn’t want to let me leave, the pull was outward so there I remained, sometimes floating out in the swells resting on my hand-plane, other times catching waves, those moments I laid still in the water I had waves of emotions bubbling up, sometimes the body spasm-ed with the power of an upward motion of energy, feeling like old emotional blockages finding their way outward. Those occasions when the music began again i felt it deep in my heart, like the pure intensions touched my spirit. I did not know at this stage what the ceremony’s purpose was but I was feeling it was both a purification and almost a baptism and rite of passage.
This was Melasti, Bali’s biggest purification ritual which takes place 3 days before Nyepi.
The tradition of the Melasti ceremony is a self-cleaning process of human as well as entire universe with sacred Hindu rituals The purpose of this Melasti ceremony is to purify Bhuana Alit (small world – Human body) and also Bhuana Agung (this universe) from bad influences, bad deeds and bad thoughts. Bhuana Alit (small world) is meaning the heart / soul of each individual who is living in this world. Meanwhile, the Bhuana Agung was the wide world or this universe. This ceremony is very important value to remind us how important this life is as well as we need a day to purify ourselves and the universe.
How I know that I was somehow connected on a deep spiritual level with this ceremony, my intuition guided me to the shores on the most beautiful ride of the afternoon and the tidal flow made it a challenge to get out of the water, after a few minutes as I managed to take off my fins and stride my way out was exactly as the villagers stood up and began making their way back across the river and the beach to parade back to the temple, we walked side by side up the road from the beach and setting sun. The energy was lighter, my body was wet and I felt purified inside and out. I could also feel this amongst the beach at the whole beach.
Melasti is part of the build up to Nyepi and two days later on the eve of Nyepi is Ogoh Ogoh night. Ogoh Ogoh is a big parade of statues of figures, mostly demonic but some good spirits too, almost Shamanic in nature. The main purpose of the making of Ogoh-ogoh is the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings (especially humans).
An Ogoh-ogoh is normally standing on a pad built of timber planks and bamboos. The pad is designed to sustain the Ogoh-ogoh while it is being lifted and carried around the village or the town square. There are normally eight or more men carrying the Ogoh-ogoh on their shoulders. This procession is accompanied by orchestral music performed by the youth. During the procession, the Ogoh-ogoh is rotated counter-clockwise three times. This act is done at every T-junction and crossroad of the village. Rotating the effigies during the cremational parade and the eve of Nyepi represents the contact of the bodies with the spirits. It is intended to bewilder the evil spirits so that they go away and cease harming human beings.
I heard that these Ogoh Ogoh are then burned in the evening after the parades although I did not witness this personally.
This morning I awoke to Nyepi.
Nyepi is the Balinese new year and a day of silence.
This day is called Nyepi, meaning “to keep silent” and falls on the day after the dark moon of the Southern hemisphere Autumn equinox when the day and night are of approximately equal duration. Hotels are asked to cover their windows and all shops are closed. No light or candle will be lit in any Balinese home, no cars on the road, no motorbikes, no people. It’s indeed a special experience, not only for the Balinese but also for all the visitors and tourists that are on Bali during Nyepi Day.
This morning as I awoke I stared out from the open canopy of the traditional Indonesian sleeping sala where I stay to feel a pureness that is rarely experienced in modern times, beautiful birdsong, clean air, the cow’s were just going about their business peacefully, no scooters or loud voices…. Just nature…. this is such a beautiful time to appreciate the lack of a need to be out and about missioning with whatever calls our desires.
In contrast, as always I noticed one man on a bicycle cycling back from the beach, presumably checking if the waves were good for some surfing today without the crowds and also i noticed on facebook people looking for open restaurants or some activity in town. The mind has trouble to be still, it can get restless, even I am writing this article on Nyepi instead of just being in stillness, my excuse I felt inspired to share this in the moment.
I’m grateful to be here over these special Balinese sacred days, the villagers are so open and are so happy to share their traditions and culture, I feel accepted and I feel the power of a combined ritual, with intensions on purification. I hope my story made people smile or think a little deeper past our everyday fast paced life and I wish everybody a beautiful Nyepi.
From Bali with Love