We are in the middle of the most magical week of the year over here in Bali. With Nyepi coming up this March 14th, it is the perfect time for us to share with you more about the magic of our home Bali.
Nyepi, referred to as Silent Day – is just around the corner. Even after 12 years of living here, this sacred day still remains my favourite day of the year. The Day of Silence in Bali is a day of meditation, reflection and fasting with the purpose of returning to one’s self, to instil purity and harmony and to contemplate upon your intentions for the upcoming new year.
Like everyone who gets to experience Nyepi for the first time, I still believe having a global Nyepi would be something that would do the world so good.
While Nyepi is generally just one day and falls on the day of the 12th New Moon of the Balinese Saka Calendar and commemorates Isakawarsa, the Balinese New Year, the Balinese immerse themselves into ritual and ceremony during the days leading up to and surrounding Nyepi.
During this time Bali turns into an almost indescribable world of magic, of ritual, reverence and devotion with energetics and vibrations reverberating high – an experience to be perceived with all our senses.
The Nyepi date changes every year according to our Gregorian calendar, since Nyepi is calculated with the 210-day-Balinese calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon.
A TIME FOR RITUALS
I as a foreigner am not partaking in the traditional Balinese rituals, however it is an important part of the magic of Bali to understand that everything flows as one – the divine, humankind and nature – every individual is in one way or another contributing to the overall energy that transmits throughout the island. I have learnt over the years that if I surrender to the culture and their way of living, I find myself suddenly being a part of something bigger. The ego and identity dissipates in the context of community. The more I respect the energy and culture here, the more I find myself being held in the most unexpected ways.
Over the years and through being exposed to the rules that come with Nyepi I have made this day my own, embodying what Bali asks from us from a place of devotion, surrender and deep respect for this culture that has been around for hundreds of years.
While the Day of Silence marks the peak of ’Nyepi season’ there is a variety of ceremonies surrounding the actual Day of Silence.
Here is the sequence of ceremonies that are all a part of Nyepi.
The Melasti Procession
Melasti is a precursor to Nyepi and is an important purification ceremony and ritual that is held several days prior to Nyepi. Melasti is meant to be the ritual to cleanse the world from all the filth of sin and bad karma, through the symbolic act of acquiring the Tirta Amerta, "the water of life”.
For Melasti the Balinese take their Pratima (Sanskrit word for image, hence a sacred depiction of a deity) and all sacred objects which belong to their temples to the sea for cleansing and purification. The Pratima is believed to be the manifestation of God, represented through different deities and their function. The aim is to purify oneself and the world of all bad and past and release it into the ocean. In Hindu belief the source of water is considered the Source of Life (Tirta Amrita).
Photo credit: @mukrilay
It is an important part of the ceremony to take the sacred items to the water on foot. The march of Melasti can usually be witnessed three days before Nyepi with thousands of Balinese Hindus walking from their villages to the closest water source (lake or ocean) while helping each other carrying their sacred items.
The purpose of Melasti is the purification of the soul and the universe and to eliminate the suffering of the people from the attachment of the material world. It shall remind the Balinese of their devotion to God, build awareness for the alleviation of suffering in living together as a society, to strengthen the soul with spiritual self-cleansing and to preserve our deep connection and sense of oneness with nature.
Being a part of the Melasti ritual is similar to walking on a spiritual journey towards Self. Balinese people from all over the island come together linking themselves with all aspects of the universe through crossing their hands and chanting Mantras on their procession towards the sea amplifying the energy and vibration of the island.
The Bhuta Yajna Ritual
The Bhuta Yajna ritual is a ritual of holy sacrifice with the intention to vanquish the negative elements and create harmony between God, humankind, and nature. The ritual is also meant to appease Batara Kala by Pecaruan offering of live animal sacrifice.
While the holy sacrifice also includes animal sacrifice as an offering most Balinese villages build so-called Ogoh-ogoh, giant ‘puppets’ representing demonic spirits and Bhuta-Kala (eternal energy and eternal time). These demonic statues are made of richly painted bamboo, cloth, tinsel, and styrofoam symbolising negative elements or malevolent spirits or even characters from Hindu mythology. The Ogoh-ogoh are usually paraded around the village in a convoy (which had to be cancelled due to Covid last year and will remain absent again this year) and then burned in the cemeteries as a symbol of purification.
'Nyepi' – Day of Silence
Nyepi itself is reserved for meditation, introspection, self-reflection, fasting and praying in silence.
The rituals during Nyepi consist of five ‘rules’ which must be adhered to by everyone: no fire/light (which generally means no electricity), no work, no travelling, no self-entertainment and no food (fasting is recommended).
These rules include not leaving the house, speaking, cooking, playing music, watching TV. During this day the airport closes for operations, the shops remain closed and the internet is disconnected.
The purpose of these rules is to return to self-awareness and purification of the soul.
Nyepi begins at 6.00am and continues until 6.00am the following day.
Ngembak Agni is the ritual that brings the Balinese together with family and friends the day after Nyepi. The intention is to reunite for the new year, to greet one another and seek one another’s forgiveness.
The Balinese believe that all parts of the Universe have their own purpose, including the evil spirits which they believe should not be dismissed or expelled but controlled to instil and maintain balance in this world. Balinese-Hindus do not believe in the concept of good and bad per se, but in one that says, to sense heaven in this world it is a world that should be lived as one without polarity. Everything is the same and equal, presenting itself with its own purpose.
A TIME FOR REFLECTION
From a non-spiritual/non-religious perspective a day like Nyepi offers us a myriad of opportunities to come back to ourselves.
In a time where technology rules and fast-paced lifestyles are heralded as ‘winning’ in life, slowing down and finding pockets of silence are becoming increasingly non-existent or difficult to find. I personally am looking forward to this day every year. It is an opportunity to officially hit the ‘off-switch’, to retreat and reset as I tend to get overwhelmed by the many offerings life has for us these days.
It has become an unquestioned habit to reach for our devices in times when seemingly ‘nothing’ is happening (like taking a break from work or standing at a red light), to be in a constant form of communication with the external rather than with ourselves.
We have clearly lost the ability to be with ourselves without distraction. To suddenly stop and be our own best company can be challenging for many. Embracing silence and stillness can be downright terrifying for those of us that are on the go 24/7. Yet, it is so beautiful and rewarding when we do. It is when we are quiet, that we get to listen and our greatest insights reveal themselves to us. It is in the spaces in-between our inward reflections where the deepest secrets and desires are to be found. What bubbles up to greet us in these moments may not always be easy, yet this is an opportunity to explore what else has been there all along.
A TIME FOR CONNECTION
While technology offers us an illusion of connection, we are in fact more disconnected from ourselves than ever before. We have become used to spending less time on our own, and if we do, the time alone is spent scrolling through other people’s lives on various social platforms. And that in itself is a rather lonely experience. Nyepi takes away the distraction, inviting us into being our own best companion.
A TIME FOR ALLOWING
The more we sit with ourselves, the more we become attuned to the inner landscapes of our own being. Allowing what is through meditation, journaling or any other form of dropping in is empowering and liberating at the same time. When we learn to be with our thoughts and feelings as they are, without getting caught up on them, without identifying ourselves with the story that sits behind our reactions and emotions, we get to see reality as it is, rather than through a filter. This is liberation (moksha) from our own self-created suffering.
A TIME FOR EMBRACING
Embrace the relaxation and retreat without our old friend productivity guilt. One of the beautiful things about Nyepi is that it forces us to slow down, to relax and to enjoy the simplicity of doing nothing. You are gifted with an invitation to spend the day reading, napping, sitting and meditating. While these activities can incite a sense of guilt and discomfort within us, Nyepi gives us permission to embrace this time to soothe and tend to our soul. Embrace pulling the plug for 24hours. You are allowed to embrace slowness.
A TIME FOR GRATITUDE
Nyepi is a wonderful time to reflect on all the beautiful things in our lives, the ones we tend to forget during the business and hustle and bustle of the every day, or the ones we forget through focusing on the experiences that instil contraction within us.
What we get to shed light on are the little things that we so often take for granted. As we are closing an old year Mama Bali extends an invitation to reflect on the past months, manifestations and realisations in our lives. I love to sit with a gratitude practice to give myself the space to count my blessings.
WEAVING THE BALI MAGIC INTO YOUR LIFE
Even though you might not be in Bali on this auspicious March 14 – since Nyepi falls on a Sunday this year, there might be an opportunity for you to weave in some of this Bali magic and carve time out for yourself, make it a home retreat, even if it is only for a few hours.
If you choose to do so, maybe the following practices resonate with you. Generally they are also good morning rituals for your everyday life.
Start your day in meditation, offer yourself and your life a prayer, a mantra to quiet the busy voices of your mind.
Retreat into a calm and soothing corner of your home to rest in stillness whether you take a seat or lie down. Sit or lie and just be with what is, drink in the stillness that surrounds you, that graces your being, that gets to permeate the whole of your body and energy body.
Mantras like SO HAM, HAM SA or I AM support raising your vibration for you to become one with all that is. Give yourself the space to meditate. For a few minutes, an hour or even more.
If you are new, you get to explore and maybe meditate several times during that day.
CONTEMPLATION & JOURNALING PROMPTS
I like to tend to my inner well and garden by diving into all that was, has become and is through expressing myself through words, scribbles and sketching.
I can highly recommend the practice of Morning Pages, which means to sit down first thing in the morning or after a grounding morning meditation and to start writing for three pages without interrupting, thinking, structuring or rephrasing.
If you feel like you need some orientation, here are a few prompts and questions that are beautiful to consider:
- What did I learn/understand for myself/about myself in the last six months?
- What would I like to focus on this coming year? What are my intentions?
- What do I want to invite more of into my life this year?
- What/who am I grateful for?
- What does freedom mean to me?
- Who am I if I had no name and memories?
- What do I bind myself to?
- What do I say yes to? What do I say no to?
- What would I do, if I knew I couldn't fail?
Whether you are in Bali or somewhere else in the world, whether you celebrate Nyepi or not – I think all I am trying to share here is that it is not only ok, but crucial to allow yourself to take a day of silence and rest. That in fact it is important for your own soul’s wellbeing. To even such an extent that it has become a profound and sacred ritual that an entire island is devoted to.
Selamat Hari Raya Nyepi, loves. See you on the other side!