I can't even explain why I feel the rush I do from going!
This is how it all came together. A friend of a friend is a taxi driver and so I hired him for the day to take me shopping to the nearby towns. We looked at silver, the art market and the wood-carving village. While chatting he found out I was interested in Bali's spiritual practices and invited me to go to temple with him that evening. He came back after dinner on a scooter with his wife, who lent me her clothes and dressed me. I looked like a proper Bali lady -- sarong, lacy fitted white shirt over a tank, belt, flip-flops and a flower in my hair. I have to admit that this was much more comfortable than when I wore a sari in India! The guy at the front desk of my hotel even took a picture with me for his Facebook page.
The ride to the temple was something to remember! I sat sideways on the back of the scooter, it was pouring rain, the man used one hand to steer and open the throttle (did I mention his hand is deformed?) and the other one to hold the umbrella. The road was steep and the rain was coming down very hard. There was not even a mention of a helmet. Miraculously, nothing happened and we got there all in one piece!
The ceremony lasts from 7 p.m. to midnight and you can come anytime you are able. I can really appreciate the flexibility of the local Hindu religion! Once there, you go stand behind some people praying and waiting to be blessed while trying not to get too wet. When the group ahead of us is done we were seated on a mat with many other people, incense and flower offerings in front of us. I sat on my legs. They hurt a lot until they went numb and I could not feel them any more.
Children played music. Then at the appointed time everyone prayed -- cupping some incense smoke with your hand and putting your palms together, pray, grab a specific flower, cup hands and pray, grab a different specific flower, cup hands and pray one more time, then pray with empty hands. I incorporated my usual prayers to feel guided and connected, and for the health and well-being of my family.
Next the priest (or his wife) walks around and blesses people. This is done by sprinkling holy water on the head. Then she pours holy water from a small metal teapot into your cupped hands. You drink, repeat two more times, then they pour again and you put the water on your head. She pours again and this time the water gets sprinkled on your face.
While in Bali I was told to drink only bottled water and even brush my teeth with the stuff. I am not sure if holy water is filtered, but I highly doubt it. Keeping my fingers crossed that I don't get sick! Honestly though, even if I do, it will pass, but the experience of the ceremony will last a lifetime!
After your blessing people bring large platters of fruit, flowers, incense (even roast chicken) to what I think is the altar. My understanding is that once the gods are finished, humans can pick up the offerings, take them home and enjoy the food. I can really appreciate the practical aspect of this spiritual practice.
Later people hang out and chat and there is a musical concert performed by kids. No reading from a book or standing up and sitting down again and again for two hours. You come when you can, do the spiritual thing, get blessed and then connect with your community, friends and feel great after. I could really get used to something like this!
The drive back in the rain, on the motorbike, sitting sideways, with the guy driving with one hand while holding the umbrella with the other was not the least bit stressful. I guess I can get used to even a crazy routine fairly quickly!
The final New Year's Ceremony is tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. (Bali time, so I am getting picked up at 11:15 a.m.) and I can't wait to experience more. Feel very lucky to be me at this present moment!
==I Anna Mirsky is the Voice's ad sales rep. She's taking some time off to travel solo through Asia.==