A Violent Spirituality

Map_indonesia_volcanoes
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The 17,000 islands that form Indonesia are located in the Pacific Ring of Fire. They’re peppered with volcanic mountains and shudder under frequent earth tremors.
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pulaweh

 

This week, Paluweh on the very small island of Palu’e, east of Bali, erupted. Its incessant rumbling over past days alerted officials who evacuated most inhabitants to the nearby island of Flores. Six lives were lost.

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Even though the map lists only two volcanic mountains on Bali, there are at least six. Mt. Agung last erupted in 1963-1964. Mt. Batur in 1968. The others have been dormant for hundreds of years. Hot springs dot the calderas of these sleeping giants, and a geo-thermal plant harvests the power from fiery regions below Mt. Bratan’s crust.
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Earth’s dynamic unrest in this part of the world drives the energetic spirituality of Bali. The regions beneath the island paradise hold tremendous power. The Balinese understand, and daily tend to the balancing of energy through their rituals and offerings. They open their arms to spiritual practices from around the globe, and while the earth seethes, the air above vibrates with the hum of prayers, the movement of dance, and the ecstatic clang of gamelan.
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I’ve noticed that mindfulness is easier in Bali. Being present is a way of life. Gratitude soaks into the pores and becomes perpetual. I’m struck by the differences now that I’ve been in the States for a few weeks. Now that jet-lag has passed, and culture shock has subsided to a degree, and my emotions have stabilized, I can think logically about what it is that feels so absent, what gets in the way of connection.
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It’s the veneer. There’s a glossy coating on people in America that separates us. Maybe it’s competition, or power. Maybe it’s privilege, or sophistication, or make-up! But we’re isolated. Even walking down the sidewalk with hoards of others, we’re so alone. We are the casualties of progress, of technology, of narcissistic self-absorption.
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In Bali I don’t go 10 steps without an interaction. Maybe it’s nothing more than a taxi driver on the street offering his services, but someone has spoken to me and I have the option to respond and thank him and inquire about his day. I have the option to connect. I find I like that. I need that. And I take advantage of those opportunities. It has opened the door to a different kind of life. The taxi drivers remember. They stop offering “Taksi!” and instead say “Good afternoon, how are you today?” and we visit for awhile.
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The fragile brevity of life calls for more than just going through the motions. In the shadow of Mt. Agung, regal, serene, but deadly when aroused, there is a creative force that supports authenticity. It beckons, like these words by Rumi: “Come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.”
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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shane McRae
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 18:10:06

    What a beautiful, thoughtful, and well-written blog. I loved every word. Thank you, Sherry.

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  2. writingforselfdiscovery
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 18:29:44

    It always takes awhile to sift through the sensations and tune in to what’s going on with me. Writing always helps. But reading about the volcano in the news today brought a jolt of awareness.

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  3. Lottie Nevin
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 21:58:09

    Beautiful post, Sherry. I heard about the eruption while on a flight back to Jakarta. Very sad that there were deaths. While in Bali, have you ever felt the tremors or had an earthquake? We’ve had one in Bali and one in Jakarta. They weren’t large enough to cause damage but they were strong enough to rattle the walls and windows and make the lights swing and the chairs move!

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Aug 13, 2013 @ 20:22:29

      On my initial visit to Bali in 2010 I experienced my first earth tremor. It was enough to make the bed vibrate, and I knew I hadn’t gone to sleep in a vibrating bed! In the past year I’ve felt them numerous times, but only once did I consider grabbing my laptop and exiting the building!

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  4. Sharon
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 22:10:07

    I find it interesting when I walk around the lakes in Mpls and smile a greeting to those I pass, I am met with turned-away eyes or confusion. Everyone is so wrapped up in their individual life that they are often not even registering the beauty they came to enjoy. I loved that delightful reciprocity and warmth in Bali. Perhaps there was a time we enjoyed it here as well. A powerful place indeed! Thanks for another great blog, sherry.

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Aug 13, 2013 @ 20:18:25

      If you have a family, a large circle of friends, a partner, maybe the loneliness isn’t felt. But for the newcomer, and I’ve heard this a million times, it’s very hard to ‘break in’ feel accepted and develop friendships in many places in the world, not just the U.S. I’ve lived in Minnesota, Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Arizona, and Hawaii. There were regional differences…prejudices shall we say…but once separated from my immediate circle of family and friends in Minnesota, connection wasn’t easy. Bali has been a completely different experience.

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  5. Diane Struble
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 01:40:10

    The tectonic plates are shifting again which makes that area of the world particularly unstable. Not that this is the only area affected as the world overall is subject to violent changes under these circumstances. Elephants seem to be particularly in tune with the vibrations of the earth. Too bad you cannot keep one on your veranda as the lovely beast could not only issue a warning, but transport you to a safer haven.

    I have long thought that the veil of privacy with which we are most familiar is genetic. It seems to be a part of northern European and Scandanavian peoples in particular and not nearly so prevalent in the southern climes. It provides protection to ourselves and also to others as it allows more measured responses to even those closest to us. It is not equivalent to unfriendliness; just a reserve in our relationships. For those of us who have this trait, the lack of it in some others may be unnerving depending on the circumstances. I find when I am present in a culture where it is not part of the norm, I usually adjust to that easily. You certainly seem to embrace the difference, but I suspect there is still a core that results in a slight shield regardless. It’s OK.

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    • sageblessings
      Aug 13, 2013 @ 07:43:31

      I liked your reply Diane and being of Scandinavian extraction, along with many of my friends, I agree. In fact had a conversation about this just last night with a swedish friend.

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Aug 13, 2013 @ 20:10:55

      The elephant on my veranda…now if that isn’t the title for a story I don’t know what is!
      To your point, when I first arrived in Bali and set out for a walk, before I even got to the street, a Balinese person would ask, “Where are you going?” Looking back I have to chuckle at how indignant I was at the perceived breach of privacy. “Who wants to know?” “None of your business!” I didn’t say it, but I thought it. Now I understand and embrace their curiosity…their desire to know…and freely offer a detailed account of my plans. Not only that, when I return they want to know who I saw, what I bought, how much it cost, whether veggies from the market or a sarong. They’re interested. They care. They are community minded, not self-absorbed. Now I do the same to them. It’s a kind of intimacy. And you’re right…it works for me!

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