News Flash…There Will Be Silence!

Nyepi SilenceSilence is serious business in Bali. New Year’s Day falls on March 31 this year and it’s a big deal. If you’re a traveler vacationing here, you are confined to your hotel. Cable broadcasting in Indonesia is turned off. The use of electricity is discouraged. There are no vehicles allowed on the roads with the exception of emergency transport. If you venture out you run the risk of being fined by the vigilant Pecalang, local men who police the streets for offenders. And the airport is closed.

I’ve only experienced this kind of silence once before. It followed a day that will remain indelibly imprinted on my memory for the rest of my life. September 11, 2001. Air traffic over America ceased. People cowered in their homes, wondering where and when the next terror would strike.

Today, with the brilliant blue skies over Bali undisturbed by the thunder of jet engines, I remember. Nyepi is a blessing. It recreates the quiet after that devastating storm. I sit in silence and pray for the inconceivable. Peace. A planet at peace.

Advertisements

101 Breaths

Nine eleven.

Those numbers, in that order, will forever mean something more than just two numbers spoken together.

It was early morning. I was driving my youngest daughter to school. We had the car radio on and the program was interrupted. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I remember thinking that something in the traffic control tower must have gone terribly wrong. Within moments, another plane hit.

I had been in New York two weeks earlier with middle daughter, Joy, helping her move into the dorm at FIT in Manhattan. Now I dialed and redialed her number. Nothing.

By the time I got to work a third plane had careened into the Pentagon. My cousin worked there. My daughter still didn’t answer.

Twelve years later, can it be? It’s over a decade, but still fresh, still a terror of the heart. Both my daughter and my cousin were unharmed. Many others were less fortunate.

This morning I sat in meditation. I couldn’t still the thoughts until one idea caught my attention. It said, “Take 101 breaths to cleanse the heart.” I gulped a lungful of air and expelled it slowly, tightening the stomach muscles until the last wisp of it left my nostrils. Then slowly, methodically, I counted each deep inhale and elongated exhale, one hundred and one times, remembering and letting go.

Justin Lane/Pool/Getty Image

Justin Lane/Pool/Getty Image

Breathwork, or pranayama in yoga circles, brings harmony to the body, mind, and spirit. My body knew what was needed and sent the subtle message to me in the form of a thought.

The breaths completed, I sat in gratitude, the heaviness of those memories lifted. I honored the losses in a way that didn’t consume me.

Once again the body has taught me a valuable lesson. When dealing with too much emotion…101 breaths.

Nyepi and 9/11

It is fitting that my soul-journey would encounter Nyepi. There are only a few other places in the world that observe a day of complete silence. But I assure you, the island of Bali has shut down. If they could have muted the roosters, I’m certain they would have! The closest thing to it that I can remember in the U.S. is when the airports were closed after 9/11. The skies were empty and an eerie silence hung over the land. Imagine if, along with no airplanes, all traffic had stopped, all electricity had been turned off, all stores and industries of every kind were closed, and people were required to remain in their houses.  That is Nyepi. The Balinese celebrate the first day of every new year in quiet meditation, introspection, and prayer.

I decide that today, for me, will be a day of appreciating my immediate surroundings (I can’t go anywhere else!) I will devote it to noticing the details that I have been enjoying but not really ‘seeing’ because of the cumulative beauty of this place. Like, for instance, this intensely green plant with shocking pink striped leaves has been here all the time but I just found it.

Look at this orchid inside a half coconut shell. It has been secured to a palm tree and will eventually grow right into the tree. Then the shell will be removed and they will have become one. It will look like the palm tree is sprouting orchids.

Just out of reach as I sit on my balcony is this breath-taking cluster of frangipani, or plumeria as it is known in Hawaii. Butter-yellow with star-shaped orange centers, the flowers are individually delicate but in clusters they seem to shout their presence! You have my attention…I’m listening now…

I am embarrassed at how quickly I become comfortable in a place and forget to fully appreciate the visual bounty. It is like anything, when we have so much we become numb to it. We begin to feel that we are entitled and instead of being humbly grateful for our abundance, we reach for more, and more, and more. It reminds me of the story that Yvonne (my Dutch friend) shared with me last night.

A fisherman lived in a cozy cottage in a picturesque village. Every day he went out in his little boat and easily caught enough fish from the abundance of the sea to feed his family. One day some visitors noticed the great number of fish available in that area. They approached the fisherman and said, “Why don’t you make nets so you can catch more fish?” The fisherman looked at them and said, “And why would I do that?” The people answered, “So you can make lots of money and hire people to fish for you.” Again the fisherman just looked at them and said, “And why would I do that?” The people said, “So you could make even more money and form a company and export fish all over the world.”  In his quiet way the fisherman said again, “And why would I do that?” By this time the people were getting impatient, “So you could take a lovely vacation in a peaceful little village like this one, and relax and fish all day.” The fisherman smiled. “Ah,” he said. “I see.”

So I end this auspicious day of Nyepi with my meditation for you:

May you be filled with lovingkindness,

May you be well in body and mind,

May you be safe from inner and outer dangers,

And may you be happy, truly happy, and free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of Namaste hands from Bing search engine.

%d bloggers like this: