SOLAR ECLIPSE: Compelled toward CHOICE

solar eclipse embodiedA Solar Eclipse happens the morning of March 9th, 2016. Energetically this is a moment of profound choice that will deeply affect your fate for the next 19 years.

When I read that statement, my body tingled and sprouted goosebumps.

The event is the equivalent of a monumental power surge supporting transitions. Actually, forcing is the better word. In this crucible of opportunity we are forced to choose only one specific and critically important area of focus in order to make use of the energy.

In recent months I’ve felt a minor irritation, like a wasp circling my head, not too close but close enough that I can’t fully relax into my life. I’ve noticed uncertainties toward specific writing goals and family relationships. The questions spin through my mind, searching but finding no answers.

In the past, these sensations have preceded major adjustments to the status quo. Evolution cannot remain static. It’s essential to listen to the sounds pounding in the psyche, the discomforts rattling through the nervous system calling attention to the need for change. On one hand, the past offers a familiar path, the karmic conditions that dictated what life looked like before. Slipping into old patterns is tempting. But ahead, in the strange mystery of the future lies limitless growth. It challenges everything and promises only to pay your experiences forward with wisdom and empathy.

solar eclipse islandMarch 9th is also Nyepi, the Balinese New Years Day. It follows a night of chaotic wildness as dark spirits are driven out and the island experiences a re-set of benign peace. The eclipse and Nyepi taken together are formidable in their potential for effecting transformation.

It’s entirely probable that this supercharged moment provides the ideal frequency to connect with life’s purpose and core soul unity, part of the answer to Why Am I Here.

On the morning of March 9th as the sun disappears and utter quiet reigns over the island, planes grounded, the airport closed, people confined to their homes for silent meditation and reflection, I’ll sit in waiting, acknowledging the power of wounds, empty spaces and the sacred darkness, refusing to re-live those wounds or identify with them. But as I sit, will I contract with the universe to discard karmic patterns and re-assert my agency in the process of consciously driven evolution? Will I re-examine my belief systems, questioning roles, rules, and narratives I have held as sacred, unquestionable, or absolute? Will I release and walk away from anyone or anything that isn’t on my energetic wavelength? Will I trust my intuition, gut instincts, imagination and dreams?

Will I resolve to do only what is mine to do?

I’m excited and more than a little apprehensive. I’ve enjoyed four years of deep healing and explosive joy, unequaled by anything in my former life. It’s been a time of sacred idleness, a holy reprieve and I sense the chapter ahead will stretch me. On March 9th I’ll seal my fate for the next nineteen years. Will I lean into the unknown, embrace fears and plunge headlong into the vortex of change? Or will I stagnate, immobilized by the immensity of my own power to choose?

 

Credits:  Quoted text from an article, The Eclipse – Another Roll of the Dice, by Lorna Bevan

Image #1  –  http://www.globallightminds.com

Image #2  –  Holly Sierra, American Magical Realism Painter

 

 

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.

Nyepi, Ogoh-Ogoh and the Drone

From the magical and mythical to the horrific, New Year’s Eve in Bali is a monster mash. For weeks, men of all ages have worked feverishly in community buildings, parks, and garages. First a framework appears. It morphs into a three dimensional entity that grows limbs and a head and very possibly, pendulous breasts. With artistic flair, the specter is painted, dressed, and readied for it’s debut. These are the monsters, the ogoh-ogoh, that are paraded through the streets on the night before Nyepi, to the wild accompaniment of gamelan and tumultuous cheers.

It’s a night like none other in the world, wild, ghoulish, cacophonous, and I love it! I wondered about that as I sat at a table in Sjaki-Tari-Us around 4:30. I’d gone early to secure a ringside seat with a great view of the football field, the venue that hosts the monsters’ ball.

I had promised my friends that I’d do my best to save seats for them since it’s their first Nyepi. I hadn’t been there five minutes when an aggressive gent in a blue plaid shirt laid claim to one of the empty chairs. “My friend is coming,” I said, smiling in a you’ll-get-your-hands-off-that-chair-if-you-know-what’s-good-for-you kind of way. The chair stayed, the man went away.

P1050963I slipped into a day-dreamy haze as the loudspeaker pumped reggae music through the soft hum of voices. The bright colors, the warmth, the familiarity of this town that has become my home, settled around me with a sweetness that brought a lump to my throat.

As I wallowed in the gratitude of those feelings, a different sound needled into my consciousness.

What was it, electrical wires buzzing? It had that high-pitched whine that pierces through everything else and puts your teeth on edge. It sounded foreign, it didn’t belong. Then I saw it hovering over the football field like an alien spaceship, lights flashing, propellers whirring. My friends had arrived. “What in the…what’s that?” I had spotted it first.

P1050977P1050976

They craned their necks to see what I was looking at. “It’s a drone!” Nancy said. We watched it hover, then dart to another part of the field, hover, then dart again. “It’s taking pictures.”

For a nanosecond I felt dizzy. The harsh invasion of space technology colliding with the ancient practice of Nyepi sent shock waves through my system.  An image of Balinese women, carrying buckets of sand, or concrete blocks on their heads, came to mind. Even though that stretches my definition of reality, it’s easier to accept here than a buzzing, flashing, hovering UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle).

I pulled my eyes away from the intruder and back to the teaming crowds. Then it hit me. That’s why I love it here. Bali is a study in contrasts. It has tranquil rice fields and chaotic traffic, reverent prayer and raucous cockfights, Kuta Beach and Kintamani. But tonight, on the eve of Nyepi, it has ogoh-ogoh’s and a drone.

Black Magic

People in the West don’t pay much attention to the dark forces. Paranoia around all things paranormal runs rampant unless of course it’s vampires, or child wizards wreaking havoc with broomsticks. Those have become acceptable, even desirable in recent literature and film. In fact tales of bloodsucking teens has become a money-making machine. We can’t get enough.

In Bali the dark forces are acknowledged and maintaining balance between the negative and positive energies is a daily practice. Credence is given to blessings but perhaps even more attention is afforded the dark arts. Someone’s father is sick. A skin rash appears. A house burns down. Crops fail. Black magic, they whisper. It’s as though no other possibility exists.

When illness or tragedy strikes, a balian is consulted. There are two types of balian according to Ubud Now and Then.

Balian Ketut Arsana of Bodyworks Center in Ubud Photo credits Namaste Festival

Balian Ketut Arsana of Bodyworks Center in Ubud
Photo credits Namaste Festival

The first, known as the ‘balian taksu’, is a kind of shaman or trance medium: he goes into a trance to communicate with the spirit world, and frequently chases away unwanted influences in this way. The second, the ‘balian usada’, refers to sacred medical manuscripts, and uses massage techniques and traditional medicines made from plants and animals. He also works with a spiritual approach, drawing on intuition, visions, mantras and prayer to aid the healing process.

The article goes on to say that a visit to a balian requires sensitivity and openness to the Balinese beliefs about the spirit world and the power of the invisible. It may require a dramatic leap of faith to accept a prescribed remedy which can be unorthodox. Yet many visitors to Bali have found themselves cured by a local medicine man when no Western doctor was able to help.

Some of us can be quite comfortable with intuitive types. Their subtle seeing of things unseen, or knowing without being told, is acceptable and we seek them out for guidance. But Bali takes it a step beyond.

Sanghyang is the Balinese sacred trance. It’s a phenomenon that raised the hairs on the back of my neck when I first witnessed it. Spirit possession wasn’t an everyday occurrence in my upbringing and I was unprepared for the raw power unleashed during a Sanghyang ritual.

But for the Balinese, trance is an essential element of their belief system. Skye Laphroaig, in an article for the Bali Advertiser, says that Sanghyang is a sacred state in which hyangs (deities) or helpful spirits temporarily inhabit the bodies of willing participants. The purpose of sanghyang is to cleanse people and places of evil influences to restore spiritual balance.

An example of a Sanghyang is the spectacular fire dance. A man in trance holding a hobby horse walks back and forth through burning coconut husks in his bare feet. Again and again he circles through the fire until he is pulled to the ground by two attendants.  A priest appears and sprinkles him with holy water. The man remains immobile in an altered state for some time.

Kecak Fire and Trance Dance

Kecak Fire and Trance Dance

These productions may appear to be for tourists, but I have attended elaborate performances where I was the only non-native person there. The Balinese do this for the Balinese. They do it to maintain harmony on their beautiful island. The spiritual realm is as real and present for them as the natural and they travel fluidly between the two. They accept without question the presence of the unseen, the dark forces and the light. Their offerings, prayers, and rituals are designed to appease both.

The Balinese year ends with the granddaddy of all spirit-balancing rituals, Nyepi. This year Nyepi falls on March 31. Nyepi Eve is a ghoulish extravaganza of ogoh-ogoh monsters paraded through the streets accompanied by pounding gamelan and overwhelming chaos. The negative deities are chased away or driven crazy by the pandemonium. Then the island shuts down. The airport is closed as are all the businesses. People do not go out of their homes. The streets are empty with the exception of the Pecalang who enforce the day of silence and impose fines on offenders.

Ogoh-ogoh

Ogoh-ogoh

In the West the healing arts have become the healing sciences. Science, we believe, can fix people, animals, vegetation, rivers, and every ailing thing. Bit by bit, a more holistic mindset is allowing natural remedies to be reintroduced, suspiciously, into the mainstream. But other than prayer chains, dialed into service for an extra measure of divine intervention, the vast resources of the metaphysical realm remain untapped.

We scoff at the mystical beliefs of the uneducated. We pass judgment on primitive practices and superstitions. We’re so wise. But what if that’s the missing piece? What if it takes science, and nature, and the realm of the unseen working together, to accomplish mighty feats? What if….

The Dance of Demons and Ghouls

It’s 3:00 in the afternoon, still early, but I’m impatient. The air sizzles with excitement, and the methodical background of gamelan holds a promise of things to come. I grab my camera and head for Hanoman. I’ve been told the ogoh-ogohs are already lining up there. Last year I had no idea what to expect so I found a cafe by the street and waited for the parade to come to me. Not this time. I want to be at the starting line. I want to catch the action from its inception and merge with it, lose myself in it’s ferocious intensity.

Nyepi, the Balinese New Year, is a celebration like none other. For weeks leading up to Nyepi Eve, in villages all across Bali, young and old work feverishly creating mosters of enormous size and hideous countenance. Artistic genius is unleashed to create it’s worst nightmares. In parks, garages, and banjars a framework appears first. The next day it has a penis or two immense breasts clinging to it’s skeleton. Every night the gamelan players whip up a frenzy of sound to cheer on the workers. They have already done a full day’s work at their real jobs, but the driving music propels them to slave feverishly on into the night, building a fiend that will storm through the streets at dusk, restoring a peaceful balance to the energy of the island.

As I turn the corner from Dewi Sita onto Jl. Hanoman I catch sight of the first ogoh-ogoh.

P1020836

Suckling pigs are used as offerings for the more auspicious Hindu ceremonies. This particular dark spirit looks hungry!

P1020824

Notice the man standing to the left. Once the framework is hoisted onto the shoulders of an army of Balinese men, these statues do battle with the utility wires that span the streets.

P1020839

This one has fuzz by his toenails. Where does the inspiration for that come from?

P1020813

Remember the breasts I mentioned? The flimsy red skirt doesn’t hide much either.

P1020812

This dude is enormous. He has to be 20 feet tall, at least.

P1020898

The mammoth boar comes complete with sound effects. It’s either a recording or a human inside who may not be able to talk again for a week!

P1020896

The attention to detail is astounding.

P1020880

This team puts on a show! They twirl thier monster, dipping and swaying. They run forward then side to side making their diabolical looking golden buddha appear to be very much alive.

P1020938

King Cobra is even more stunning after dark. His head and entire body are outlined in lights. His eyes flash red and his mouth glows green.

P1020943

This one may be my favorite, although that screeching boar is pretty awesome!

P1020913

I want a skirt like this! Not the tail, just the skirt.

P1020855

A pack of tomorrow’s leaders sport special hair in honor of Nyepi.

P1020833

“My dad’s an artist too…!”

P1020952

Ogoh-ogohs surround the field that is filled with curious onlookers. Notice the mysterious little orbs floating about. My camera does not have a dirty lens. These only seem to appear when I’m taking photos in temples or at ceremonies. ?!

By dusk the teams and their ghouls have all arrived. Now it’s time for the real cacophany to begin hearalding the march to the cemetery where ritual burning of these sinister entities will ensue. One by one the gamelan that accompanies each team plays a frenzied percussian as their group exits the field. The crowd roars its approval while the players hammer out the complex sycopations. Just when I think it can’t get any better than this, the next gamelan begins, racheting up the volume, pulling out all the stops until the roar of the crowd and the ecstatic pounding beat drowns out the memory of anything else.

It is glorious. I walk home through streets, deadly quiet, contemplating the immensity of the moment. All of that, the pageantry, the noise, the hours of preparatory labor, is a grand performance to maintain the balance between good and evil. The Balinese don’t just make offerings to the high spirits. The eve of Nyepi is meant to wake up both the benign and the malignant so they will see the abundance presented on their behalf and be at peace for another year. It feels primal, and right for this place that sits so close to the equator that dark and light, both literally and figuratively, are in balance here.

The next morning I awake to the sounds of Ibu. I shuffle, sleepy-eyed, out of the bedroom, then scurry back for my camera. She has outdone herself. The offerings on this day are heaped with fruits and flowers.

P1020958

 She piles them on top of one another, sumptuous and bountiful. She is elegant in her temple clothes, but I know she has crossed a river where there is no bridge, and walked through the jungle to bring these gifts and bless my house today.  The incense drifts lazily in fragrant swirls. There are no planes overhead, no cars or motorbikes in the streets. Bali rests like a quiet green jewel in the blue sea. Any spirits who might be looking to make mischief will assume there are no inhabitants here and pass by.

P1020963

People who spend any time here will tell you that Bali is like nowhere else in the world.  If you have any doubt, come for Nyepi and see for yourself.  I find it irresistable, and the longer I stay the harder it is to imagine life anywhere else.

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: