Anyone who has been to Bali can attest to the sounds of the city: The motorbikes, the builders, even the airplanes soaring above. Today, however, as I sit and write these words, the distant sounds of roosters and chirps of the birds is all I hear. There is no sound of human activity at all. And that is because there is no human activity: The island Bali that I call my home is closed.
The airport is shut down. The roads are empty. It is even forbidden to take a walk in the streets for this 24-hour period. Nyepi—the official day of silence—is upon us.
Bali is the only place in the world (that I know of) that ceases all activity for a religious tradition. Despite being an extremely popular tourist destination—one that sees hundreds of flights a day bringing new people to the shores—today no one goes in or out.
Nyepi falls on the third of six days that make up the Bali New Year celebration, one of the most anticipated celebrations of the Balinese calendar.
Each local village in Bali spends months crafting large statues (called Ogoh-Ogoh) depicting Hindu gods. The villages show off these creations during a night ceremony parade, after which point the loud, celebratory energy is silenced, and people spend their time in their family home reflecting, cleansing and forgiving one another.
A myth surrounding the fairly recent Ogoh-Ogoh tradition is that they were created to scare away the evil spirits. With all activity ceasing, and all lights turned off the night of Nyepi, those evil forces fly straight over the island as it is hidden in darkness. The day after, family members forgive one another for any actions that may have caused pain in the past year.
The fact that this long-standing tradition is still a respected and serious part of life here in modern times is something special. Especially as the island harbors countless foreigners and tourists from all parts of the world year round.
There is much we can learn from this humble island, and this fascinating tradition.
When was the last time you took a day to be in silence? Have you EVER taken a day to be quiet? This practice is different than when you are on your own and have no reason to talk. The intention is to quiet the mind, and cease any communication activities (talking, physical interactions, Internet). When we give ourselves silence, we allow the busy mind to settle, and, in the process, we give ourselves space to self-reflect and to observe what arises. Maybe there’s something your body/mind/soul has been trying to tell you, but you haven’t had enough space to listen.
What really matters.
Taking time away from our busy lives to just be with who we are with—and without filling our time with activities and work—is a rarity, especially in the Western lifestyles many of us lead. It is only when we give ourselves this space and time free of distractions that we can truly make space to fill up with what we really want. Connection, love, calm, peace, laughter, rest.
If we are running from place to place, filling up with work and technological connection, we have less room for those people right in front of us. When we are constantly active, we have less time to key into our bodies and notice if we need to stop, rest, breathe. Taking space away from our daily routine allows us to examine what is really important to us, what we truly value—and maybe what routines we no longer need any more.
What might you be holding onto right now that isn’t giving you peace and happiness? What old wounds are you carrying around that just want to be healed? Maybe there is nothing in your family to forgive and heal. Maybe all is flowing beautifully. What about people from your past? What about yourself? When you put aside time to consider whether you want to be carrying this hurt, or whether you would feel better to release it, that is when true healing and forgiveness can happen.
With that all said, I will now transition to my own tech-free silence, close my laptop, and spend the rest of my day absorbing the sweet-nothing of Nyepi.
Read more about Bali here.
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