Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Rev. Carla Schiratis' Lessons from Bali

They call Bali the Island of the Gods.  It still seems surreal to me that I have traveled there twice now, both times on a spiritual pilgrimage, with my beautiful CSL family. This stunning island is part of Indonesia and believe it or not there over 17,000 islands that are part of
Indonesia.  The vastly predominate religion in all of Indonesia is Islam, however Bali is an anomaly, where the island is about 90 percent Hindus.  As unique as Bali is to Indonesia, so too is the Balinese form of Hinduism that is practiced on Bali.    
The lessons begin with the knowledge that this was a people and a land that suffered unthinkable oppression from the Dutch, the Japanese, and The Coup, the Thirties September Group in 1965, leaving the island in tragic despair and bloodshed.  Today, these loving people celebrate life, probably to a degree that we may never understand.  They teach us, “today is a day to be thankful for, today is a day to give blessings to God, and today is a day that I will be present, mindful, and in gratitude, regardless of the past events.”
Bali is a land that is entranced in Spirit. 

 Everywhere you go, everywhere you look, you see “physical blessings” little offerings to God, small baskets woven from coconut or palm leaves, which are filled with flowers, rice, and incense. These offerings are at the front of their homes, and their businesses, on the streets, in the temples, they are everywhere.  Visual blessings of gratitude that are crafted with amazing skill and beauty.  In fact, the word Bail in Sanskrit, (that was the original Indian heritage) means “offerings.”


Everywhere you go, everywhere you look, 
you see "physical blessings"


And there are water gardens and water bowls arranged with the upmost care, featuring flowers arranged in stunning mosaic type patterns. Most of the Balinese go daily to the temples to receive a blessing from the local priests, leaving a veil of rice pressed to their
foreheads, temples and chest, which they leave on them throughout the day, until it falls off.  Another symbol of their devotion.   My lesson here opens the idea of creating visual prayer for the senses, reminders that keep Spirit in the forefront of the mind at all times.   
We visited several scared temples, which we participated in the native blessing ceremonies, wearing their traditional garments. At the temple of Shiva, which represents the destroyer, we set an intention on receiving our blessings with the idea that which does not serve us and our highest good would be released and destroyed.
At the Ganesh Temple, or Bat Cave Temple, we accepted our blessing with the intention to remove any obstacles that are keeping us from moving forward.  And at the beautiful Tirtaganga Water Gardens & Palace, we swam in the tranquil stone pools with the intention of creating a cleansing baptism of our souls. Beautiful Bali, she fills me with the lessons of release and rebirth. 
We river rafted in the deep jungles, celebrated the beautiful artist communities,
participated in chanting meditation, followed by Yoga, and an inspiring spiritual message each morning. Bali, taught me to be even more present, to pay attention, and relax into Spirits arms. 
There were many more lessons from these loving people of Bali then words can express, but I will leave you with this one. One morning my travel companion, Rev. Janet and I decide to get up early and first thing go to the claimed Monkey Forest.  We walked there quickly in anticipation of visiting this exotic place, taking care to purchase a large bunch of bananas to feed the monkeys.  I was holding the bananas as we made our way to the entrance.  Immediately, hungry monkeys from every corner come running towards me, crazily, and I swear I saw them showing their little teeth.  I being an animal lover, I actual had a pet monkey as a kid, did what was only natural. I panicked, threw the bananas in the air, and ran out.  Janet being annoyed by my sudden behavior, insisted we go back and buy more bananas.  This time, she held the bananas, being careful not to drop them.  A woman working at the entrance of the park offered to help Janet.  She showed her how to hold one banana above her head at a time and then the monkey would climb up and grab it.  Well this went fine until Janet took the remaining bananas from the women and proceed to feed them herself.  Suddenly, a huge monkey climbs up her leg and starts to grab the entire bunch of bananas.  Janet reacted by quickly pulling the bananas away from the him, and the monkey then proceeded to bite her on the leg, because frankly, he was a little upset with her selfish behavior.
Lesson here: Nature is individualized, each with Its own set of laws not to be reckoned with. Or, maybe, the lesson was: the one with the most bananas wins!

Dr. Heather is leading a trip to Bali in June of 2018 and you are invited to come along! Visit our website to learn more.