Salamat Hari Raya Nyepi, 2014
I am writing on the eve of Nyepi, the Balinese Hindu New Year, after a enjoying a day of silent reflection; the whole island of Bali is dark, no lights, no traffic, no planes and no sound. The sky is sparkling with stars, often not seen, due to all our lights. It is so peaceful. I have the feeling that comes over me at a birth- the world stops and nothing else matters, the sacredness of new life, the connection to the divine in each of us can be felt. I feel a deep sacred connection to nature.
Last night, like labor, the feeling was completely different and much more intense. Over the last few weeks, each village made several large Ogoh-Ogoh statues made of papier-mache symbolizing negative elements and evil spirits. The main purpose of the making of Ogoh-ogoh is for the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants. The Ogoh-ogoh represents the Bhuta-Kala (Bhuta: eternal energy, Kala: eternal time), according to Hindu teachings. The imperceptible potentials of nature cannot be thoroughly explored by anyone. Philosophically, civilized men are required to manage the natural resources without damaging the environment itself. What a wonderful thought to apply to birth, to honor and trust nature and not to damage it by overuse of technology.
As the sunset, groups of boys, teenagers, young and older men carried the Ogoh-ogoh on their shoulders. A large and loud procession accompanied by tradition Gamelan music played as the entire village came out to join the procession and walk the village to ward off the evil spirit. Several of the Eat Pray Doulas and their families joined in. During the procession, the Ogoh-ogoh is rotated counter-clockwise three times. This is done at every crossroad of the village. Rotating the Ogoh-Ogoh represents the contact of the bodies with the spirits. It is intended to bewilder the evil spirits so that they go away and cease harming human beings. After all the activity the island goes silent. Like labor, lots of work and intensity and then the peaceful moment of holding your newborn in your arms, resting after all your hard work. Just like birth it is important to ask – How do you ward of your fears and demons? I love the Ogoh- Ogoh’s and all it symbolizes. It gives us a chance to voice our fears and demons and to have a way to both symbolically and today in meditation and prayer to release and chase them away. Wouldn’t it be fun to make our own dolls/puppets or item that could hold all our fears and negative things we have heard about childbirth? To find our own way to release them, or as they do here to burn them and take a day to sit in silence and reflect as tomorrow begin the Balinese New Year, with new beginnings. I am humbled to have shared in these sacred ceremonies and to look at ways we can reclaim our sacred rituals in childbirth too.
As I look at the sky sparkling tonight, I think of each of you around the world. I hope you too can look at the stars tonight and feel the peace we feel in Bali on this sacred eve. May the stars fill your heart with love and help you release your fears and demons.
How will you release your fears in childbirth? Please share your stories and ideas so we can reclaim sacred traditions and create new rituals in childbirth.