Every once in a while, you stumble upon something so unexpected, so new and so unpretentiously profound, that you feel like your faith in the human spirit has been uplifted.
This is precisely what happened to me on my recent ten-day trip to Bali, Indonesia led by Bali Institute of Global Renewal’s founder, Marcia Jaffe. She lovingly curated an extraordinary exploration across the island.
My first impression was the predominantly warm and hospitable cadence of the people of Bali. This cultural personality is in large part due to their longstanding philosophy that transcends the pursuit of individual happiness based on money or achievement but rather has at its core a belief and devotion to family, community and spirit.
The traditional family lives in a communal compound throughout their lifetime and only the women move away after marriage to their husband’s family abode. Patrilineal rules still apply in Bali family life.
Tri Hata Karina, the traditional Hindu threefold obligation of the individual to nature, to one another as a community, and to God was the central theme — it ran through the daily life of the people through every ceremonial observance, temple layout and community structure. The Balinese people’s lives are completely interconnected and create a meaningful existence for the whole over any one individual — a philosophy so different from our Western values.
What is most honored is the collective effort and achievement. I witnessed this key value at every turn. Whether we were dining in a modest family compound or in the palace of a prince, the sentiment was the same: love and pride in their family, their community and their culture.
My 10-day journey with Marcia through this magical country was made extra special as we had the chance to meet a healer, witness the work of a local village intuitive and hear how the dreams of a highly respected Balinese entrepreneur influenced many of his most important decisions. These experiences let me observe how the people of Bali authentically live. Their daily life is a mix between focusing on the present and tapping into intuition and inspiration, a balancing act cultivated throughout Balinese history. The Balinese live and work by this combination of inspiration and intellect as their guidepost.
Having an opportunity to participate first-hand in some of this rich Balinese culture was mind blowing. One rainy day we traveled to the beach to join in on the Melasti ritual ceremony of purifying the temple statues and shrines before the Hindu New Year of Nyepi. The entire village makes a pilgrimage to the water, so we, too, followed the processions of music and festivities amidst the rainstorms, muddy beaches, and peaceful chaos. The ritual brought to light some of our own larger questions — what is the human condition we find ourselves in, and what do we most hunger for in our own lives? How do we give shape to those deepest longings?
Day after day I was immersed in the Balinese traditions and festivities and soaked up the indigenous wisdom of its people.
Each moment raised my own consciousness and prompted me to ask myself how I could better adopt the spirit and values of the Balinese — and most specifically, how I could step into a more communal state of mind back home? I left motivated to incorporate some of this rich expression of life into my own daily practice.
After coming home and reflecting on the trip, I realize just how lucky I was to have someone like Marcia — who has been living and working part time in Bali for the last 14 years — as my perfect guide. Her close relationships with many of Bali’s cultural visionaries and leaders in the conscious promotion of tourism coupled with her careful selection of every destination, daily experience and attention to detail made for an exceptional and special journey. Whether we were perusing the handicrafts at a local market, visiting a women’s center or gathering together for a temple ceremony, each moment was filled with meaning and joy.
I am eternally grateful for my 10 days in Bali — discovering something new is one of my greatest joys, and Marcia’s guidance gave me a truly life changing, heart-opening experience and a heaping dose of wisdom to bring back with me to the States.
Originally published at medium.com