EVERYDAY POLARITY
ON THE ISLAND OF THE GODS

By DANIELLE GÉNÉREUX, RPP

Imagine a place where time is suspended, a land dotted with stunning temples and terraced rice fields, a land inhabited by a people so spiritual that they live in harmony with nature and the gods. "Where is this place?", you might ask.

Four years ago, my own spiritual journey took me to Bali, Indonesia, also called the Island of the Gods. Notorious for it breathtaking landscapes, stunning sunsets, numerous and unique traditions. Bali is also considered as an energy centre on the globe. After the initial shock of finding mvself in such a heavenly place. I started relaxing and could not help but noticed how Polarity was very much present in the life of Balinese people.

Balinese believe that the word, both natural and supernatural. composed of opposing forces: positive forces (+) or gods, and negative forces or demons. These forces need to be balanced at all times. To do so, Balinese follow elaborate rituals involving dances and music. and special offerings of food, waterand flowers. Balinese people practise Hinduism, especially Bali Hinduism which is a blend of India's Hinduism and Buddhism. Nonetheless, the three main deities they worship are Brahma - the Creator, the Source (neutral); Wisnu the Preserver (-); and Siwa - the Destroyer (+). Together they can be seen as the three Polarity principles of Air, Fire and Water.

The focus of every Balinese community's spiritual activity is the temple or pura. It is said that there are at least 20,000 temples on the island, each structure having a symbolic significance. For instance, within a temple compound there is a three-roofed (3 Principles), five-roofed (5 Elements) or even an eleven-roofed shrine. Balinese temples are also designed around three courtyards: the outer courtyard represents the secular world; the middle courtyard is the transition zone between the human and the divine world; and the inner courtyard represents the godly world. Each courtyard is divided by a split gate which looks like a tower that has literally been sliced down the middle. The left side (represents femaleness, the ida; the right side (+) is the maleness, the pingala; and the middle is the core, the sushumna.

Polarity can also be seen in the way Balinese people look at the human body. For them, a person's head (+) is the most sacred part of the body and the feet (-) the most unclean. For instance, it is offensive and rude to ruffle a child's hair in affection or to use the feet to indicate something. The left hand (-) is also considered unclean and should not be used to pass and receive things, or to shake hands.

With each passing day on the island, it came very clear to me that life is all about Polarity . . . bringing into balance and harmony the natural and supernatural forces or energies.

Since then I have returned to Bali every year, each time bringing people with me and giving them the opportunity to experience Polarity and this fascinating culture. Our days are filled with Polarity Yoga classes outdoors early in the morning, traditional Balinese massages, Polarity sessions, evening dance performances, visits to temples, markets and local artists, and plenty of free time to not only take in the energy and beauty of Bali, but also to rebalance, recharge and reconnect.

If you are interested in a different type of trip, I invite you to join me in Bali. At the end of the trip, you will emerge feeling totally refreshed and energized. Hope to see you in Bali!

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EXPERIENCING THE
BALINESE NEW YEAR

By DANIELLE GÉNÉREUX, Energy Therapist

Every religion or culture all over the world has their own way to determine and celebrate their new year. For example, there is the Chinese New Year, the Thai New Year, the Christian New Year, etc. This year (2006) I had the wonderful opportunity to experience and participate in a new year unlike any other… the Balinese New Year. Unlike us Westerners who celebrate the new year with much fanfare and festivities, the Balinese welcome their new year in total silence. Called Nyepi Day or Day of Silence, their new year is in fact the culmination of several days of activity. In order to fully appreciate this major Balinese holiday, I stayed in a family compound in the city of Ubud, the capital of the arts and culture.

About three days before Nyepi Day, religious objects are taken in procession from all the village temples to sacred springs, rivers or even the ocean for purification. This is called Melasti. Imagine long and colourful processions, followed by villagers of all ages (and tourists) wearing their best sarongs, walking for kilometers to the closest sacred body of water. There all the objects are bathed and then blessed by the High Priest dressed in white before being taken back to their respective temple. Walking with the Balinese to Ubud river, I couldn’t help but notice the "serious" energy around, everyone silent and absorbed in their own thought processes. In spite of the rain that started falling, the ceremonies continued to take place as usual. Nobody was rushing home afterwards either. Not even I who was totally soaked.

The day before Nyepi Day is without any doubt the most exciting. During the day, sabali demonscrifices are made and displayed at crossroads in villages all over the island to lure the evil spirits into the open. People finish making their gigantic Ogoh-Ogoh monsters. Made of papier-mâché, these scary looking creatures with bulging eyes and long fangs represent all the demons in Bali. Then around 5:00 pm the Ogoh-Ogoh started arriving at the football field, each taking its position in the big parade that was to follow. Once they were all assembled, the "carnival" started. The Ogoh-Ogoh procession slowly made its way to Ubud Palace to the loud sounds of drums, cymbals, firecrackers. Everyone was encouraged to make as much noise as possible to frighten the evil spirits. Children were banging on pots and pans; others were blowing whistles, clapping their hands or just shouting. The noise level was incredible and the energy very electric. This went on and on for hours. At the end of the procession, everyone went back home and waited for Nyepi Day.

On Nyepi Day itself, Balinese sit quietly at home to persuade any remaining evil spirits that Bali is completely deserted. There is no traffic at all. No lights in the houses. No noise of any kind. No flights in or out of Bali. A whole island stands still. Balinese spend the day praying, meditating, fasting. They are not allowed to do any other activity. To make sure that Nyepi Day is fully observed by all, each banjar or neighbourhood has Pecalangs (traditional Balinese security men) who go out and check the streets throughout the day. A fine is given to anyone who disturbs Nyepi Day.

In my family compound, every thing seemed surreal. It is as if I was all alone. From sunrise to sunset, silence all around except for the natural sounds – heavy rain, wind, dogs, roosters, frogs – and solid darkness at night. There was an eerie feeling that night. So much darkness that I could not see my neighbour’s room from my porch. My senses seemed to be heightened. My breathing slower. My meditation practice that day took me to a different level. It was indeed a very special day. The following day, it is business as usual : children go to school, people resume work, etc. Balinese also breathe a little bit more easily as, this year again, the evil spirits did not remain in Bali.

I believe we all should experience a day of inactivity, a day of silence, at least once a year and engage in some kind of fasting or cleansing. Not just on the physical level but also on the mental, emotional and spiritual levels. In a way, isn’t it what Sundays were meant to be in the Catholic tradition . . . a day of inactivity?

The Balinese New Year is determined by the Indonesian Ministry of Religion, according to their Saka calendar, and usually takes place in March or April. Should you, too, wish to experience the Balinese New Year or any other major Balinese event (like Galungan or Saraswati) or even just enjoy the magical energy in Bali, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will be more than happy to take you personally on a memorable trip.

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Copyright ©2005, Danielle Généreux