6 Life Lessons from a Balinese Offering.
I just returned from a yoga vacation in Bali. It was an amazing, magical and beautiful trip on so many levels. One of the most striking aspects of Bali is its people…
They are kind and they smile often. They are generous and warm. They take time and care in all they do. They don’t rush. They work hard. They do even the most mundane tasks, with pride, dedication and authentic connection with themselves, with others and with something beyond humanity.
Whether you go to the jungles and rice paddies of Tabanan, to the city of Ubud, or to the beaches of Candidasa, you will see (and at some point accidentally step on) Balinese “offerings.” These offerings, called canang sari (canang, roughly translated as ‘basket of flowers’ and sari meaning ‘essence’), are hand-sized, origami-like, carefully constructed open boxes, made of palm or banana leaves and most commonly filled with bright fresh flowers. Each flower is selected for its color and each color has a specific significance. Occasionally, money, a small bit of food, or a burning incense stick is placed on top of the offering. In almost all Hindu homes and temples, new offerings are set out every day. These canang sari offerings are truly everywhere — the sidewalks, streets, stairwells, ledges and temples are patterned with them no matter where you go! There is so much devotion and beauty on this island – it’s inspiring!
Why so many offerings…?
Besides looking pretty and filling the air with a sweet aroma, the ancient ritual of the canang sari carries deep significance and meaning.
The offerings are a sacred form of gratitude for what is and a wish for peace and abundance in the world. They are a representation of the Balinese people’s devotion to their (Hindu) gods, but at the core, these offerings are so much more. The time and effort taken to prepare the canang sari offerings honor a daily ritual of self-sacrifice, a spirit of thankfulness, and a significant attention to detail. The creation of these modest offerings model the generosity, faith, and devotion that exists in the hearts and souls of the Balinese people. These values translate into everything they do and everything they are.
Perhaps, this is why Balinese people are often smiling and emanate a sense of joy?
Throughout my time in Bali, I was often moved by witnessing (and being on the receiving end) of the care and over all way of life demonstrated of the Balinese people. I couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast of the Balinese way versus how we, in the US, are taught to live. As Americans, the value of being busy, rush-rush-rush, deadlines, and quick turnarounds is appreciated and often rewarded. Americans are taught early on that productivity is the definition of success. We tend to have a hyper-focus on getting things done quickly, regardless of the effort expended or the quality of what we accomplish (I know you all know just what I’m talking about). The Balinese complete even the most basic daily tasks with lessons to live by: focus on beauty, gratitude and a connection to the present moment. Each valuable life lesson is treated as sacred. They cherish the process as much as the result.
What can we learn from the Balinese people and their timeless ritual offerings?
1) Taking our time and making meaning. Whether it’s creating a simple meal or washing the dishes, we can bring more joy into our lives and savor each moment by slowing down and attending to details. Little particulars, like making a meal look pretty on the plate or noticing what the water feels like on our hands as we wash a dish (without multi-tasking or disconnecting) is a simple concept that can make a huge difference in how we feel and how we relate to ourselves, others and the world.
2) Being versus doing. Our experience of life or best life lessons can be so much richer when we step away from the to-do list and refocus on our state of “being.” How we relate to ourselves, to others and to our world is often overlooked, as we run around from one task to the next to make sure we “get stuff done.” When we aren’t mindful, it’s easy to miss out on the experience of being. After all, our authentic selves and our truth reside in how we be, not in what we do.
3) Outward focus. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own thing and become overwhelmed, anxious or feel isolated. Sometimes shifting our focus to help someone else or tuning into something outside of our own experience can alleviate the internal chaos. This doesn’t mean ignoring what we feel or numbing ourselves. This means using the recognition of our feelings as a signal that we are in the self-spiral of unrest and that we may need a change of perspective (outward) in order to shift our internal experience.
4) Showing Gratitude. Consciously considering what we are thankful for, and expressing it on daily basis is a simple exercise that requires little time and effort. It feels really good and it’s proven to increase happiness over the long haul. The studies even say so! My own anecdotal experience of this is no different from what the studies show. Take 30 seconds a day to practice gratitude and notice what shifts.
5) Ritual, Devotion, Faith. When we commit to things that are important to us and we devote our whole hearts to those things, we feel a deep sense of purpose and connection to ourselves, to others and to the world. When we authentically live from this place of commitment and purpose, we develop a trust and faith inside ourselves –that goes beyond humankind.
6) Life as sacred. Life is filled with beautiful moments, experiences, and connections. We are presented with so many opportunities to soak in life’s splendor. We also often feel bogged down by responsibilities and obligations (back to that “getting things done” mentality). This can cause us to lose sight of the little moments (and even the big ones) that open our hearts to the vibrancy and sacredness of the experience of being alive. Take a moment right now to consider the magic of being human and lessons learnt in life. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely sacred.
No time to waste…live and give from your heart…life is precious…and so are you!