In the modern world silence is a luxury, more precious than gold. More than that, it is an experience that for many people is so alien that they even seem to fear it, filling every moment with chatter, TV, facebook and any one of the million media we now have to fill the space between conversations. That is why I love the Balinese holy-day of Nyepi so much.
Nyepi is the day of silence, a day when the whole island takes a big breath and becomes quiet. Observed from 6 a.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning, Nyepi is a day reserved for self- reflection and meditation, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. The whole island closes down. Even the international airport closes, on an island whose lifeblood is tourism…There are no lighting fires, no working; no entertainment or pleasure; no travelling; and for some, no talking or eating at all.
Even tourists must observe Nyepi; although free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets. The only exceptions granted are for emergency vehicles carrying those with life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth. Even Kuta with it’s carnival of touts and taxis becomes an oasis of calm.
The Nyepi day is only one part of a lovely series of rituals that culminates the day after Nyepi in the Balinese New Year, a day when people get together and forgive each other any insults or injuries from the previous year.
Today is Melasti. Later, instead of free-diving, we will be joining a 1000 plus people in the village to walk to the beach, in a glorious procession of music and colour to make offerings to Sany yang widi, the supreme deity, Lord of Land and Ocean. This is part of the Balinese path of Yoga, using ritual to achieve union and balance with forces of Nature, in this case, appropriately enough,
this takes place on the beach. Holy water will be taken from the sea and used to bless ceremonial objects. As free-divers, how could we miss it?