All you hear about Bali is that it’s a deeply spiritual place. Everything is ‘spiritual’ there, all has a secret meaning, it’s all connected to their Hindu religion or ancient practices. I myself keep saying it to everyone asking me ‘How is Bali?’ – well it’s a magical place, it’s very spiritual. However, as I kept repeating these words I noticed how they become shallow and empty and lose their value and fail to express the beauty of the island. In the end what is it so ‘spiritual’ about this place? What does ‘spiritual’ even mean to begin with?
Like any other mental notion, being spiritual has become a label we stitch to ourselves, to situations, gatherings, spaces etc. We wear a ‘flower of life’ sign, crystals, clean the chakras, do yoga and puf! we become spiritual. And little by little we end up attaching to this form, working towards the goal of being spiritual and miss the whole point. We go running for another image, this time with unicorns and lotus flowers to look for comfort and the feeling of adequacy we long for. It’s not wrong. It’s, by all means, what we need as humans in search for a deeper meaning. But what I’d like to do here is to look at the core of what being ‘spiritual’ means through the lens of the Balinese culture. Is it all just a show off or are they really onto something? And we also have pictures.
First thing that strikes a visitor in Bali is the beauty of … pretty much everything. Nature, of course is astonishing. Coconut trees, frangipani flowers, rice fields and every thread of grass is overwhelmingly beautiful. It’s a space where people worship Agung mountain as their cradle of civilization and home of the gods and use the fruits of nature to make offerings for those gods. Little baskets with flowers, incense sticks are seen at literally every step, door and statue. On my first day I learned from a lovely yoga teacher that Balinese people feel so grateful for being born on such a rich island that they feel it’s their duty to decorate it and create an even better place. As they believe, man must be in complete harmony with the Universe – the gods, the humans and the nature surrounding and thus their offerings.
Gratitude and harmony. For us Westerners it’s not easy to learn these words, it’s like exercising an unfamiliar muscle. But being here, in this vast beauty we may leave our ego and anxieties behind and take a deeper breath, look at colors more intensely and pay attention to what we normally do not. And maybe, after a few days, give thanks for simply being.
It’s true, Bali and especially Ubud is filled with vegetarian restaurants, yoga studios, SPA centers and gifts for the soul. It’s already an industry of spirituality but all this proves that people on the island have devoted their way of making money to improving the human condition physically and emotionally. Clean food and healthy body are just another way of showing love and gratitude to oneself.
And isn’t this is the very core of being spiritual: self love, self improvement and being in harmony with all that is? By inviting us to look at the beauty around us and engage into harmonizing activities and ceremonies the Balinese culture helps us create a mental space where we can refresh our perspective and engagement with… well, life itself.