Come to your Senses

I have now come to expect ubiquitous tears as I depart from each country I visit, and not entirely due to the pain of separation. For me, cleansing tears are always linked with deep gratitude and the experience of receiving utter goodness, from the people, from the culture, from stepping into non-ordinary reality.

I was able to indulge my senses in Bali, perhaps more fully than is possible in the west, though I do give my full effort as a foodie and a practitioner of healing arts!

I savored exquisite Balinese rice and spiced fish roasted within a banana leaf, while gazing upon a emerald rice paddy alive with ducks. Following a luxurious spa massage, I soaked in a pool among floating frangipani and felt the steady, slow release of a former life.

Just the day before, I had gazed up at the Balinese penjors festooning the sky during the festival of Galugan. During our month of March, each family makes this bamboo & palm leaf flag to honor the gods.

Stitched together with tiny bamboo pins, a 3-dimensional palm-leaf “chandelier” hangs from the graceful arch of newly harvested bamboo. These line the roadways, one after another, as living archways, resplendent with the blessings of the gods that protect the Indonesian people from unhappy spirits. They join the community together: a physical task becomes a shared ritual imbued with collective consciousness and healing. On this day, I felt so completely full.

Now, 3 years later, I find solace in rewriting this tale, but also bringing to light another story of wholeness and healing vis a vis our senses. A friend recently purchased a singing bowl, for use at the clinic where she works. A singing bowl is a spiritual tool, with roots in Tibetan Buddhism, where they are used as auditory markers. At the toning of the bowl, attention is easily brought to the present moment. The toning can be a kind of *call to attention*: Leave behind your “monkey mind”, pause, and take a deeper breath. The staff is being introduced to the concept of “mindfulness” through the daily toning of this bowl, but also to the power of shared ritual.

Recently, a staff member at this clinic experienced a death in her family. Her immediate coworkers gathered and toned the singing bowl while holding hands for a moment of silence. They honored not only the mother who had passed, but also the grief process of their co-worker. Again, the power of shared ritual is felt. In Bali, the penjors, created mindfully and collectively; here, the toning of the singing bowl: “sound medicine”, simple and powerful.