Art performance at Goa Gajah – tomorrow

Here are some photos from the previousSharing Creating Offering Art’ event at Goa Gajah:

This one was held about 6 months ago on Tumpek Krulut – which means ‘Compassion Day’:

The 3rd ‘Sharing Creating Offering Art’ event is being held tomorrow Sat 29 Aug 2015 which is also Tumpek Krulut in the Balinese calendar.

Can you afford to miss it?

Each of these events have showcased art in different forms and I’ve been lucky to read a poem too.  And tomorrow I’ve got 10 mins to share some of my poems about Bali – at approx 4.15pm.

It starts from 11am at Goa Gajah temple and the opening will also include a new gamelan piece – the performances will go through until late afternoon (I think I will be reading at approx 4.15pm).

Whatsmore, 2 of Yaniq’s drawings will be on display, here is one of them:

'Meditating' by Yaniq

‘Meditating’ by Yaniq

Hope to see you there.


Nyepi poem

Nyepi is the Balinese New Year.

It is a silent day.  Full of introspection.

For 24 hours there can be no travelling, no electricity, no work and no entertainment.  The really strict will fast too.

Nyepi Day fell on 31 March 2014 – which is 1936 in the Balinese Saka calendar.

The airport closed, the streets were empty and even the TV stations shut down from 6 in the morning until 6am the following day.

I love Nyepi Day and it inspired this poem:

Nyepi Day

The water fountain
in my pond
stopped tinkling

on the ceiling
lost their way

Rock music
on my stereo
simply ran out of tune

Whistling kettles
stayed cool
for a whole day

The silence
sent me into

No laptop
meant I wasn’t
enticed to play

My thoughts invented stories
usually only found
on TV

No radio
gave silence space
to have it’s say

It’s true
Nyepi saves
gas and electricity

It’s true
Earth hour’s
also paving the way

But for me
Nyepi gives time
for life…

to be appreciated
that’s why I really love
Nyepi Day

To read more about the lead up to Nyepi (i.e. noisy day) click here.

Sandeh celebrates

Sandeh celebrated her 70th by holding an important Hindu ceremony, Mencaru, for her house in the afternoon, followed by her birthday party in the evening on 14th January.

The ceremonial part of the day

The ceremonial part of the day

She was surrounded by family and many friends, most of who had made the effort to dress in Balinese costume for the ceremony.

Mencaru ceremony

Mencaru ceremony Sandeh surrounded by her children and friends

The Mangku (holy man) sits on the floor of her downstairs balcony, where he performs the ceremony – surrounded by many offerings.

The Mangku (holy man)

The Mangku (holy man)

Seeing her going around her house sprinkling holy water everywhere bought back vivid memories of my Melaspas ceremony at Rumah Jepun last year.

Sandeh carrying holy water

Sandeh carrying holy water

There was Babi Guling (suckling pig) which was a Balinese must have for this event and a huge array of food including vegan food.

Babi guling (suckling pig)

Babi guling (suckling pig)

Not only did she have local caterers from Savannah Moon but her son, Surdham a celebrity vegan chef in Germany with a new vegan cookbook just out, provided food and cakes galore.  Talking of cakes…

The big Seven Oh

The big Seven Oh

And here is her daughter presenting the special 70th Birthday cake.

We were also entertained by the children from the orphanage that she volunteers at.

Surrounded by Balinese dancers

Surrounded by Balinese dancers

They performed a number of traditional dances in their colourful Balinese costumes including the Welcome Dance – where they throw flowers into the air from the small dish they hold in their right hand.

Welcome dance

Welcome dance

Sandeh’s son and daughter had flown in from Germany especially for her birthday – it was lovely to see them together.

Lovely family photo

A lovely, happy family photo

A Very Happy Birthday Sandeh

Farewell Mayan Calendar…

So the Mayan Long Count calendar finally ends tomorrow…

Many seers and prophets have pointed to this date as being one that will bring significant change to our planet.

But what is really in store for us all?  – Who knows?

Some refer to it as a shift to a new dimension, a new ‘age’, others think it will spell disaster.

I choose to believe that this special alignment of the earth and sun (that last happened 26,000 years ago), will bring harmony, openness, new ways of thinking and peace.

Here in Bali there will be meditation groups joining the mass meditation groups around the planet with precisely those aims in mind.

The science of quantum physics is finally accepting what the ancients have known all along… that the power of intention itself can manifest things.

Well, if people all over the planet are meditating in this way, surely we will have a chance at raising the overall vibration of goodness in our world.

The Mayan Long Count Calendar ends at 11.11am GMT tomorrow, 21st December 2012 (21-12-12 – in English, 12-21-12 in American).

I invited you to join us and take a dip in the global bucket of love and compassion.

Meanwhile, here’s a poem I wrote, it is called 2012.


Never have the directions
been more important

Seldom have the seasons
mattered least

Rarely has the place
between night and day been thinner

Making it possible for the sun
to set in the east

Forest animals can already
sense the changes

Caged birds will only know
just before they’re hit

Most humans, with all their superiority
simply haven’t got a clue

Except those who walk
on their bare feet – like you?

The date was known about
so long ago

The signs have always been there
for those who could really see

The sage, high priest and the prophet
a wry smile upon their lips

Foretell the changes to a world
who won’t believe

Nothing matters as its not
within our grasp

Expand or contract, we have no choice
we have no say

Right or left has always depended
on your point of orientation

Up and down might be
the same place anyway

They say if you don’t go within
you go without

So maybe inside holds the answer
is the key

Opening an unpainted door
to a new and different realm

A happy space, a peaceful balance
of harmony

Farewell Mayan Calendar – welcome to the new…

Galungan and Kuningan celebrations

Galungan day is a cause for big celebrations in Bali.

The holiday happened earlier this year on 1 Feb and is occurring again right now, 29 Aug 2012.

Penjor - decorated bamboo poles line the streets

Penjor – decorated bamboo poles line the village streets

This is because of the unique timing of the Balinese calendar – they use our normal calendar too, of course, but in the Balinese calendar the year is actually 210 days long,       in line with the lunar cycle.

In fact, right now, we are in 1934 – yes folks, I have travelled back in time!

Galungan always occurs on a Wednesday and finishes 10 days later on the Saturday which is called Kuningan day.

It is a particularly beautiful time to be in Bali, especially in and around Ubud.

The streets are lined with exquisitely decorated bamboo poles called Penjor.

Lamak hanging at the side of the doors

Lamak hanging at the side of the doors

Households who have had marriages during the year will display long Lamak outside their family compounds, a good example of this can be seen here.

Other households, like mine, will have shorter ones like these beside my door.  They are made from woven coconut leaves.

Lawar, fish sate (without the stick), ares (banana trunk vegetable) and rice

Lawar, fish sate (without the stick), ares (banana trunk vegetable) and rice

Children parade self-made Barongs through the streets and often into the bars and cafes – much to the amusement of the tourists.

The kids will play music, featuring gong’s and cymbals, and collect donations for their respective temples from holidaymakers and Balinese alike.

Delicious feasts are held throughout the island – for which many pigs give their lives to make lawar.

So what is the meaning behind all this celebration?

Well, as usual, it depends upon who you ask…

One answer is that, according to Balinese Hinduism, (which is different to Indian Hinduism), they believe that their gods (deliberate use of lower case) descend to earthly realms at this special time and that they stay until Kuningan day when they return from whence they came.

Naturally the Balinese wish to welcome the visiting gods and so, like any good host, they throw a party – Balinese style.

Pasek arranged for this huge basket of offerings and banana leaf decorations

Pasek arranged for this huge basket of offerings and banana leaf decorations

However other people say that Galungan represents triumph of dharma over adharma (virtue over evil).

Still others say it is a special time/auspicious time to make offerings to the house and its various important functions – like the stove in the kitchen and the water pipes etc.

Whatever you believe, it certainly is a lovely happy time – Happy Galungan and Kuningan.

Selamat hari raya Galungan dan Kuningan

Holy people sleep inside a temple for a week

It was actually cold that morning as we drove high up into the mountains.  I wrapped my scarf around my neck and tucked it into my jean jacket, thinking about how both items only ever get used when I go up to one of Bali’s volcanoes.

Mount Batur and Lake Batur

Mount Batur and Lake Batur

My motorbike driver, Ketut, successfully dodged the big pot holes and, after stopping briefly to take a breathtaking photo, we reached the small village of Abang Songan in good time for the ceremony – which meant that I had time to eat some of Ketut’s mother’s wonderfully tasty and spicy food.

Once we were off of the motorbike the air was just fresh, rather than cold, so it was comfortable to get changed into my traditional clothing and walk up to the temple with Ketut’s wife, Komang.

This particular ceremony was to inaugurate no less than 16 men and women as Mangku (holy men/women), plus many others as… well, like, Temple administration staff.

The High Priest (Pedanda)

The High Priest (Pedanda)

The rituals were many and, yet again, different from anything I’d seen before.

An event like this will only happen maybe every 10 years or so in any given village.  But apparently this particular ceremony only occurs in three small mountain villages.

It includes, among other things, the new Mangku, and their assistants, having to leave the temple, get changed into new, clean, white clothing from which hangs kepeng (old traditional coins). Then, newly clothed, they all returned to the temple for a blessing from the Pedanda (high priest).

Symbols drawn in honey

Symbols drawn in honey

Now this blessing was really interesting… using honey on the end of a very small stick of betel, the bejewelled Pedanda drew ancient, sacred, Sanskit symbols on each Mangku.. starting with the third eye on the forehead, then the collar bone, the front of each shoulder and then twice on the back and then on both sides of the hands and finally on the tongue – both sides.

Long lengths of white threads, loosely woven together to a diameter of at least 5cm, were wrapped around each Mangku’s upper body and head and then four specially designed coconut leaves were placed just inside the threads on the top of their heads, making a crown of coconut leaves.

Carried, barefoot. around the temple three times

Carried, barefoot, around the temple three times

They all had to go around the temple three times with rituals which included a pig, duck and chicken.  A ‘holy’ cow had already been slaughtered as part of the ceremonial ritual offerings.

I say ‘go around’ the temple as opposed to ‘walk around’ because the new Mangku were not allowed to touch the ground – they were physically carried around three times.

These new Mangku, and their staff, have to sleep inside the temple for seven nights.  Double beds are made up for them, and their new Mangku wifes, inside makeshift bamboo huts within the temple grounds.

The only time they will leave is to go to the new temporary toilet/shower area that has been built just outside the temple gates for this special occasion.

These are the beds the new Mangku will sleep on for a week inside the temple

These are the beds the new Mangku will sleep on for a week inside the temple

They will be catered for and looked after while they spend the week communing with spirit inside the temple – as well as with each other.

You might spot what you consider to be a German swastika on the bed… look again… it has a different orientation.  This original image has been used for thousands of years in the East.

It has been symbolising good fortune and balance since well before Hitler’s regime sullied it’s reputation.  I’ve met some people who have the name ‘Swastika’ and I’ve eaten in a restaurant with the same name.  How sad that a western country took that ancient eastern name and symbol, with it’s beautiful, harmonious meaning and caused it to be associated with the opposite emotions.

Many New Mangku

Many New Mangku

The first section of a long list of new Mangku and their Temple assistants

The first section of a long list of new Mangku and their Temple assistants

Each of these white clad villagers are given a role such as Jero Mangku Tukang Banten (we have no English equivalent but I suppose it is the holy one who manages the offerings) or Jero Mangku Tukang Subak (the holy one who manages the decisions about the subak which is the water irrigation system).

Plenty of food and drink was provided free for everyone during the ceremony itself which lasts for hours.

And then, towards the end of the ceremony, as the gamelan music built up to fever pitch, the whole village sat on the ground after praying and waited for a sprinkling of holy water.

The ceremony ended with a blessing for everyone and then, once again, I changed my clothes and wrapped my scarf tightly around my neck for the dark return journey home down the mountainside this time on the back of Pasek’s motorbike …

Thanks to Ketut and Pasek and the whole village for another wonderful experience.

An auspicious day for MOVING INTO MY NEW HOME :-)

Thursday 28th June 2012… the time is right for me to move into my lovely new home in Bali.

The calendar says it’s an auspicious day and the Mangku (holy man) is available to do the ceremony (this always HAS to happen in Bali).  I’m ready and totally excited about moving in – all systems are GO!

Counting the days until I move in

Counting the days until I move in

Well… the house itself still needs some finishing touches, but that’s no problem.

Look out Rumah Jepun…. here I come!  Updated photos here.

Doesn’t it make you wanna come and stay in one of the downstairs rooms? – just contact me if you are interested

Wayan and Candra’s wedding

Wayan, who used to work where I live, and Candra, his girlfriend for five years, got married on 16 April, an auspicious day for weddings.  I was invited to both the wedding day and the party, which was held the following afternoon.

Wayan and Candra - just look at the beautiful costumes

Wayan and Candra – just look at the beautiful costumes

At the wedding the couple, and their immediate family, had ceremonies in different locations – which all the guests went along to as well.

We started off in Wayan’s family house where I was warmly welcomed, as the only westerner, and given refreshments while the wedding was actually happening.

Then we all got into various forms of transport (cars, motor bikes and open trucks!) and visited Candra’s family compound a few miles away for more refreshments and rituals.

Ladies on the way to the next ceremony

Ladies on the way to the next ceremony

I was privileged to join the happy couple in their car on the way to her house and on the way back to Wayan’s village I sat in the front of one of the trucks (although secretly I wanted to go in the back of the truck with all the other ladies!)

Back at Wayan’s village we all walked through the narrow streets to visit different family compounds for more praying and rituals… one of these houses was where Wayan was born.

Feeding each other from the basket of love

Feeding each other from the basket of love

One part of the ceremony, at each location, is for the bride and groom to feed each other from a basket of food, which is a beautiful symbolic ritual.

Finally we ended up at the main Temple in the village which nestles below the trees on the hillside.

Outside the temple entrance

Outside the temple entrance

As it was daytime, it looked very different from the last time I went there – which was at night for a major ceremony (odalan) for the anniversary of the village.

As we returned to Wayan’s house, where the couple will live together in his family compound, I found my hand being held by Shirley.  She’s a cute four year old who has adopted the western name of the owner of the house I currently live in.

Shirley also sat next to me during the wedding feast of typically delicious Balinese cuisine.  This included a cup of cooked trunk of the banana tree, called Ares (delicious) and sate, pork, rice with spicy sambal etc.

The happy couple

The happy couple

I seemed to attract quite a bit of attention as I don’t think many of the guests had seen a westerner successfully eat Balinese style before – by that I mean eating with the fingers of your right hand – no cutlery in sight.

Balinese brides wear multi-coloured traditional dress, so it's ok that I wear white

Balinese brides wear multi-coloured traditional dress, so it’s ok that I wear white

Oh, in case you were wondering, the answer is ‘yes’ – that headdress that Candra is wearing is heavy.

The photo below shows some of the ornate decorations that adorn the households of many wedding celebrations.

The particularly colourful one behind me and Wayan is made of rice and if you want to know what the other one is made from… just ask me.

It was a beautiful day and I wish Wayan and Candra every happiness in their married life.

Vision for 2012

I spent a fascinating day focusing on good things for the coming year.

My friend Sandeh organised it at her house, well actually at her octagonal, roof top, meditation space with views of volcanos beyond the jungle.

Sandeh's White Lotus roof top Meditation octagon

Sandeh’s White Lotus roof top Meditation octagon

The day consisted of a blend of meditation techniques as well as interesting ways of letting the past year go and focusing on good things for the year to come.

After Kundalini meditation (which consists of specific breathwork and shaking) we wrote down all the things from last year that we didn’t like or that were problematic and then…. we burned the paper!  The effect was as if you burn away the issue itself – it disappears into a puff of smoke!

A vegetarian lunch was then eaten in meditative silence and followed by an hour of heart chakra mediation before we went on to the main part of the event…

…We each had a very large sheet of paper, pair of scissors, a picture of ourselves and loads of magazines.   We had to cut out images, words and ideas reflecting what we wanted in our lives and place them on the paper, in line with feng shui principles.

2012 Vision collage

2012 Vision collage

In the middle of the paper we put our own photograph and cuttings relating to our health and harmony.  Then, starting at the position below our photo and moving clockwise around the paper, we placed supporting words and images that were connected to:

  1. Career
  2. Wisdom / knowledge
  3. Family
  4. Wealth / prosperity
  5. Fame / reputation
  6. Partnership / marriage
  7. Children /creativity
  8. Friends / helping hands

I’ve often thought how odd it is that businesses make plans for the year ahead but people rarely do, except maybe New Years resolutions which often become unstuck fairly quickly.  With this method you are actually focusing your energies towards your future year in a very healthy, positive and wide ranging way by sticking them on the sheet with glue.

Sandeh guided us throughout the rewarding and surprisingly long day, which finished off with us choosing a Tarot card and her explaining that the reason we did this on the 7th Jan was because of the special energy that comes from the first full moon of the year on the 8th – an auspicious time!

Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge against the jungle backdrop

Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge against the jungle backdrop

Let me know if you want to join me at another of her meditation evenings/retreats.

An auspicious day for prosperity…

Yesterday was an auspicious day for gold and prosperity.  So, of course, Pasek (the manager of my house) made the usual trays of offerings to spread around the house and garden.

Offerings for Buddha Kliwon

Offerings for Buddha Kliwon

He brought up a beautifully coloured selection of coconut and banana leaf trays overflowing with flowers and topped with incense sticks.  He then asked me for ALL the money I had in my purse which was almost a million (well, a million rupiah is about 70quid).  Now, when this first happens, you think “What? – you want all my money?… what’s going on here?”

Pasek making the offerings

Pasek making the offerings

But then you realise that you place all your money with the offerings and Pasek makes the offering with holy water and a frangipani flower.  You leave it in the hands of the gods for a few hours and then take it back again.  Having appeased the gods with flowers, fire, money and on this particular occasion gold  (I only have a silver ring, so I used that instead) you can feel suitably blessed and wait for prosperity to arrive.

The painting on the right of the table is of Quan Yim and my friend Kuatarina painted it, there is also a Quan Yim on the wall that I was given on another occasion that maybe I will write about one day.  On the table you can see a Ganesha with 2 frangipani flowers that get replaced daily and there is a small Buddha at the back of the flower offerings.  – Yeah, I know… this is a bit of a mix of Balinese, Chinese and Indian symbolism – a bit odd for a previously non-believer……..

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