Waste-deep in the crystal clear cool water pool I present an offering dish made from banana leafs filled with flower blossoms and herbs atop the already full ledge of the stone fountain temple, Pura Tirtha Empul. It is believed that Indra himself pierced this piece of land and created the spring which flows today. I then dunk my head completely under the current of streaming water three times as the temple keeper said to do. It is exhilarating and marvelously refreshing after a day of exploring the Eastern coast of Bali from bottom to top. I then cup my hands, hold the clear intention to not invite a tropical parasite into my system, and drink three times. Three more full washes under the gushing fountain and one cycle of the water ritual is complete. I repeat this over a dozen more times with locals before me and my husband Eric directly behind me doing the same. A few lucky Koi fish go about their day undisturbed by the steady stream of visitors to their pool. Each fountain is said to clear a specific chakra, past wrong-doings, or various mental afflictions leaving one purified and healed, blessed to go about their lives with good fortune, health, and clarity. We emerge out from the pools and are told to sit quietly and meditate on gratitude. When we eventually open our eyes a few moments later tears fall out as if the fountain now flows through us.
Krishnamurti once wrote “When one loses the deep intimate relationship with nature then temples, mosques, and churches become important.” This holy spring temple was not constructed to create a false sense of abundance from it’s free flowing waters or appease superstitions over water spirits (as far as I know), it was built on top of the very source of the Pakerisan River which after pouring through this temple literally nourishes the soil from which grows the agriculture that feeds the people of Bali and beyond. This temple was essentially constructed to honor the gifts which nature provides. With that, this temple became a symbol of everything that made me fall in love with Bali; The sacred ritual within day-to-day tasks represented in the small street-side altars, the use of local plants as reliable medicine, the offering plates on front steps and in the middle of walkways, and the joy within this divine play.
On a walk from the hotel to the beach one day, Eric remarked at the careful way one of the landscapers -propped up on his haunches in a squat- lovingly trimmed each reed of grass individually. Methodically he worked at his task but mindfully he tended the plants. The landscape of Bali itself seems to delight in the attention it receives and shows it’s appreciation in blossoms bursting with fragrance, mystical-looking banyan trees, lush green rice paddies, and an overarching feeling of abundant fertility. A sensual dance between nature and human- and they are both totally into each other.
I felt it too! The energy of a new day would wake me with ease around 6am. Each morning I would slide out of bed, go outside, sit quietly by the small pool in our private bungalow with a sarong wrapped around me, and listen to the wind move through the trees. I experienced an ease in meditation as I rarely have- a connection to the earth through my body, to nature through my breath, and entry into a quieter part of my mind. After sitting for about a half an hour I would do a short yoga practice including Sun Salutations while facing the equatorial sun as it heralded a new day. Days were filled with unhurried explorations. We saw a Barong Dance performance, visited the Monkey Forest, had lunch overlooking Gunung Batur Volcano, and coffee overlooking terraced fields of rice. We even visited the hospital after Eric’s encounter with a Sea Urchin our second day there. Nights were nourished by fresh, local, and lovingly made meals.
Bali completely exceeded my expectations. I anticipated flighty New Agers following Liz Gilbert and Julia Roberts in their mission to Eat, Pray, Love, mixed with Indonesian grit, and an overdeveloped tourist land. But you know what? I totally loved that book and I own the DVD of the movie so who am I kidding? When I saw it in the theaters (the weekend it came out) I cried during the first scene set in India because it brought me back to those first moments of culture shock and sensory overload in India. So when the smiling concierge at the hotel sounded exactly like Ketut as he explained in his sing-song Balinese voice when breakfast was I realized I am more like those flighty New Agers then I care to admit. And yes, Bali is quite developed and now relies heavily on tourism but the heart of this island shines so bright it’s relatively easy to look beyond that and see the magic of this place.
Bali, I will be back.
LisaDeviAdventures Bali Recommendations:
- Best Meal: Bambu Restaurant in Seminak
- Buy-it-in-Bali: Handpainted Batik Fabric at Lucy’s Batik in Seminak
- Favorite Temple: Pura Tirtha Empul Water Temple outside Ubud.
- Best View: Lookout points near Gunung Batur Volcano