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Connecting with the Elements to Offer Thanks

Beautiful flower arrangements around Bali.

Greetings! This monthly blog is offered in hopes of connecting with the CMHC community, which I deeply value, as one who is bringing healing to a world in need. As I take the opportunity to complete this Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Laos, I hope to share findings that I discover as it relates to the mental health benefits of cross cultural appreciation, mindfulness, and the natural world.

I met my friend and their sister and brother at the healing water temple on the Indonesian island of Bali. I was new to the ancient practices that the island’s Hindu descendants had been crafting for hundreds of years, but I had noticed that everywhere I went smelled of flowery incense and I had seen store merchants meticulously placing multi-colored flowers on the ground outside their shops.

My new friends told me how to put on a sarong, an intricately patterned wrap around cloth which was a show of respect for entering the temple, and a requirement. Soon we were stepping into the cool spring water and lining up in front of one of ten fountains spraying the water. My friends instructed me to kneel down so that the water was chest height, hold my hands in prayer position, and make a wish. I did as told and soon felt the cool refreshing water run over my head. The cold water enlivened me and I stepped out of the natural pool feeling refreshed and cleansed on my body.

My friends instructed me to dry off, put on a new sarong as we headed into the main temple area. We sat on the ground as a holy person dressed in white approached us. I followed the lead of my friends by placing an arrangement of flowers in front of me, lighting an incense, and placing my hands in prayer position. Soon my friends picked up a yellow flower, held it between their fingers over their heads in prayer position. I was instructed to offer thanks for all the gifts I’d received. We then placed the flowers behind our ears as you would a pencil. We continued this process with blue and red flowers. Soon the holy man dressed in white came with holy water and doused our heads with water to purify the outside. Then we drank some water to purify the inside. Finally we were given a pinch of wet white rice which we stuck onto our foreheads between our eyebrows.

As we walked out, I was amazed at how these ancient rituals used elements of earth, air, fire, and water as a way to connect with the spirit and say thank you. My friends invited me back for Balinese coffee, fried rice ,and to meet the rest of their ten extended family members. The younger brother gave me a ride on the back of his motorbike and as we passed through bright green terraced rice fields, I felt lucky to be part of this living cultural expression of thanks.

Flowers used in ancient rituals in Bali.

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