What we can learn about gratitude in Bali
I had the gift of a six month sabbatical with my family in which we traveled around the world and looked for ways to find more joy. Gratitude was one of our most important lessons.
One place we found gratitude to be pervasive in everyday life was on the island of Bali, Indonesia. Now, Bali seems to have gained more attention since the resounding success of Eat, Pray, Love which depicts the beauty and spirituality of the area. I think that is well deserved.
But the way they express daily gratitude is the thing that stood out for our family. In Bali, gratitude doesn't need to be expressed through the words “thank you” or “terima kasih.” It is shown through actions daily all around you.
Throughout the region, "offerings" are given to the gods in the morning and evening, at homes, stores, temples, and even on bridges, or in small nooks and crannies in the towns. The offering routine all starts in the early morning when small, woven baskets are crafted out of flat banana leaves. The baskets vary from simple squares to other shapes. The baskets are filled with flowers and then either rice, salt, or other sweets. Offerings are made with prayers and specific gestures or mantras along with the lighting of incense sticks that are placed in the baskets. The ritual is a way to thank the gods for all that you have and hope for more blessings to be bestowed on your family and home or business.
You literally can't walk down the street without sidestepping offerings so as to not crush them. In the Airbnb we stayed in, we did evening offerings with the caretaker of the home every day in which we offered several of these small baskets of beauty around and outside the home with prayers.
After several days of being surrounded by this ritual, we realized this had a powerful effect on us. For one, we were impressed with the time that went into doing this each day. In our fast-paced lifestyle here, we would shudder at the thought of how to fit all of this crafting and then praying and ritual into our day! But in Bali, it is a way of life, it is the way that they are accustomed to, and it does not feel like a chore or an extra thing to fit into the day.
What if we slowed down enough to do this extra thing that then gave us a greater sense of well being? That greater sense of well-being allows us to do more because we have infused energy and enthusiasm for life that we don't always have. Maybe, just maybe, putting one more thing into your day could actually make your day feel lighter.
After seeing so many offerings around us all day, every day, we realized that we were counting our blessings more and offering our own gratitude more often. It put us into a different state of being. In a way, it was rewiring our brains. So, think what it would feel like to see more reminders of gratitude through the day, however those reminders could be meaningful for you.
After we were lucky enough to learn how to make these offerings ourselves, we realized just how meditative this process could be. Crafting these banana leaf boxes and choosing the beautiful flowers and threads to put outside was an act of creativity and presence. The five of us were truly present for all of it.
And remember that is what a ritual does, it puts you into the present moment. Now, my eight year old says she wants to make an "offering" of her own on our prayer altar every morning. She wants "that special-ness to be part of my day." And who wouldn't? Why can't we all bring that beauty to our day? We can through gratitude. What could be your way to show gratitude every day? I can't wait to hear.