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Being Thankful in Bali, Indonesia

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In the early hours of the morning, if you walk the streets of Ubud, you will find people sitting on the stoops of their houses or stores, nimbly weaving dried palm leaves together into little containers.  The first day I saw this, I watched them do it and wondered about their silent, skilled work. These containers were then set in front of their places of work, in front of their shrines, in front of their houses, and filled with different items. I asked a local about these and she smiled, nodding.

“Yes. Canang sari.”

“Are they for a festival?” I asked, eyeing the brightly coloured little baskets.

“No, no. Daily offering.”

“I’m sorry, did you say daily? Like, every day?” I said, incredulously.

“Yes. Daily offering. Every morning!” She replied, cheerfully.

I looked at them in a different light after that, these little ritualised baskets of colour. Set out with such care in the morning, those that lined the footpath were often trampled underfoot, leaving them bruised and sorry looking by the end of the day.

From what I understand, these are meant to be offerings of gratitude for peace to the Hindu gods, as well as a way to keep evil spirits at bay. These beautiful baskets brought me a sense of peace at the same time that they unsettled me; after all, who has time to do that every day? Every day! Imagine having to set them out every day, and sweep them away every night. Imagine the commitment and effort and time and dedication to detail involved. These are physical prayers, pleated by familiar fingers.

I like to feel for common threads between different religions. The Muslim call to prayer reminds me of the ringing bells of the churches near my home, while Hindu mala beads are similar to rosary beads. I can’t think of a Christian equivalent for these canang sari, however. There is nothing that I do every day to give thanks for everything that I have. There is nothing that I can think of in Catholicism that is physical in nature – unless lighting a candle counts? – with such ritual meaning.

I like the idea of doing something each day to show gratitude. I probably won’t start weaving palm leaves together anytime soon, but I might use the memory of the offerings as a reminder to be thankful. I might try to keep it in the front of my mind a little more often. I know the news these days can get a bit bleak, and the saying “no news is good news” is really coming into its own lately, but there’s a lot to be thankful for. There really is.

Sometimes, I could do with a daily reminder of my own.

0 thoughts on “Being Thankful in Bali, Indonesia

    1. I thought so. There was something very grounding about it, like it rooted people in the present. New day, new things to be thankful for…

  1. Amazing, that people would commit to doing this every day, while most of us spend our first hours of the day checking our phones, emails, etc. Makes me feel sort of superficial. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. This was such a beautiful post Quinn! Very grounding and much needed, thank you for sharing this and for the little reminder to be thankful <3 I hope you have a great day lovely!

    1. Thank you! Fighting off the jet lag and side-eyeing the dreary clouds here… Remembering to be thankful for having just been away! Ha!

        1. I have my dog with me so it’s not so bad! She makes me laugh!

          ….Even when she eats a bee that stings her on the way down and we have to go to the vet and it’s all a bit stressful. Even then!

          1. Aw!!! I hope she’s okay!!! My pups chase bees too, it’s only a matter of time 😳. I try to warn them but….

            So I hope there were plenty of doggy cuddles then!? ❤️

          2. Oh plenty. I have her for the next week and a half so we’ll be having plenty of adventures between now and then!

  3. This is why I love to travel. Stories such as these are so heart warming and you’ve told it so beautifully. I love the ritual you have described and in some ways in makes me wonder that there is some real truth to being grateful and giving thanks. I bet her energy was so peaceful too. We get so caught up in the intricacies of life that it’s hard to stop for a moment and be thankful. Thank you for this reminder and honestly if there is one thing I can be thankful for is people. So much to be learnt by them, it’s incredible 🙂

    1. Exactly! I feel like when I travel I learn so much just from observing other people and their rituals and traditions and habits and I really think that giving thanks and remembering to do so is a good one!

  4. Being thankful takes being in the present. I feel like people live their lives (for the most part) going through the motions. In order to be thankful, there must be a reason, which takes thought and emotion. Thank you for letting me to slow down and think about what I am thankful for, if only for a moment. 🙂

    1. Yes, I definitely agree. It’s hard not to always be focused on some point in the future, and easy to ignore the good you’ve got going on right now when you’re too busy thinking, “But I’m not ________ yet!” or “I’m not _________ enough!” I guess the being thankful thing is not unlike a form of meditation where you remember to be in the present as much as possible and think about what you do have instead of what you don’t… Easier said than done but it’s good when we do remember!

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