Tirta Empul Tampaksiring is a sacred water temple north of Ubud. Legend has it that a Hindu god once struck his staff into the earth bringing forth this natural spring. Today the Balinese bathe in the clear holy water as a sacred cleansing. I imagine the ritual to restore energy, honor the spirit, wash away pain, reveal truth.
Bubbling forth from gray volcanic sands, green seaweed sways in the clear water, birds and red dragonflies pass overhead. It feels peaceful and energetic at the same time.
This is by far the largest, most beautiful temple I've visited thus far on our trip. There are enough lovely details to make any photographer go crazy.
As with all temples in Bali, men and women are required to wear both a sarong and scarf around the waist in order to enter. This rule also applies when bathing in the sacred springs.
A row of about 20 different spouts splash spring water into a waist deep pool filled with bitty fish and white carp. There are slimy pebbles underfoot.
Luckily I am properly saronged so I can partake in the cleansing ritual. The water is crisp and cool and I only hesitate for a moment, understanding that even though I detest cold water, I am definitely going in this time. I follow my friend's example, moving from one spout to the next, dousing my head, wiping my face afterwards, and then placing my hands palm to palm in a respectful gesture of prayer. I feel myself instinctively wanting to say a Catholic prayer from my youth because that's what I was once taught as religious ritual. Yet it feels too starched or structured, out of place somehow in this more organic natural setting. Instead I focus my mind on a sort of moving meditation and slowly, a cool peacefulness washes over me.
By the fourth douse, I really do feel a strange sensation. It's as if something is breaking apart, being washing away with the water.
I sometimes think about this year of travel as a quest. Travel is a search for truth. It's an ongoing journey to find meaning, purpose, creativity, inspiration. It so happens that as I'm contemplating the intention of my wandering and submerging my head with holy water, somewhere overseas my aunt seems to be thinking something similar. I later find this quote in my inbox:
Back home I had become frustrated with the corporate job world. Sitting behind the cubicle day after day, even as a creative, felt so empty somehow. I carried a great burden of confusion about where to find true purpose and meaning. It became apparent that it would no longer come from my job.
It's funny how those old feelings and layers of resentment, failure, frustration, and pain wrap themselves around us, holding on with a relentless grip. All that can make everything so foggy.
Here on the road, I want to re-center and come to understand again what living and creating is all about. Traveling this way, with so little, uncharted and unplanned, helps to disrupt those old patterns of behavior, pain, and thought, and offers once again the possibility to see that there is much more out there. Standing here soaking wet, I understand that if I can just let go, it will be possible to find a more inspiring truth again.
Then, on the way out, this happens, which makes me laugh and reminds me how silly life can be. Maybe it's a clue: take life a little less seriously and say yes to short people who awkwardly ask to take their picture with you.