The Nyepi Effect

Every once in awhile, when I leave the compound, I’m fortunate enough to step out into quiet.IMG_7614

It might only be a few seconds’ worth, but long enough to appreciate it. Motorcycles and cars and tourist vans are out of sight. Dogs are napping under the blistering sun. The vendors – bells, whistles, voices – are busy in other neighborhoods.

Silence is even more likely on a Sunday morning. Especially right after a temple festival has wrapped up; nobody is too keen to do anything. And most construction projects have ground to a halt for the day.

So, sometimes a long empty stretch of road lies directly ahead of me. (Except for chickens crossing the road)

Yum. Such pristine… shhhhhhh.

I wander down the road – so empty that I permit myself the normally dangerous act of walking down the middle – I find myself yearning for the perpetual silence of Nyepi; dogs are kept indoors, businesses are closed, the roosters’ crowing volume somehow seems turned down and the Balinese (and tourists as well) are forbidden from leaving home.

It seemed like such a good idea, Nyepi, that I thought it should become enacted into weekly observance. In fact, I’ve been entertaining the idea of proposing it to my hamlet’s klianadat chief, head of village administration and laws; with whom I happened to have a meeting this morning. 🙂

Well, why not? I believe we can all benefit IMG_7622from enforced quietude. Maybe on Sundays. No cars, motorbikes, tourist buses, tires squealing, dogs barking, sawing, drilling and hammering away.

That inkling of an idea accompanied me all day long, everywhere I walked, popping up in conversations, in unexpected moments: Nyepi. Nyepi. Would love more Nyepi…

Which may be the reason I was less than surprised when, at about 7:15 pm, the lights literally went out, as far as my eyes could see.

I was giddy.

The power returned 30 minutes later. Long enough for me to lie back on the bench on my porch, revel in the Nyepi-esque darkness and subdued noises, gaze up at the stars, the greyish outline of trees in the distance and be ever so thankful to have my mindful wish answered – if only for half an hour… and be ever-so thankful.


  1. I know exactly what you mean.

    There is a house being built in our gang. All day every day there is the sounding of banging, electric saws, cement mixers, the works. Last Sunday Irishman could stand it no more. He told the builders in no uncertain terms to be quiet. Poor Wayan was so embarrased but it did the trick. For the first day in weeks we had silence, save for the birds singing, the neighbours cockerels crowing and the odd dog barking. It was perfect.

  2. New York could use a little Nyepi. There is always noise here. Always. The city doesn’t sleep. The lights do not go out. The horns, sirens, and persistent low-grade hum of traffic exist constantly in the background. My ears long for the 4 a.m. roosters and the soft cooing of mourning doves.

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