The Pesengket Ritual: Official opening of the ceremony in Borneo

offeringsMasrani (Asuy’s son) took these photos and sent some information about the first days of the ceremony, which involved only the host families as they prepared themselves to hold a clear field for the larger community to join. The photos that follow are of the Pesengket ritual, which was held in Asuy’s compound and officially opened the ceremony on May 16. I have included beneath each photo suggestions for ways to translate the essence of what they are doing into practices you can do on your own or in a circle of friends.

The first part of the Pesengket ritual
was held in an area called the Balai nyahuuq (pictured here). This ritual served as a means to clear destructive and negative thinking and set positive conditions during the days of the ceremony. A carved offering made of Pesaak wood was used to ritually absorb the disasters, illnesses, or bad luck that could otherwise disturb the people and disrupt the ceremony.


Suggestions for your practice: The act of working physically with something that is otherwise intangible can be a powerful practice and worth experimenting with if you haven’t done anything like that before. You might consider experimenting with having a symbolic object “absorb” your negative thinking before you begin a session of meditation or prayer. Projecting the negativity outside of yourself can be a surprsingly powerful way of clearing your mind and heart. One way of doing this is to uae a statue of a Buddha, Jesus or other symbolic representation of boundless love, and imagine your negative thoughts and difficult conditions being absorbed by the figure and transformed into compassion. Another way to work with this idea is to write down recurring negative thoughts or disturbing emotions and situations, and put them in a small box, where they can be “held” by something besides your own mind. You might consider collecting them in the box over a set period of time, then burning them and scattering the ash.


The second part of the ritual is called Tota Timui, or flower bathing. This is a symbolic cleansing ritual, where through bathing in flower water, participants are cleansed of illness and negativity so that they are prepared to be involved in the ceremony.

Upacara tota tumui
Flower bathing ceremony

Suggestions for your practice: Water has long been used as a means of symbolic purification all around the world. You can use this practice as inspiration by taking your own ritual bath with the strong intention of clearing away all that does not serve life. You could also do this with others by passing a bowl of flower water that you each splash on face, hands and neck.

It’s easy to extend this idea for the whole length of the ceremony by using your daily shower or bath as a spiritual cleansing ritual. Simply wash with mindfulness and strong intent that you be cleansed of difficulties physically, emotionally and spiritually so that you can serve life from a clear place for the whole day. This will elevate your daily shower into a potent spiritual practice by using the power of intention and mindfulness.


The third part of the ritual is called Nyentauk Nyentoant. This is when the shaman informs the higher beings — ancestors, protectors and Creator — that the ceremony has begun.

Upacara Pesengket Makant Nyahuuq 72

Suggestions for your practice: The notion of calling on spirits can be difficult for many Westerners to understand. For those who have trouble with this, it might be helpful to understand it as a way of invoking intangible, helpful energies. While your world view might not include spirits, you can begin to understand something of how this might be a beneficial practice by thinking of other intangible beings, such as the memory of yourself or another as a child, or spending time with a dead friend or relative in a dream. These insubstantial “beings” have an intangible form that you may not think exists outside of your own mind, but nonetheless they can have a tremendous impact on you, and often bring insight, comfort, inspiration and instruction.

More information on the ceremony, the tribe, and ways to join in >
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