Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bali Journals: Part V - When The Door Opens What Can You Do But Step Through?, Healers & Shamans, An Intimate Family Gathering...

Awoke this morning with nothing planned. Adi was given the day off to tend to his family and I had thought I might spend the day relaxing for a change. At 8:30, Eri rang me... "What have you planned for today?" she asked. "No Program", I replied. "My niece is having her oton (Balinese birthday celebration) at our family temple this morning. My brother picks up the high priest to bring him here at 10:00. Why don't you come? You remember where my mother's place is?".

So, quickly throwing myself under the shower, I washed, packed my cameras & proper temple dress, hopped on my motorbike and braved the morning traffic up the the village of Kedawatan. Husband Roy was waiting for me roadside and escorted me throughout the family gate & into the compound where ceremonial preparations were already well underway by the village "mangku", the lower ranking temple priest who was busy chanting magic incantations, sprinkling holy water on elaborate offerings and shrines liberally scattered around the massive family compound. Roy quickly reintroduced me to the assembled family, priests & attendants, all whom I had met and photographed during my last visit to the island three years ago.

Putu & Her Grandmother
A short time later, the High Priest (Pendanda) arrived with his entourage, took up residence in the compound's main bale banjar, usually serving as an open, covered sort of living room. As the Pendanda dressed himself in the holy garb befitting his stature, the women of the family were making their rounds around the compound, saying prayers and chanting mantras, sprinkling holy water and lighting joss sticks. 

A short time later, Putu, niece of Eri, was brought to the priest by her parents, dressed in beautiful sarong & kebaya blouse for the final blessing rituals... the placing of special yellow rice on the face & forehead, the draping of string soaked in holy water, the wrapping of her head in special strings made from leaves & flowers, and again... more holy water.

Following the final ritual blessings, the family gathered round to enjoy the traditional feast of Bali Guling... roast suckling pig stuffed with herbs & heavily spiced, then cooked on a bamboo spit, Mei Goreng... Indonesian Fried Noodles with vegetables & meat, cooked jackfruit, blood sausages and the ubiquitous staple of the country... rice. Man, was it ever good! Enak sekali!

Pork Blood Sausage

Mei Goreng
Babi Guling

Sometime in the middle of all the ceremonial pomp, another call came in, this time from friend & teacher Tony Van Den Hout. "What are you doing?" he asked. I explained that I was in the midst of a blissfully beautiful ceremony & feast but would be free in an hour or so. "There's someone I think you should meet. I'll pick you up at your villa in an hour" he replied. Finishing up my food and making the rounds to thank my hosts and make my goodbyes, I hopped on my motorbike and sped back to the villa to await Tony's arrival. 

Tony arrived a short time later, introducing me to a young man from the UK... a very powerful healer, he said, named Dennis. Dennis had just returned to Bali this morning and I immediately liked him. As we drove towards the new guest villa of a mutual friend from Hawaii, Oahu stylist Amos Kotomori, Dennis and I chatted non-stop in the rear seats of the big SUV, exchanging mobile phone numbers, comparing notes on mutual experiences with serendipitous events and meetings in Bali. Dennis also began to explain to me his thoughts on energy and his use of his gifts of power.

Normally I cringe, turn & run when I meet self-proclaimed healers, shamans and other "esoteric" practitioners. From Dennis, I could sense a vibe that was what I can only describe as peaceful, powerful, completely credible & somewhat otherworldly. Hearing of my plans to travel with Tony to Temple Borobudur in Java next week, Dennis immediately got on board and decided to join us on the journey, Borobudur also being a site renown for heavy energies & power. After touring the nicely appointed "Villa Amos", we dropped Dennis off in the middle of Ubud, he & I promising to meet up again before the trip to Java.

Tony then asks me if I wish to accompany him to a mountain village in the Tabanan Regency where he had a "patient". He was to journey there to perform a "healing" in the afternoon. I have learned to trust Tony and to somewhat shed my skepticism in these matters so I immediately agreed to tag along.

The healing was an simple matter, Tony explained, this time, nothing serious... a painful energy block in the shoulders of a young man. Using homemade oils, physical manipulation and heat generated from his palms, Tony transformed this young man from stiff & obviously in pain, to relaxed & flexible in less than half an hour.

Afterwards, the young man's family spread out another feast of shredded pork, fried pork rinds, rice, vegetables, fresh picked mangosteens, durian, rambutan & fried bananas. We sat, ate talked... well they talked and I listened, trying my best to keep up, Tony occasionally interrupting to translate important points that I didn't understand. We took our leave well after dark and drove the hour back to Ubud. 

This is how it goes here... you wake up with no plans, and suddenly, the day is over, the cloak of night has fallen, you've had numerous strange & interesting encounters with strangers turned comrades and you're exhausted from all the activity. Today, it was an opportunity to be immersed in, witness to & participant in all the graceful beauty that is Bali, to enjoy the generosity & kindness of strangers, to feast on some of the finest meals I've had since arriving, all home prepared in traditional fashion and to be granted the opportunity to peek thru the door now being opened for me by a friend and teacher. I feel so completely privileged, honored to bear witness to this essential part of Bali, far from the trendy tourist trappings, another world and time away from my usual life back in Hawaii.

Now I can't wait to wake up to see what tomorrow has in store...

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