The End Of An Era – A Tribute To A Grandmother

•September 20, 2012 • 2 Comments

This is the tribute I presented at my grandmother’s funeral on 19 September 2012.

ELLA BAXTER nee FICK – 4 December 1919 to 12 September 2012 – aged 92 years.

Today I stand before you to speak on behalf of the seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren of our Nan, Ella Baxter, affectionately known as Nanny Baxter.

Knitting, baking cakes, crochet, Sudoku, cooking, craft, needle work, card games, kind, quiet and family…. These are all words that make me think of my grandmother. Nan was such a wonderfully devoted mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was someone who loved to give. She always provided for her loved ones and was always selfless – whether baking (ginger fluffs), crocheting, knitting, or running the household – never putting herself first. She loved swans, Princess Di and the old dog Toy her and Pop used to have….

Nan was a walking piece of history – she grew up during the Great Depression, met and married Pop in the early 1940’s and raised her children during the Vietnam War era. She certainly lived a full life and nor was it dull.

A couple of years ago, after her 90th birthday party, I wrote an article about Nanny on my personal blog.  I wrote that she was an independent, strong-willed and sometimes stubborn woman living on her own in a two bedroom unit, who was still buying her own groceries and crossing busy main streets in areas where trucks could wipe her clean. I swear this woman lived more than nine lives.

My Mum told me that when her and Dad announced to Nan and Pop they were expecting me, the very next day she had knitted a pair of booties.

That was Nan. She was a master craftswoman – a gifted embroider who used to make us many dresses when we were little girls and shirts and pants for the little boys. The kind of craftsmanship that existed only in her generation.

I have many memories of visiting her and Pop at the old blue house in George Street getting measured for a new dress she was making. I remember because I used to squeal when Nanny measured around the hemline with pins that sometime used to prick.

But she not only made her grandchildren clothes, she used to make her own clothes too. Pop would measure around her hemline with pins while Nan stood on the kitchen table.

She was a real multi-tasker.

Nan was also gifted at needlework and crochet. She once made the grandchildren a doily of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and had it framed for us.

She was quiet and observant and she had an unassuming quality about her.  My brother Trent recalled a story when we were all over at Mum and Dad’s house last year that she pointed out his watch had stopped working from across the kitchen table. Trent did not know at the time but it did not pass by Nan. She was observant as ever.

I have many memories of her baking cakes … lots of birthday cakes. I think every year up until I started high school she baked me a birthday cake. One year there was a dolls pram, the other a swimming pool, the next a tennis racket and many more. They were all from the Women’s Weekly children’s cookbook, which I vividly remember used to sit in her draw. I used to look at it all the time. I was in awe of that cookbook.

It wasn’t only birthday cakes. She was in demand for wedding cakes and her work did not go unnoticed. She had won quite a few prizes at the Traralgon Show.

I always loved having Christmas with them. Every Christmas we would go around to Nan and Pop’s house and decorate their Christmas tree and help them put up their decorations. It was also a wonderful opportunity to see my cousins and eat Nan’s delicious home-cooked food. She used to make the best roasts and she always put a coin in the Christmas pudding.

When she moved into the unit after Pop died, I would often arrive to visit her playing Sudoku or patience, with a bag of sweets nearby and the footy on the TV. She loved to watch the footy and was a Collingwood supporter – something that has been inherited into the family.  She used to say there was nothing on TV when the footy finals were over.

But she also enjoyed watching 60 Minutes and many of the game shows such as The Price is Right or Wheel of Fortune. Maybe it was Larry Edmar she had her eye on or perhaps it was Ian Turpie.

She was an environmentalist before her time – growing her own vegies, putting food in the compost, saving water by the buckletload and leaving the lights off as long as possible.

In her later years she was kept company by Suzie, the little white dog. Her unit and the blue house in George Street used to be littered with trinkets from her travels her and Pop used to go on – she was quite the world traveller…, which clearly has been inherited to some of her grandchildren too.

She has been to the USA, Canada and Europe. She saw most of the national parks in the US such as the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon and she especially loved Vancouver Island in Victoria, British Columbia.

Nan survived breast cancer twice, had that many falls we lost count yet she had never broken a bone. She was a battler and often at times, refused to accept help when offered to her.

A couple of years ago we could see she was starting to need some help around the house but only for someone to come around once a week to assist her with the housework. When they left, she went over what they had already done and soon enough she cancelled the service altogether, to the dismay of her sons and daughters in law left shaking their heads in disbelief.

When her unit was sold and her possessions had been sifted through, we uncovered an extraordinary amount of household items only seen and found decades ago, antiques, doilies, old recipes and cookbooks to name a few.

But what surprised us all was the amount of possessions she never used and many that had never been opened or seen the light of day. Beautiful old fabrics and materials, tea sets and cutlery sets – most that had never been used after saving for a rainy day or perhaps she thought they were too good to use.

Her sense of humour never went away. The last time I saw her was only a few days before she passed away and she never failed to ask, with a cheeky smile on her face, if I found myself a boyfriend yet. “No Nan, I’m still looking…” I replied.

And let’s not forget she adored Princess Diana and later Princess Mary, whose portraits she had in photo frames sitting on her glass cabinet.  One would think they were part of the family too.

Nan, you will forever be remembered, we love you and we will miss you and may you rest in peace.

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Why I Wish I Could Start My Life Again And Why You Need To Stop Listening To The Lizard

•April 1, 2012 • 9 Comments

The arrival of my niece Scarlett Audrey has stirred emotions in me I never thought existed. She is exquisite, beautiful and unlike any newborn child I’ve ever seen. She really is precious and angelic and I want to protect her as best I can.

That is my mission.

My brother and his wife have indeed created an exquisite human being.

I look at Scarlett and admire her. I admire her for being completely untarnished. She does not have a belief system, she’s unscathed and she hasn’t been influenced or educated yet (although I realize she is probably being influenced sub-consciously). She’s in the perfect position to start afresh. She has the ability and the power right now to create whatever life she wants.

In a strange kind of way I envy Scarlett. There are times I wish I could start my life over and turn the clock back in many ways. I would be lying if I didn’t admit I have regrets. While I have led an incredible life thus so far and I know I am fortunate than many other people, there are things I would do differently. I would have moved to Melbourne immediately after university, I would have continued living overseas longer than I did, I wish I wasn’t as eager to please so many people, I wish I was more career-driven in my 20′s, I wish I made more eye contact, I wish I had set goals, I wish I wasn’t so shy and I wish had the confidence to ask that cute boy for a drink.

I wanted to be a journalist or an advertising executive when I was in high school. I did photography in my final year.

I wish I had never let my damn insecurities affect me the way they did.

I wish I was 10 years younger. I know that’s impossible now but it’s the truth.

Most of all, I wish I never listened to the lizard brain.

I disagree with anyone who says it’s wrong to set goals. I know for a fact if I was a more focused, goal-driven person in my early 20′s, my life would be very different than what it is today.

Seth Godin is a genius. If you haven’t read any of his books, you should pick this one up. Linchpin is what I’m reading now and in it he says when we are kids, beautiful art – questions, curiosity and spontaneity – poured out of us. Then as we got older, resistance started to kick in. Thanks to disorganised hazing by friends, raised eyebrows from the family, and well-meaning, well-organised but toxic school rules, the resistance gained strength. The resistance is always there – it’s evident in everything you do.

The resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer’s block and putting jitters and every project that ever shipped late because people couldn’t stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door.

The lizard is resistance.

The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because her lizard brain told her to. Seriously Seth Godin is a genius. Learn more about the lizard brain here.

The lizard wants you to fail. And for most of us, we allow it.

It was because of the lizard I didn’t pursue being a journalist, advertising executive or photographer.

As we get older the lizard brain gets larger. We are all born with a lizard brain but we let it dictate us and control our thoughts. I didn’t know it until now but the lizard took control of every aspect of my being; it wrapped itself around me like a python and it breathed the life out of me.

I listened to the lizard when it told me I should return to Australia at aged 28 because I was getting too old and it was time to settle down. Hmm well not a lot has changed. I listened to it when I took roles that required no intelligence and certainly no university degree.

Yes I could go on. It’s getting a little depressing. I promise this does get better.

I want to protect and nurture Scarlett and tell her to never be afraid, never feel she has to conform or to look a certain way because well it’s er… safe. To have plenty of confidence and courage and to never feel she’s unworthy and dispensable. To be the leader not the follower and to allow her voice to be heard.

As Seth Godin explains, the amygdala isn’t going away. Your lizard brain is here to stay, and your job is to figure out how to quiet it and ignore it.

Right now the lizard is asleep in Scarlett. And I want it to remain that way.

I want her to conquer the world, sing, paint, write, photograph, create and express without reservation or fear. Show off her inner qualities, her irresistibility and to act like she doesn’t have a care in the world.

As for me, I’m at the beginning of my life too and that lizard can go shed its tail.

And yes I DID take that photograph of Scarlett. :) The lizard was asleep when I took it.

Would you tell a man that he had only days to live?

•June 24, 2011 • 3 Comments

A colleague of mine (let’s call him Bill) had been suffering Lymphoma cancer over the past few years. Bill had been living with disease for quite some time, surprisingly comfortable in the knowledge that the cancer was one day going to return because it’s apparently not curable.

However during these past 12 months the lymphoma returned with vengeance and he had been undergoing regular chemotherapy. He was a trooper I must say and I grew to respect and admire the man.  Apart from the bald head you would never guess that anything was seriously wrong and Bill continued to work in between lengthy hospital visits and the painful side effects caused from the chemotherapy.

He was due to go into hospital for one final treatment and it appeared he was in recovery. The treatment appeared to have been successful and he was excited about returning to work on a full-time basis. However we were sadly given the news that Bill had a brain tumour. I wondered about his poor wife. She has been a rock all this time and I knew they were very close. They adored each other and Bill and his wife had been happily married for over 20 years.

We were told it was very serious but we weren’t really sure what that meant. My manager had been in regular contact with his family and then one day I picked up the phone and it was Bill. He sounded great – a little weary and slow but very coherent. I was delighted and thought it would be a matter of weeks until Bill returned to work. Later we were informed that the tumour had indeed reduced in size and once again we thought Bill was on the road to recovery.

But as fate would have it, the brain tumour returned and I was informed that Bill only had a matter of days to live and that there was nothing else the doctors could do. He had lost sight in one eye and his hearing was all but gone. In such a short space of time Bill had gone from being a fairly healthy well-built man (he is an ex Judo champion) to nothing but skin and bone. It was just dreadful.

A few weeks had passed and Bill was still with us although at this stage, he was in palliative care. It had become known to us that his wife had not informed Bill that his brain tumour was terminal and she wasn’t going to. This led to an interesting conversation at work the other day. One colleague is quite astounded that his wife had not told Bill that his condition was terminal because he believed if he was Bill, he would like to know. I, however, believe she made the right decision. Having known Bill for three years, I truly believed that by telling him that there was nothing left to be done to treat him, he will give up all hope and shrivel up and die very quickly.

At the time, I also believed that telling Bill his condition was terminal and the doctors were no longer treating him that you were robbing Bill of any hope. The hope and the will to live. We often hear stories of people being on their deathbed or who’ve been told they only have days or weeks to live who make miraculous recoveries. I believe this is the Law of Attraction in its purest form and to be so brutally honest with Bill at this stage was potentially eliminating all belief and hope.

The sad news is that Bill did pass away a few weeks ago. Of course he must have known death was coming but he was never ‘officially’ told.

So what would you have done? Would you want to know that the doctors are no longer treating you because they believe that modern medicine could do no more? If you were Bill’s wife, would you have told him? Interested to hear your thoughts.

RIP Bill!

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Why you should never save anything for a rainy day. Tough lessons learned from a 91 year old

•December 2, 2010 • 8 Comments

Life as we once knew it no longer exists. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but the dynamics have changed in my family. We now have to accept the fact that our last remaining grandparent has suddenly been fraught with old age – I mean it’s just come out of nowhere like a bat out of hell.

My 91 year old grandmother has succumbed to the fact that she can no longer live independently and has to accept the reality now that she must live in a nursing home – a reality that she fought so hard and for so long.

I know a bit about this ageing population phenomenon (or worldwide crisis I should say) that currently exists. I work in the retirement village industry in Australia and I have an understanding of the issues and concerns currently facing our senior citizens. I have been exposed to the ageing process and how some view nursing homes and even retirement villages as ‘god’s waiting room’. It couldn’t be further from the truth. But like most of us, they simply want to feel safe and secure and know that their family has their best interests at heart.

Of course while the ageing process started years ago in my grandmother, it has only been in the last six months that ‘old age’ has really kicked in. What I mean by that is up until now, she was very fit and capable for a 91 year old. Now she looks like an elderly woman – her physique has changed and she walks with a walking stick.

Eight months ago she was an independent, strong-willed and stubborn woman living in a two bedroom unit in regional Victoria, still buying her own groceries and crossing busy main streets in areas where trucks could wipe her clean. I swear this woman has lived more than nine lives.

She was a master craftswoman – a gifted embroider who used to make my sister and I dresses and my brother shirts and pants. The kind of craftsmanship that existed only in her generation.

Unfortunately today this kind of craftsmanship is dying a slow death and her skills and talent will only be a faint memory.

She has survived breast cancer twice, had that many falls we’ve lost count yet she has never broken a bone and has suffered various infections and viruses. She’s a battler and has refused to accept help when offered to her, which has caused more than a few grey hairs for my mother. A couple of years ago we could see she was starting to need some help around the house but only for someone to come around once a week to assist her with the housework. When they left, she went over what they had already done and soon enough she cancelled the service altogether, to the dismay of my parents left shaking their heads in disbelief.

After a couple of stays in hospital this year it became very apparent that she could not return to live on her own. She has lost a significant amount of weight and has become weak and frail. After waiting for a vacancy to appear in one of the local nursing homes, she finally moved in.  But there was no resistance or disagreements this time – she knew in her heart this was the right thing to do.

Why am I telling you this? My sister said something to me the other day that stopped me in my tracks. She said she is never going to ‘save’ anything for special occasions and rainy days anymore. Since my grandmother moved into a nursing home, her unit has been sold and her possessions have been sifted and disposed of in various ways – some to family members and the rest given to charity.

We have uncovered an extraordinary amount of household items only seen and found decades ago, antiques, doilies, old recipes and cookbooks to name a few.

But what has surprised us all is the amount of possessions that she never used and many that have never been opened or seen the light of day. Beautiful old fabrics and materials, tea sets and cutlery sets – most that have never been used because she was simply leaving it all for a rainy day.

But that ‘rainy day’ has not arrived and now she lives in a tiny room, half the size of her old bedroom. She will never use and experience her possessions and most of it quite sadly will never be used by her sons and grandchildren either.

The last thing I want to be perceived as is a self-serving preacher, slamming down your throats the meaning of life crap. That is not my intention and many of you are just fine to figure that out for yourselves.

However, it reminds me of those chain emails that get forwarded to us from time to time. The type that have been written by other 90 or 100 year old grandmothers and great grandmothers (and fathers) offering their life’s lessons to be passed down to future generations. You know the type of emails I’m talking about, they contain things such as:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

6. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

7. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

8. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

9. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

10. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

11. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

12. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

13. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

14. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

15. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

16. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

17. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

18. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

19. The best is yet to come…with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”

and so on……

I’m just a regular girl who is currently reflecting on her grandmother’s life, hoping that she has a few more years ahead of her and a desire to share some of the lessons I have recently learned.

But if you will allow me to spread a message, then it’s this. Don’t save the best to last, don’t save the ‘good’ stuff for a rainy day or wear and use it only on special occasions.

Use that damn fine china tea set now; wear that dress you bought for your sisters wedding not only on the wedding day itself but next weekend when you go out; don’t buy a cutlery set you will never use  – use it at every dinner party and better still use it every night you have dinner with your family.

Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

Life is like one revolving door insofar as it goes round and round and round and we should never stop learning life’s most important lessons.

What are some of life’s lessons you have learned yourself or from those close to you? 

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A meeting with the Medicine Man – my fate untold by the Eat, Pray, Love man. Part 2

•November 16, 2010 • 5 Comments

Ketut Liyer is a name some of you maybe familiar with. Or not. If you are familiar with the Eat, Pray, Love phenomenon then you will be.

I did not intentionally seek Ketut when I arrived in Bali. In fact, I didn’t even know the name of this infamous ‘medicine man’ before I came to Bali. But this man changed Elizabeth Gilbert’s life in Eat, Pray, Love and now that I stumbled upon him, I wanted to see for myself what all the hype has been about.

Take two. My friend and I arrived in Ubud early Friday morning purposefully to avoid the overbearing crowds. We learnt that lesson early on. Ketut is now world famous thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert who famously wrote about him in her book – mostly disaffected westerners now travelling to Bali by the droves to meet this spiritual man but also plenty of Hindu and Balinese too.

Wendy is on the left, Ketut is in the centre, and yours truly on the right.

After waiting 30 minutes for the medicine man to finish a palm reading, my friend and I finally meet Ketut. It was like standing on centre stage – it was the very same setting that Julia Roberts graced in the film and there were more and more people dribbling into the compound to wait their turn.

To my right I notice about five or so copies of the book translated in a variety of foreign languages stacked high on a shelf. I also notice a large international air postage envelope sitting there too.

‘Is that from Elizabeth Gilbert?’ I wonder.

Ketut tells us to sit down. I learnt my lesson from the day before and made sure I wore more appropriate attire although I have to admit, as you will soon see and to Ketut’s delight, it wasn’t much better. We sit down cross-legged and Ketut asks us where we are from. After replying, he explains that he gets many visitors from Australia, which of course was no surprise to us.

Ketut directs his attention to my friend and travel companion Wendy. The spotlight was on her and I was happy to sit and watch. I do my best to absorb and take in my surroundings while at the same time, I grow more and more anxious with nervous but excited anticipation.

I’m staring at this man sitting directly in front of me. While Ketut was played by an actor in the film, he really is as toothless as described in the book. I think he had just one tooth projecting from the centre of his mouth and he has white whiskers protruding from his face.

He asks us whether we are familiar with the book Eat, Pray, Love and Elizabeth Gilbert to which we replied we were. Then he explains that he was written about in her book and that she has now met a lovely man. Ketut then says that his English is not so good but he has a letter he recently received from Elizabeth Gilbert that he asks Wendy to read out loud to him.

‘Oh my god, this can’t be happening,’ I think to myself. ‘How cool is this?’

I should have grabbed the flip camera right then from Wendy’s hand but I didn’t. Wendy was reading a short letter out loud to Ketut from Elizabeth Gilbert. Part of me was wishing it was me though as a tinge of jealously swept through me.

‘You bitch,’ I thought to myself. Don’t worry, I did tell her to her face afterwards.

I can see Gilbert’s beautiful hand writing as Wendy read the letter out loud. The letter was explaining how she heard that Ketut had not been well, she was sending her love and best wishes for a speedy recovery and that she was thinking of him. She also thanked him for showing and allowing her to open herself up to love again and for teaching her what love actually means.

‘My goodness, this was amazing,’ I thought. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. A mini sequel to Eat, Pray, Love was taking place right in front of my very eyes and my best friend was reading out her letter.

He then shows us the original manuscript of the book that Elizabeth Gilbert sent him just after it was first released. It was very old and worn with tattered edges but it looked like a prized possession.

This woman has appeared on Oprah for goodness sake –she was almost like royalty. This was a big deal ok?!

After Wendy’s reading, it was my turn for Ketut to tell me my fate. ‘Was there another letter from Elizabeth Gilbert,’ I wonder. ‘Anything I can read out loud?’

No such luck. After telling me I have ‘lips as swweeeetttt as hhoonneeyy’ and that we both  are ‘verrryy pretttyy ladddiiieeeessss,’ Ketut reads my palm.

Watch the Medicine Man in action for yourself.

I am relieved to know that I will get married and have two children. It’s even more relieving to know I will be rich and live to 101. There is much to look forward too.

As we were leaving, Ketut gave us a small green flower to put in our hair and insisted we take a photo with him and then asked us to send him a copy later on.

“See you later alligator,” he says on our way out, a line that has become Ketut’s trademark since the book was released.

Thank you Ketut for providing me with hope and the safe knowledge that everything will be just fine. I shall relax in this knowledge and allow the universe to bring forth these wonderful things. It has been a memorable experience.

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A holy man, a pipe and a meeting with royalty (and a couple of sore toes to boot)

•November 10, 2010 • 11 Comments

Aahh Bali. I sure did underestimate it. I went their with the lowest of low expectations and I left falling in unconditional love with an island that is chaotic, unconventional and more than happy to embrace any foreign visitor to its warm and inviting shores. After being invited to a girlfriend’s Buddhist wedding, I agreed to go. And yes I really did experience my own version of Eat, Pray, Lovewell, we’ll never know whether the last part would have turned into love but I probably now need to go to Montreal to find out whether it could. This part of the script is still  being worked on for what I am hoping will have a happy ending. TBC…

Back to Bali. After all, I am not Elizabeth Gilbert and nor do I want this to sound as though I am replicating her entire pilgrimage. You know when you are in Indonesia when you arrive at Denpasar airport. Arrivals at Denpasar airport are greeted with a billboard decorated with a skull and crossbones and with the slogan ‘Penalty For Drug Trafficking Is Death’. The death penalty warning sign is screaming at us tourists so I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell was going through the minds of the Bali 9 and Schapelle Corby when they attempted to smuggle drugs in and out of the country. While walking through the security gate while my bags were being scanned, I actually played out the scenarios in my head, wondering which security monitor captured the drugs and the moment history was unfolded. Before I knew it though, I was out in the steaming, tropical heat, desperately wanting to take off my tracksuit pants and sneakers after leaving a cold Melbourne morning.

But Bali is anything but frightening when one begins to explore and integrate into its wonderful and chaotic culture. The Balinese are some of, if not, the most friendliest and peaceful people I have ever encountered and their warmth and natural beauty will surely charm and warm any first-time visitor to its shores.

“How much to drive us to Ubud to find and meet spiritual people?” asked my friend and travel companion. Bartering is a way of life in Bali and this applies to drivers and taxis as it does to the local street vendor. My friend was intent on day two in Bali to have us experience our own spiritual journey. And that, to my surprise, is exactly what we encountered.

But the driver was confused.

“Please take us to meet a spiritual man,” I said.

I was not been clear. Still confused, our driver steps out of the van to seek clarification from a fellow driver.

“Yes ladies where do you want to go?” asked the other driver.

A stocky, Indonesian man, his English was good and I’m thinking he should be our driver instead.

We answer him and he replies with “aahhh Holy Man, you want to see a Holy Man.”

“YES, that’s it, a Holy Man,” we screamed excitedly.

He informs our driver in their lingo and we are in business.

“Holy man, holy man,” our driver repeats. Unbeknownst to us, we are about to encounter the very Holy Man or I should say Medicine Man that changed Elizabeth Gilbert’s life, a story that is now told in the book and film the world now knows as Eat Pray Love.

We arrived at Ketut Liyer’s residence and I notice immediately the familiar surroundings I saw in the film with the flowers and fauna hanging at the front entrance and the area where Ketut conducts his readings. To my right, I notice two Eat Pray Love posters pinned to a wall and by the amount of people waiting and standing around, it’s evident that the hype and hysteria has well and truly hit Bali long before our visit. People from all over the globe are intentionly seeking Ketut to provide hope and to enlighten them with answers to their own destiny and fate. While I had no plans prior to leaving for Bali to deliberately seek out the Medicine Man himself, now that we did, I wanted Ketut, the man who enlightened Elizabeth Gilbert only years earlier, to enlighten me.

Not to be despaired about the queue of people lining up to be told of their fate and future journeys, we asked our driver to find us another ‘Holy Man’ and we decided we would return to Ketut’s residence another day. And another Holy Man we found.

Later that afternoon, we found our Holy Man and what I was about to encounter has changed my life forever.

As my friend and I walked further into the compound, I noticed two men and a woman, all dressed in sarongs and robes, sitting down crossed legged.  ‘At least there are not over 20 people waiting,’ I thought to myself. But these were not people waiting to be told their fate or to be healed; they were students on a home stay to learn from this Holy Man and they were about to study us.

As soon as I sat down, I immediately regretted wearing the short denim skirt as I felt I was exposing a little too much for my and their liking in such a spiritual and peaceful environment. The Holy Man then appeared. He was a tall, skinny Balinese man, dressed in a short robe and wore thing, ragged thongs. He asked us where we were from and then introduced himself as Tjokorda Gde Rai. He then focused his attention directly at me and asked how he could help me.

Tjokorda Gde Rai

For reasons I can’t explain, I was unable to express any words and couldn’t articulate anything that would make sense.

What was wrong with me? I had a million questions to ask this man but at that moment in time, I could not think of a single one. I looked at my friend, secretly hoping Tjokorda would get her to go first, but he continued to look at me. This was my turn.

Tjokorda sat on a chair and asked me to come forward and sit in front of him. He asked me again what I wanted to know and again I sat there like a stunned mullet. He pulled me around to sit facing forward and in view of the other people sitting on the floor. I start to feel embarrassed and wished the floor would open up and swallow me down with it.

I sat on the floor in between his legs. He touched my head at various points, put his fingers in my ears and then placed his hands on various points over my back and chest.

He continued prodding me with his fingers and hands up and down my back, ears, forehead, head, cheeks, face. He pulled my head back. When he put his fingers in my ears and put pressure on my face, he asked me what side of my body am I feeling the most pain. He continued to do this all the way down my body declaring as he went that my organs were fine and I am in good health.

I guess that was a relief to know but I wasn’t too concerned about my health. I didn’t want to be told about the state of my health but instead I wanted to scream out any of the million and one other questions I had stored in my head. But I still couldn’t say a word and I continued to sit there in silence. ‘What is wrong with you girl?’ I curse to myself.

After answering Tjokorda that it was the left side of  my body that I felt the most pressure, he told  me to lie down on the floor. Now I really curse myself for wearing that skirt. My friend came over to me with a small rug that must have been given to her by one of the students and covered my legs. It appears I was not the only one concerned about exposing too much skin. He asked me again what I wanted to know and all I can muster out was “everything.”

This time he used some sort of wooden implement that looked like a pipe. He tapped the left side of my body all the way down to my foot. With the end of the implement he pressed it into various parts of my left foot, a bit like reflexology. My reaction indicated whether there was a problem with the corresponding body part. If there was, he attempted to heal it.

“Does this hurt?” he asked me.

Wincing from the pain I shouted, “owwww, yes that hurts.”

“Does this hurt?” he asked me again after pressing on another part of my foot.

“Yessss,” I hissed.

The pain was excruciating.

He then stops, turns to me and says in a low voice “…you have past hurts. You carry a lot of sadness here”, he said pointing to my belly. He also told me he could see the sadness in my face – I had to be reborn.

“You need to release the sadness to make room for new.”

I won’t go into the details of what he uncovered.

But he kept repeating to me that I need to open up now because I am too closed.

Then Tjokorda directs his attention to one of the students sitting on the floor and I noticed all three strangers have been watching me intently. I’m still lying down and one of the men on the floor gets up, smiles at me and Tjokorda says to him, “1, 5, 7.”

Now it was time for the healing process to begin. While I don’t know what the numbers meant, the man hovered over me and conducted a ritual. He folded and twisted his arms, his eyes were closed tightly, and his right leg spasmed. The tension on his face was unmissable and I looked at this man standing over me in an almost trance-like state.

Once he was finished, he sat back down and Tjokorda picked up his pipe-like instrument and again pressed and squeezed in between the two toes on my left foot where I indicated there was pain. The pain that existed before in my foot had now disappeared. He was pressing very hard and I honestly felt no more pain. I did not wince or whimper once.

I had just been healed by a Holy Man. No, I had just been healed by royalty!

What I did not know until now was that Tjokorda Gde Rai is world renowned healer and considered one of the most important healers on the island of Bali. He has been written about in numerous articles, medical journals, newspapers and books. His clients have included headline celebrities and internationally-renown authors and medical experts, to local Balinese from remote parts of the Island. He has trained many healers worldwide, and his teaching comes from traditional Balinese lontars (sacred texts) passed down from generation to generation. At age 77, he is the grandson of the last King of Ubud.

It was a bizarre experience. Afterwards I felt light, almost like I was walking on air. I felt numb and lost for words and again felt like I was in an almost trance-like state. Back in the van, I could not speak to anyone. It was like my body was in the present but my mind and soul were elsewhere.

An hour later, the tears were streaming down my face and I was sobbing like a baby. It was an emotional release and I can honestly tell you that my life has changed forever since that day.

The thing is I didn’t need to say a word to the healer because he just knew.

He knew what was up with me with absolute precision. It was amazing.

On the way out, after talking with my friend, Tjokorda said to me, gesturing with his hands to make his point, “you, you need to oooppeeennn uuuppp.”

At the risk of sounding dramatic, my healing with Tjokorda was life changing. No word of a lie. He touched and consequently healed a few things that were deeply personal to me.

Once I stopped crying I felt like a different person and I have been ever since.

Stay tuned for part two as I explain my meeting with Ketut Liyer – the man that changed Elizabeth Gilbert’s life in Eat, Pray, Love.

Have you had any experiences with a healer, holy man (or woman), or medicine man (or woman)? It would be great to  hear your encounters.

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How to become an Independent Lifestyle Entrepreneur (who wants to join me?)

•October 21, 2010 • 15 Comments

Independent Lifestyle Entrepreneur: someone who builds a small, flex­ible (generally 1-person) business as a means of living a dream lifestyle in the present, without focusing on selling the business to become wealthy as the end goal.

Yes, these are terms flying around these days – literally.

To create a world of our own. Many of us are aspiring to do just that but I am not so sure if we really know why or more importantly how to go about it.

I have been at a crossroads these past couple of months. Working my day job but also on other projects consuming a lot of energy and time but feeling like I am not getting anywhere. How many of us have felt like that? No, I realise I am not Robinson Crusoe but I am confident you and I have some connection here.

Just this week I have finished reading two very important books – well one was a manifesto but the light bulb has been switched on in my head. A sense of relief came over me and the books have provided me with the inspiration to get out there and as the Nike ads say ‘just do it’. At present, I am a 9 to 5 employee who actually wants to break away from the grind of conventionalism into entrepreneurialism. I have decided I have had enough of the employee mentality and would like to become the female equivalent of Tim Ferriss, to live the life as a location independent “solopreneur” and work only 4 hours per week.

What is this Entrepreneurial Revolution people are talking about today, where millions of people are going into business for themselves? As Michael Gerber said in his fabulous book The E-myth, it’s nothing more than a flight from the world of chaos “out there” into a world of our own.

It’s a yearning for structure, for form, for control. It’s also for something more personal as well, connected with who we are as human beings. It’s a yearning for relationship with ourselves and the world in a way impossible to experience in a job.

Unfortunately the “dream” is rarely achieved. Most small businesses fail. Why? Because we bring our chaos with us.

We don’t change; we try to change “out there”. We try to change the world by starting a small business BUT we stay the same.

The lesson to learn from this is simple: we can’t change our lives by starting “out there”. All we produce in the process is more chaos.

We can only change our lives and create a world of our own if we first understand how such a world is constructed, how it works and the rules of the game. And that means we have to study the world and how we are in it.

His book is one of the two I mentioned above. For most of this year, I have wanted to start my own business but I have been unsure as to what business model I want to implement. I have been trying to figure that out, waiting for some inspiration or glimmer of hope as to what direction I will proceed. But thank goodness I read this book and I realise now that perhaps it was divine intervention that I hadn’t proceeded with my business, because I can tell you right now, I was heading down the wrong path.

While his book was written for people wanting to start their own business, I believe the principles he talked about can be applied to anyone simply wanting to change or improve their lives. What strikes me though is why some people want to change their lives. What is wrong with the way some people currently live their lives that they are so unhappy that they want to change it? I ask myself this too – why don’t I like being an employee anymore and what I am truly seeking in my life to want to change that?

How come I don’t feel entirely fulfilled or satisfied?

It just seems to be a never ending question. I mean I was asking these questions to myself 10 years ago when I first started travelling. After travelling for half the decade, I am still yearning for more. But for more of what I am really not sure.

I guess the question remains, will we ever be happy no matter what we choose?

What is it that humans are really searching for that will provide us with whatever it is that appears to be missing from our lives?

Is the setting of goals really all it’s cracked up to be or are we only setting ourselves up for more disappointment and failure?

Or are we becoming far too self-indulgent, selfish and greedy?

Actually I do know what I want. It’s all of this:

no bosses

no employees

no investors

no overhead

no fixed location

no office hours

no facetime

no busywork

no set salary

no “2 weeks of vacation” b.s.

no permission required

total freedom

Maybe, just maybe though, most of us are waking up to the fact that we can create a more meaningful existence for ourselves than what we currently lead (only if we believe that to be true) and that we are in fact worthy of pursuing more.

I recently watched Eat Pray Love and it spurred and stirred some of those inner desires that I thought were locked away. Those desires to just start travelling and do it all over again but do it so very differently this time. That little voice inside my head saying “Shae, life’s too short to work and buy a house – go out and explore the world further”. What was I thinking when I went to see it because there is a very good reason why I currently avoid watching any sort of travel program on TV? Now those niggles won’t go away – damn it!

At the end of it, the same questions I was asking myself 10 years ago remain. What am I looking for in my life or what is the purpose of my existence on this planet?

Deep I know but the heading of my blog must indicate to you that this is not the place to come to if you want to read about celebrity gossip or Lindsay Lohan’s drug charges. Admit it – most of you are constantly asking yourself the same or very similar questions. Am I right?

I am going to Bali next week and I hope to indulge in my own Eat, Pray, Love experiences. I will be going with an open mind and to seek some spiritual enlightenment just like Elizabeth Gilbert did.

It’s a big ask considering these are questions I have been asking for over 10 years but hopefully I will come back with some of the answers I have been searching for.

One can only hope!

Let’s have a conversation. What questions are you seeking to answer in your life or things that you hope to discover? Are we becoming too selfish and greedy for our own good?

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