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