I am standing on the corner of a street in Ubud. I am a bit agitated and anxious. Today my driver, Gede, is taking me to see a spiritual healer. I don’t know what to expect. How should I behave? Is it going to be all flower power and weird?
Gede shows up on time. We drive through a beautiful countryside. The sun is shining, the rice paddies are greener than green. Women walk by the side of the road dressed in sarongs, carrying huge loads on their heads.
Gede tells me a little about the healer. ‘He’s the best I know’ – he says – ‘You know the one from Eat Pray Love? He’s no good. He only earns money on tourists. He doesn’t have time for Balinese people any more. It’s sad’.
He then tells me that he does healing himself a little. ‘I’m not a healer’ – he explains -’I just talk to others about their problem. I’m like a head doctor’ – he laughs.
We arrive in a small village. The healer’s house is by the main road. He admits his ‘patients’ in a small, lush green garden on a small concrete verandah. There is a matt and a carpet. The healer is nowhere to be seen. There is a Japanese man sitting on the floor. I take my shoes off and sit next to him. We wait….
Suddenly, from around the corner a small, skinny man appears. He looks really old,but walks in briskly. His hair is long and white, his skin wrinkled. He’s wearing a white long sleeved top and a brown sarong. There is an aura of calmness about him. He welcomes us without a smile,but with an expression of kindness on his face. He sits down on the chair and calls the Japanese patient to him.
I watch in silence…
He tells the man to sit down on the floor in front of him. He touches the Japanese’s man head, ears. The man winces in pain. ‘Too much worry’- the healer says – ‘Your left side of mind is not in tune with the right’.
He tells him to lay down on the matt, sits down next to him and touches his toes with a small wooden stick. The Japanese screams in pain. ‘Yes’ – the healers nods – ‘Computer..too much computer…you are healthy, but too much worry’. This goes for a while. Finally, the healer waves his hands over the man, tells him to relax and lets him go.
At this point I want to laugh. The healer is smart. Everyone knows that Japanese work hard and don’t have time to relax.
It’s my turn. I sit down on the floor in front of the healer, take my sunglasses off and look into the old man’s eyes. His eyes go wide. ‘Oh!’ – he exhlaims – ‘So young and so much sadness. Why so sad?- he asks. My eyes water. How do I explain to him everything that’s happened to me recently? The divorce, the loneliness, my struggles…. He doesn’t give me a chance. Gently he touches my shoulder. His eyes dig deep into mine. He tells me to turn around. He touches my forehead, mouth, ears….The pain! Oh the pain! it’s like someone puts a hot rod into my skull! I pull away a little…
The healer stops for a moment. ‘A broken heart…’- he says – ‘Many times…but now a very broken heart. You lost love. You are lonely. You have a boyfriend?’ – he asks. I smile and say that I don’t. ‘You find a boyfriend soon…You first need to heal your heart. Don’t look now for boyfriend. Heal your heart first’.
He tells me to lay down. He touches my toes just like he did with the Japanese. I scream in pain. He looks at me with worry. ‘You will kill yourself if you don’t stop worrying. First your liver…but liver is fine now. Not good in the future. First your liver and then your heart will break. Stop worry. You give more money and I help you a little ok?
Yeah, more money…Everything’s about the money in Bali, but I want to know what he will do and I am so in awe that I will pay any price. I agree to give him more.
He takes a marker, pulls down my top, so my chest is revealed and draws some symbols on it. He then stands up and prays over me.
He sits down again and does the same things with my toes. He presses the wooden stick hard, really hard, but I don’t feel the pain. ‘Ok now?’ – he smiles. I nod. I feel like I want to cry forever. I struggle to stop my tears from flowing.
He points at the symbols on my chest. ‘No photos’ – he says – ‘You go back home, look in the mirror at the drawings and do that…’ he extends his hand, pretends that he catches something and then puts that into his mouth.
Gede and I leave. I don’t say anything for a while.
Gede stops me and says ‘You know, everyday when you get up you say ‘thank you god for this beautiful day!’ Because everyday is a new day. Look at yourself in the mirror and say ‘I’m fine. I feel good’ and you will be fine. You will see’. I just nod…I can’t utter a word.
We get to his car and drive away. He puts traditional music on and sings along. ‘Today, we celebrate your new life’ – he smiles at me.
‘Well…’ – I answer – ‘I just want to cry, to be honest’.
He smiles. ‘Then cry my dear. Crying is good…But cry from happiness. Cry because you can be here!’