A Balian is the name used for traditional Balinese healers, also known as a Medicine Man or a Witch Doctor to westerners. Recently they have become a "must do" for tourists visiting Bali because of the famous book turned movie, Eat Pray Love. Most Balians will be found in Ubud.
Jordan and I like to consider ourselves quite spiritual and open minded souls, we are believers in the healing powers of meditation and yoga and the idea of spiritual healers is definitely something that excites us.
Did we have an actual reason for visiting a healer besides from curiosity? I can't say I had one specific thing in mind that I wanted healing from. I have always struggled with back pain and an ongoing injury from when I was a dancer. It's not bad, but something that always flares up now and then. Was he going to be able to fix my back pain for good? Deep down what I really wanted was for some magic spell and blessing to be put on me, some trigger points to be pressed and released (or however it works) and then for some great awakening to wash over me and my spirit to be lifted and all my energy, strength, drive and confidence to come flooding back and turn me into a force to be reckoned with. That's not too much to ask for right?
Because you see the thing is, as much as I love what I do and believe in Rebel Muse, running a business is bloody hard! RM is just over a year old and when we went to Bali I had just signed a new lease and started a new company, Peachy Keen. It was scheduled to open its doors in 3 months time! What!!?? A second shop was always on the cards but it was all happening so soon. I kept asking myself am I really ready for this? I was exhausted, unmotivated and unsure of myself. Was I really about to just double my work load? Was a Balian going to help my find my strength and confidence again?
So that's how we started doing our research to find a Balian. You can actually find out a lot about them online. Plus if you ask any hotel or taxi driver, they will be able to take you to one because they're pretty much a tourist destination now. I also asked my friend Holly who lives in Ubud. She said that she knows of a couple through some local friends she had made, but they refuse to see "whities" or tourists. And her local friends will also say that a healer who treats tourists is no longer a healer; mainly because they have become westernised and are no longer treating people for the right reasons or serving the locals.
From our research online we decided to pay a visit to a very popular Balian amongst tourists called Cokorda. We read about his strange technique and how he prods your feet and toes with a stick to find out where your problems lie.
You don't need to book an appointment and your session isn't going to be private. Be prepared to wait up to an hour or more for your turn and you will have an audience watching. We get to Cokorda's and join the six or so other people who are watching and waiting for their turn. We watch him press at pressure points on someones head and face. As he presses each point he will say what part of the body it refers to i.e mind/anxiety, lymphatic system, blood etc etc. He then gets a little prodding stick and starts to poke the patients toes, again saying what each part of your body he is referring to i.e back & neck, heart, mind, liver etc... The patient would suddenly flinch and wince with pain when he pressed on a certain area. This tells Cokorda where you need healing. He will then draw imaginary shapes on your body and do all sorts of funny hand movements as he prays over you to lift and remove blockages. He then presses on the same spot in the patients toe that was causing pain and no matter how hard he seemed to press the second time around the patient will not feel any pain.
We watched him treat several people before us. For some people he was not be able detect a problem area, so he would just say to them "what can I do for you? you have nothing wrong, you are healthy and good!" and send them off on their way.
Then it was my turn. I sat down on the ground in front of him as he felt around my head. He touched an area on the side of my head and I thought oh my god what the fu#k was that! What the hell did you just do? That hurt bad! "Anxiety" he said. I don't have anxiety, I use to, but I'm pretty sure I conquered that demon a few years ago. He said "what can I do for you? You are healthy, you are happy but you have doubt," and I burst out into tears! He got me to lie down and he got his little stick and prodded it in my toes. Again the only point I felt pain was when he touched the area that refers to my head/mind. So he's going to give me a blessing now and everything will be better right?...No. He got me to sit up and in his broken English he said to me "You are healthy, you are happy, why are you carrying doubt? If you doubt yourself you will create problems. You have to be sure and strong and know." And then he let me on my way (after I gave him my RP 300 000 offering of course).
So that was it? I felt ripped off! I knew that... well kind of. When we got into the taxi Jordan asked me what he said to me and why I reacted the way I did (with the crying and all), so I told him. Jordan asked why I was feeling this doubt? And isn't it usually a very standard emotion? People feel doubt all the time, in their every day lives, with any tough decision they have to make (or maybe even just about their lunch choice). Why did this affect me so badly? And why hadn't I mentioned this to him before? I don't often feel doubt, I tend to have a pretty "everything happens for a reason" mentality. I have battled my demons in the past and I now feel like I'm at a point where I am confident in myself and in my life decisions. I knew I was having some down emotions of late but I hadn't managed to pin point exactly what it was or even label it as doubt. But after Cokorda used that word, it was like a light bulb moment. I also didn't want to verbalise the thoughts and emotions I was having, because up until then I couldn't quiet explain what it was but also because I believe that when we dwell on certain topics and talk about them all the time they manifest into bigger problems - Just like Cokorda said, if I doubt then I am going to just create the problems myself. Maybe I just needed to be slapped across the face and for someone to reassure me and tell me to snap me out of my woe is me state. Maybe I just needed to actually address this feeling and acknowledge that it is there to me and to Jordan (as he is also my business partner) so that we can tackle it and put it to rest.
So what is my verdict on the whole spiritual healer thing? Besides from my experience, Jordan has also been having some health issues for the last couple of years. Unfortunately the Balian wasn't able to pick up on this or heal him of it. I do believe in this form of medicine and healing that has been such a rich and important part of Balinese culture and variations of this are found all over the world. But I do definitely get the sense that Cokorda had just turned into a tourist destination and he was just going through the motions of what people wanted to see and hear. He saw each person for 10min max and the tourists just kept coming through to see him. You could tell he was starting to get a bit exhausted and over it and often asking how many more people are there still to go. I can't help to think that Holly and her local friends were right. That a tourist won't be able to see a true Balian who still hold true to his calling and hasn't become "westernised". I would still like to experience a real local and traditional Balian, but I guess you can't really blame them for wanting to keep the practice sacred.
Words: Alicia Xyrakis; Images: sbs.com.au, thehealingpilgrim.com.au, imbd.com
Tell us, have you had an experience like this before?