Updated: Jan 25
I met Made at a dive shop and followed him on my scooter over windy, hilly roads that hugged the beautiful Amed shore line. Made was an onsite manager at one of the boutique hotels in the village; there are a lot of men named Madde in Bali. When we turned inland onto a broken side road towards the mountains and deeper into the rice fields, I knew we were close.
We were greeted by the healer, and I was directed to take a seat next to him at a low concrete circular table along with with 6 other men. In front of the healer was a litre glass bottle full of palm fronds, herbs and clear liquid. Part of the top lip of the bottle was broken, and he poured from the unbroken side. I learned that the ceremonial drink was made from palm flowers, and it tasted like straight up grain alcohol. We passed around a shot glass that was refilled with “Arak” and I drank... a bit. Whew. After several rounds Made said we would go to the treatment room soon. I sat for over an hour and watched facial expressions and listened to the tone of the Balinese men as they bantered ‘round the table.
I was fascinated by the healer. He had a turban wrapped around his black dreads; his shirtless torso was lean and dark and around his neck he wore a mala made of beads and feathers. His beard was spiky, long, peppered black and white, and the mustache hairs that curled around his upper lip were stained brown from the strong Bali coffee that was his ”chaser” after the arak.
We were seated in a space that was covered with with a tin roof and ducks waddled and squabbled at our feet grabbing insects that landed near their quick beaks. Children and teens ran in and out, and I was able to discern that many were the kids of the men sitting at the table. I watched a young boy tend a fire and fill a wire rack with mackerel that had been caught early that morning; the smoke wafted high across the bamboo rafters. As he placed the fresh fish over the smoke we waived off the flies from the whole smoked fish that we pulled apart with our fingers that laid on the concrete table in front of us.
The healer turned to me and spoke as Made translated. He said that I was a social giving person (I hoped he was right) and said that it felt like I had always wanted to be a healer or minister. I’m not sure about the minister part, though I have a book that followed me through grade school and in it I put down virtually every year that I wanted to be a missionary.... I do know better now....
Suddenly, Made motioned for me to follow him, and after rounding a corner I saw where I needed to drop my shoes before entering the treatment room. A tiny, older Balinese woman was retying her sash and threw me a big smile and gave me, what I assumed to be, encouragement in Balinese. The room was shadowed and two large bamboo mats covered the floor. Made laid down on one and motioned for me to come next to him. I watched the healer massage his torso with healing oils and place five small metal disks on his chest. On the disks he placed a pinch of something that looked like tobacco and lit each one on fire. The healer quickly placed a glass cup over the lit disks and held the glass in place until the flame exhausted. The suction from the extinguished flame tightened the glass lip around the skin pulling blood to the surface. Now it was my turn to get “cupped.”
I laid down elbow to elbow next to Made, and the healer spoke in Balinese. Did I want to have my back and head massaged? “Absolutely,” I told Made, as I came for the full experience. I sat up and he began a strong massage over my back across my scalp. I showed him my bulge - the aftermath of my collapsed intestine while in South Africa, and he began speaking again. Made said the healer felt it was all connected to my left side up to my brain. I asked if I was supposed to take off my shirt, and he said only if I felt comfortable. Yup, off came my shirt.
My torso was massaged all over. I should note that I had been told that the healer viewed every person that entered the healing rooms as a baby so not to let his carnal nature rule. I didn’t feel uncomfortable in any way - even when he placed the metal disks over my chest including both breasts. In hindsight one could probably write a comedy routine about two strangers laying elbow to elbow with their nips under a glass................
The healer left and it was just Made and me lying on our backs covered in water glasses... In front of us hung a large painting of what looked to be an ancient Hindu battle field, and I asked Made what it represented. He said it was the story of Arjuna from the Bhagavad Gita.... He said the painting depicted the present moment along with heaven and hell. I told him I was confused as I didn’t know the Hindus believed in heaven and hell; he chuckled a bit and said of course they did. He said we create heaven and hell through our daily actions. Aaahhhh, I got it... We then talked about the Karma of the present, past and future and how he hopes to purify his relations with his parents while they are still alive to keep his future karma clean.
I started to get sleepy as I was quite relaxed, probably the result of the Arak...
The healer came back to the room and removed the glasses from our chests. We put our shirts back on and then shared a meal with all of the other seekers under the tin roof. The fish and rice had been blessed by the healer.
What an experience.
My bulge is still bulging, but let’s see how it feels tomorrow.... And we all know the placebo affect is real!