Exotic Spa Ritual

 

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Spa rituals at Spa Village Resort Tembok Bali call on ancient wisdom, the knowledge of medicinal plants and the restorative power of the natural environment.

Arriving at the sunny lobby of Spa Village Resort we receive the most relaxing of welcomes, as our feet are immersed in copper tubs filled with flowers, and we are treated to a head neck and shoulder massage. Nestled in a coconut grove on the exotic black sands of north east Bali, the tranquil resort is dedicated to wellbeing, creating a unique opportunity to rejuvenate and absorb the powerful essence of this sacred island.

All spa treatments begin with a Segara Giri pre treatment, which sees me sitting on the edge of a sunken steam bath with my feet resting on black volcanic sand. The warm misty vapours sooth my soul and clean my feet in an act of ritual purification. The next step of my journey is a Lapis Lapis (Malay Herbal Wrap,) ideal for detoxifying, reducing water retention and relieving joint pain. My therapist smothers me in lemongrass, ginger, galangal and camphor, then wraps me in hot towels. While my body gently steams in a warm and spicy cocoon, a slew of natural ingredients are applied for a traditional [Balinese Natural Facial]. A creamy mix of yoghurt and milk calms and cleanses my skin, a scrub of rice blended with turmeric and tamarind leaf gently exfoliates, while honey provide the ingredients for a soothing massage. A calming face mask of yoghurt and seaweed is followed with aloe vera gel to seal in moisturise.

I emerge, blinking in the sunlight to a beautiful vision of the deep blue sea glinting through the palm trees, and sip a warm and syrupy elixir of turmeric palm sugar and tamarind. It’s good to replenish with some healthy food after a spa treatment and the beachside restaurant edges an enticing, infinity-edged swimming pool. A Raw Vegetable Salad drizzled with roasted sesame dressing, is followed by a Poached Salak and homemade chocolate ice cream. Our spa day sadly draws to a close, its been a wonderful experience but one day simply wasn’t enough.

 

Spa Village Resort Tembok Bali  Jalan Singaraja-Amlapura No 100 Desa Tembok, Tejakula Buleleng+62 36232033

Food for healing

Turmeric: anti inflammatory, astringent.

Tamarind leaf : antioxidant, vitamin C and A.

Honey: calmative, antioxidant and antibacterial.

Lemons: contain AHA’s and BHA’s which remove dead skin cells and help clear acne, and discolouration.

Yoghurt: multi vitamin superfood that makes the skin glow with freshness

Seaweed: packed with vitamins C and A to restores moisture levels and revitalises the skin.

Aloe vera: deeply moisturising, reduces dark spots and blemishes.

 

Taksu Ubud

 

IMG_7474  Tucked into a quiet lane in the heart of Ubud, Taksu translates in Balinese as “the indescribable essence of spirit,” and provides a serene haven in which to relax and unwind. A charming garden filled with cascading rock ponds and meandering paths gives way to a leafy gorge dotted with scenic spa pavilions.

Well established on the Ubud scene, the spa and restaurant have been operating for the last seven years, while the quaint Taman Taksu Garden Cafe makes an inspired new addition. Open-sided wooden pavilions overlook the medicinal herb garden, where leaves are plucked fresh for my Pagagan Juice a traditional remedy known as pennywort in English, believed to be beneficial in maintaining youth. Our round of drinks also includes [Coconut Water] served in customised coconut-shaped ceramic dishes, and a Bali Summer blending watermelon, strawberry and apple with a lemon citrus kick.

The menu, prepared by Balinese chefs Ketut and Adi, offers something for every mood and every appetite, with a good selection of raw food, gluten free, vegan and vegetarian fare, as well as chicken, duck and seafood. Produce comes straight from Taksu’s own organic gardens, located in the nearby hills, and dishes include crunchy organic salads, homemade pasta and panini, Indonesian classics, hearty soups and grills, and divine desserts.

We start with a couple of raw dishes. The Strawberry Bisque is a chilled and frothy blend of fresh strawberries and yoghurt, while the generous slab of Zucchini Lasagne that follows is truly excellent, a tasty testament to the imaginative possibilities of raw food. Thinly sliced marinated zucchini is layered with fresh tomato, basil and peppers, with a tangy marinara sauce, creamy cashew ricotta and an ever-so -slightly sweet pesto.

Changing the pace a little we order some good and spicy Nachos piled high with black beans, homemade salsa and creamy guacamole, and a Salmon Panini made with home baked brown bread topped with swirls of cured salmon, red onion, lettuce, dill and dollops of cream cheese. Dessert is a light and fluffy Cheesecake sweetened with a thick strawberry coulis, and a spongy Truffle Chocolate Cake Gateau with a rich chocolate filling.

As well as daily yoga and dance classes, Taksu offers interesting workshops and retreats of the alternative healing persuasion, as well as Cranio Sacral therapy, Traditional Chinese medicine, ozone therapies and spa treatments including the Divine Pampering Ritual which is accompanied by a two-course healthy lunch.

Taksu Spa and Restaurant Jl Goutama Selatan Ubud  +62 361 971490

Foraging in Bali

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A walk on the wild side

Foraging is one of the hottest gastronomic trends to sweep across the globe, with chefs and home cooks alike heading out into the country to gather wild vegetables, herbs and forest fruits. Here in Bali, foraging has always been a way of life, and the beautiful landscape is rife with wild greens, tropical fruits, roots and edible flowers.

The forests, river banks and fringes of Bali’s picturesque rice fields host a plethora of wild herbs, spices and fruit trees, and in order to learn more about Bali’s wild side, I join a fascinating, customised rice paddy walk with Bali Eco Cycling Tours (www.baliecocycling.com). We begin in the coolness of early morning and make our way through the ancient lichen-covered temples of Goa Gajah on the outskirts of Ubud. Weda, a rice farmer from Ubud is my guide, and is passionate about foraging, deeply knowledgeable and has a great sense of humour. The narrow trail leads us along the edge of a steep riverbank shrouded in sub tropical rainforest, where gnarly roots of giant trees cling to the ravine, and dappled sunlight dances through the leafy canopy. We stop to pick fragrant stalks from an [ilak ]bush – used in place of sticks in sate lilit (minced fish satay). Nearby, the leaves of a [simbaman] bush are used to flavour a uniquely Balinese dish known as [be cundang] – where the losing rooster in a cock fight is cooked up and presented in a victory feast. Crossing the muddy creek Weda points out my favourite Balinese delicacy, dainty fern tips, that are tender, juicy and fabulous with shredded coconut.

 

IMG_8251Climbing up the ravine, we pass a heavily laden soursop tree – its leaves are believed to have a similar effects to chemotherapy when it comes to treating cancer. Winding through a dense coconut grove we see immense jackfruit trees, their large bulbous fruit makes a great addition to curries, soups and [rujak] – Balinese spicy fruit salad. Suddenly the forest opens up to a glistening verdant sea of green that stretches as far as we can see. This is the Bali of postcards, and a view that I never seem to tire of. Palms and big-fronded banana trees line the path that threads across the sawah (rice fields), where dragonflies flitter and the sound of trickling water is ever present. The ancient irrigation system, known as [subak], allows a number of edible plants to thrive spontaneously along the edges, including succulent lentor (snake beans), tiny wild eggplant, and pumpkin – the deep yellow pumpkin flower makes a very tasty tempura. The cassava tree has pretty umbrella-shaped leaves, and its starchy roots are used to make[tape] (tapioca), while its young leaves grace pork soup. Wena shows me a bunie tree, in season it will have delicious dark berries that taste great in jam and also in rujak.

We spot papaya, cacao and mangosteen trees, and young cows resting under the shade of massive durians. Taking a break, we sit on the edge of a small ridge and eat sumping, and bantar,  traditional Balinese sweets of sticky rice, coconut milk and sugar, and enjoy the sound of rindik from a distant temple that mingles sweetly with bird song and rooster crows, and the gentle rustle of a breeze in the palms.

IMG_8270 Finishing in the charming restaurant set amidst the rice fields, we sip fresh coconuts and feast on organic rice, smoked duck and chicken and tofu skewers.
If you would like to know how to cook with Bali’s native herbs, fruits and spices, the following offer an authentic village style experience, including visiting the local markets.www.lobongcooking.com 

www.paon-bali.com    www.payukbali.com

www.balinesecooking.net   www.ubadubudbali.com 

Balians; Bali’s traditional healers

In the five years that I have lived in Bali I have visited three different traditional healers, each providing a unique and profound experience that my western mind has struggled to fully comprehend. With my most recent treatment for a painfully damaged rib, I resolved to stop questioning “how” and “why,” and instead simply accept the experience for what it was and be grateful for it. I had gone to see one of the island’s well known healers, Pak Sircus who specialises in bone problems. The traditional Balinese compound was packed with people, and he worked from an open air pavilion in the corner, in full view of everyone. Each patient would take their turn and he would take his time chatting with them, often giving a massage and perhaps disappearing out the back to whip up a potion of some kind. The atmosphere was light hearted and relaxed, and Pak Sircus drank tea, smoked kretek cigarettes and told jokes throughout the sessions.

My turn eventually came. I was brittle and nervous, especially as I had noticed that most treatments seemed to involve a painful yelp or two from the patient. My friend had described it well, “He hurts the hell out of you – then you feel better.” As I sat down he pointed straight at my rib, “Its not broken,” he said, “but it is badly stressed.” I gingerly lay down and he massaged my side, it was painful but not too bad, and I tried to relax. After a while he tapped my shoulder and looked deep into my eyes. It’s hard to explain but I felt this incredible sense of connection, it was like he could see right into my soul, and in this moment he drew me out of myself and our energy melded into one. He smiled serenely and said, “Remind me, what is your name,” and my tension melted away as I took a breath and responded, smiling back at him. Right then he jabbed my rib with his fingers. I screamed – the shock of the pain sent me bolt upright. It was intense, but fleeting, and then I couldn’t stop laughing. “You tricked me,” I said. “I know,” he replied “and I know you understand,” and we laughed and laughed –with each peal of laughter a layer of pain fell away. I will not say that I was suddenly and miraculously cured – I still felt tender and sore, but it was as if the core of the pain had been removed, and most importantly, the depression that had accompanied it had been instantly lifted. Balance and harmony were restored and I felt like myself again.

It is this sense of harmony that lies at the heart of Balinese Hinduism – the constant struggle for balance between the opposing forces of darkness and light; sekala (the seen) and niskala (the unseen.) For most Balinese, sickness is deemed the result of an essential disharmony between a person and his/her surroundings. While natural herbal cures and western medicine are seen as appropriate for more tangible (sekala) forms of illness like a skin infection of a common cold, when it comes to less easily diagnosed, intangible (niskala) maladies, a traditional healer is generally the first point of call. Known as balians, these healers work on a number of levels, but generally practice an intuitive form of healing that is very different from a more western clinical style, and may have been learned from a parent or grandparent, of acquired directly from a Hindu deity. Some balians are essentially herbalists, while those like Pak Sircus, who specialise in bone problems may work with massage and manipulation. Some act as mediums or will contact the spirit world for guidance on certain issues related to your health, and you may end up having inscriptions drawn on your body or wads of chewed up herbs spat at you. A common thread with all these healing modalities is the opinion that sickness is often caused by the deeds of an individual, who might have acted disrespectfully or done something inappropriate. In this way, rather than providing a cure per se, a balian may grant atonement or neutralise bad intentions.

A balian usada, known as a literate balian is often in possession of sacred ‘lontar usada’ (healing books) that he may have studied with a guru to learn his craft. He might use natural medicine obtained from plants, which can be enhanced with amulets or ritualistic ceremonies. A balian tulang is a bone setter and will be called upon in emergencies to set dislocations or severe muscle sprains. A balian apun will generally work with massage, while a balian manak is a midwife. The role of a balian tasku is a little harder to define, they definitely work with niskala – the unseen forces – and are believed to take power from nature or holy spirits, and may create medicines from holy water, flowers and plants, or conduct cleansing rituals. The balian ketakson is generally a women who will communicate with spirits (often ancestral) to seek insight into an illness. This is particular useful for chronic illness when other treatments have failed. With knowledge gained through divine blessing, she may heal people through trance possession. Strictly speaking, not all balians are healers, but will provide advice and guidance on how to deal with troubles caused by unseen spirits, or even emotional problems that may be manifesting as physical illness.

My very first ‘healing’ experience in Bali perhaps fell into this category. Dressed in a sarong with a sarin canang (offering) in hand, I arrived at a house in Gianyar and was greeted by Cokorda Bagus Astawa, a wise and kindly man. We sat down facing each other. “Why are you here?” he asked softly “I can see there is nothing wrong with you.” I explained about the recurring problem with my chest – I struggled to breath and felt like I was suffocating. Assuming it was a chest infection I had taken three courses of antibiotics, but the problem remained. A year before I had ended a long-term relationship, “And now I feel lost, its like my spirit is broken,” I told him. “But of course,” he replied, “that is normal, you feel bad because your heart is aching, it will take time to heal.” And with these few simple words a huge weight was lifted, and I realised that I had been denying myself permission to grieve, and that this enormous sense of loss was necessary to honour the most significant relationship of my life. He told me I was storing sadness and negative emotions in my solar plexus, which was creating pressure in my chest. “This part I can help with,” he said reassuringly, as he stabbed my little toe with a stick. It felt like there was blood gushing from my toe, but actually it was emotions that were pouring out as this incredible sadness coursed through my body and passed out through my toe. It was such a relief to finally let go and surrender to this grief, and the pain in my chest disappeared immediately. Of course I still felt sad, but accepted that this was a necessary stage in my journey and learned to made peace with myself, in so doing I shifted into a greater state of harmony and the healing process began. He was right, when it comes to personal loss only time can heal, but you need to let it.

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With the book, and subsequent film, Eat Pray Love the spotlight shone brightly on Bali’s healers, with balian’s such as the books central character, Ketut becoming a ‘must see’ on many tourist itineraries. However, it’s important to remember that a balian is not a tourist attraction or object of curiosity, but rather a well respected member of the community with a crucial role to play, and should be respected accordingly. If you feel like you may benefit from a visit to a balian, find out if you need to make an appointment (not all balians will see tourists,) make sure to dress appropriately (cover your shoulders and legs,) and never point your feet at a healer as this is considered very rude. Most balians accept donations, but do not hand over money directly, either conceal it in a canang (offering) or place the donation in the family temple after the treatment. Be warned, not all healers are genuine so its best to go on personal recommendation and choose the correct type of healer for your predicament.

Dancing with Saffire

Just returned from a Nia class with the amazing Saffire, the newest in a rather awesome line up of teachers to arrive at Desa Seni over the last couple of years.  I met Saffire last year as he rocked the Bali Spirit festival with his unique blaze of rhythm and movement and was one of the first to sign up for his three day Nia/Shamantra workshop at Desa Seni where we  learned to express ourselves through dance and stillness,  to vocalise and dance to our inner emotions as he challenged us to go beyond our boundaries, to listen to our bodies, to dance into being…… People keep asking me what his classes are like – but its hard to describe, I guess you could start by saying that its about joy and movement and liberation and laughter and fun. About  truly dancing like no one is watching – giving yourself space to move, then shaking everything up and out, and feeling absolutely amazing while you are doing it. The best thing is  – the buzz stays with you.

The Nia technique is fundamentally about unifying the body, mind, emotions and spirit with high energy dance that borrows from martial arts , yoga and healing practices. It is a form of self healing through a combination of choreographed dance  and free form that sees movement as a pathway for transformation, a way of dancing through our barriers.  Saffire is teaching three  Nia dance classes at Desa Seni each week. He also facilitates his own creation, ‘Dance into Being’ on Saturday nights, its a little bit like a guided ecstatic dance that incorporates sound and rhythm  – although describing it like this just doesn’t seem to do the experience justice –  I could just say its about losing yourself in the music and finding new ways to move and express yourself which is such a completely liberating experience.

Inherent to Desa Seni is the notion of community  – or ‘kula. ’ For Saffire true community happens “When everyone moves to the same pulse. Each may have a different relationship to that pulse, but the single pulse is what holds the center of community. Communicating with each other in this way with sound and silence, call and response, transmitting and receiving, a singular pulse is created, making music possible, making healing possible, making community.”

One of the things I love about Desa Seni is that the staff also have the opportunity to join free classes and workshops.  Obviously, there was a full turn out for Saffire’s staff class!

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For scheduled classes check http://www.desaseni.com/schedule.htm

For more about Nia www.nianow.com

For more about Saffire www.shamantranow.com

The healing power of crystals

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The human connection to crystals and stones spans time, cultures, continents and religions. Ancient Sumerians included crystals in their magic formulas; Egyptian pharaohs had their headdresses lined with malachite in the belief that it helped to rule wisely; while native American shamans used them for divination and healing. Their curative properties are mentioned repeatedly in ancient Vedic Hindu texts and referred to in the Old Testament of the Bible; while the mysterious black stone at Mecca (possibly a meteorite) forms an intrinsic part of the Islamic pilgrimage.

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In 1880 Jacques and Pierre Curie discovered the piezoelectric property of quartz  – when squeezed or stretched, a voltage is produced across the crystal’s face. These days crystals are utilized in almost every form of technology. Liquid Crystal brings us the clarity in our computer screens, quartz keeps watches ticking, and electronic grade crystals are used in cell phones, clocks, games, television receivers, radios, computers and navigational instruments. But although science readily accepts the vibrational qualities of crystals, when it comes to the less tangible realms of crystal   therapy,   the suggested positive vibrations of gemstones is often relegated to the fringe of ‘new age;’  even though it is a tradition that is about as ‘old age’ as you can get.  We have been communing with stones in one way or another for as long as we have roamed the earth.

Like many before me, I have a fondness for adorning myself with gemstones and jewels and this story starts with my discovery of Atlantis, a shop in Seminyak filled with glittering gemstones, gleaming jewel encrusted silver bracelets, shimmering druzy pendants and crystals in all shapes and forms.  I left wearing a striking pendant of amethyst wrapped in a silver serpent.   I loved the way it felt on my skin, the way it shimmered in the sunlight and I started to wonder why we are so drawn to stones and crystals. Is it because we are naturally attracted to that which is beautiful? Is it a primal connection with something that is formed deep within the earth’s crust, or is it something more; could it be possible that stones hold some sort of therapeutic power? So I decided to try and find some answers. I had no expectations, just an open mind, a touch of skepticism and an abundance of natural curiosity.

The story became quite a journey that led to interesting people, places and experiences, I learned a lot about crystals, physics and geology, and I learned a lot about myself and my own belief system. My encounters with crystal therapy in various guises were thought provoking, sometimes profound, and always left with me a smile.  I can’t claim to have found all the answers I went looking for, or to have been miraculously ‘healed’ (thankfully I have no major ailments,) but I can share my experiences and the findings of those far more knowledgeable than myself.

Vibrations……..

The more I delve into the crystal realms, the more I come across this term. Is this the key – can the vibrations of crystals affect our bodies or our minds in some way? Quantum physics recognizes that everything vibrates, even the tiniest atom, but certain things, due to their composition will vibrate at a higher frequency.  For example, quartz which is 100% crystal, resonates clearly and harmoniously due to a highly organized molecular structure.   We have all experienced ‘good vibes’ and the  sense of harmony  experienced by  listening to music, visiting certain places or meeting someone that we feel in tune with; as  opposed to situations or people that create discord  and throw us off balance. Similarly when we are attacked by viruses or subjected to stress we feel out of sync. A holistic approach to therapy is all about restoring balance, so maybe the vibrations of certain crystals can help. This makes sense, but the link is still tenuous. Then I stumble across a book called “Hidden messages in water,” by Doctor Masar Emoto.  The book contains a series of astonishing photographs, in which single drops of water were frozen and the crystals they formed captured.  Fresh spring water produced beautifully formed crystals, whereas city water barely produced crystals at all. But here’s where it gets really interesting, when Bach was played to water, the resulting crystals were magnificent, but when heavy metal music was played to the same water, it produced badly formed crystals or none at all. Town water that had initially created ill formed crystals – suddenly made perfect formations after 500 people simultaneously prayed for it to be clean. The most beautiful of all crystals had been exposed to the words love and gratitude. In all these cases the structure of the water was fundamentally  altered due to the vibrations it was subjected to. As Humans bodies are comprised of over 70% water, is it possible that our physical process can be altered by positive vibrations?

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Vogel and crystals

According to Marcel Vogel who spent much of his life conducting extensive research into quartz crystals, it means precisely this! Vogel was a highly respected research scientist who received over 100 patents during his 27 years working for IBM.  He discovered that he could fundamentally alter the structure of water by spinning it around a tuned crystal.  Using such a process, the ph levels of water could be sufficiently altered, the freezing point significantly lowered and the molecular patterns rearranged and restructured.

In the same way that the healthy water in Emoto’s experiments created beautiful well formed crystals; the water found in healthy tissue cells in our bodies is formed into organized, geometrically shaped molecule patterns. While unhealthy and cancerous cells feature ungeometric and disorganized water molecules. Vogel’s findings showed that the clear vibration resonating from crystals helps to organize the water in our tissues and cells, creating healthier cells.  Further to this, he pioneered the use of a precisely cut quartz crystal, the  ‘Vogel-cut®  which transmitted a high level of energy and produced a constant vibration of the same frequency as water in its purest state.  He also developed a protocol in which a crystal could act as an “energetic scalpel” to remove unwanted vibrations from a person in distress.

www.vogelcrystals.net

History of stones

Our history is inextricably entwined with stones. Stone age man carved primitive tools and amulets, stone walls have traditionally provided us with shelter and protection, and gem stones have always been potent symbols of power and beauty. Through the ages various megalithic cultures erected impressive standing stones, monuments and stone circles that became places of, worship, ritual and meditation. The early Indonesians were animists and worshipped natural features in a belief that all objects have a life, a soul force. Vestiges of this practice can still be found, particularly on islands such as Flores and Sumba  where ethnic traditions hold strong. In Lombok the ‘Stone of Worship’ at Batu Pujaan was erected over 3000 years ago, and is associated with rituals of magic, meditation and the concoction of herbal medicines.   Here in Bali, megalithic structures are still used for worship in a scattering of villages inhabited by the original Bali Aga people; while  Lingga (monuments) carved from gold, jewels and stones can also be found in Hindu temples across the island.

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These days our lives are increasingly removed from nature, so perhaps certain stones help us reconnect with the earth and our more essential selves. There are few things more grounding than minerals, so maybe wearing a crystal, collecting stones or indulging in gem therapy can help restore a sense of calm and balance. It all boils down to intent.  If you believe that wearing a crystal will empower you, it probably will; if you attend a crystal healing session with a strong intent to heal, then for sure you will feel some benefits. It’s all up to the individual.  Wear them, meditate with them, place them on the window sill, attempt to see the future, douse for water, summon spirits, admire them as objects of immense beauty. Or ignore them completely…… If crystals work for you on some level – that’s great, if not, that’s ok too – because crystals are totally optional.

If you do decide to explore the world of crystal therapy then Bali has plenty of choices.

Crystal healing

Jelila provides my first healing session, and arrives at the door, blonde and fairylike bearing a guitar and a big bag of crystals.  She talks about the resonant vibration of crystals due to their highly organized molecular structure. “Having a positive person around you raises your vibrations –  it’s the same with the right combination of crystals.”

Jelila has a background in yoga, meditation and energy healing and you can join her classes at Yoga barn. She also practices crystal healing which she describes as “A complex art form, based on an intuitive sense of your present energy, aura and life. ” She adds that, “It is non invasive and harmless, the worse thing that can happen is nothing.”   We start with an aura reading, and each of my chakras is assigned colours, shapes and sounds. My rational mind does not understand, but her observations are unerringly accurate, and deep from my subconscious, where the demons lurk, she unearths an extremely irrational fear. Right she says we are going to fix this. She guides me through a visualization, or re programming as she calls it,   and then explains that she will use a combination of crystal energy and sound healing to integrate this transformation.   I close my eyes as she drapes strings of crystals over me, and become aware of a powerful tingly sensation around my head, it feels like my hair is standing on end. I assume Jelila is doing some kind of energy healing but when I sneak a peek I see she is busy placing crystals around my feet. The feeling is so intense I can’t help laughing – “What’s happening to my head,” I ask, “That would be the detoxifying crystals I put on your pillow,” she answers.   By now Jelila is softly playing the guitar and singing, her beautiful voice flutters around me. It’s extraordinarily soothing to be sung too and lulls me into a warm and cosy state. Afterwards I feel happy, calm and kind of floaty, more than anything I feel liberated from an irrational fear. No doubt I could have sat in an office with a psychiatrist and progressed to this point after weeks on the sofa talking about my childhood  – but therapy is  much more enjoyable when you are covered in crystals and sung to!  Jelila also designs healing necklaces and has recorded a range of CDs. http://jelila.wordpress.com/

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The Crystal Light Bed

I find myself at a house on the outskirts of Ubud and am greeted by Tamara, an intuitive healer who also performs healing sessions utilizing a Crystal Light Bed.  This contraption was created by John of God, the famous Brazilian spiritual healer who is estimated to have healed hundreds of thousands of people. Science has no answer for this kind of healing in which John of God acts as a spirit medium, allowing  “entities” to take over his body and perform surgery while he is in a trance.  However, his work has been documented by medical teams from around the world, who confirm miraculous recoveries from AIDS, cancer and other illnesses that were deemed incurable. He developed The Crystal Light Bed as an adjunct to healing and it consists of 7 Vogel-cut Brazilian quartz crystals which are suspended over each of the seven major chakras.  Tamara explains that it is essentially a chromo graphic machine that combines energy, colour and light; the colored lights that beam through the crystals act as a magnifier of energy and intent for healing.  She explains that this is “Different from other forms of crystal healing in that it enables a specific current of John of God and his various healing spirit entities.” It sounds kind of wacky and my rational mind is screaming,  ‘How,’ but I apply my motto ‘Never try never know,”  and as I lie down she  tells me to say a prayer of intent. From the moment I shut my eyes I enter a state of deep blissful relaxation – at times it’s almost as if I am levitating and I sense the presence of others in the room. Perhaps it’s my imagination, perhaps not – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is a lovely experience that leaves me calm and peaceful. I ask Tamara if she can see an immediate change in people following the treatment, and she comments that I am sparkling…. ..When I look in the mirror I do seem to have a bit of a glow and my eyes are shining clear and bright. email tj@gaiaclinic.com

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Crystal Sound

I first had the pleasure of Healing Sound Therapy at Bali Spirit Festival during a workshop led by Awa Hoshi, a statuesque, gently spoken woman of Cheyenne – Slovakian descent who plays silicon quartz crucibles (pure quartz carved into receptacles of various sizes.) A talented musician, Awa Hoshi pioneered the use of crystal sound therapy over two decades ago and her work has been well recognized across the world.  More than 100 of us were gathered that afternoon and as we stretched out on the floor we were instructed to visualize what we desired most at that point in time. Awa Hoshi  started to play, and the room was filled with  lingering, beautiful  waves of sound. Everything ceased to exist beyond the sound of crystal, and my vision of fully sustaining myself as a freelance writer. The sensation was not so much of hearing, but of feeling. Afterwards everything seemed incredibly clear and when I checked my emails I had two commissions from magazines to write about the festival, and have had a constant stream of work ever since. It’s not magic, I didn’t just blink my eyes and find I was suddenly  consumed with work,  but during that crystal sound filled afternoon I had given myself the space to realize what it was that I really wanted and from that time on focused my energy into achieving it. When I meet Awa  Hoshi again, she explained that sound therapy   helps us to   “ Crystallize an  intention, then magnetize that reality.” She adds that it, “Provides a foundation, it’s then up to us as to how we deal with it.”

Hearing is the first sense to develop in the womb, the most developed of all our senses, yet most of us only have a small amount of pure, clear sound in our lives, bird song, running streams, leaves rustling in the breeze are often drowned out by the hum of air conditioners, the roar of motor bikes, the incessant chatter of television. Awa Hoshi tells me that “The sound of pure tone crystal returns us to our natural state as beings of harmony – it is a sound that takes you beyond sound.” http://www.bali3000.com/crystalsound/

Picture 5 Awa Hoshi

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A walk in the rice fields

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Bali Herbal Walks

I drive up to Ubud early in the morning, dark ominous clouds hang over the hills creating a moody backdrop. I hope the rain will hold off for the next few hours as I have signed up for a herbal walk, and trudging through rice fields in torrential rain isn’t quite what I have in mind. I meet my guide, Westi, a wise and gentle soul with an innate knowledge of all things herbal. He and his wife Lilir have been leading guests on walks through the ravines and rice fields of Ubud for twelve years. Their extensive knowledge of herbalism gained from their families, working in the field, and from years of studying with traditional healers.

The use of natural medicines, known as Usada, is a strong custom in Bali, as traditionally the only medicines that people had access to were those provided by nature. Most Balinese have some knowledge of natural cures and many families keep an apotek hidup (living drugstore), a small garden of herbs with medicinal properties in their yard. The edges of Bali’s fertile rice fields also host a plethora of herbs, fruit and trees that have therapeutic and health enhancing properties.

We head down a walled path way that edges along a steep ravine. Westi points out a magnolia tree, its leaves can be steeped in hot water and the resulting brew creates calm and balance. He adds that many Balinese women can’t afford perfume, instead enjoy the scent of fresh cut flowers such as magnolia, tied into their hair.

We wander through dense foliage, thick with trees, shrubs, and fernery that grows with untamed abandon. He tells me that unlike the heavily landscaped gardens that are popular in the island’s holiday resorts, a traditional Balinese garden is more wild and artistic. We come to a ylang ylang tree, with a solid trunk leading to a mass of leaves high above. He says the Japanese use it as ‘honeymoon oil’ which I guess makes it an aphrodisiac. Here in Bali, the flowers are considered holy and are used in offerings, but, “You have to be feeling strong to climb,” he says, “because it’s a tall tree and if you fall off, it’s all over.” Nearby, an avocado tree is sprouting with tiny green fruit; when ripe these can be used as a natural colouring and women blend the creamy flesh into a body mask which is highly moisturizing.

The path winds around the river and leads us up a gentle slope. We pass back yards where women are busy preparing morning offerings. Roosters crow, dogs bark and the air is fragrant with frangipani.

We find the dark red Indian long pepper growing on a climbing vine that clings to a stone wall. It is hard and shriveled and, as I discover when I taste a tiny sliver, very very hot. “The heat creates power,” Westi says, and is chewed by men as an aphrodisiac. I ask if women can chew it too, and he replies, “Yes, women are more equal now.” It is also one of the ingredients in boreh, a traditional body mask that relaxes the muscles and helps prevent rheumatism.

We head into a more open area, resplendent with the verdant green rice fields (sawahs) that Bali is so famous for. As with so much in Bali, the growing of rice is approached with an artist’s eye; just because something is practical, doesn’t mean that it can not also be beautiful. Palms line the path, butterflies flitter by and the sound of trickling water is ever present. We come across a couple of water snakes but they are timid and quickly slither away.  Westi points out the Balinese rice crops which are tall and stately and tells me that this is the best quality rice, as it is high in vitamins and nutrients, but only yields two crops a year. Nearby we see the Philippine variety which is more common, it is shorter, thicker and less aesthetic, but produces three crops a year and needs less attention.

I have never really given the rice paddies much thought beyond admiring them, taking numerous photos and regularly tucking into nasi goring. I learn that all farmers must be part of a rice co op a system known as Subak. There are 200 Subaks in Bali, seven of which are in Ubud. The one we are walking through is called Juwukmanis (Sweet orange organization of rice fields.) Water is set into irrigation channels to which everyone has equal access and although fields are individually owned, all members work together for the prosperity of all.

A few farmers are at work in the fields and a man in a rattan hat walks by with a stick over his shoulder laden with bushels of rice that have just been harvested.  A couple of small fires are burning which Westi tells me is sometimes necessary to rejuvenate the soil, the farmers decide what is needed. Natural insecticide is provided by a gaggle of ducks that are busy pecking away.

Small temples are scattered over the fields, and offerings are made to ensure good harvests.I notice a doll like figure dangling from a large bamboo stick and Westi tells me that this is a representation of the Rice Goddess Dewi Sri. It has been made from harvested rice husks, and is an offering of thanks to Ibu Purtiwi (earth mother.) He adds that after the rice has been planted, it is deemed  pregnant, and in the early growing stage, offerings such as sour fruit, which control nausea, are made to the rice goddess to prevent morning sickness.

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Although Balinese practice Hinduism, the more ancient practice of Animism imbues much of the spiritual side of life. The earth is considered female and the sky is male – when the two meet, as in human relationships, there is power. The wet season is considered particularly powerful as the continual rain from the sky pounds the earth nurturing everything that grows with in it.  Nature’s bounty is powerful, because it has been created by the union of earth and sky. The reason that there are so many problems in Denpasar he explains, is that there is too much cement and the gods are angry because the sky and earth never meet, there is a block.

“When we eat, we absorb the character of the food,” he tells me. “Holy men eat only duck which is a symbol of wisdom, roosters are no good to eat because they like fighting.” I ask about ritualistic animal sacrifice and he tells me that, “Whatever we need, we offer the gods, blood sacrifice symbolizes fertility and may be necessary to ensure a good harvest.” But before killing an animal a ceremony is held to bless it, so that the animal will come back to a better and higher life.

We come to the temple compound of the Subak, it is late morning and the clouds have dispersed revealing the sun in all its scorching glory. We sit in the shade, enjoying the rest and the peaceful rural scene that surrounds us. A farmer brings me a fresh coconut to drink, skillfully opening it with a long curved knife.

We continue on our way, stopping to crush Citronella leaves which release a strong aroma that repels mosquitoes. We inhale the scent of Melaleuka leaves which are also used as an insect repellant, and pick stalks of lemongrass which are good for colds.Outside a temple Westi points out a tiny little plant not much bigger than my hand, it’s a banyan, one of the most sacred of all trees, it seems hard to imagine that this scrawny  little thing will one day be a magnificent sprawling mass of branches and vines.

Westi and Lilir are both keen to revive and preserve the natural heritage of herbalism, for the sake of the young generation of Balinese, and for the tourists who flock to the island. With the help of Melanie Templar from the UK, they established Utama Spice in 1997 which produces a range of high quality herbal beauty products, including lotions, oils and soaps. Westi tells me that some of their clients were interested to know more about the natural substances they used, which gave them the idea of taking guests on  guided walks. He says that there goal is sustainable tourism “You must have an income, but it should be a positive income, whereby you also look after the environment and share ancient knowledge.”

I meet Lilir back at their little shop on Sweta street in Ubud, she is tiny in stature, but big in spirit, and bubbles with enthusiasm. She tells me that her family had strong healing traditions and the brood of 11meant that there was no money for doctors, instead all ills were cured by trips to the living drugstore – the family garden.It has been a pleasure to meet this couple who are so passionate and dedicated, and I feel like I have learned more in these few hours than I have in years of living on the island. Lilir invites me to come another time and sample her special tumeric tonic and to join one of her Jamu classes, but that’s another trip, another story.

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