Archive for the ‘BALI’ Category

Bumi Sehat: The real reason I will move to Bali

August 25, 2011


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Death and Cremation in Bali

August 3, 2011

Since arriving in Bali on June 2nd I have been staying at Oka Kartini on Jalan Raya (main road) in Ubud. Oka is a beautiful, mature Balinese woman. What makes her unique is that she has white skin, unlike other Balinese woman who have brown skin. Oka and I have become very close friends, we love each other very much and she calls me her sister. I am very blessed to know her.

This family belongs to the Brahmin caste, the highest caste in Bali. They are very well respected in their community. On Friday July 22nd Oka’s husband Ida Bagus Rai died following a long illness and several hospitalizations. The family compound is the most important structure in the Balinese culture aside from the many temples where ceremonies are held … I am looking at a very big temple from my veranda as I type this. For 12 days the cloth-wrapped body of Ida Bagus Rai laid in state on dry ice in the family compound, which is situated on the grounds of Oka Kartini. (I know it can be confusing, but Oka Kartini is both the name of a woman and the place where I am staying.) His body was behind curtains on a veranda and even though I visited Oka each of the 12 days, I had never seen the body. Every day more people came to pay respects to Rai. His body could not ever be left alone, so every night there were men guarding the body.  I unwittingly went back there one night to see Oka and walked into 40 or 50 men who were busy gambling. I did a quick about-face and went to visit Oka in her room.

I was invited by Oka to attend the family gathering in the compound yesterday morning. I appreciated receiving her invitation, even though I had definite trepidations because I’ve never been to a cremation. My stomach was feeling queasy about the whole thing. But I accepted Oka’s generous invitation and when I arrived in the compound there were already at least 200 people, drinking tea, eating special Balinese treats, and chatting away. The women in this family are so beautiful and they really know how to dress. I think I would immediately recognize a female relative of Oka’s by the very classy way they dress (see photo).

The time finally came to take Rai’s body off the pavilion where it had been for 12 days and bring it down to a structure that was at ground level. His sons carried his body down and put it on the structure. His body was still wrapped in white cloth. The Balinese priest who was there to pray and give blessings to the body stood by while the family unwrapped Rai’s body. At first I was apprehensive, but I became open to the sacredness of what I was witnessing, I approached the body and began to take photos. I had never before seen a body that was dead for 12 days and my eyes were wide with wonder. When all the cloth was removed, close family members (Oka and their five children) stood on the structure surrounding the body on all sides and gently washed the body with soap and water. They then placed many frangipani flowers on the body and the priest began the blessing ceremony. The priest wore beautiful jewels and was dressed in elegant Balinese robes and headdress. I was very impressed. He then began saying prayers and anointing Rai’s body with holy water. At this time, Rai’s grandchildren came close to their grandfather’s body and sobbed. It was so evident to me how much they loved him. I wanted to take each one of them in my arms and soothe their little aching hearts. They are so beautiful. After this blessing ceremony was over, Rai’s body was wrapped again in cotton and family members came up to him and gave him gifts including money, which would go with him and be torched. His body was then wrapped in other materials and tied down. His sons then carried him back to the veranda where he had been for 12 days and family members went up and said their final good-byes.

The body and the burning structure were then carried across the street to the cemetery area of the temple. As it grew closer to the time of burning and I watched the men setting up the torches with propane, a profound feeling of blessings came over me. The fear was gone. It was okay that the body was going to be burned because of all the love and blessings that had been bestowed on Rai that morning. Suddenly there was a huge burst of flames directed at the structure with Rai’s body on it. The men who were doing the torching were careful to contain the flames, running back and forth and adjusting the level of propane they were burning. I was awestruck. I have never seen anything like this. Ever. The next thing I knew there I was within 7 feet of the burning structure taking photos. I watched as Rai’s body became ash and his lower extremities fell into the flames. I stood silently, with my hands in prayer position, and thanked God for the honor I was given to be there with this beautiful family at this time.

Everyone came back to Oka Kartini where there was so much delicious food. This whole day had been a beautiful experience, truly a day of celebration. I became aware of the deep spirituality of the Balinese people, especially around the issues of death and cremation. This experience has changed my feelings a lot. I am no longer afraid of dying and if I am to be cremated, I pray that it will be a beautiful experience for my loved ones. The soul of Rai will soon be reincarnated into a new baby in the family and the cycle of life, death, and reincarnation continues.

My deep gratitude goes to my beloved Oka Kartini for including me in this very sacred and profoundly personal experience, one which I will never forget.

I have attached some photos from today to this blog entry and I have sent you the URL to all photographs which I took on this very auspicious occasion.

Doing Sacred Work of Puri Agung

July 26, 2011

This is one of the most challenging posts I will make, I’m sure. I debated within myself whether or not to post this and I realized that, of course, I should do it because it is relaying one of the many experiences I’ve had on this beautiful island of Bali. And an experience, I might add, that has been life-changing for me, an experience I never even dreamed of. Last Thursday I received a call from one of the priests at Puri Agung. Agung is a spiritually gifted young man who has a meditation center called Puri Agung. He has several hundred “devotees” at his beautiful center near Denpasar. Agung wanted to pick me up at 11:30 that night and take me to stay at the home of one of his priests and depart early the next morning for West Bali to go with him to a kundalini yoga workshop being put on by Puri Agung. As a little background, when I met Agung last September he told me that I had the heart of the mother of the universe, that I am everyone’s mother. When Derek met Agung the day after I met him and we were leaving Puri Agung, Agung told him “take good care of your mom because she’s my mother, too.” And it has been that way with us ever since. He calls me Mama and loves to have me near him. Sooooo, off I went to Denpasar, spent the night at his priest’s home and early the next morning, off to West Bali which is a beautiful part of Bali, so far not destroyed by building big hotels like a lot of Bali has experienced. The natural beauty of Bali is spectacular, green as far as you can see, trees, plants, flowers, rice fields. But let me get back to my story.

We arrive at the site of the meditation workshop and I walk in (the only female) with Agung, his priests, and his students. Agung sits me next to him at the front of the room. There are a couple hundred people, anxiously awaiting Agung’s arrival, looking at all of us and especially me. I hear the person on the microphone saying in English, Mama Lakshmi, America, Agung Mama. He makes several announcements (everything now is in Bahasa, the local language which I only know a few social words) and then they play the Gayatri Mantra (a beautiful mantra I play in my room a lot). The attendees are instructed to stand up, put their hands in prayer position and move them to/from their hearts in a fast movement, while standing up on their toes and rocking back on their heels. (I hope I am describing this in a way you can visualize.) As they do this the energy in the room becomes greater and greater. The man on the microphone is loudly instructing everyone to “let go”, “let it go”, “release it.” Loudly. Over and over. People in the room start going into trance. Soon a woman lies on the floor, screaming, thrashing wildly, her eyes tightly closed. Agung’s people go over and hold her down, her legs, her arms. She still thrashes. It is clear she is going through something very intense. Agung instructs his priest to send me over to transmit Reiki energy to the woman. Although I was nervous, I did what Agung wanted me to do. I held my hands about 12 inches above her body and sent Reiki to her. Suddenly, someone walks over with a little bucket and the woman sits up and spits into the bucket. By this time I am thinking what the hell have I gotten myself into, this is crazy. But I stick with it and eventually the woman is out of the trance, crying. I get a towel and put some cold water on it and gently wipe her forehead, wipe away her tears, giving her love. She smiles and thanks me. I move on to the next person … and the next person … and the next person. And on and on for about 10 people. By this time my body is on fire. I went to Agung and he walked me outside in the breeze and I let him know I couldn’t do any more. Later Agung and his priests expressed what good work I had done and how proud they were of me. Of course, I had so many questions about what I had just experienced. They explained to me that in some instances Black Magic was being removed. In other instances past traumas were being removed. The people who did this very hard work on themselves looked so beautiful, radiant when it was over. Just think about how incredible it would be for you to have horrific experiences removed from your body … wow! I can’t wait to learn Bahasa because I have some really intense traumatic childhood experiences that I will be more than happy to let go ot.

I know Agung will invite me to do this work with him again and with all my heart I must say I will be so happy to do so. I love Agung very much and am so happy just to be in his presence. His energy is so powerful, so pure, so non-judgmental, so loving. I am very honored to have him in my life. Whoever comes to Bali to visit me will definitely have an opportunity to meet him.

When Marcia was here with me, we were invited to attend a new house blessing ceremony at a beautiful home Agung built near Denpasar. We had a wonderful time, meeting his wife and his children, his family, his priests were there, and his friends. As we were driving back from West Bali the other day, Agung said to me (always through translators who speak English) that when I move to Bali I can stay as his guest at his beautiful new home. I was very touched by his generosity but I lovingly declined his offer because I want to be in Ubud. He wanted me close to his Puri Agung center so I can do more meditation and yoga there. I explained that I can meet more people in Ubud to bring to his center and, in fact, he should have a center in Ubud. Since then he and his priests have come to Oka Kartini, where I am staying. They met with Oka and are in a conversation with her where she invited them to do meditation workshops here … which will be good for Oka Kartini and good for Puri Agung. My dream is coming true. I can live here with Oka and Puri Agung will come to me. I can continue to do the sacred work of Puri Agung!

I apologize for the poor quality of the attached photos. They were taken by someone with my camera while I was working with a beautiful young woman. The other photo is an overview of the people at the workshop.

The Light and the Dark of Bali

July 17, 2011

While Bali is famous for her beauty, which has been well documented and portrayed in movies, travel documentaries, and on television, there is another side to Bali that is less well known, its Dark Side. The Barong play, as portrayed in the photograph, is the story of a battle between good and evil spirits. It is the same internal struggle which each of us confronts in our daily lives. Should we do the ethical thing which may be difficult, or should we take the easy way out even though we are compromising our integrity? The battle between right and wrong, good and bad, dark and light, is eternally ongoing and challenging.

Because the beauty of Bali is so overwhelming and enchanting, when her Dark Side arises it can be devastating. Bali has literally kicked my butt this trip. Having to put two new hard drives on my computer was hard enough, but in the second week of my trip I had an attack of “Bali belly” … which I assure you was no fun. I was sick with that for a couple of days but it was nothing like the ten-day sickness I just got over. I had a really bad cough which culminated in my going to the doctor five days into being sick and being put on antibiotics and cough medicine and basically taking to my bed for the next five days. I had no appetite and all I wanted to do was sleep, sleep, sleep. And when I opened my eyes, I looked out my window onto the most beautiful orchid-filled gardens of Oka Kartini. I will talk about Oka and her gardens in a later post

I was very blessed to have my friend Marcia from California here with me. She is a retired nurse and she took excellent care of me, checking my meds, making sure I drank enough, rested enough … and basically giving me the tender care which I have missed so much in life, never having had a mother. So, in that way, my sickness was a gift. I was actually being mothered by Marcia. What an incredible experience that was for me. I am so fiercely independent, feeling like I have to do everything myself … but this time I couldn’t … and there was Marcia, so willing to be my personal nurse and in her nurturing and mothering way, making sure I was well before she got on the plane to go back to California.

Bali was saying, okay, Lakshmi, you say you want to live here. Well, we’ll just see how badly you want it. I survived Bali’s tests and I’m now halfway through my three-month holiday here. I am open and anticipating what the second half has in store for  me.

I am not going to analyze the Black Magic and White Magic which is practiced in Bali other than to say these magic spells can be used for good or bad purposes. I have personally been present to an exorcism … removing a Black Magic spell from a person’s body … and I must say it was one of the most intimate, powerful, and loving things I’ve ever experienced.

Bali, Bali, Bali … what a trip it is being here! This island has a heart and soul all its own. And the deeper I’m able to delve into the spirit of Bali, the more I love her.

Ahhhhhh, sweet Bali, I love you so!

July 8, 2011

With Agung at the Mother Temple in Bali

Oh so much to do to get to Bali!

May 22, 2011

Little did I know how much there is to do to prepare for my three-month holiday in Bali. But I am doing it! Bringing all of my bank, credit card, and charge accounts on-line so payments can be made directly from my MacBook Air while I am in Bali. Doing this task took several hours. Then, dashing to San Francisco to the Indonesian Embassy to apply for my visa and realizing I had not brought with me a bank statement which they require for my two-month visa (which will be extended for an additional month while I’m in Bali), so I dashed back home and faxed the bank statement to the Embassy. By no means am I complaining … I am willing to do whatever it takes to finally be in Bali. And every little or big thing I do takes me closer to the island of my dreams. I want this blog site to be informative to future travelers to Bali as well as sharing the beauty of this journey.

Now back to Bali. On my first trip to Bali I attended Margot Anand’s workshop. Waking up in the morning and walking down the garden path to breakfast in the open-air dining area was a very special part of each day. The Balinese people are so sweet. Their great pleasure is to take care of you when you are in their country. Pampering is as natural to the Balinese people as breathing in and breathing out. Arriving for breakfast and seeing the smiling faces of the staff at Sacred Mountain made my heart sing. The food was always very healthy, fresh, and delicious. Mangos, pineapples, and papayas were part of each breakfast. The Balinese coffee is excellent and smelling the coffee as I walked to breakfast sure did quicken my steps.

One very special day I was able to offer Reiki energy treatments to a few workshop participants as well as Ken Ballard, one of the owners of Sacred Mountain. Ken and his partner Emerald Starr were wonderful men whose relationships with their Balinese staff was loving and mutually respectful. I was very sad when it was time to leave the spectacular Sacred Mountain Sanctuary. My stay there had been such a beautiful experience for me and I looked forward to returning one day. Unfortunately, Sacred Mountain has since closed.

I went from Sacred Mountain Sanctuary to Penestanan, a village in the hills above Ubud. Ubud is in the mountains and is the art and cultural center of the Island of Bali.  I lived for a week at a home-stay with a beautiful couple named Ketut and Made and their family. What an honor it was to live in their home. This was the real Bali! … and it set the standard for my future relationship with the Balinese people, the main reason I continue to go to Bali. They are so sweet and I love them so much! A very special part of my day was sitting on the front patio with the women of the family and weaving little offering cups out of palm or banana leaves. The Balinese have a daily morning ritual of making offerings to the Gods in the courtyard temples of their homes, on the sidewalks in front of their businesses, and inside their actual places of businesses. The offering cups are filled with flowers, cakes, and rice. It is a beautiful tradition, which embraces the relationship the Balinese people have with the Hindu Gods. I see the distinction between the Balinese people and people in the West with regard to spirituality is that we “do” spirituality while the Balinese “be” spirituality. It is as much a natural part of their lives as sleeping and waking. I look very much forward to learning even more about the Balinese culture when I am there for three months.

One of the saddest experiences I’ve had in Bali was one morning when Made, the wife at the homestay, invited me to walk with her to the next village to meet her mother. I was very happy to accept her kind invitation. As we walked through a rice paddy to her mother’s village, I looked down and dropped to my knees, crying, when I saw a plastic Coca-Cola bottle lying in the rice field. My heart was broken … what are the Westerners and Australians doing to beautiful Bali?  Are we ruining Paradise? I will write more about this in future blogs.

My first visit to the Paradise that is Bali

May 16, 2011
walking along the path to my villa

walking along the path to my villa

May 16, 2011.  It has been ten years since my first visit to the island of the Gods and Goddesses. At that time I was working as Personal Assistant to Margot Anand, the famed creator of SkyDancing Tantra and author of several best-selling books including the book that is known as the bible of tantra, “The Art of Sexual Ecstasy.” Through a series of magical occurrences I was able to travel to Bali and attend a week-long workshop Margot was conducting at Sacred Mountain Sanctuary in the Village of Siedemen in the shadow of Mount Agung, the largest mountain in Bali.  The moment my plane set down in Denpasar, Bali and I left the airport, my breath was taken away by the beauty of Bali. It was very late at night and I stared wide-eyed through the window of our transport vehicle, through the darkness, through the trees, and into the soul of Bali. I was blown away! My heart was beating so fast … I was actually in Bali! It took a couple of hours to drive to Sacred Mountain Sanctuary and even though it was nighttime, I realized it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. Walking along the path to my villa, I saw the loveliest tropical flowers and plants. I felt like I was in Paradise, that heaven could not possibly be more beautiful than this place. My villa was made nearly entirely of bamboo, including the four-poster bed, the desk, the dresser and the chair. Thus began my love affair with all things bamboo! The commode and sink were outdoors … oh, my God! I had never experienced anything like this. I looked around and saw a shower and a beautiful claw-footed tub in the middle of this magical setting, totally surrounded by the most luscious vegetation one could imagine, providing total privacy. Even though I wanted to stay up and never go to sleep, my tired eyes and weary body demanded that I go to bed. A sheer mosquito cloth surrounded the bed, with an opening for me to crawl in and revel in the wonder of my experience. I dreamt the sweetest dream, the one I had been dreaming since I was a child growing up in Conneaut, Ohio where I spent my summer days swimming in Lake Erie and laying on the beautiful beach, competing with my girlfriends to see who could get the darkest suntan. My recurrent dream throughout my life was that I was living on a tropical island where I could get up in the morning and pick fresh fruit from a tree every morning for breakfast. I gave myself one little pinch as I drifted off to sleep. Yes, indeed, I truly was here on this beautiful island. Dreams do come true!

Hello, dear friends. Welcome to my journey to the Island of My Dreams!

May 14, 2011

Enjoy the beauty of Bali through my eyes

Greetings! Today is May 14, 2011 and I am preparing for my three-month holiday in Bali, starting June 1st and returning to Oakland on August 30th. To say I am excited would be the understatement of the world! I love Bali so much and I am taking this trip in anticipation of moving there on a more permanent basis. I have sooo much to do for this trip. Setting up this blog thing with my beloved Teresa is the first step on my Bali To Do List. I could not have done it without her wisdom and love.

This photo was taken in Tirtaganga, the palace of sacred waters in Bali