Thursday, February 28, 2013

Water Purification Ceremony with High Priestess Ida Resi Alit

19 January, 9 February, 19 February

The first visit was a quest. Several contacts who might lead me there fell through, yet I was determined to find this high priestess who was dedicated to water so I decided to set out with a driver and a friend to find her small village Demulih, which the Balinese tell me means "not welcome"—well, here we come!  

Found at last! Demulih slightly NW of Bangli
When we finally arrived, not only were we welcome, our timing was auspicious, though unplanned. The high priestess was about to begin her mid-day prayers, and graciously invited us to meditate while we waited. Afterward she would do the water purification ceremony for us. We sat where she indicated, slightly behind her, and meditated with eyes open so we could see her Hindu-Buddhist rituals holding a vajra, ringing a bell, flicking water and flowers into the air, chanting for 20-30-40 minutes. We were entranced.
Ida Resi Alit, Balinese High Priestess
 She turned toward us with a radiant smile, motioned us over and explained: we would be completely wet with water and afterward we would change into dry clothes. Of course, we didn't know, so brought none. When my turn came, I stepped up to the high platform she sat on. Her young niece filled many water bowls. She asked me to pray. I put my hands in front of my heart in the customary western way, and bowed my head. 

The water began to pour over me in cascades. I needed to tilt my head down avoid breathing water. Down it came in gushes. 

Next, she told me to wipe my head. I brushed the water through my wet hair many times, felt tension release, yield to water, and raised my hands high above my head, receptive, receiving.

After several minutes she told me to pray. This time I placed my hands near my forehead Balinese style and felt an expansive wholeness words cannot describe. 

Drink, she said, and I cupped my hands right over left and drank the sacred water she offered many times.

The next visit, two young European women who were also drawn to the water ceremony came along with my friend Yolanda from Mexico and I. This time, many Balinese families were there also.

Encouragement to raise the energy up into the heart and lungs

Many people responded strongly, with motion, cries, and laughter releasing as the water cascaded. Ida Resi sometimes gave instructions to help move the energy: stamp your feet, breathe deeply, pull the energy up into your heart.

There we were—Mexican, Belgian, Hungarian, Romanian, American, British and Balinese all reveling in these moist moments, drinking in ineffable healing transmitted in Ida Resi Alit’s own star language, the mother tongue we all shared.

Of all my journeys in Bali, all the ceremonies that raised my spirit and awareness, these water purification ceremonies are the ones that led me here because they affirm the sacredness of water.

Through all our water woes and water wars, this is the reason we struggle and fight—because water IS sacred. Most of us have forgotten, but some still remember and offer water blessings to whoever appears at her door.

After these three ceremonies,
I am moved to make a vow:
To learn more about healing water
to balance all I’ve learned about water ills.
Asmara (my Indonesian name)

From "A Little Book on Ida Resi Alit:" Ida Panditha Mpu Budha Mahaseri Alit Parama Daksa, also known as Ida Resi Alit, was born I Komang Widiantri on March 14, 1986, in a small farming village in the central highlands of Bali. She lived as an ordinary girl for the first twenty years of her life. At the age of 20, due to external events, she fell into a deep depression. Ida Resi Alit’s uncle, a village Mangku, concerned for her well being, introduced her to meditation and yoga to soothe her. As she started practicing, the girl who had no previous spiritual training or deep desire, began to have out of body experiences and download information during her practice. She was instructed to perform a special ceremony, the meaning of which she did not understand. At the ceremony she fell into deep unconsciousness. She stopped breathing and her pulse was gone. Her family wailed, crying and reacting hysterically, scared that she had died. Ida Resi Alit has no memory of this time. At 2am she started to regain consciousness, to be able to blink but not to talk. Then she saw a laser, like a bolt of lightning in the sky, and found herself able to fully return to her body. She slept until the afternoon and when she had awakened spiritually. She was able to recite mantras she had never been taught. High priests were called in to confirm this. Not only were the mantras valid, she knew many more that the priests had not yet learned. Soon after she was ordained by the highest authority, the Hindu Dharma Council, and she became Bali’s youngest and only female High Priestess.

Another article about her:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Devotion to Beauty

In Bali, the devotion to making things beautiful moves me deeply—all offered in gratitude to the gods for the good in life and to the demons to appease help them. Daily offerings of flowers in small palm leaf baskets are placed at each home, shop, school, banyan tree, rice field and every possible sacred place.

C(h)anang, the daily offerings

Vegetable field shrine

Daily offering on weavers loom

Benang, the stunning ceremonial offerings, and the offerings for the many special days honoring and being grateful for fire, metal, cooking utensils and other everyday objects.

Offering on a car to honor the spirit of metal and the fire that forges it.

To be in a culture where gratitude is a consistent part of everyday life, for both the very poor and the very rich, is a very positive kind of culture shock. It makes me imagine what life would be like in my country, my city, and every town if we did the same thing.

Goa Raja at Besakih, the Mother Temple 

We are so busy wanting more, we rarely take the time to be grateful for what we have, who we are, those we love. Bali reminds me that the time is now, three times a day, morning, noon and night, literally.

Maybe that’s why I love it here . . .

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Week in the Rice Fields

12 February 2013
Tebola/Sideman (Si-de-man)

Fertile valley in east Bali

The view is stupendous, as you can see. Across the fertile valley, the priest’s amplified voice chants every day at noon and six at night; at 6 in the morning, people pray at home on their own.

The 4 p.m. rains begin on time each day

I sit on the terrace overlooking the view,  painting, writing, editing video and assimilating the rich experiences of the last six weeks.

My view as I write this -- ahh!

The time has passed quickly. Partly I want to stay longer, mostly feel saturated and content.

The complex, colorful, ceremonies fascinate me as they proceed slowly over hours. I've been to more than ten different ones so far. As a witness, I am watchful, alert, fascinated. When I put down my camera and participate, I chat, eat food offered to me, grow weary with everyone else until it is finally time to receive the sacred water from the priest and pray.

At first I wondered why everything took so long—then over the weeks I realize somewhere a priest is chanting mantras or people from a distant village are slowly arriving for their part, or offerings are being blessed with holy water and placed correctly at the temple, or a priest is delayed and we wait for his arrival. They call it Bali time, rubber time. Arrive at 5 p.m. and wait until 8, arrive at 9, wait till midnight.  I slow down to the heat and beat.

Goa Raja cave temple ceremony for the New Moon

Bali's most sacred mountain, the volcano Gunung Agung on a clear morning.
Often it is invisible behind dense clouds

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Village Life

After four days of incredible ceremonies at the royal temple around the full moon, I spent today at home all day, uploading the video to my computer and beginning the daunting task of organizing and editing. 
Some sneak previews – more soon . . . 

Puri Saraswati entrance

Saraswati in ceremony regalia
Penjor made from bamboo shaped like the sacred mountains

 Recording video is its own discipline, with alert attention and awkward body stances to get the best shot. It is often fatiguing, but always a powerful, meditative in-the-moment experience. I am exhilarated and exhausted afterwards. And after four days of ceremonies– I am in a state of quietly euphoric altered consciousness. I treat myself to an acupressure massage, and take it slow.

Some images of my home in Pengosekan, the street where I live, the main road one block over, and the village gathering space where people make offerings together on some days, have quiet prayers on others. 

View from my terrace

The street where I live at Danu's Guest House
Danu and his grandson Eka on our outing to Puri Ulan Danu
Ketut, Danu's gracious wife
Their daughters Iluh and Luhde
Their son Komang    

Today- lo and behold—the local Green Earth anti-pollution activist showed up with composting equipment for the villagers. His name is Wayan and he worked with an American woman for three years in trash removal. She taught him about global climate change, about the toxic effects of burning plastic in the garbage—a common practice here—and about composting. Not polluting the streams and rivers with plastic rubbish is part of the training. 

Wayan changes village life

Now he is out on his own educating villagers and providing composting bins. He and his friends made a colorful booklet explaining it all. The villages pay for the composters and he delivers them and trains people about using them. I was very impressed and glad to hear about this.  Very heartening.

Composters become toys!

Taking them home

I am happy, healthy and holy -- enjoying most moments-- bliss plus reality. Bliss = all the ceremonies, the arts and culture, the people. Reality = all the traffic with cars and many motorbikes with no pollution control so the air in the traffic is very bad.

I study Indonesian 3 days a week and it teaches us about the culture -- the language is mainly in the present tense. Life is like that here. The heat slows us down too – pelan-pelan- slowly, slowly. I learn patience here in many ways. (For example, it has taken two days of the internet working/not working/working to post this blog!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Visit to a Balinese Healer, the Balian

(No pix from this event-- didn't feel appropriate- didn't even bring my camera. 
Pix provided to delight with other Bali views)

         I ride on the back of Danu's motorbike sidesaddle since I am in the ceremonial sarong, long, tight, down to the ankles. The crescent moon is hazy in the humid air. Bright stars glisten between the clouds. The wind is warm, perfect temperature. We join the others waiting, sitting on the beautiful stone platform with pillars wrapped in bright fabric, golden carvings on the doors and windows, a faint recorded mantra repeating om namo shiva as the daughter of the priest, a young woman wearing all white, gives water blessings to a few people one at a time.
            When the healer, his daughter and son-in-law come out of the temple area, they are casual, smiling, maybe joking. Everything is Bali rituals is formal with casualness surrounding it it. They take their seats on the raised platform of the building with the ornate gold carved doors and call family groups up one by one.
            The healer makes different motions and sounds for each person seeking healing. Sometimes quick bursts of breath, sometimes, guttural sounds, always his hand slowly circling toward the person, fingers moving in varied patterns, his eyes closed, his hand sensing. His daughter assists with different hand motions, burning incense. His son is in prayer pose or making varied mudras with his hands. They each channel some part of the energy.
            A pattern emerges. The men and boys who get healing sit quietly, cross-legged, hands on knees, then talk with him quietly, receive water purification blessings and something written on a piece of paper, perhaps a mantra, some kind of prescription.
            The women who get healings move a great deal. The first holds her arms out, shakes them, and makes crying sounds, possessed, in trance, resisting the holy water by turning her head away. The second has her hand held by the healer as he pulls hard on certain fingers. She recoils away from it, crying out in pain. He keeps pulling. Her son moves behind her, supporting her back and pushing her towards the healer so she cannot back away. At the end of each healing, the women talk quietly and are calm, even smiling.

            Next, it is our turn. I go up with Danu and Ketut’s family, their 16-year-old son, Danu’s mother and their oldest daughter, in her early 20s. Their son hurt his leg a couple of weeks ago, needed stitches, couldn’t play badminton or go to school for a few days. He has come to the healer a few times during the healing process, as well as a doctor and masseuse. The healer tells him to sit up straight in meditation position – the family laughs—seems a typical request for a teenager- stop slouching! The healer waves his hand around him and quickly smiles and is clearly saying positive, encouraging things to him. I can see it is about the strength the boy has, his power, about letting his power rise up in him. It all seems very encouraging, even without understanding a word of the Balinese spoken, just reading the expressions and body language.
            Meanwhile, his older sister is sitting next to him and is slowly leaning over towards the floor. She begins to cry, at first a soft weeping, then a louder cry. The healer turns his attention toward her but he addresses all his remarks to the son. Her cries get louder. She sits up and extends one arm, hitting her brother with the broad side of her arm, not hard but heartfelt, crying out to him with anger or frustration.
            I begin to make a story – she is jealous of the attention given him, the lavish praise. She cries to turn some of the attention to her. As a female, she will never get the respect that he gets and this is how it manifests. I feel great pain at seeing these women showing such emotion and anguish while the males are stoic, silent and praised. (When Danu explains what is really happening, it is easy to see that this story is my own projection. Read on . . .)
            The healer puts his hand on her hand. His other hand stretches across to the back of his daughter who is fervently listening to some inner voice and telling him what she sees and senses. He repeats it back to the older daughter, the conduit between the two. Slowly the daughter grows calmer, lays her head on her brother’s knee. He is awkward, puts his hand on her back, then takes it away and leans back on both hands.
            When she calms down, the healer talks to the family. The grandmother asks questions, the mother comments. The healer makes eye contact with the son and begins to compliment him again, makes eye contact with the father and talks, avoids eye contact with the daughter until it is time for her to receive her water blessing.
            Once the blessing is done, she smiles, makes some lighthearted remark, laughs. The family makes some joke and laugh in good humor as we go down the steps from the platform.
            I feel interested in the channeling the healer does with his family assisting, feel the energy of it. But I feel disturbed by the women’s anguish, so strong and disquieting. I read into it the cultural burden of women being seen as lesser than men. Less recognition, less respect, more need to weep and wail. It is painful to witness. Yet on a daily basis, the women are sweet and gentle, exceedingly warm. There is much this outsider doesn’t understand.

            When Danu explains it to me the next day, I have interpreted the healer’s message for his son very well. But his older daughter’s story is one I couldn’t guess, except the first part of it. Her mother-in-law doesn’t want her to be a teacher, but to stay home with her five-year-old son instead. The daughter wants to continue teaching as she has for a few years. Apparently the mother-in-law has used magic on her, giving her bad headaches and lower life energy. She is seeing the healer to help overcome the bad magic. Danu has asked his grandmother ancestor to tell him how to help his daughter, but she does not answer him because he did not pray to her and respect her enough. But his son has made prayers to her spirit every day in their family temple before he goes to school. The family feels she has reincarnated in him, so she is willing to talk to him about solving it. When the daughter hit her brother, it was her exhorting him to pray to great-grandma so she can have peace.
            There is no way I could have guessed this scenario. Yet, because I do believe in spirits and invisible energies, I find it all plausible. Yes, a mother-in-law can send bad energy and thoughts to a daughter-in-law, want her to do things her way. Yes, that can effect the young woman’s health. Yes, the brother can be spiritual and open to receiving guidance from wise ancestors. It is very complex, and perhaps far fetched to some, but it makes sense to some of us.
            On Monday, I will come again with Danu and his son and daughter for meditation and to receive a healing. The healer’s son-in-law speaks English, lived in Australia for years, so I will speak through him. Not sure what I will ask for or explain - perhaps about wanting to open to more patience and trust, since those have been my inner themes for my meditation. Perhaps about wanting to open to the healer within me more. Certainly about releasing tension stored in my body. I’ll talk to Danu about it.
            So I have had my first experience of a Balinese balian healer. It is intriguing to be sure. But the issues raised about women are difficult. Tomorrow, I plan to go to see a woman high priestess in Bangli, an interesting contrast indeed.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saraswati Ceremony

Saturday, Jan. 12

I go out at 8 a.m. see the ceremony this morning for Saraswati, the goddess of art, music and education. It’s at the local elementary school here in Pengosegan. Every school in Bali has a stature of this patron deity of schools and learning.


Books are blessed
The kids are lovely in their ceremonial attire. They do several dances from youngest group to oldest, then they all pray together. Very touching and sweet. I’ll let the photos tell it all.

Youngest boys do a warrior dance

Oldest girls make offerings during a dance
Restless, waiting for next event

Waiting their turn to dance

Not sure what they see, but they are definitely dubious!

 Water blessings after the prayers

Gathering emptied offering baskets

"Boys just want to have fun."

Striking the set