The cool compound is a welcome space – away from the heat and the noise of the street. Nearby chickens wander past, followed by a cat on the prowl. I can hear children giggling from far away, and all I can smell is a beautiful jasmine and frangipani combination. This will always be the smell of Ubud to me.
I am just outside the town centre of Ubud, about 15 mins drive to the west. I have come to see a healer.
I can hear a woman crying out in pain, and then very quiet but stern muttering in Bahasa Indonesian. Gede, my friend and driver, tells me Cokorda is with someone at them moment. As we round a corner I can see a beautiful local girl laying on a straw mat on the ground. An ancient man, whom I can only assume is Cokorda Rai, is kneeling next to her, eyes closed, waving a stick over her while rubbing her sternum. Gede explains she has a problem with her heart, and she comes to see Cokorda every week for healing. Cokorda takes the stick and presses on her toes. She lays calmly for most points, but when he presses her middle toe she cries out. Cokorda nods and leans down to murmur something in her ear. I feel like I’m invading her space, but Gede assures me that this is a very normal consultation. There are some healers that see people in private, he says, but this causes problems. He doesn’t elaborate on what those problems might be, so I don’t ask.
It’s my turn. I’m very nervous. Outwardly there is nothing wrong with me, I’m relatively fit, I eat well, I’m physically quite healthy. Cokorda smiles at me, and I feel my heart swell with anxiety and worry. I breath in and remind myself that nothing will hurt me. He won’t hurt me with all these people around. I step up and kneel in front of him, and he smiles kindly at me.
“What can I do for you?”
In all of my planning and emails to Gede I have not thought about WHY I wanted to see this man. I didn’t realise I needed a physical reason, and since I don’t have one I am suddenly very shy. I give him a slight smile, and say “I’m not sure. Maybe you can tell me?”
He laughs, and says something to Gede in Indonesian. They both laugh, and Gede winks at me. I’m not sure what has just happened but it must be good. I think the old devil likes me
I turn an kneel with my back him, he pulls my shoulders back and rests them heavily against his knees. His hands are soft, the skin like tissue paper while he runs his fingers over my scalps, down my cheeks, over my forehead, my eyes – “Eyes not ok, migraine? Glasses?” – then he presses behind my right ear, hard. I squirm. “Yes, migraine, sometimes. I wear glasses all the time”
“Yes, and maybe hormones not ok.”
I look to Gede for a translation, and he just shrugs. My left ear is now being squeezed, but this side with minimal pain.
Cokorda asks me to lay down on the mat, and he repeats the same poking in my toes with his stick.
“Heart ok, kidney ok, liver ok, blood ok, mind -” OUCH. FKN OUCH. Seriously, dude. Back off with your stick. I tear up, the pain is so intense, but it’s not coming from my toes. It’s coming from my head. Not my head, my MIND. He’s tapped into the pressue point in my toe that reflects my pain in my mind.
“Mind not ok ha ha ha ha” Cokorda laughs. Gede smiles. Everything in Bali is done with a smile. I am laying there with tears in my eyes, and this man is smiling at my pain. He leans in close and whispers to me that I need to learn to quiet my mind and once I learn this my heart will fill with joy. He also tells me that the sickness that surrounds me that causes me to worry is no longer something I need to give so much energy to.
“You worry too much. You need to let go and forget the people who don’t appreciate. She will be ok. Nothing to worry about. You have lymphatic blockage, partly from worry. You visit hospital, take one tablet per day. You hip also cause you pain, can fix with yoga.”
This is better advice than I could have possibly hoped for. I have put a lot of my travels on hold because my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two years ago. This has been the hardest two years for my family, but particularly for my mother and me. I have been her carer, sitting by and watching her suffer through chemotherapy, and knowing there was nothing I could do to take it away. There is nothing that compares to watching someone you love go through the cancer journey. Worry doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Gede gives my offering to the ladies waiting around, and ushers me from the complex. I am in awe, trying to process how someone who just met me could know me so intimately.