My new villa is quiet and relaxing. In fact. it is so relaxing that I spend a vast amount of time here in a catatonic trance, gazing at the pool in between tweeting and blogging, reading, or just thinking. I can’t even be bothered answering the phone because the combination of my abysmal hearing and the appalling cell reception here means I can’t understand anything anyway. Even my stated life purpose – to achieve a state of maximum Bali-style entropy through terminal sloth and joyful gluttony – is not working. Oh, I have the sloth part nailed, but the gluttony requires actually leaving the villa, and that’s just too hard.
Once every eight months or so, I get an urge to improve my lot in life. And so it was that a month ago, the realisation dawned that I needed to take some positive action to make my life more dynamic. As I don’t believe in rushing things, my philosophy is that following such epiphanies, at least another month of pool-staring is required before actually doing something. Naturally, I spent the next month working out how I might achieve this with the minimum of effort.
Now, I know all the wonderful New Age theories. Most of them boil down to taking responsibility for one’s actions. You know the mantra: “Ah, grasshopper, if you want things to change, first you must change yourself”. The trouble is, this takes too much effort – it is always far easier to blame someone or something else for one’s tribulations. After nearly a year in Bali, I figured that everyone else does that here, so why not me? Clearly, I needed to look for external solutions rather than take responsibility for changing myself. The answer was blindingly obvious – my lack of drive had nothing to do with me at all. It must therefore be my villa, home to several spirits which, while not quite evil, weren’t all that positive either.
It didn’t take long to find a local Balinese shaman – a healer – who would perform a cleansing ceremony on my home. But the question was – do these rituals really work? Fortunately, I have a character flaw which dictates that before I try anything new or strange, I get someone else to try it out for me. This has served me well since my earliest days, when I would get my cousin to try out my cardboard wing designs for flights from the top of the garage roof before risking my own neck. Sorry Gabe – I never did apologise for that. So I talked a friend into having her villa purified first and because it seemed to work, I booked one for myself.
The shaman, Wayan, and his assistant Putu duly arrived and began the ceremony, the first hour of which consisted of meditating at various key points in the villa. The problem spots were quickly identified and the cleansing process commenced with us sitting on the floor upstairs while Wayan muttered incantations and prayers. I had intended to be an open-minded, albeit passive observer to this, but quickly became engrossed in the ritual. An hour passed as it it was five minutes, then Wayan turned to me and said: “The villa is fine – the problem is with you“. Oh no, I had been sprung!
For the next half-hour there followed a laying-on-of-hands ritual while bad influences were removed from my body, accompanied by startlingly loud invocations and choking sounds from Wayan. As the ceremony built to a climax, Wayan placed his clawed fingers on my back, grasping something that only he could sense and emitting blood-curdling moans. Suddenly, I felt an electrical jolt through my body, there was a enormous bang and all the lights went out. I jumped a metre into the air – not an easy feat for an mature-aged gent in a lotus position.
I staggered downstairs to find my terrified pembantu staring with eyes like dinner plates at the remains of an exploded light fitting, still raining smoking bits of red-hot metal and glass on the table at which she had been sitting. I looked at Wayan, who seemed inordinately pleased. “Good”, he said laconically. “Energy release!” As you can imagine, my natural scepticism had taken quite a battering by then, so I wasn’t inclined to argue. Whatever had happened, it was certainly impressive.
In the cold light of morning, I was ready to rationalise the events of the previous night away. Except that my perceptions had subtly changed. I noticed that my villa wall, which I always thought was a charcoal colour, actually had chocolate overtones that I had never seen before. Other colours were different as well. But the thing that was most noticeable was that the stiff, painful neck that had troubled me for the last four months was gone.
There are levels of alternate reality that keep unfolding for me in Bali. Just as I start becoming jaded from dealing with endless bureaucratic and infrastructure problems, something happens here at the spiritual level that makes me re-think what is important here. It reminds me of why I came to Bali in the first place. Thank you Wayan; thank you Putu.