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December 21, 2013

A Glimpse into Traditional Balinese Healing. ~ Alia Indrawan

All it takes is one visit to Bali, also known as “the island of the gods” to feel the powerful energy so abundant there.

Many people are drawn to the healing forces of the island, coming from all over the world to seek out Balinese healers and spiritual teachers.

As a healing practitioner, I am fascinated by Bali’s healing traditions—also known as Bali Usadha. I lived on the island for many years, am married to a Balinese spiritual healer and haven’t even scratched the surface of this vast topic.

Little by little, I am exploring the methods used by Balinese healers, some familiar and some far from anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s definitely inviting me to expand my own ingrained beliefs!

It’s not always easy to find traditional healers. Many are tucked away in their villages, available only to the local community. Some accept visits by foreigners but may not openly share some of the more mystical components of their practices. I have learned to use my intuition in the process of choosing a healer.

My first visit to a “Balian” (traditional Balinese healer) was shortly after arriving on the island. A friend of mine said I must go see this man. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

When I arrived, he seemed to know what I was there for, even before I said a word. During my treatment, I watched as he gathered flowers, shaved sandalwood and put the mixture in his mouth to chew on for a bit.

He told me to close my eyes and before I realized what was taking place, he had spit the concoction onto my temples and forehead. Although a bit surprised, I must say that I didn’t mind at all. There was something nurturing about this man that gave me a sense of peace. I left feeling clearer and less disturbed by constant mind chatter. I’ve visited him several times, each time experiencing something a bit different.

I recall another experience with a healer who uses a more Western approach by diagnosing disease in combination with his own practices. When he said his motto was “no pain, no gain,” I knew I was in trouble.  It felt more like a torture session than a healing treatment.

Two hours later, I left with grapefruit-sized bruises all over my body, some taking more than two weeks to heal. I was told that these were toxins leaving and that this was a good thing. Perhaps, but I don’t think I would go that route again! Maybe a seven-day cleanse is more my cup of tea.

My absolute favorite healer uses divine energy to heal. He doesn’t see the need to diagnose or focus on problems, although he is aware of where they may be. He simply connects with divine love and allows the healing energy to flow where it needs to, trusting that it is removing blocks and bringing the body, mind and soul back into beautiful harmony. And that is exactly what happens. He then offers suggestions for keeping things flowing, including herbal medicine, natural foods, meditation practices and mantras.

For the Balinese, seeking out Balians is not openly talked about. Many healers prefer not to use the term “healer” or “Balian.” They prefer to simply be known as someone who helps people who are not well.

This is probably because there are some who use their supernatural connections for harm rather than good—what we may call black magic. I have seen several cases of this and witnessed the removal of the “spells” as well. It’s quite an ordeal; I’ll leave it at that!

Traditional Balinese healing has a deep spiritual foundation. Karma has a lot to do with it. Rarely is illness looked at from a purely physical viewpoint. There is an underlying component linked to the unseen world.

For the Balinese, the unseen world is as real and alive as the seen. So, of course healing will incorporate the spirit world. Mantras, chants, offerings to the gods, ceremonies and rituals of all sorts are often used. It can feel very magical at times. I have personally seen things happen that cannot be logically explained.

My journey into Bali Usadha has only touched the outer layers. I hope to learn much more about this ancient wisdom. In no way do I pretend to understand it. What I share is only what comes through my personal filters. It is something to be respected and viewed with an open mind and heart.

This sacred island is now experiencing the less-than-desirable effects of tourism. It is important for all of us to remember to tread lightly here. The roots of Balinese culture deserve to be respected and preserved. I can only hope that I will be able to do my part. It is an honor to be welcomed here.

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Editor: Michelle Margaret

Image: Cadencia Photography

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Alia Indrawan