Saturday we had our first exam and then most of the day off. Four of us decided to head into town together to enjoy our free day. Taylor, the youngest of my classmates, is an artist from the states but just finishing university in Australia, Jelena, a Croatian yoga instructor/radio broadcaster who is here to complete her 500 hour certification and Sandra my mentor and one of the three yogis/gurus/teachers.
We decided to start by visiting a healer to see if we could get appointments with her later in our stay. Our plan was to swing by her place, then go to the monkey forest and the market and maybe to the town where the silversmiths live. It was a nice plan, only never made it past the healer, in fact six hours later we had managed to miss our class, which was bad for us students, but particularly rough for Sandra who had been scheduled to lead the class.
Bali is home to more than its fair share of healers, herbalists and pseudo witch doctors. Some focus on energy healing, others on massage, some are blunt and to the point and some make more of a full on experience out of it. Wayan is of the full on experience variety. You may have heard of her because she is mentioned in a best-selling novel, which featured Bali and Ubud. She generally is hard to get in to see because of this book and her notoriety resulting form it.
So we go in to make our appointments and somehow, miraculously, we are told she can see all four of us now. Thankfully Mary, my yoga school roommate and all around Bali guide, had given us a few tips on what to expect so we knew going in that this would be no spa-type experience and that Wayan would flit about between us all while we were being rubbed, scrubbed, and generally purified.
Wayan came to our table (her establishment is half healing center, half restaurant) introduced herself and stared performing a blessing ceremony for each of us. Then she took about 15 minutes to read everyone individually.
Sandra was first. Wayan scaned her body, felt pressure points, checked her ears, her eyes and then finished up with a palm reading. “You want to know how many husbands you will have?” Wayan asked Sandra who is currently married to our other instructor Marco. “No” replied Sandra “I am already married, best to leave it at that.” And then Sandra was whisked off upstairs and out of sight.
Then Taylor went and Wayan told her that she would continue a pattern of settling someplace for a while and then up and moving and then settling again and moving again… “That is so me!” Taylor replied, and I was thinking, actually that is so me! And off Taylor went.
Jelena’s turn was next and Wayan told her that something she had been told by her western doctors was a problem for her, wasn’t in fact and that she was very healthy. And off Jelena went.
And so then Wayan came to me and I was scared. She’d been pretty good at identifying problem areas up to this point and I had a bit of a health scare before I embarked on this trip, which I had conveniently put out of my mind until it was my turn. But first thing’s first. She read my palm, “you will have long life, if you want to you will have one child, you used to be really smart, but now you are not as smart as you used to be. “ Ouch! Then she assured me “You still smart, just not as smart. You are married already, but now not, you had a sad time when you were younger, but you better now ” and so on.
When she asked me what my chief complaint was I told her I had water in my ear. In fact I have had water in my ear for a week now and it is killing me whenever I turn my head, which the Ashtanga Primary Series calls for quite a lot. Oh and by the way I have some swollen lymph nodes – no big deal.
And off I went to the mysterious second floor. And oh what interesting, confounding, and at times terrifying treasures the second floor holds. Wayan employs around eight people, most of whom are also named Wayan it seems. These people make the food, apply tinctures, massage, bathe and generally tend to you while you are there. Wayan stands in the middle of the room conducting their actions and periodically she comes to administer the more advanced treatments herself.
Sandra had made the mistake of mentioning that she suffers from allergies. She was therefore subjected to something far worse than public neti. Taylor complained of hip pain and so she was rubbed with scalding hot water bottles. Jelena had mentioned her digestive system and was thus subjected to a litany of putrid smelling teas and tinctures.
And then there was me. Treatment for water in the ear… steaming rice wrapped into a cone of seaweed, much like a sushi hand roll, placed tip end into the ear and then blown into, which sends hot air into your ear causing the water to evaporate or so I was told. The result of this ‘treatment’ was the craziest pain I have ever felt. It was like having a hot poker go shooting into my brain. It was all I could do to not start throwing punches. But then she stopped blowing and sure enough the water was gone.
Then came the really scary part. Before I left for this trip I had a lymph node swell, which apparently can be a symptom of lymphoma. I had the full gamut of tests run and was given a clean bill of health. But upon arriving here I had another one swell on me, nothing I am really worried about, in fact I am choosing to believe that this is a good sign that my lymphatic system is doing its job very well and just wants a little recognition. So I mention this to Wayan, which was a monumental mistake as I would soon learn.
Wayan’s bag of tricks/medicine kit seems to begin and end primarily with really hot items – Sushi hand roll blow torches for instance. Treatment for lymph nodes – limes heated to hot coal temperature on an open flame and then rolled, kneaded really, into the affected area for about 30 minutes. If that does not produce the desired affect, then she pulls out the big guns. In my case this involved her chewing up various herbs and plants and then spitting them onto my groin – not kidding here folks!
Mixed in with the medicinal treatments are various body scrubs and massage, which are quite nice and on more than one occasion I tried to count how many hands were touching me at once, for a while there were eight, two massaging, one applying a sugar scrub and one giving me a facial.
After about a half hour of letting the tumeric, herb, spittle soak in, Wayan came over to me and whispered that she could not fix what was wrong with me on her own and that she was going to take me to her teacher. She said “don’t worry, this is my responsibility now. I will take you to him myself.” My eyes welled up, kinder words may have never been spoken. In that moment I forgave her for the sushi roll blow torch and felt like everything really will be okay.
After our treatments were completed, we all went back down to the restaurant for our late lunch and to receive of kits filled with dozens of teas, plants, tinctures, snake oils and instructions on how and when to take them each. The whole process took about six hours and was worth every bit of the time and the ridiculously small cost for the kind of experience you get. Sandra kindly taught the three of us a private class on restorative yoga later that night to make up for the class we had missed although we all agreed that we’d had our fill of restoration for the day.
Today a full week after my experience with Wayan I went to see another healer. This gentleman has been written up in no books that I am aware of and he felt like the real deal. Not to say that Wayan is anything less, but her approach is very different. There is no lunch, massage or salt scrub involved with the man I saw today and he is a one-man show. He is an older man with a beautifully weathered face, his hands are ridiculously soft for anyone over the age of two and smell of a heavenly mix of clove and sandalwood.
He begins his exam by having you sit on the ground in front of him and then he sticks his fingers in your ears, it gets a bit weird after that, but he emits such an air of confidence that you just go with it. After he completes the initial physical exam he produces this wand-like stick and moves down to your feet. He uses the stick to touch reflexology points between your toes and when he finds what he is looking for – whoa Nelly!!!
My two points of contention, the spot on my toe which shows tension and my lymph point. As soon as he hits the lymph spot I writhe in pain and he goes immediately to the two places I have had issues. He hits them exactly and again with the pain. He looks at me and says “no problem, I make you medicine.” And a few minutes later I am again being spat upon, this time in front of two of my classmates who are staring mouths agape as this takes place.
A half hour later the spit-turmeric-hair of a motherless goat, concoction is deemed fit for removal and again with the stick between the toes, only this time… no pain. A few hours later and the offending nodes have been reduced down to no bigger than a lentil and I have been assure that this is not some evil disease ravaging my body, but rather that I process stress and strife in my lymphatic system and that I should maybe get more massages. That is a prescription I will happily have filled.
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