The Simple Things in Life.
I woke up ealier today than I have all week. 6:30 to be exact.
I wanted to meet my first Balian, a local healer here in Bali.
I had no idea what to expect but the experience was a simple one. One that tells me a lot about myself, the Western mind and its preoccupation with the existential.
First thing I did was head to the local market. It’s different in the morning.
Mornings are for locals, for food, for offerings. The import goods sold in tourist stands haven’t been set up yet. This space isn’t about making profits, it’s about feeding the people and the gods.
Whenever you visit somewhere or someone special in Bali it is suggested you bring an offering, a plant woven tray filled with flowers.
They’re meant to please the senses, to remind us of life’s beauty and they’re arranged with a diversity of color, signaling the many gods and the directions of the world.
The woman I normally go to for offering in the afternoon looked excited to see me that early. I think I stepped into a new category in her mind.
She made up the offerings I asked for and then I walked them the four miles to the Balian’s house.
Visiting the Balian.
The Balian was working with a family when I got there so I waited in the courtyard.
When the other’s left I went in and introduced myself.
First thing the Balian says is “your face is healthy and your eyes are happy. Why are you here?”
I wasn’t sure myself. Something inside said to go so I did.
I suppose I’ve always had the dream to learn long-forgotten lore, some secret of the cosmos.
It only took a few seconds before I realized that was unlikely to happen here given the language barrier. So I asked, “do you heal body? Energy?”
He said “whole body, everything inside.”
I pointed at my shoulder and said it hurts and he said “your back too,” which was true.
“How much money?”
“Depends on you. You rich, give me a lot. Don’t have money, no need to pay.”
I liked that policy, not only because it showed where his heart is but it’s rare to be treated like a local here rather than an income source.
I understand why locals try to get as much out of you as possible and I think it’s the right thing for them to do for their families but it’s nice to step out of that dynamic.
I handed him some money and he told me to lie down and began to poke one of my toes.
It hurt a f&*# ton. He said “the only thing to fix is your back and shoulders. You sit too much, *mimed typing* get up every hour or two and walk around.”
Then he wrote some sigils or letters on my body with his hand and followed what I imagine are supposed to be meridians. That part was a bit awkward as he didn’t seem to care what was a. . . “private” area. It wasn’t creepy just wasn’t cautiously approached like it would be in the states with a warning before coming within two feet of my crotch.
He pinched my toe again and there was no pain.
He said to get up and pointed at my genitals, then my stomach, my chest, and forehead and said “healthy, healthy, just one problem with back but face is healthy and eyes are happy.”
And that was that. The whole visit lasted no more than five minutes.
Simplicity versus existential crisis.
I’ve noticed when talking to locals about their spiritual beliefs that their focus is on the practical: good health, wealth, partners, children.
Even when talking about magic or esoterics, the purpose of trance, tomes, work with herbs, spells, mantras, and spirits is all concerned with the matters of health, wealth, love, and procreation.
My friends who have studied in the Amazon say the shaman and locals who go to them have similar concerns.
Westerners, of course, are interested in these pieces as well but there is also a concern for existential meaning and “knowing” or gnosis of the spiritual realm.
Here in Bali, there isn’t as much of a drive for existential searching. The local tradition already explains how the world works, the meaning of life, and the mysteries of the human mind and soul.
What people are more concerned with is how to live that prescribed meaning in the best way possible, hence the health, wealth, babies, and eventually for some the path of Moksha.
Healthy face. Happy Eyes.
In the West, it seems we have the opposite experience. Here food is more easily accessible, as are many comforts the Balinese don’t bother dreaming of.
What we lack is the existential meaning. Our drive to free ourselves from tradition and its prescriptions of “shoulds,” has left us with an existential crisis.
While some find this meaning in traditional religions the difficulty of holding to it in face of the changing culture has led to a mass migration from the Churches.
Others fill this void with materialistic indulgences. Some search for it in New Age texts and YouTube videos, some go to Bali or the Amazon to see what they can find there.
The difficulty is that the ancient traditions are built around a simple life with simple priorities.
As long as these are the main concerns of life the ancients have answers for us.
When we seek for something beyond these things we may be greeted with “your face is health, your eyes are happy. Why are you here?”
The simple answer.
I realized the question “why are you here” was worth the three hours of walking, the offerings, the money.
The basics of life right now are covered. Or least the ones I choose to engage in. No plans to have kids.
I’m so used to searching though it’s hard to realize when everything is just fine.
I found I appreciated the act of simply going. The walk was a meditative pilgrimage and clarified some thoughts.
Getting a clean bill of physical and spiritual health actually made me feel even better.
I was laughing to myself on the way home. “You’re good, you’re healthy, you’re happy.”
After spending most of my life in a depression struggling with mental health it was good to know someone else could look at me and see happy eyes.
It felt good to partook in a sequence of a story that people have been living out for centuries.
I was the seeker with my gift at an oracle and apparently, I heard exactly what I needed to.
What about you?
What would you say is a Balian asked, “why are you here?”
Love and share.
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