Return To Basecamp

OK, OK i know that i said it was my final blog.

I announced the end of the Chronicles of Clara when i returned from Bali. But guess what? I’m missing my blog A LOT, and add that to the fact that i’m also missing Bali MORE THAN A LOT, i decided to get blogging again. So lets hope that you lot are up for sticking with me on my stories of a quest for peace in my everyday life back here in Glastonbury, UK.

I’d like to share with you how things have been going since i landed back in the UK. At Kuala Lumpa airport i posted a final pic of myself on facebook looking utterly glowing with my shoulders back and Bali love bubble on max setting, and a friend confessed to me that whilst thinking “oh fab doesn’t she look well” they also had that kind of down turned mouth feeling of “omg hope she lands OK and its not too much of a crash back down to earth”. Yep that’s right, unsuspecting 47 year old woman leaves paradise and comes back down to earth with a bump! I have to celebrate the wonderful drama of it really, four days of blissful glory and reuniting hugs, two days of sore-throat, sickness, sobbing and melt down, three days of leveling up under the duvet and eating too many carbs! Whilst i am determined and excited to translate my Bali treasures into my everyday life, i have officially given myself the whole week to be totally crap and do everything i said i wasn’t going to. Think under the duvet with a packet of biscuits yoga asana. It doesn’t go unnoticed by me that when i hit physical and emotional discomfort i retreat to fetal position and eat comfort food, this behaviour seems my faithful friend no matter how much meditation or yoga i do.

I don’t know about you but when i arrive back home after any journey, the first thing i want to do is clean! Really! I just get this urge to scrub the shower within an inch of its life and maybe re-organise the towels and sheets cupboard. I’ve grown to accept this slightly OCD behaviour and recognise it as a re-bonding ritual with my base camp. Anyway upon arrival i managed to body swerve jet lag, by staying awake all day until proper UK sleeping time. This was a success strategy all except the fact that i was delirious for two days, and kept waking up in the night thinking – Where am i? Which Balinese home stay is this? Why is there no ceiling to my bedroom? What are those monkeys doing in here? It was a combination of bliss and delirium. However it’s a really magic window this re-entering your own life after a substantial period away, as it’s an opportunity to see things from the outside like an observer looking in, and get an instant perspective reset on so many things. Its all about perspective, the eyes from which you see, and my eyes are feeling like they just got an upgrade.

I love my bath tub and missed it whilst away, its my favourite place to cry uncontrollably, i know it sounds a bit sad, but actually sobbing in the bath is really good therapy and i highly recommend it. Luckily my bathtub is there to catch me as i fall and support me whilst i immerse in the water element on every level of my being. On the subject of water, i was out in town in a welcome home sideways wind and rain assault, and whilst standing on the side of a small lane to let a car pass, no word of a lie, the car drove straight through a puddle at speed and just like in the sketch i was soaked from head to toe, with water actually splashing in my face. At that point i chose to laugh rather than cry. I know i have zero grounds to complain having just received one whole month of warmth and balmy sunshine, i understand its a complete assault to you and what you’ve just been through, bearing up the bloody winter, but thank you for hearing my silent moaning sob about the shocking change in weather conditions.

You see prior to taking a month out of my life and going to Bali, i was at rock bottom. I just couldn’t do it any more. Any of it. I was burnt out at work and needed a big change to happen, my kids are growing up and don’t need me in the same way any more, and i’d excavated a feeling of deepest grief and loss from god knows where and was really trying not to just push it back down to its familiar suppressed position. I was a woman on the brink for quite a long time and coming back from a month away in Bali, and looking in on my life i’m just aware how long i soldiered on in this state of despair, unable to admit to myself just how burnt out i was. I’m proud that i did eventually get there, admitting to myself the nature of my own true authentic needs. This process of recognising my own broken-ness is infact the heroine’s journey. It starts with admitting to myself, and then to others the TRUE nature of my inner despair. Then finding the courage to actually respond and make changes in my life, this involves taking risks, and in that way reclaiming what i truly want, need, deserve, and require to rebuild and start living the life i came to live again. This is a wonderful map of the stages as documented by Victoria Schmidt, with drawing by Katie Paul – see the articles here
Heroine Journey Arc by Victoria Schmidt, drawing by Katie Paul

This is a common human experience, to wander off the path, to over-give, over-extend, perform life’s duties and run into exhaustion, and i suspect it might be a pattern sewn into the cloth of woman, but not exclusively so. Gender aside its definitely about the feminine nature, the flowing, feeling, dreaming, intuitive self finding this modern world a bit bloody inhospitable. I happen to believe that this state of affairs is at endemic proportions in our society with stress being the number one cause for disease and post traumatic stress disorder being an all too common place diagnosis. We are run ragged by the life that this society demands us to live. So despite all of the colossal demands its a call from the Goddess to take this journey, to be the heroine (or hero) in our own lives and without negotiation RECLAIM that place of self hood that is gentleness, truth, space, healthy boundaries, sanity, and ultimately greater peace.

Goddess Kali – The Keeper of Healthy Boundaries

There is no-one to blame for my loss of self, i don’t blame society, my children, the government, my colleagues, friends or family. We are all submerged in this story, soul loss has been passed down to me by my elders who were subjected to it too. Slowly a capitalist society has vanquished community, connection and service to each other and a higher principle as corner stones to our lives, and given us instead a despicable set of values based on the theory of needing to hustle on every level of our being, to even claim the right to exist. I understand it is my responsibility to wake up from this crap and claim the life i was meant to live, which is basically a life of belonging, spiritual purpose and connection. I’ve been talking about it for years and working hard on waking up but living within society, raising kids, growing a business, paying the morgage, running the embedded patterns of my ancestors, means i miscalculated.

The energy needed to wake up from this living lie is colossal, volcanic, nuclear, supernova, like the birth of a star and the fire of the sun. We don’t just wake up once, we wake up over and over. Its almost like we need to wake up in a hundred and one different scenarios we put ourselves in during our life, in all those different stories, like those escape room experiences you can visit for a birthday treat. Decode and unpick the locking system, problem solve and untangle the illusions.

My illusion was simply that there was not enough time, energy resources for me. Sure there was enough for my beloveds, pets, colleagues, email list, work demands and more, but for me? No i just fundamentally didn’t believe it. Low self-esteem behaviour still running after ALL THESE YEARS of hunting it down, hidden, insidious, sly, under a stone. I remind myself “when i move this stone for me i remove it for all women, all beings” and its true, this epic archetypal proclamation is true. Every little tiny thought i reclaim on this subject of deserving, belonging, existing, connecting, breathing, living, like an unapologetic sun i do for us all. When you put it like this people, that afternoon at the spa, that extra hour in bed, that long slow session of self loving spent doing what makes you feel good is not just a nice treat but is infact ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to the liberation and emancipation and evolution of our future generations. We must do this now, we must do this today! And so we must despite the seeming impossibility of that notion against the cold hard face of it.

So with Spring Equinox and full moon in Libra both coinciding on the same day this year, the energy is shifting into full spring mode in the UK and I’m bubbling with inspiration, change is afoot and has a whole new lease of life. I’m going to be channeling this energy into reshaping my lifestyle both at work and at home. As above so below, as within so without, this is a time of the transmission of perfect equal balance. There is a lovely energy of things dropping into place, and a sense that the conversation between myself and the great big cosmic mother by all her names and faces is on speed dial. So to demonstrate my point here’s a really funny thing that happened which had me laughing out loud. So i spent the week looking for a camper van on ebay, gum tree, auto trader, you know the scene, endless searches and comparisons. My hours of browsing honed my attention in on the rather vintage Renault traffic camper circa 1985 – 1995 with anything less than 75,000 on the millage. This van looked really cute, dinky, vintage, with an attractive cabin lay out and small enough overall vehicle size to manoever about the place, a real old bird for sure but a good runner without too many miles on the clock. Anyway i found a handful of this kind of van up and down the country, and was thinking about enlisting a friend on a huge round trip mission, whilst feeling like this could be a lot of effort only to discover that this wasn’t the van for me. So i finalised with the thought, “if only i could just see one”. Then the very next day what should appear literally outside my front door, no word of a lie, but a Renault Traffic Camper, 1990, 50,000 miles on the clock with a big FOR SALE sticker on the window. Seriously!

So what is really really important right now is to focus my thoughts really clearly on what i’d like to create next in my life for the highest purpose of all beings. It has to be for the highest purpose of all and in my greatest service to God because there is really no way my little ego self has got half a clue about what is really right for me or my place in the bigger scheme of things. I know simple things like: I don’t want to sit behind a computer screen all day (she says sitting behind a computer screen), and i do want deep meaningful life changing connections. But i think its time to get a bit clearer and make myself a vision board. The idea behind this is to get creative and make a collage with pictures and words declaring all the things you’d like to ‘manifest’ in your life. Better to be specific, so go for something like ‘fun adventures in my camper van meeting lovely people and sharing my wisdom and truth’ rather than the broader ‘unconditional love at all times’. I want to keep things free flowing so i want to create opportunity rather than definitive outcome, i don’t want to over control how things unfold but i do want to harness the water flow in a specific direction.

So the journey for peace, fulfillment, purpose, service goes on. As Saraswati reminds us – learning and growing is a lifetime adventure.

Saraswati – Goddess of Creativity & Learning.

The Teachings of A Feather

Wow what a women’s retreat we had together at Under The Banyan Tree, Sama Yoga centre in Penestanan, Ubud, hosted by the Be Woman Project. Nine days of ceremonies/ pujas for the rites of passage in a woman’s life has been immensely powerful to say the least. In fact its been utterly awe-inspiring. Five ceremonies from birth, initiation into education, first blood, marriage/committed relationship to death. It’s been like growing up again and more. The problem is we have lost some of these rites of passage in our modern world, or at least they have become fragmented. As modern life drives us on and we have less and less time and energy to pause and mark occasions. This has been my experience anyway so it was a great opportunity to go back over it and make some of these missed occasions for myself, and also learn and be inspired to create ceremonies like this in my own community.

The format has been yoga or dance, sharing circle (listening to each Devi and then sharing yourself on a particular subject), then the ceremony work. On a few of the days we’ve visited AmrtaSiddhi Ayurvedic clinic in Ubud and a received a presentation  from Dr. Sujatha Kekada on women’s health. The yoga centre Under The Banyan Tree, is an idyllic community with lovely eco-build houses where people live or stay and a big yoga shala/workshop space. 

The days have taken on a beautiful flow and routine, as we have settled in and gotten to know each other and hear all our stories. There have been so many common themes that have come out, and opportunities to learn from a sister down the road from oneself or share your experience with a sister who is setting out on something you know well. Each person has been carrying wounding at a different place in their life journey. Hearing the stories of pain and offering good listening space can change so much, but so too can hearing the stories of joy and fulfillment. I have particularly enjoyed the morning ‘womb’ yoga with Jannaki, as its just been so great to learn the right asanas and approach for each part of the moon cycle. Deep, slow, yin style yoga, i just love it!

Feather-lite Lessons

When I arrived at Under The Banyan Tree, one of the sister’s had these beautiful feathers for sale, eagle feathers for cleansing the aura with sage. I felt a bit bereft that all my ceremony kit was at home so I decided to buy both sage and feathers. I tied the feathers (that were mounted on a carved wood handle) to my belt and set out for a little nature walk in our first break. Chatting to people on the path I didn’t noticed when the feathers disappears, but by the time I had descended the steps, crossed the bridge under the Banyan Tree and ascended the steps by the temple in Penestanan I noticed they were gone. Ok I thought, message from The Great Spirit to slow down and get grounded as I slowly retraced my steps in a walking meditation scanning the abundance of nature each side of the path to retrieve the feathers. But nothing, over the lunch break I walked back and forth, consulted my crystal pendulum (please show me where the feathers are) sat and meditated, but still nothing. Ok I thought, what is this about? Does this mean the week will be about letting go of even the things I treasure? Letting go is an interesting process because we want to let go of the things that we don’t like, such as illness, lack, misery and a bad experience. But to really let go we have to surrender and that means that we will probably also need to let go of the things we are really attached to as well, in order to move forward and grow. So anyway I didn’t stop thinking about my feather all week every time I walked that path, and on day five, the day of our death puja, right there on the path in front of me was the tiniest little feather. Let me tell you the original one was a couple of big eagle feathers and this was just a tiny little baby feather. I laughed at this story and of course collected the baby to add to my altar. It’s pretty clear what happened here this week for me eh?

Mahudra – Sweetest love

I also decided to hire a scooter for the duration of the course, as my new home in penestanan was 20 minutes walk from Under The Banyan Tree. I’d already had a proper lesson in Ubud, so I encouraged myself to step into this challenge and face my fear. I was very excited and proud of my scooter and felt like I’d just learnt to ride my bicycle for the first time, and happily scootered about the place. However the Ayurvedic clinic is situated down a bumpy track and after one long day, feeling a bit light headed, i misjudged the track and lost control and fell straight off landing to the side on my knees and elbow. Just scratches and shock but i immediately brushed myself off and prepared to be a warrior and jump straight back on incase i would get the fear. But then suddenly all around me were nine of my lovely devi sisters who were on scooters or on foot making their way back up the track. Suddenly I was being taken care of, wet wipes, plasters, hugs, rice cakes, mantras. It was such a sweet thing to be so taken care of, and a great opportunity to take off the warrier woman armour and receive.

This week has been so much about just melting melting and more melting. I think that there is no better place for this than in a sister circle doing sacred work. Just to strip back the layers and become in Sharada, our teachers words “cooked like fluffy rice”. It’s really obvious why we armour ourselves up because we think this is a good way to meet with the bumps and challenges of our lives, and it’s true we do need our inner strength and warrior self to face our own lives and quit being a victim. This power is very much Goddess Durga on her tiger and Goddess Kali with her knife and necklace of severed heads for all those parts of ego that don’t serve us. But in a sacred dance with this warrior we need Mahudra (honey) sweetness, softness, love, safety, and the holding of the mother. I guess what i’m remembering this week is that it can be the Great Big Cosmic Mother by any of her names that we can go to and we don’t need to hold this expectation from our own mother, partner, daughter or friend. It’s a big expectation, a big need in each and everyone of us to be truly held and safe in the process of life from birth through to death, too big really for any other human to fulfill entirely.

Calling To Laksmi

The birthing day was so sweet, having recently welcomed my beloved granddaughter into this world just one year ago, i am wrapped up in the beginnings of life. This ceremony/puja is performed by mama and papa, and in the Vedic tradition, the Goddess Laksmi for abundance is invoked. Papa gives Sandalwood to mark spiritual awareness, then honey and ghee for sweetness, then a gold coin behind the ears for hearing the truth, then he breaths in the baby smell and gives the name. The Mama washes her right breast and gives the baby first milk for a brilliant mind. Then it’s flowers and food offered to Laksmi and prayers of protection. Then rice for a long life, and more ending with a sacred thread tied to the baby’s wrist. And of course a flower shower, then songs from the family and food for everyone to finish. In our sharing of our own births so many of us really wished that our mother had had more support. A reoccurring common theme for modern woman. The loss of sisterhood and holding around the time of birth can lead to not only loneliness but also ill health of mama and baby. So Laksmi is about abundance and we prayed that every woman could receive this support, love and care in becoming a mother, and in turn all the babies could thrive in this abundance. Mantra to Laksmi:
Om hrim shrim santanalaksmyai namah

Calling To Sarasvati

Our day of initiation into education was wonderful. Recounting our first time at school and then our journey of learning, it turned out that so many of us didn’t find our passion for learning until after school when we were free to explore our own way. Together we honoured the great journey of gaining self knowledge and that the quest for new knowledge is for life. The ceremony/puja begins with an invocation to Sarasvati, Goddess of knowledge, and in this puja we wrote our first words in rice and sand and walked with books on our heads, offering again incense, rice, flowers, candals and more to Sarasvati to brighten our minds and direct our learning. Mantra to Sarasvati:
Aim hrim on sarasvatyai namah

The Devi Circle

Calling To Durga

Then our day of honouring first blood, the menarch ceremony. So many different stories from cultures around the world, with many of us gaining the reflection that this was a ‘curse’. Interesting that a big box office movie just came out in India called Padman, about a guy who makes sanitary pads available to all women and is a total hero. We know how much work there is still to do in this area to bring back the honouring and education rites to this important stage. So in the Vedic ceremony/puja we invoke Durga, Mother Goddess and there is a wonderful series of actions that honour and beautify the young woman. First offering a seat, then washing feet and hands, then beautiful red Rosella tea for the womb, then chocolate and strawberries, then flower blessings, adornments, red dot to the third eye, education into womb massage, oil, incense and roses, sacred medicine of Shatavari given (Ayurvedic herb that is master healer for woman), then gifting of the yoni egg stone, oh my goddess the list goes on! Such beauty and ending in an outrageous flower shower. Mantra to Durga:
Om dum durgayai namah

Calling To Shiva & Paravati

Our day of sacred marriage ceremony began with the principles of a true divine union within the Vedic teachings. I made the intention for a marriage with my own inner masculine self as this time in my life is all about being whole and sovereign in myself. In this puja we invoke the great partnerships of Shiva and Paravati, and Vishnu and Laksmi. Mantras for sacred relating and friendship are offered along with the obligatory oils, incense, candals, flowers, and more flowers, sweets, fruits, ornaments (perhaps a ring) and two flower garlands to hang around the neck of the partners. Mantra to Laksmi:
Om sri rudro visnurama laksmistasmai tasyai namo namah

Calling To Kali

The day of death ceremony was a big one for me. My moon time had arrived and I was feeling painful, emotional and heavy and like I just needed to lie flat on the earth in a little nest all day. Death entered my life when I was 25, when my mum departed this world. This has had such a big effect on my life, and being a mum without a my own mother as mentor was so hard as I longed for her so much on so many occasions. So on this day i knew I would remember her fully and still after twenty years there is a waterfall of tears. I think this waterfall is never ending and it’s just the presence of grief in our lives. If we love we feel loss, there is no way around it. It’s just part of being a human, and having the capacity to love. My mum’s death has brought so much spiritual knowledge to me, as this was a great motivator to explore what was beyond life as we know it and communicate with our spirit family and make an on going meaningful relationship with those that have departed. Our sharing were so diverse with some people completely accepting death and living in the moment knowing that it is always right timing when we are called back home. We wrote a letter to our ancestors or to a specific person and in ceremony we offered these letters into the fire with prayers and mantra. For this ceremony we invoked the Goddess Kali, and chanted
Jaya mata jaya kali durga devi namo namah

This is my ancestor prayer:
Dear Ancestors,
You are with me, I see your faces, hear your voices and you invite me to sit with you in your house. You are forever present. I belong to you, I am made from your fabric and I am in service to you, this we know now. Every prayer I make I make for you. Know that all mis-giving are forgiving and forgotten. Your love, care, patience, understanding all of this I receive and pass on to my children and grandchildren. We receive your love and return it thousand fold. Thankyou thankyou thankyou for weaving the web of our lives. We keep the candals lit for you and there is always a warm seat in my home for you and food at the table. And so it is and so it might always be.


On day seven we had the lovely Valerie, from the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition of cross cultural shamanic arts for personal and planetary renewal, come and guide us into making a Despacho Ceremony. This ceremony is the creation of a prayer bundle, with each person in the circle making prayers and offerings to the four directions, then all of the accumulated prayers and offerings are bundled up and given to the fire or offered to the river to be taken downstream. A large piece of fabric is laid out on the ground and a circle of flowers is added, the bundle in dedicated to Pachamama – mother earth. Prayers to the guardians of the land are offered to the south, these prayers are about physical health, manifesting new projects and matters of the material realms and these can be offered as animal fat, bone, feathers, hair, (obviously not harming an animal in the process). Prayers to the nature spirits are offered to the west, these prayers are about emotional well being and can be offered as herbs, food, tobacco. This seems to include chocolates and sweets, and the idea is that the more bounty you offer the more your prayers are heard. Prayers to the tree spirits are offered to the north, concerning spiritual health and offered as crystals, minerals, good and silver. Prayers to the benevolent ancient ones are offered to the east, concerning mental health and offered as candals or spoken prayers or songs and then prayers to the mountain lords are offered by way of incense and biscuits (!) to the centre.

By this stage i must admit i was ceremonied out and couldn’t really focus as well as i would have liked to, but Valerie promised us she would keep our bundle of prayers on her altar and offer it to the next sacred fire she was to make. Needing some time to integrate and digest all of the goings on of the retreat, i took some time out back at my hotel.

I feel like my trip to Bali has been a bit like making my own personal Despatcho bundle. I’ve offered so many lovely things and experiences to myself, to my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. At times i’ve felt guilty about offering so many metaphorical biscuits, fruit and flowers to me, but i know that when we are truly nourished and full we can then pass that on to our loved ones, community etc. I’ve thought a lot about my family and friends, those still living and those on their next journey. I’ve made some meaningful powerful prayers for the direction of my life, to make a difference, to be of service to people on their spiritual unfolding, to be and do my very best. My quest was to find peace, well i’ve experienced moments of it and today it just occurred to me that i felt total forgiveness of myself. I just noticed it in my body, heart and mind. Forgiveness, its OK what i’ve done, its perfect, its good enough, the places where i did wrong, its OK, i let myself off the hook, the places where it did right, its OK i let myself off the hook there too. My intention is harmlessness, to just say “i could, but i won’t”. I could anger, blame, protest, feel guilt, cause pain in myself or another but today this moment i won’t.

May all the beings in all the worlds be happy.

Under The Banyan Tree

My journey so far has been very much about exploring Mother Bali, but understanding the Hindu or Vedic ceremonies has drawn me in, i’m intrigued. I’m also ready for some ‘all woman’ time, and i want to commit myself to program rather than flit about like a butterfly.

So i begin the nine day Durga Retreat, at the Sama Yoga Ashram in Penestanan near Ubud, the ashram is hidden away with a big Banyan tree guarding the entrance, and it is fondly called Under The Banyan Tree. The retreat is facilitated by the Sharada, a teacher of Vedanta (Hindu or Vedic philosophy) meditation, Vedic ceremonies, women’s devi circles, yoga deepening courses, sacred temple dance and mantras of Mother Veda. She is a slight young woman with Swiss, Phillipine heritage and its clearly not the first life she has dedicated to Vedanta. She has such poise, presence and a deep love of Sanskrit, and her discourse is mind opening, gentle and exquisite. She founded the Be Woman Project, whose vision is to empowers women to know that they are safe, loved and connected, and the Durga Retreat is part of this project.

The second facilitator is the lovely Norwegian Jannaki who founded Nordic Light Yoga, she is a teacher of Hatha Yoga, and her style is deep and inward going, slow and meditative. During our nine days together we will receive womb yoga instruction, practicing a deeply yin style of yoga and focusing on the four stages or seasons of the monthly cycle, and exploring different yoga postures and movement for each phase of the moon cycle.

The Vedic goddess Durga is of course our host, and “she who removes pain and suffering” welcomes us into her presence. Durga represents the archetype of motherhood, strength, courage and bravery, she protects the people who follow universal values, she is a leader & mentor in community. So it is her work to hold the rites of passage in our lives, mentoring us into growing and not only knowing her but also way-showing her. I absorb her essence and I’m thinking that she is a pillar of the structure of society, who governs and leads in a female style by holding, nurturing and loving. However she rides on the back of a tiger, she is fierce and can manifest as Kali an aspect of her who can destroy in order to create new life. Sounds to me like this lady has some healthy boundaries, and does not suffer fools, she will love strongly but also hold universal values and right ethics as sacrosanct. Yep she’s my kind of woman.

During the opening circle, I look around at the other women present (there are maybe 15 of us) and I know I am home. The teachings of Vedanta are new to me, whilst I have heard the names of the Vedic goddesses and have chanted some of their mantras, I have never immersed myself in this tradition. The woman’s retreat goings on are very familiar and just like our women’s circles back home and I’m able to connect the goddesses with the ones I know and work with such as Sarasvati and her counterpart Sophia, both goddesses of wisdom.

I begin to ask myself the question, how do I define my spirituality? As I have not really dedicated myself to one way, or school of teaching. I have gathered wisdom from many sources along the way, but circa 2019 here’s where it sits – There is one true God-source (non-gender orientated) of all creation, a unity consciousness from which we all created ourselves, because we are all intrinsically God-source and fully sovereign in our connection to source. However, along the way our inner God-source will manifest as teacher, guide, mentor. God-source is both God and Goddess and can only manifest the whole of creation by this Law of Gender, both are equal and our spark of consciousness is the third point in this triad, therefore to know God we must experience in our heart and mind this sacred marriage of God and Goddess, or Mother and Father. I have been influenced by many different teachings along my way but currently I am working with the Celtic Pagan Gods and Goddesses of the land upon which I live, because this is the story of my home land, going back before Christianity. I’m also very attuned to the Christian Essene teaching that were completed suppressed by the church and are about the path of the gnostic, mystic and knower of the Kryst (changed to Christ) which is a state of purest unity consciousness of our original divine nature before many of these teachings were stolen and reversed. The God, Goddess partnership I connect with everyday is Kryst(Christ)- Sophia. Unity, truth and wisdom.

However, it is the ceremonies and rituals of a spiritual tradition that I am most interested in, because its these rites of passage or markers along the path that have given humans meaning and purpose for thousands of years. Ceremony is so meaningful because in truth when we choose to make another human life, we chose to evolve and growth into knowledge of ourselves as god-source, to do that our highest consciousness must come into our body and express our highest truth and service. Ceremony helps this process, it helps us embody and pick up the fragments of ourselves and unify them within our own being, it helps us awaken, understand and know ourselves.

So I’m ready to embrace this journey with the Vedic sisterhood of sharing ceremonies within the tradition of Vedanta to mark the passages of a woman’s life. We will hold a ceremony or puja for stages on our own timeline. We will travel back and write about actual experience from what we have been told, or can remember, we will share these stories and ask ourselves – how would I like it to have been? Then together we will perform the ceremony or puja to mark this rite of passage for our own self, so we will be both ourselves along the timeline, the ceremonialist, and maybe also play the role of our mother or father. In Vedic tradition it is thought that by receiving these blessings at a gateway point /rite of passage we can make the best life with the greatest experience of belonging, meaning, purpose and self-awareness. We can be our best self. Although there are numerous rites of passage and corresponding puja in Vedanta we will be focusing on five:
Initiation into learning (school),
First Blood,
& Death.

We will also be taking Ayurveda classes with Dr. Sujatha Kekada, who is the Head Physician and Co-Founder of Amrtasiddhi. – an Ayurvedic clinic in Ubud. She is a certified Ayurvedic doctor (B.A.M.S), who worked at one of the most respected and successful clinics in Kerala, South India before opening her clinic in Bali. She will talk to us specifically about woman’s health and how the principles of Ayurveda including, lifestyle, diet and herbs can support all stages of a woman’s life.

In our opening sharing circle, we tell a bit of our story by way of introducing ourselves, who we are, where we are from, what is happening in our life. So many of these stories reflect my own experiences, we are women of all ages, maidens, mothers, grandmothers, crones. From all corners of the globe, including a woman who is born and raised in Ubud, and yet there are so many similarities and a beautiful uniqueness too. We sing the name of each ‘devi’. I begin to soften.

So to anchor our intentions and focus our hearts and minds, we must prepare our personal altars. In Vedic tradition this includes statues or images of the deity, a brass bowl for water, a candal, incense, aromatic oil such as Frankincense, a bell, a shell, and other personal sacred items. But we are really encouraged to make our altar personal and so I lay out my travel altar mat that I made for this journey. I sewed into it, crystals, charms, prayers and feathers to mark the directions and guide me on my way. I lay out my crystals, herbal pouches, candals, incense, the Frangipani oil I bought in Ubud, the ashes from the Agni Hotra fire I did with the Balinese healer Pak Ketut Jaya, stones and shells I’ve collected along the way and my spirit flute. Our altars will travel through the whole five ceremonies with us and they will be our work space so to speak for the transformational journey ahead. Perfect we are ready. Arrival and day one complete.

There is something so special about being in a women’s circle and putting our world to right. Coming together and healing it, taking care of it, making it better is so sewn into the fabric of women. I like to think my recent ancestors would have been connected to a circle of woman in their daily lives and daily activities. They say it takes a tribe to raise a child. But now society has changed so much and so often woman are shouldering it all alone, and this is a bigger burden.

To me the Vedic Goddess Durga is like a mother figure, who holds up community values and serves the people through her love, support and wisdom in the journey of their lives. In addition to learning the Vedic pujas as we will also be creating our own ceremonies in our own style in small groups, so that we start to think about how we can offer this kind of service to our own community, and go forth and Be Durga in our own world.

May all the beings in all the world’s be held in a mothers arms

Medicine woman

It’s time to return to the natural medicine metropolis that is Ubud. I’m feeling more grounded and ready to explore classes, events, and connection, so Ubud is the place to be for this. I’m also really yearning for some superfood smoothie action, it’s a bit like when the English go abroad and want their fish and chips, well I just want my familiar spirulina and maca smoothie for breakfast. And Ubud has A LOT of vegan, raw, superfood restaurants to choose from.

I’m surprised to find that The Grand Sunti in Ubud is cheaper than the original Ubud home stay I booked through air b&b. (Which by the way if you read the first blog of this trip‘At The Gates To Bali‘ you’ll be please to know air b&b gave me a full refund) This hotel which is located at the south end of the city has a pool, beautiful garden, yoga shala and spa AND it’s really very decent in price. So I’m in. I arrive and get grounded, enjoying these facilities and then have fun going to the supermarket in Ubud and pretending I live here. I decide I’m going to get a scooter lesson and join the scooter crowd. I also get a new hair cut. A opt for a no 3 cut out on one side. Cliche I know but at least I hold myself back from the full head no 1, even though I feel the urge.

The next day i join a herb walk tour guided by Nadi Herbal, which leaves from outside the Puri Lukesan (art museum next to the Saraswati Temple) at 830am every morning. Nadi Herbal have a wonderful shop downtown selling very similar things to my own business back home, Indigo Herbs. The herb walk is lovely, we are a small group of four with Elik our female guide. She shows us the indigenous medicinal plants growing in the rice fields just outside Ubud. Including coconut, moringa, gota kola, turmeric, long pepper, ylang ylang, and more.

It’s a lovely morning with good connections, ample fresh coconut juice and I treat myself to a bottle of organic frangipani essential oil from the Nadi Herbal shop where we finish our walk, which is quite frankly my go to heaven aroma. We are served a delicious herbal tea of lemongrass, ginger, star anise, cardamom, gotukola and cinnamon.

However I’m feeling really homesick, for the first time today, it just comes over me. I want a day off being really out there. Ketut Jaya, my Balinese healer friend invites me over and its just what i need really. A visit to his lovely homestead. In the afternoon we chat but Ketut is busy really so I chill out with the dogs and his mum. She’s 85 and has dementia, but I just hang out with her a bit on the central Bale, and she talks away in Balinese and I plait her hair, we take selfies and i show her pics of all my family. It warms my heart right up and its just a normal thing that brings me back down to earth.

Ketut invites me to go to a Balinese ceremony at the local temple with him in the evening so as i’m in a go with the flow mood i agree. However first I must dress in traditional Balinese temple dress, so i ask his eldest daughter Wayan to help me look proper. I feel utterly lush in these clothes i borrow. Wayan works on it and gets the look and photos just right.

Turns out it’s actually going to be a temple ‘crawl’, so to speak, starting at the house temple, then going down to the big event at the village temple, then onto a special temple location.

Going to this temple ceremony stirred up many feelings for me. Firstly it was beyond beautiful with endless flower offerings, dedicated and decorated altars of marigolds flowers, yellow umbrellas, so many silks and satin textiles, and the temple and people just looking so exquisite. Really dressed for God and Goddess. The woman, lace blouse, best sarong, temple sash, flowers in their hair, black hair beautifully turned into twist and gleaming. The man, all in white with white head turban. Secondly I was the only westerner. Just me. I felt so aware of people looking at me, were they perceiving me invade upon their community? I felt the necessity to be super respectful and just hold myself sovereign in my heart and space.

The ceremony of prayers is just beautiful, flowers and incense, to God, Goddess, spirits of the temple, forgiveness for all beings, mother earth, giving thanks. People arriving to conduct their personal prayers in their own time but all the same prayer ceremony. Such beauty. Four woman directly in front, one with a baby so excited to give him his blessings, rice to the forehead and heart. So different yet so familiar.

Then across the road to the temple theatre where a large golden Dragon was preparing to dance. The play is the story of God protecting the people from evil or black magic played out with elaborate costume and dance. Here men and women sit separately, again as respect I tell Ketut I’m going to sit with the women, so over I go. I ask to sit where there is a space (so English asking for permission) and soon I am sitting with Made (pronounced Madi) and her sisters. So welcoming, where are you from, how come you are here, what is your name, how many children do you have, then before long all the family pictures are being shared with me on smart phone, lots of blessings and Om Swastiastu (Blessings on you) for my trip in Bali. We even do video call with her aunty in hospital! Ketut signals to dig me out of there and I give all my love and Suksma (thankyou) and off we go.

Ketut explains to me that all Balian, (Balinese healers) primary connection is from Ratu Gede. Ok what is this? Ratu Gede is Great Mother Goddess. And so we now go to a special temple to Her. This temple is very small next to woodland and a primary school. What can I say? This is the best temple I’ve been to yet on the whole trip, its so tucked away, unassuming. It remains me of home, back in the southwest of England, connecting with standing stones and the Goddess of the land. I really like this spot and I wholeheartedly meet the great mother goddess here. I give thanks that i really found her on the day i was missing home, seems perfect somehow. Ketut has called at the shop to buy offerings and all they have is crisps and chocolate cake bars so he buys these to leave at her shrine. I find this utterly hilarious somehow, ok I find the great mother goddess earth energy spot in Bali and it’s pulsing and so what do we do? We leave her a packet of crisps, yep you couldn’t make it up.

The next day i have a scooter lesson booked for 7am! Well I’ve never ridden a scooter before and Ubud is crazy traffic so my inner parent got this sorted for my wild maiden self. My instructor turns up and we do 2 hours practice, first on the football field, then on small lanes, then on big roads with traffic. It’s such fun and I get it pretty quickly but it’s good to really feel safe, in control AND wild and free.

We stop off at a Luwak coffee farm for a break, and it’s a lovely spot. They bring a free tea and coffee tasting tray out which is pretty cool, with things like saffron and tamarind tea, and ginger coffee, very nice on first impressions.

BUT I’m not cool about the Luwak thing at all and it reminds me of a similar experience we had the day before on the herbal walk. So Luwaks are a bit like beavers and they eat the coffee beans then poo them out and this is the way the beans are fermented in the Luwaks digestive system basically, then the beans are de-husked, roasted, ground etc. But its not really OK because the Luwak are basically stuck in cages and used for the production of the coffee. Its really inhumane. They are often prisoners in a cafe enviroment too, where their teeth are cut so they dont bite tourists and they are stuck on a high stand for photo opportunity. They look incredibly distressed in these conditions and its not acceptable. The world animal protection are active on this so find out more here

It’s scorchio when i get back to the hotel so I lounge by the pool for the rest of the day eating my supermarket mango and avocado, doing meditation, aqua yoga and floating. In the evening I decide I’m going to go out and explore a ‘concious’ party put on by Ubud Events. It’s a cacao ceremony, with DJ for ecstatic dance, ending in the beautiful vocal sounds from Sundari, (alcohol, drug and smoke free of course). It’s venue is New Earth Haven 20 minutes outside of Ubud. The venue just is a total ode to beauty, this is it with Bali, it’s just so lush, green, full of flowers, and soft soft energy, and you think you saw the most beautiful thing then you are totally blown away again as the heights are just scaled. New Earth Haven is a master bamboo eco-building in a organic flowing design with exquisite details. Decorated with Hindu statues and offerings but with a contempory theme. There are flower petals lining the path each side, fresh ones! And a golden, pink sunset to frame this heaven on earth.

We have a fair amount of cacao ceremony culture back in Glastonbury UK, (My home town) and the idea is that hot chocolate made from the raw cacao bean, with sometimes just hot water, or maybe coconut milk is drank together as a sacrament to open the heart and bring about merriment, vitality and maybe healing. Its often combined with dance for this reason as it really brings your awareness into the body and makes you relax muscle tension. These actions are all because of its phytochemical profile, with the active constituent theobromine being stimulating to blood circulation and Ananide being stimulating to production of happy brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin.

However in the case of cacao ceremonies back home, the best case scenario is that the circle is well held by the person serving up the cacao. Well the cacao drink at New Earth Haven is delicious, the enviroment stunning, and i relax and connect with a couple of lovely shakti yoga teachers from Austria who are holding two different retreats out in Bali over the next 6 weeks, and then in Glastonbury in September so we make a great connection and I offer to show them all the sacred spots of Avalon. However the style of ‘ceremony’ is not really for me, it’s a bit too lacking in boundaries and form, and a bit too over sharing, and a bit forced, for me. So I enjoy delicious food and surroundings at the New Earth Haven bar instead.

The next day i wake up and I am super emotional. I just have strong feelings tumbling through me like waves. A trip like this is such a zone for transformation and that comes with feeling the feelings one might ordinary avoid. So I totally spontaneously decide at 7am to hire a taxi to take me to the famous Ulawatu on the south west tip of Bali. I’ve heard there are crazy waves there and this is the surfers paradise hang out, and I know I just need wide expansive spaces, big waves and perspective to help me process what came up on my beach this morning. It’s a right drag in a taxi from Ubud, over an hour, and my first stop at the famous Ulawatu temple, Pura Luhur Ulawatu, just plain doesn’t do it for me. Total Nada, so I ask my driver to take me on to Ulawatu beach. This is the spot and i just sit and drink Balinese coffee and look out at this view for a couple of hours and become the water and waves, without thoughts. The ocean weaves its magic and im bigger than my little self again and feel the pattern of my life fitting into its place. I attempt to freeze frame this perspective in my memory bank to get out at any time when i need it.

The sheer cliffs are populated by lots of steep stone steps and little warungs with a few trendy restaurants, but it’s all about picking your vantage point to take in this vast expansive view and watch the big waves and surfers dance about together in the big blue. Highly recommended.

So for the last nine days of my ‘time out of ordinary life’ I’m going to attend a retreat, running here in Ubud at Under the Banyan Tree. This nine day immersion is dedicated to the vedic Goddess Durga, she who removes pain and suffering. Durga represents the archetype of motherhood, strength, courage, bravery, she who protects the people who follow universal values, she is a leader & mentor. We will be doing yoga, pranayama, Puja and ceremonies to honour the rites of passage in woman’s lives. We will also be doing women’s health through Ayurvedic medicine. This retreat just called out to me as a perfect way to complete my journey, in a sisterhood circle. I’m very excited and there is a long list of ‘sacreds’ to bring, such as crystals, herbs, feathers, photos of ancestors etc, most of which I have back at home, which is a shame. But I do have my travel altar, so this will be my medicine bag for the ceremonies.

May all the beings in all the world’s find meaning and purpose in their lives.

All Hail Mount Agung

What to do when a great mountain calls

I arrive at ‘Great Mountain View Resort‘ and the journey here is stunning. It’s about 30 minutes from Padang Bai to a village called Banjar Alas Tunggal, in the province of Sideman. We take a mountain road which just gets steeper and steeper and more winding. The area is covered in tropical jungle with deep drop away plunging valleys looking back over to the coastal plane and sea. The air gets fresher and we climb up to 900 metres. Great Mountain View Resort is in the middle of nature looking out across rice fields and right at the foot hills of Mount Agung! The place is ran by a Balinese couple, Nyoman and Wayan, and i’m told there has just been a silent meditation retreat held here for 8 days. I can’t really remember how i found the place but i give enormous thanks for my higher power guiding my here. It is so peaceful and beautiful, i’ve come to a very special place, i can just feel it.

The owners are very eco- friendly but not in a trendy over expensive way, just in a way that respects and honours nature. We are wrapped up in it here. The garden is lush with coconut trees, and many lush tropical plants. The architecture is all stone, wood, and natural materials. There are only a handful of bungalow cabins and I can’t spot another guest as yet. I find out later in my stay that Nyoman and Wayan have a passion for natural architecture and are currently building a beautiful house out of bamboo with open sides and glass walls, situated right in the rice fields out on their land, so you can wake up to see Mount Agung. Its costing them 600 million IDR, which is about £32,000. I’m shown the plans and it looks so elegant, natural and a temple to nature. Seems like I’ve organised myself a spiritual retreat for meditation at the foot of Mount Agung. Who knew?

On arrival I sit in the beautiful open sided bale looking out towards Mount Agung that is currently veiled by clouds in the mid-day heat, there are Balinese prayer flags everywhere. I eat rice noodle soup cooked for me by the smiling lady called Madi, whilst watching the white cranes fly over the rice paddy fields in harmony and union. It just feels so different up here, sort of rarefied and pure. I chat to Nyoman and he tells me that Mount Agung has great significance for Balinese spirituality as it is where Shiva dwells, it’s his mountain basically. Shiva is of course one of the three main Hindu gods, who is a bit of a work-aholic creating, protecting and transforming the universe as his day job, one of his other mountains is Mount Kailash. The connection that my home from home guest house back in Ubud is called Kailash is not lost on me. Shiva’s wife Parvati is the mother goddess, known for her fertility, divine strength and power. This volcanic mountain is definitely female to me, in her enormous fire power, strength and majesty, a part of mother earth that does not negotiate. Nyoman goes on to tell me that not only is Agung the highest peak, it’s also known as the purest energy in Bali, and the temple of Besakeh situated on its slopes is the mother temple of all temples in Bali. Holy moly! My higher self has really picked the spot. I sit on my front terrace and just breathe it all in, i still my mind and just receive the energy of the place. I fall in deeper, attuning to the mountain and drop into a breathing meditation, it would be rude not to.

Mount AgungMount Agung

Later in the afternoon Nyoman drops me over at Jagasatru waterfall, maybe 10 minutes away by car. I saw the sign on the way here and i’m told it is very tall and of course revered as a holy spot. I walk down and down the steepest road, again winding its way into a crook of the land. It’s incredulous to see the scooters go up and down this road defying gravity. Then a path and lots of steps further down into the jungle valley, and the crazy sound of cakowing going on (I find out later that this is the cungeretan, which is a kind of cricket), lush jungle everywhere and the sound of water. I approach the waterfall which is 250 metres high, plunging down into the clearest rock pool, there’s water mist in the air and the rocks are all shining and singing with the natural devic energy of the place. There are shrines in several places and a sign to say respect the spirit of the place, and no hanky panky! I’m all alone, so I unburden my bags and scramble over the rocks and slip into the pool. It’s awe inspiring and i fall into a prayful place. Thankyou for my life, Thankyou for this beauty, Thankyou to the water spirit, Thankyou to our mother earth, Thankyou for creation. Then I go under, once, twice, three times. Again it’s a reset, a cleanse of so much old story, karma.

Jaga Satru Waterfall
Jagasatru Waterfall

As i ascend back up again i’m early at the meeting point, which is a very small village above the waterfall. Whilst i’m waiting i have the loveliest time, an elder in the village comes over to talk, and he has a few English words, he welcomes me to the table of his sister and two nieces who are making Canang sari, the shrine offerings made out of young coconut leaves. They have a little shop and i buy a can of fizzy cold green tea, and we have a fun time chatting away in signs and symbols and i play my flute for them all, and then the children come over and say hello. When i leave with Nyoman they give me a big send off and on the way back we pass Nyoman’s cousin and he says he has heard that i was at the next village as the word came through! Just wonderful i love it.

Wayan recommends i get up at dawn to see the mountain appear, she says its normally clear skies and a very sacred time of day, with first prayers beginning at 6am. So for the first time on the whole trip i go to bed early, which is a good plan as the mosquito are out in crowds in this jungle terrain. So are the frogs who hold a concert in the rice fields, and the fireflies and gecko all over the path. The bed is so comfy and i’m covered with a mosquito net and i seriously have the best sleep ever.

I wake at 5:45 to my alarm, and it takes a minute to remember who i am and what i’m doing. Its cool in the mountain air so i bring my poncho and sit myself on the edge of the bale feet all tucked under to greet the dawn. Its so exciting seeing the mountain appear, as i haven’t see it in its glory yet. Its still dark, and the next 20 minutes are filled with wonders as the dawn chorus and morning prayers begin and the mountain comes into view. A soft mist like a fine gossamer veil rests over everything and there are a few flashes of very peaceful lightening. Its huge and conical shaped like the proper volcano that it is. I lap up this opportunity to go within and do my morning meditation practice, i feel deep peace. This is more to do with the environment than my immediate ascension but its a start, and i’m treasuring it. Below is my rather amateur video of dawn breaking in timed installments from 5:55am until 7:30am.

Mount Agung at dawn waking up to greet the day

After breakfast Nyoman’s cousin Ketut takes me round to the west side of the mountain to Pura Besakih (pronounced Be-sar-key) which takes about 40 minutes. Its a huge complex of temples, at an altitude of 1000 meters above sea level, with the mountain peak rising above. It is a Catur Lokapala temple which honours the four directions, with the Penataran Agung Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at the centre.

I must add that Mount Agung is an active volcano with the last major eruption happening in 1963, and the fact that the lava missed this temple site was seen as a great gift of god. It did become active again in 2017 and the whole area was evacuated as it blew off some smoke and fire but didn’t fully erupt. It was reported at the time that despite the volcano alert being a level 4 or 5 full moon prayer ceremony still went ahead at Pura Besakih. Nyoman tells me that the crew at Great Mountain Views Resort stayed put and they were full to the brim with visitors wanting to see the flumes of smoke and fire out of the volcano spout.

Its full moon today and this means there are many Balinese Hindu familys dressed up and looking lovely in temple clothes coming to pray. The temple has seven levels to it and it is reached by climbing many steps as the buildings ascend up the hillside. I cannot begin to describe the lay out to you, you can check that out here, but i can share my own personal journey. Firstly the views of the mountain and surrounding valleys are stunning, as is the temple architecture with its statues, gateways, ascending pyramid towers called merus, and inner and outer courtyards. There are strict areas for Hindu worship here and today they are absolutely packed. As a non Hindu westerner i stick to the edges and feel like i am looking in on a world that is very communal, colourful and celebratory. Its comfortable to be an observer and track the shadows opening up a conversation with myself about what this visit means to me. I share some heart opening moments with the Hindu temple crowd, as we wander about they smile and great me with Om-swastiastu (meaning – greetings) – a few times they want a picture together, its very friendly. The women are dressed up in their best sarongs with a long sleeved lace blouse and colourful prayer sash around the waist, often carrying woven baskets of prasad (flowers, incense, fruit, cakes, offerings) on their heads. The men are in sarongs and long shirt with the prayer hat on their heads (which is like a wrap of material that peaks at the front).

I find a quiet spot in the Vishnu temple (he’s the one who governs water so there is no surprise there) and i sit and unwind. Since our god is the same god, and infact has a goddess consort, i connect to divine masculine and feminine in the way i always do and start breathing in the energy of universal source. Well it’s quite a pokey spot i must say and the lights certainly seem turned on. I find myself making an energetic offering to the guardians of the temple, to the land and to the mountain. I go on an inner journey and i’m up and off on a magic carpet to float over the mountain. I sit for what seems like an eternity (in a good way) but is probably only about 20 minutes, as i’m still working on the virtue of patience. But i’m uplifted and energetic and feel like i’ve got wings so i bounce round the rest of the temple courtyards i’m allowed in and take lovely pictures of what is in fact quite a stunning temple complex.

Back at Great Mountain Views i’m wrapped up again by this peace and abundance of nature, i sip ginger tea and just roll myself out for the afternoon. I attempt a pastel chalk drawing of the luscious garden, i dip in the beautiful simple swimming pool looking out over the rice paddies, i have a Balinese massage under the stone arch by one of the extended family. Its all Nyoman’s and Wayan’s family who work here and they have a lovely community vibe, two of the woman are pregnant and the kids turn up after school. The pace of life is very slow here. There is prayful singing all afternoon, with a male voice chanting, then a female voice singing the Balinese version of Indian ragas. At 6pm, Wayan goes around dressed in her temple clothing and makes offerings to all the shrines. Its full moon tonight and there is an air of excitement as its a special day in the temple. They make me delicious rice, vegetables and peanut sauce for dinner and i eat early to avoid the mosquitos. The mosquitos are however horrific, there are so many and i’m bitten to shreds, i start using the mosquito repellant every hour. I’m really starting to slow down my crazy mind chatter and let it all in.

In fact by night fall i feel a huge shift. I decide to do my own full moon ceremony, and hop about getting a candal, incense, all my crystals, my bags of herbs, my tarot cards and journal and what not into place. Its mid way on my trip and i decide that my intention is now about creating what i want for my life moving forward, when i return home. I’ve focused a lot on letting go but i get the idea that i’ll make a vision for what i want to call into my life, and make some affirmations i can work on over the next few days. I’m sitting on my terrace just giving thanks for this bounty, looking at the moon and then i spot it, an enormous feeling of guilt. I tease it out a bit and unravel it, its just sitting there, this belief that i am just not worthy of all this. Its bloody tragic that i feel this but the good bit is that i spotted it because as i start to turn it around, i am worthy, i am worthy of this, i am worthy of god, there is enough of everything for everyone, as above so below, i feel such a happy release. I have a very special evening just creating and weaving positive prayers and good energy for my life firstly, and also my family and the planet. Think i might be getting the vibe.

The next day i chill out at home base. The weather is so changeable up here in the mountains, and i spend most of my time just taking in the moving panorama of the mountain. Dawn, first light, baking sun, rolling clouds, dark clouds, a huge storm with torrential tropical rain, thunder and lightening, the fresh clear sky after the storm, the hum of a simple life. I’m amazed at the sound that some of the local creatures make, repetitive calls that go on for hours, my brain can only register them as car alarm, broken water pipe, open gate knocking against wall. They are all natural, and as i’m playing my flute later, i get how it would have been completely intuitive to make an instrument to mirror the animal sounds and rhythms to communicate with the natural family in ones living environment.

Wayan sends me off on a nature walk following the irrigation channel over the rice fields, I find the path leading to the river, through jungle again then out onto the country lane. There is rice laid out on plastic tarps on the road, and scooters and occasional car just ride straight over as it is drying. I’m told that this is cool as it still has it’s skin on? I head back through the village and I just love taking it all in. The simple everyday normal things, the infants back from school at 11am, the people carrying all manner of things on their heads, fire wood, baskets, bundles of leafy branches, little fires everywhere, people working in the rice fields ankle deep in water, the village shop selling packet noodles, cigarettes and toothpaste.

Great Mountain Views Resort and the mountain region of Sideman has been an utterly awesome place to visit, and if you want to touch base with rural Bali then this is the place to come. Visiting Sideman was a top tip I received from a family member before I came and i’m so glad I did! Thanks hun! In reflection of my journey, my aunty sent me this poem by Miroslav Holub

Go and open the door. Maybe outside there’s a tree, or a wood, a garden, or a magic city.
Go and open the door. Maybe a dog’s rummaging. Maybe you’ll see a face, or an eye, or the picture of a picture.
Go and open the door. If there’s a fog it will clear.
Go and open the door. Even if there’s only the darkness ticking, even if there’s only the hollow wind, even if nothing is there, go and open the door.
At least there’ll be a draught.

May all the beings in all the world be guardians of their environment

Bali Beach Bliss

A weekend in Padang Bai

My time at Kailash home stay comes to an end for now (but i might well go back) and I decide it’s time to move on from my peaceful enclave and explore. I summons my wild maiden self to point her arrow to the wild places and off we go.

Padang bai, in the area of Karangasem is on the south east of Bali, facing out towards the Nusa Islands. It’s a small harbour town with quite sizeable boats leaving to the islands and beaches going by the name of white sands, and blue lagoon, i’m feeling good about where my arrow is landing. Across at Nusa Penida divers go deep to swim with Manta Ray which frequent these waters.

I arrive at my hotel Beji Bay which is bang on the harbor, and cheap and cheerful with cabins and a beautiful pool. My suitcase handles break and considering this is my second suitcase of the trip i conclude i brought too much stuff. The suitcase i brought from home broke its zip and this replacement i picked up in Ubud is a bit too cheap and cheerful for use. I came to the sea with the intention of letting go of old emotional baggage, so it’s an interesting reflection. I consider off loading some of my kit but i’m resistant and wonder if this is the same about other things in my life? Well i’m hoping the sea is going to work its magic and help with that. 

Blue Lagoon Beach – Padang Bai

I leave my bags in the room and head straight off to the blue lagoon, ten minutes walk up and over the hill. It doesn’t disappoint. The colour of water like this is just so transformative to an English person, we just don’t see colour like this very often and it blows open my third eye chakra. I swim out into it and then i just feel it again – what the bleep am i actually doing? I’m just here in Bali on my own lapping it up. I just start laughing out loud, it’s the fact that i gave myself permission to come, its such a contradiction to my mindset – to be so self-allowing and put me right in the middle of my picture. Yes i know heaps of people spend winter in the northern hemisphere in gorgeous tropical places, and big up to them for sorting their life out in that way, but hey not me, until now. 

The sea just has this way of holding me whilst i unwind, reminding me that its cool to do nothing. Nada. So i just float. It’s the sound and the light and the movement that rock the inner self into giving it all up and over. In my case this is all about giving it up and over to my higher power to take care of.  This is not by the way complacency or laziness, its more like recognising the little mind will only go round and round in circles over it all. I’m addicted to worrying, it’s always there, this kind of hyper alert state, checking for what will go wrong, fixing things before they even do. Micro managing the universe, edging a step ahead at all times.

Whilst i’m swimming (well floating) I’ve packed my phone into it’s waterproof bag to go round my neck, for safe keeping. As I float, do breast-stroke, dive under the calm water surface, and bliss out, my phone is really clever and takes loads of burst shots on its own, it even does a Samsung update (without my permission) as I clearly haven’t locked it down. So there we are you see evidence it isn’t all down to me. Clever phone.

My phone gets creative on under water burst shot

The next day i come to Bias Tubal beach (white sands) and it’s stunning. The sea always makes me feel creative and my pastel chalks and sketch pad are out as soon as I hit the beach. You can walk over via a wooded path from Pagang Bai but i take a lift on a scooter because i don’t know about this, and from the drop off it’s a short walk down stone steps and through a wooded grove and YES the sand is white powdered shells with crystal clear sea. You can hire a sunbed and umbrella and set at the back of the beach are several laid back Balinese run warungs (cafes) for fresh coconuts and snacks. I make camp. I came to Bali because i’m at a point of change in my life. I’m shedding the old skins and emerging as a new part of me. Today I feel part human part mermaid.

White Sands Beach – Padang Bai

There has been a deep unrest in me over the last couple of years, i’ve been a real moan-bag and i’ve just felt so stormy and dissatisfied with everything. Peri-menopause is the place of last fertility where the walk begins over the bridge into the next cycle. My sister’s tell me that life beyond the monthly cycle is a territory of rediscovery of self and experiencing a storm of change is part of the rite of passage. I’m ready to re-align with a new sense of truth and renewed service to god/goddess as it expresses itself in the world and re-define a fresh sense of purpose. I have loved bringing my kids up, and being a mother has given me so many gifts. Like holding space for growth and grounding, manifesting safety, love and caring in the world. I give thanks for my beloved family.

However as I visit the sea today I know I am deep diving for the hidden pearls, to unfold the next part of my life. It’s a mix of the queen archetype who knows her power, her ability to lead and is out on a quest on her white horse discovering new parts of her inner and outer terrain, and the maiden archetype who draws back her bow in the light of the moon to hunt and quest for things undiscovered in wild terrain.

This quest, this trip to Bali is about sovereignty, doing it for myself, on my terms. This is empowering, because it contradicts what it is sewn into the fabric of women, that is to exist for everyone else. A beautiful reflective quality indeed, the ability to be there for others but this nurturing can get out of control and eclipse the inner masculine side that must be its own solar power. My highest goal is to experience inner wholeness, inner balance, male and female energy in equality within. This is my privilege as a western woman in 2019, to wake up and claim my wholeness, however there are many women around the world who don’t have this liberty today, and i spend time thinking about that. 

The beach is just too good and over a couple of sweet days i drink fresh coconut juice, swim in the sea, snorkel off a little boat, play in the sand with a mum, dad and their baby from Jakarta, bury myself in sand, sleep on my sun lounger, eat vegetable rice noodles at the beach warung, meditate in the shade, pray in the water, and immerse myself in surrender.

Bali Blessings everywhere

I love that there are Hindu shrines everywhere in Padang Bai, and little flower offerings and incense out at all the beach warungs, guest houses, lookout points, just everywhere. I love eating dinner at the wonderful funky Topi Inn on the harbor, which served me delicious fresh Asian fusion food including spicy coconut soup with rice noodles and fresh vegetable.

I’m so proud that i did my weekend solo beach holiday and really enjoyed my own company so much. I’ve noticed, when travelling alone, that it’s all the small connections with people throughout the day that count, the thank-yous with lady who makes everything for you at the beach warung, the play with the family from Jakarta on the beach, the chat with the festival organiser from California, the dive pro’s top tips on snorkelling at Tupi Inn, 

I’m set to leave in the morning for the location of Sideman, which is inland and due north from here,  to visit temples and pay homage to Mount Agung.

May all the beings in all the worlds have time to surrender and play.

Sun goes down on Padang Bai Harbor

Exploring a Balinese Medicinal Garden

A day of furthering my botanical education into the world of Balinese medicinal plants.  

When I visited the Balinese healer Pak Ketut Jaya, I was enormously intrigued by all the herbal remedies in his healing room.  On our day out to the water temple I discovered a bit more about his extensive knowledge of plant medicine, and he kept saying “oh yes I have that growing in my garden”.

Plant medicine, herbs and healing foods is not only my day job back in my normal life, it’s also one of my most favourite things to do, to learn more about the medicinal properties of mother nature’s apothecary. So I was delighted to take up the invitation to go around to Ketut’s house again and have a tour of his healing garden.

Pak Ketut Jaya makes herbal preparations, such as Herbal Tinctures, Herbal Teas, Balinese Boreh, which is ground herbs and roots made into a rub for the skin, fermented foods, Jahmu, which is a herbal medicine drink, and Loloh, which is fresh leaves crushed and mixed with water to drink. All of the herbs are collected from his garden which is loaded with medicinal plants, that serve him in his work as a healer. He also adds the herbs to his sauna so the aromatic properties can be ingested through the respiratory system.

The garden includes some very recognisable plants such as a Camellia sinensis – Green tea growing by the kitchen, a young Bamboo dedicated to the goddess of compassion Quan Yin and a lawn of Gota kola around the healing room at the back of the house. Green tea is of course stimulating to the mind without the buzz of coffee and high in anti-oxidants, Gota Kola can also be made into a tea and it is rejuvenating to the body and known for promoting longevity, and fresh young bamboo makes a delicious vegetable, although this bamboo was clearly more for its energy than as a food. There is a Moringa tree which is known to be a master healer and thought to be one of the densest sources of nutrition a plant can offer. All of the Moringa plant can be used including the leaves, roots, seeds and bark. The culinary herbs Basil and Parsley grow near the kitchen and there are six types of the anti-inflammatory Turmeric. Not only does the Passion flower climbing plant yield fruits but the leaves are also a good sedative and i’m knocked over by the size of the fruits until Ketut tells me its a particular variety that yields big fruit. There’s a Lemon grass and Chilli plant for cooking, and a Tulsi bush, which makes a calming and invigorating tea which helps with peaceful thoughts. There’s Rosella which is yet to flower but when it does the flowers make a delicious tea that is high in antioxidants and vitamin C. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see all these plants thriving and so well established.

When I arrived Ketut was at work in his garden, and the sun was quite high still in the afternoon. His elderly mother was sitting under the family bale, which is the central covered space in the family courtyard. This is a traditional family home design, but I was told that unless this kind of home is passed down through the family, its very difficult for Balinese people to buy land now and build this kind of layout. They just can’t afford the space anymore because prices are inflated to attract people from different economic cultures and the local Balinese just can’t afford.

The rest of the buildings are set around the courtyard with traditions about which direction the elders of the family should live in, and where the kitchen should be. The garden surrounds the central courtyard and goes out around the back of the house and up the front path, with special plants chosen for their energetic properties planted at the front gate next to the Ganesh shrine.

Ketut’s family not only have the obligatory four dogs and two cats but they also have a pig, who is apparently one of the family too, and is utterly adorable. He answers to his name and Ketut is clearly his papa. The pig has been with the family since he was a baby and it just pops my heart open to see a pig so respected and welcomed.

This garden is just so lush with an abundance of fruit trees that i have never seen before such as Noni, Passionfruit, Dragonfruit, Soursoap and Guava. I get to try different fruits throughout the afternoon and they all surprise and delight my taste buds and are a million miles away from the humble apples of my home county Somerset, UK.

As a medicinal healing garden it contains plants to flavour food, to cool the body system, to act as a deodorant, deliver skin healing, act as a mosquito repellant, digestive, stimulant, purgative, to cleanse the kidneys, the blood, the mind, to uplift the spirits, bring joy, relieve depression, soothe a sore throat, and to promote meditation, amongst other therapeutic actions.

Then there’s the less recognisable plants with some names i cannot quite recall but i will try my best for accuracy. Crocodile tongue for bringing positive energy, Lantorol as a digestive, Gogera as a euphoric and used in sacred dance rituals, Dag dag as a skin cooler, Pakpaktara as a skin scrub and tea, Lilagundi for anti-itching and Cherry lemon for regeneration of cells and a master healer. There are more but there’s only so much I manage to take in.

Ketut puts the sauna on, which he built around the back of the house, and it’s lined with volcanic stone. It’s powered by gas and it has a area to load the fresh herbs into so that the aromas can be breathed in. There is a pesto like skin rub made from fresh herbs and oils, that you can apply to your skin whilst you are sitting in the sauna, to cool and detoxify the skin. My skin has been suffering with mosquito bites quite badly so I lather myself from top to toe and sit in the sauna, covered in green paste ready to steam. This is so relaxing and I spend a couple of hours coming in and out with cold showers in between. Afterwards my skin feels calm and radiant and I’m relieved of the constant itching.

It’s early evening and Ketut’s mum has taken a liking to me and she shares her Balinese cakes, and fruit with me that she has received from her great niece who is visiting. She says I must come back tomorrow. It feels so peaceful, the dogs are cooling down after the day, the pig is back in his nest, we are sipping herb tea and the sky has that lavender hue to it again.

It’s a very restful abundant way of life for my English nervous system, that is too tightly coiled around the business of life. I’m puzzled at just how wrong I’ve got it back home, but forgive and understand myself, noticing how the frenetic pace is drummed up by our culture and has accelerated over the last few decades to the point of impossibility for more than a few. This modern stress is the cause behind so much ill health, and yet all we can do is take one step at a time and make our choices wisely. Forever hopeful i picture the goddess Quan Yin (and her bamboo plant nearby) balancing on the back of her dragon, a beacon for peace, compassion and grace.

May all the pigs in all the worlds be happy. May all the beings in all the worlds find health and well being.

There is a video below of the garden tour with Ketut identifying the plants and saying what there medicinal properties are.

Journey of The Water Temples of Bali

Tirta Empul

Bali is an island of water magic

Over the last few days I have visited waterfalls and water temples. Each one more awe-inspiring than the last, and with each visit I can feel the magic of this water just dissolving all my hard-outer layers and transporting me to a space of flow, surrender, gratitude and humbleness. As I sit and write this afternoon it is raining, I mean proper tropical rain delivering an unquestionable cleansing to the earth.

Yesterday I heard that the ancient name for Bali is Tirta Island, meaning island of many natural springs. They are everywhere and there is often a water temple at the site. I’m so drawn to natural springs, like all the ancient pilgrims before me I feel intuitively in touch with something that is life affirming when I am there. I love being in water, I think I may be part mermaid, and I’m in heaven when I’m diving deep and immersing myself into its flow. Water is the element of emotions and flow, its easier for me to feel when I’m in water, to touch grief and joy, two essential emotions that have formed the shape of my life. I can touch gratitude in water and let my whole-self bubble up with thanks for what is. Just what is today, nothing more nothing less.

Sumampan Waterfall

My water journey began several mornings ago when I walked over to Sumampan waterfall just 10 minutes from my door. I enjoyed the wander down the rural lanes of Bali, passing people working in the rice fields and several dogs that looked like they were on a mission. I descended into the deep valley via a set of 160 stone steps to arrive at the valley floor and to be greeted by the tall intense waterfall cascading onto the rocks at the other side of the river over a sheer drop. I had the place to myself so sat for a few hours playing my wooden flute, apart from a monkey who ran across the tree trunk acting as a bridge over the river, I was glad to be alone as I’m a total beginner and I managed to compose a small tune dedicated to the waterfall and her devic nature spirit. I became aware of a small Balinese lady carrying a pile of rectangular clay bricks on her head walking up stream and then on up the small steps to the top of the valley. She came time and time again. I wondered about her life and how she managed to do this job, I puzzled over what she was doing with her crazy monkey mind to be able to hold focus and diligently perform this heavy weight task. I thought about how it would be to carry our burdens this way. Just one step at a time.

Soon enough a family and their Balinese guide came to join me, and the guide was quite sure it was safe enough to wade through the fast-moving river and up onto the tree bridge to go over to the waterfall. The papa went first, and he was so delighted that he came back for mama and the oldest child. I couldn’t help myself joining in with this fun and meeting the strong force of the river, the balancing act of the bridge and the wonder of the waterfall which invited us right underneath its flow, just in its arch, but not straight under as it was too fierce. I noticed how this water was helping me feel strong and playful and I thanked the family for including me in their fun (and giving me safe boundaries to explore). Back up to the valley top I returned home feeling excited and bubbling, on the way I stopped at one of the 2 village warung’s (meaning small family owned café) and was delighted to order a fresh turmeric, lemon, lime and honey juice. Amazingly, miles away from trendy Ubud this small café had a long list of healing juices including aloe Vera and coconut milk. It was a scorching day, so I returned to the pool side for the rest of the day to meditate, do yoga and forage around in my bag of pencils and chalks I brought with me and make some pictures. These are the things I really treasure doing, my pearls that I go deep diving for in my life back home. But somehow it still takes such discipline and diligence to draw myself back inwards and embrace these practises even though I have all the time in the world. My burden of heavy bricks has been lifted for one month and I aim to make my choices count in every moment.

Me at Sumampan early morning

Yesterday morning I woke to greet the day early as I had arranged with Pak Ketut Jaya, (the Balinese healer I visited a few days ago for a healing session) (you can read about this healing treatment here) to be my guide for the day and take me to the water temple, north of Ubud. I was half expecting that we would go to the famous Tirta Empul, one of the most well-known temples in Bali, but Ketut arrived on his scooter with other plans. He said we would go to a smaller water temple that was peaceful and a bit more off the tourist map, the place where he goes to make his prayers for purification, a place called Pura Dalem Pingit Sebatu. Pak Ketut Jaya would also be my spiritual guide for the visit, to hold prayer ceremony and guide me through the right way to do purification and prayer at such a place visited by the Balinese Hindu community.

The location of Pura Dalem Pingit, at Sebatu  was incredibly special and reached by a path leading to steps circling deep into the valley bottom. The vegetation was thick and lush with beautiful flowers and moss-covered rocks. Nature just felt so abundant with the smell of sweet fresh spring water.

Journey down to Pura Dalem Pigit

I can only tell you that the experience was very beautiful, I fell deeply into my heart, allowing my breathe to be deep and rhythmic, there were blessings upon blessings each ending with a flower behind the right ear. Ketut was very clear and direct in communicating what each prayer was about. It held a familiar form of asking for permission to the guardians of the place, connecting to god, to the goddess, to mother earth, asking for forgiveness of self and others, asking for purification of the ego. This translated into surrender, release, letting the heart unburden, connecting to the eternal infinite source of creation through the breath, feeling the elements all around and receiving the beauty of the water blessing.

There were numerous places to stop on the way down where much of this occurred, however it culminated at the bottom of the valley in the water pool that received the spring as a waterfall into its depths, with full immersion into the waterfall holding the breath for as long as possible. At first, I resisted and felt the fear of drowning but then on the third time I got it and just felt an amazing surrender. I could breath a little bit in short pants whilst standing within the waterfall and realised it was OK to just let go and stay there. This was the most amazing feeling, to just stay in the waterfall, I can’t really find the words, but it was like belonging to another world, like maybe before I was born or after I die. Yes, it was profound, and I think for one tinny teeny moment I might have released the grip of the mind and ego.

Pura Dalem Pigit

My intention was for the cleansing and purification of all the waters on our blue planet, for all the seas, rivers, streams, lakes and puddles, and I held this as my focus as Ketut performed a fire ceremony for bringing healing to our earth mother at the Pura Gunwang Kawi temple just around the corner from Pura Dalem Pigit. Throughout the ceremonies Ketut laid on the prasad – the offerings of flowers, incense, fruit, cakes and more for the altars. By the end I had so many flowers behind my right ear that I joked I would need to pray for bigger ears for next time.

The wind brought me back to my body on the scooter ride home and we did some good grounding things like visit the studio of THE master wood carver of Bali, the Ada Garuda Gallery, which was mind bendingly stunning, with enormous statues of Balinese gods and goddesses carved from a single tree piece, as special comissions for Hindu temples around the world. Yes really!

I must tell you about this funny drink we had when we stopped at a local warung, it’s called a daluman drink. It consists of coconut milk, tea and this green gel that is made from the daluman leaves, which are a bit like aloe-vera. It was crazy with big lumps of gel that slid down your throat, but it was also tasty and refreshing. It has medicinal properties and is cooling and soothing to the digestive tract, which is useful after all the chilli.

And there is more! Today I decided I would visit the water temple that everyone has told me to go to. The famous Pura Tirta Empul located close to the town of Tampaksiring in the village of Manukaya. The village is a 30-minute drive to the north of Ubud. This temple is situated right next to the president of Bali – Joko Widodo’s residency and was visited by the Obamas when they came to Bali. Its very much on the tourist trail and you can read about how it is all set out here. However I will share with you my very personal experience of the purification pools that consist of fountains of spring water entering two large bathing pools. The pool on the left is for purification and letting go and the pool on the right is for blessings on the future of your life, your family, your house, your new business and all things moving forward.

I enlisted a guide who called himself my personal assistant and he explained clearly about what to do, and he looked after my bag and took lots of pics on my phone. I’m glad I received his guidance as I could see tourists kind of getting it all wrong and sticking their heads under the fountains for the dead and such like. He was immensely kind and really held the space for me to meditate and go within to my own prayers and wishes. He also sorted out all the flower offerings and incense and kept calling out for me to look over for a photo, which was quite sweet and resulting in many good pictures to keep as memories of the day. I have been doing a daily meditation practice of breathing in these seven virtues – purity, patience, generosity, kindness, disciple, diligence and humility, so I decided to make this my focus and let go of all the opposite states of ego mind to these virtues.

Dressed in my sarong and sash I entered the cold spring water bath on the left-hand side and joined the queue of pilgrims. 10 fountains for purification, and then missing out 11 and 12 as these are for the dead, a 13th for clearing nightmares and a 14th for cleansing the 5 elements. At each fountain spout its 3 handfuls to drink, then 3 handfuls to wash the face, then head under the fountain spout to clear the crown chakra at the top of the head. Wow this was powerful and meaningful to make a ritual in this way with all these people. Then up and over and into the bath on the right-hand side, 1st fountain spout to clear the spoken word, clearing all the bad or nasty things you have ever said, then 2nd spout to clear all the nasty things people have said to you. Fantastic, I love this, its just my kind of thing. Then the final fountain spout to welcome water blessings into your future life and the lives of all your family, ancestors, future family and relations. Boom! Its done.

Bali I love you, I love your water temples and the possibility and invitation to commune with this natural spring water in this way. I also went over to the the place where the spring water comes out of the ground before i left, the springs are bubbling up the clay earth around into clouds and eddys, thick and fast, determined and in 33 places I’m told. Tirta meaning water, and Empul meaning up out of the earth. Wow what a water temple you are Tirta Empul. Thankyou for having me today.

On the way back I stop for a tea at the Tegallalang rice terraces, which is “one of the three most splendid terraced landscapes in Ubud’s shared region, with the others being in the villages of Pejeng and Campuhan”. They are green, beautiful, lush, layer upon layer of terraces lining each side of a stunning deep undulating valley, with a strange mix of rice padi farmers hard at work on their land in their conical hats and ‘we love Bali’ tourists looking for that perfect Instagram shot.

You could move way too fast through this land, but it would be a great sadness and terrible mistake really to miss the feel of the place. Slowly slowly the goddess of the land that is Bali is opening her arms to me.

May all the beings in all the world be love.

Goa Gajah Elephant Caves

The days have begun to blur into one already! This may be the tropical weather conditions which are very unfamiliar. It doesn’t feel as hot as dry heat, but it doesn’t take much before you are lathered in sweat. I’m not sure how to do this with the sun cream. It’s that oil and water conundrum that chemists have tried to work out for millennia. They don’t mix.

However it does seem to appear that Bali and temples do mix. They are everywhere! Komang my driver (that sounds so queenly to have a driver) has explained a bit about Bali village life. The pura desa or village temple is at the heart of village life, and along side it is the bale banjar which is a large covered open sided building, like a village hall where all the people who live in the village gather to discuss village matters. The meetings are held by the kelian banjar, who is elected for a period of time. He says if anyone is having trouble the bale banjar discuss it and work out how to go forward and remove obstacles, this can be personal, family, community, religious or government administration issues. They meet twice a month and we drove past a bale banjar in session and it was packed! Komang is really proud of the community.

I’m also noticing that many houses have an entrance gate that leads into a first courtyard with a statue of Ganesh there, guarding the gateway. Ganesh is the son of  Shiva and Parvati and in Hindu mythology Parvati creates her son whilst her husband Shiva is away and the boy stands at the gate of the house to protect his mother. Then there’s that awful business about Shiva coming back and not knowing the boy is his son, he cuts his head off as the boy refuses to let him pass. Parvati is obviously beside herself so Shiva intends to bring him back to life by finding another head. That’s how he ends up with the head of an elephant, and of course his mama loves him still and his papa declares him to be worshipped as a god to honour his virtues of protection. Thus he is the Hindu god for protection and removing obstacles. I’ve seen so many I’m tempted to do an instagram style #doorsoflondon  #ganeshafrontgatesofbali photo collection.


About Ganesh, yesterday morning I decided to visit the Goa Gajah Elephant Cave Temple. in Bedulu village, just 5km from Ubud. It’s very close to Kailash guest house where i am staying. This is a very old sacred site. The name is written om Negarakeertagama papyrus dated back to 1365AD and means hermitage on a river. Its thought that a Buddhist shrine by the river came first, and then later the cave became a place to offer prayers to Shiva, Parvati and their son Ganesh. At some point the front of the cave was carved with the face of a elephant with a giant open mouth as the door.

 I arrive at the site and manage to purchase a job lot of flower offerings and incense and set off down the many stairs into the gorge below that houses a river and the ancient cave. It’s a hot day and there is the ubiquitous market by the ticket office with the swarm of traders touting their wares of sarongs, sarongs and more sarongs. Everyone must wear a sarong to go into the temple space, it seems the Balinese are very protective about their sacred spaces and great natural custodians. I don’t escape without purchasing the most beautiful cotton flowery vibrant summer dress for my granddaughter, and a pair of gorgeous red with blue exotic flower shorts. This is because I am missing her such a lot. In fact, I’m really missing my family on this outing and I decide I’m going to make some prayers for them all down in the cave asking Ganesh to protect them and remove all obstacles to peace and well being in their lives. On the way down I see an Asian woman washing in the large stone bath with female statues pouring spring water into it, it seems that this is the place for purification before prayer. I place my first flower offering and douse my head in water, I notice that these statues have gorgeous curves and I reflect on the wonder and beauty of the mother archetype who is connected to an unlimited source of flow and fertility just like this water. I haven’t done any washing up or housework for days and I’m getting her vibe.

Purification at Goa Gajah

There are lots of tourists and everyone wants THE pic outside the elephant cave and there are tour guides speaking loudly in a few different languages. But I’m seeking something much subtler, I’m here to feel the energy of the place and wander back in time to touch that ancient pulse. I’m not a Hindu, I don’t even lean towards eastern spirituality particularly. I connect spiritually through nature and all forms of god and goddess delivering the message that we are all one, a unity consciousness. But today I’m going to offer up my prayers.

Flower and incense offerings

A lovely Balinese lady called Madi is laying out the flower offerings, so I go over and say hello. She bustles around getting me a tray for my offerings and flicking the holy water. She tells me she is 50 and has one son, I tell her I’m 47 and have 3 children and a granddaughter and I’m going to make prayers for their lives. She flicks me down with holy water and we share a bit of happy mama time. She takes my bag to keep safe in her shop and fusses over me. I feel special in my sarong with my flower offerings and off I go into the cave. Its dark and bare inside and there’s a long tunnel then an open space with 3 altars hollowed out from the cave walls. To the left is Ganesh altar with an elephant stone, to the centre is Parvati altar with a big round goddess stone, and to the right is Shiva altar with a set of stone lingums. I end up thinking about all the females in my family line at the centre, all the males to the right, then all the children at the centre. I set down my flower offerings and incense.

Me outside the elephant cave

I’m startled by the light when I come out, and Madi has fresh coconut for sale so I’m revived by this delicious drink “A nice sweet one for you” she says. As I wander on I go deeper into the gorge, sadly I see discarded coconut shells and straws thrown in the undergrowth on my way down to the river its self . I find a waterfall and it is here that the true spirit of the place talks to me, a prayer for mother earth bursts out of my heart, that we can learn quickly how to be better custodians of her, that the spirit of the Balinese way of caring for the earth can spread out before it’s too late. Further up there is a Buddhist shrine and I’m blessed with flowers and rice.

Ubud is so close and I’m invited back in to town by the thought of getting a plate of vegan food at the café Soma which has been recommended by a friend from Glastonbury, and describes itself on facebook as a cafe, a shop and community gathering space. Maybe I will feel differently about Ubud today? Soma describes itself as offering high vibe food and has a wonderful menu of raw vegan, vegan and vegetarian delights. Whilst I’m wandering around trying to find the place, I pass the monkey forest, so I decide to pop in. It’s a strange vibe in there as the tree shapes are so unfamiliar, with great hanging vines and a sort of swampy feel. I gravitate towards the holy spring which looks to be dedicated to Ganesh.

The monkeys are everywhere, and all the signs say do not look them in the eye or get out any food or drinks or they will nick them. I give myself permission to not like things on this whole trip. Its just that I’m so used to keeping up a positive attitude as a parent when holidaying with my family. We’ve paid in, it wasn’t cheap, we are only one step away from everyone breaking out into moans of how they are too hot, thirsty, bored or they just don’t like it, so its always been my job to keep up the happy vibe. You know the scene? So I just realise I don’t need to do this, I can if want to – simply just not like something if that’s what I really feel. I don’t like the monkey forest, I feel about 6 and the monkeys are scary. Not even a gorgeous mama monkey and cub melt me and I’m out of there like a shot.

I wander through Ubud market as I’d like to buy a special sarong for visiting temples, it feels like the same rules apply, don’t look anybody in the eye or open your bag or the traders will be all over you in a shot. I feel more vulnerable on my own, like a waiting target. I over pay a lady for a sarong and bolt out of there, I did haggle but I can tell it was still overpriced but I’m just too much of a softy for this, as all I can think about is her rent, food and kids.

Then I find Soma, its in the trendy end of town. Lovely narrow streets lined with gorgeous boutiques, musical instrument shops, exquisite jewellery and signs to spas and guest houses. Soma is set around a courtyard with a rather ancient looking gate standing alone like a nod to the past. The vibe is chilled out and I choose a gorgeous sofa at the back and literally lay flat feeling the heat. The menu is exquisite with delights like juices, smoothies, raw chocolate desserts, raw food salads and a long list of herbal teas. I order a large pot of fresh turmeric and ginger tea. Scanning the menu is a day out in itself, and just so interesting to read the mission on the front cover and then the wonderful synergies of vegetables, herbs and superfoods put together in an extensive and inspiring way. Soma is my kind of place. I order a raw vegan rainbow salad with peanut sauce, and a shiitake mushroom pattie with Asian greens. What can I say? I’ve found what I’m looking for! This food is outrageously wonderful, and I want to move in just so I can spend the next month eating my way through the menu.

Soma Raw Chocolate Dessert

I’m in love and I forgive Ubud immediately for its crazy scooter roundabout traffic, its monkey minded mayhem city vibe, its super trendy glamorous beautiful spiritual people poster look. Ok we can be friends! I’ve noticed over my shoulder I rather distinguished Balinese man who looks super chilled and like he might be the proprietor of the place, and soon enough he comes over and introduces himself in a very friendly way. Well it’s a small world because it doesn’t take long for us to discover that he knows and loves the Glastonbury crowd who come to Bali and with several mutual friends between us Soma feels like home. We chat about our friends, the food, the menu, the inspiration behind Soma and I just feel like I’m receiving a wealth of information about the spirit of the land from him and another Soma regular guest. I hear a story about the spirit of the Balinese farmers who are strong at sticking to their farming practices when tempted with take over offers from the big boys wanting to turn Bali into GM crops with Monsanto seeds.

The word Ubud I’m told means medicine.

My body is so happy for the food and as I wander off to meet up with my driver to go back to Kailash, Ubud is alive with the night vibe. A big ceremony is kicking off at the temple next to the palace and the whole place is crammed with the men in white temple clothes and the woman in lace tops, sarongs and prayer belts.

Houki, Keeku and Me

Back at Kailash the doggies come to greet me like a long lost friend, and i wonder if i’ll ever leave. I have a late night swim in the pool and give thanks for a day like this. I’m really intrigued about the story of this land. My friends at Soma tell me about Bali’s healing energy and how if you visit with your heart and mind open you will fall in love with the place. I’m intrigued to which part of Bali calls me. Is it her oceans, islands, mountains, springs, waterfalls, temples? Right now its my bed at Kailash and another good nights sleep. I breathe in deeply and out deeply reminding myself that i am allowed to take in all this loveliness.

May all the beings in all the worlds find peace.

Go see Balinese Healer

Today i went to see a traditional Balinese Healer.

I came up with the idea yesterday evening, it just popped into my mind on the way back from the waterfalls when i saw the name Pak Ketut Jaya Spa Alternative Massage on google maps. I was still feeling double my 47 years with my shoulders stuck under my ears after the long distance travel and first couple of sleepless nights on arrival in Bali. I looked at a photo of Pak Ketut Jaya on facebook and decided to phone him up. His English is excellent (turns out he was a tour guide before going full time as a healer) and we have a friendly chat. He says all the right things. That he doesn’t do the healing, it comes through him from God, that only the recipient can decide to receive this healing and that the body know how to heal itself. He also receives donations rather than a set fee as his door is open to everyone tourists and locals alike. He explains that the treatment begins with a deep tissue massage, Balinese reflexology, hands on healing (a bit like reiki) and a welcoming of the pure soul essence into the body. I get a good feeling and arrange to go at noon the next day. I research on line and find out that Pak Ketut Jaya is in fact the grandson of a healer and herbalist and his knowledge has been past down to him from both his granddad and grandma. You can find out more about him here.

So i wake this morning feeling intrigued with a dash of trepidation and as i roll over in bed i drop my rhodochrosite crystal healing massage stone on the marble tiles and it breaks in two. My trepidation levels dial up from a 3 to a 6.5 and i feel a bit puzzled. Does this mean i’m going to be broken in two by the crazy Balinese healer? Does this portent to my shield really cracking and little old me being revealed to the outside air? Turns out that rhodochrosite’s energy is all about self love and reaching the wounds of the inner child, and as i look at the insides of the crystal now its broken and no longer shiny and polishes i see these beautiful soft pink striped striations of stone all ragged but revealed.

I’m doing a morning meditation practice at the moment that focuses on these seven principles – peace, patience, generosity, kindness, discipline, diligence and humility. So i stick my headphones in whilst sitting on the edge of the pool to breathe and follow the audio of the guided meditation. My normally out of control monkey mind manages to just about stay on track but somehow i’m really on it with the humility section and my thoughts don’t travel. I really hear the words “breathe in humility and breath out pride, self-importance and worthlessness”. And it hits me – worthlessness, all that low self esteem and putting oneself down is just as much an issue as arrogance and self-aggrandising. Its no different, its still as draining, attention seeking and life force zapping as being, what was referred to at my school as “full of oneself”. So i realise this is my intention for the healing session – to let go of that spiral of worthlessness, the lost and lonely child caught in a self-belief story of being worth nothing. Well i’m certainly going to give it a go.

Balinese Flower Offering

So off i go to Batuan to meet with Pak Ketut Jaya, i take my flower and incense offering all wrapped up in a big leaf with my 500,000 IDR rolled away inside (a friend told me this is what you do) and Wayan my driver from Kailash finds the place within 10 minutes and he walks down to the family compound with me, i can tell he’s excited too. We enter the compound and Wayan explains how its all set out. The most beautiful house for the grandparents, the family temple, the central covered area, all the other family houses in order of status, the kitchen etc.

Pak Ketut Jaya comes out to greet me and invites me to come and watch the healing session he is already doing. His healing room is wonderful. Its lined with glass jars of herbal potions, with the wide eyed Balinese protection masks hanging on the walls. His altar is huge and covered with all manner of esoteric things including many healing medicinal plants and instruments. I sit on the second massage bed and pretty much instantly go all super heavy relaxed with a low aum sound emerging from my mouth. Pak has warned me that the treatment can be painful and i can see that his current client is really going through it. She turns to me and says “I once had a Chinese medicine treatment and thought nothing could ever be more painful, well this is, but i’d do it again in a shot as the results were so good.” Later she’s squealing and you can see that Pak is using a whole host of Balinese reflexology tools that look similar to a set of torture equipment, so i focus on omitting healing energy and breathing deeply.

Pak’s kit that he whittled & crafted himself

Then its my turn and i remind myself that i gave birth to 3 children, i can deal with pain, and seriously focus on my breathing. I can only describe Pak’s touch as the most gentle loving kind connection combined with the ability to deeply penetrate muscles and tendons and kind of reshape the bones whilst unraveling all the knots. But he’s doing psychic surgery at the same time, praying, aum-ing, flicking, swishing, just entirely rearranging the firmament of my physical being. Did i mention that he is chucking oils, a sort of eau de cologne, blessed water at me the whole time too? Well it was just so intense but so beautiful and i cried and hollered like a baby but in a really good way. Then onto the Balinese reflexology to re balance the internal organs, a deep scorching pressure/pain that felt like fire but didn’t hurt. You see that’s the amazing thing – it was painful but it didn’t hurt and i really felt my body release tension i’ve been carrying around for a very long time. So after all this physical work crystals were laid on, instruments played, prayers chanted, flowers and oils applied and Pak invited me to call out my name and invite my soul back into my body. It was incredible, the whole thing, you couldn’t make it up, he even did pressure points on my tongue and put a sort of funny herbal liquid in my eyes. I was so pleased that the first client stayed to watch my session and afterwards we laughed and hugged and teased Pak a little bit about his reflexology torture tools. It was so uplifting and by the end Pak brought us fruit and we giggled about it all, and he showed us all his esoteric treasures including a picture of his grandmother who was covered in a herbal mixture and laughing her head off.

Me & Pak Ketut Jaya after the healing

So back at Kailash guest house where i am staying, i can only say i feel great! Really energised and relaxed. It’s been a hot day, with no rain, i can hear the humming of insects and frogs and the sky has a tropical lavender hue to it.

My driver was so excited on the way back today to show me the places where they shot Eat, Pray, Love. It was here he says around the corner from Kailash. He’s got me sussed!

May all the beings in all the worlds be happy