What is a healer?

From Cat Wheeler…

A healer ‘holds the space’ between the client’s soul and the ‘Divine’.  This demands wisdom derived from their craft, experience, humility and impeccable integrity. Ultimately we are our own healers.  In an era of instant gratification and dwindling standards people often arrive in Bali with the attitude, “You’re a healer, fix me.”  But there are no quick fixes; a major aspect of healing is that we need to do our own work.  So the role of a healer is catalytic, supporting our transition to balance.\

The word ‘healer’ is a very loaded one, carrying a cargo of surrender and expectation. The many visitors coming to Bali in search of ‘healing’ need to be aware that a wellness industry has sprung up to serve and sometimes exploit them.   Not all who offer ‘healing’ are genuine or ethical.  Seekers need to take responsibility not just for their own work but for those with whom they choose to work.

The Balian

There’s a long history of magic and healing in Bali.  But the ancient role of the Balian, who is guided by the gods to aid humans through mysticism and ritual, has been reduced to just another item on the tourist itinerary, sandwiched between a massage and a surfing lesson. “I’ve had people tell me they need to be at the airport by five o’clock but still have a few hours, so take me to a healer,” said I Made Surya, who is named in Lonely Planet Online Travel as a leading authority on Balinese healers.  “These are not people with problems to be solved; they look on it as entertainment.” Balians are traditional healers who play an important part in the local culture by treating physical and mental illness, removing spells and channeling information from the ancestors.  The Balian is an instrument of divine healing, and the client enters a covenant to receive this healing with respect, reverence and humility. 

There are about 8,000 Balians practicing on Bali. The Book and film ‘Eat Pray Love’ focused international attention on Bali’s men and women of magic. Surya reports an escalating demand from tourists to be taken to a ‘healer’ after its release.  “Demand has created an industry.  If tourists want to visit healers, then healers they shall have. It’s become a good business. Ubud has the buzz, and it’s become a stage for commercial enterprises delivering traditional healing.” Both Balinese and Westerners are getting in on the act.  According to Surya, there are plenty of bogus Balians out there. Genuine Balians don’t advertise, draw attention to themselves or even like to be addressed as Balian.  A visit to a genuine Balian will be very public, with all other visitors watching closely.  S/he may make magic, create fire, use mudras, draw patterns on the body, spit wads of chewed herbs on your skin, apply scented oils, poke you with sharp sticks or perform a deep tissue massage or manipulation which can be very painful indeed. Many traditional Balians won’t see foreigners at all because they feel it’s too difficult to communicate the subtlety and nuance of their work across the language and cultural barriers, even with a translator.

How to choose a ‘healer’ to work with?

  1. Be aware that the genuine will not boast or embellish when they advertise. Take time to learn whether the practitioner lives their practice. If a non-Balinese, research her/him online. There have been allegations of emotional, financial and sexual abuse from the ‘healing’ community in Bali.
  2. Trust your intuition – you are placing your body and soul in this person’s hands. If your gut says no, walk away.
  3. If you choose to work with a Balian or non-Balinese ‘healer’, you still need to do your own work.  That means showing up to your practice, whatever it may be, recognising the process, and acknowledging that there is no end to this path of finding and keeping our balance in life. The path to healing is one of endless growth and transformation.  Find stillness, go deep, take time, examine what is painful, release what you no longer need to carry.

The Art of Healing

From Shervin Boloorian…

Indeed, ‘healing’ is often discredited as a field of practice largely because of a lack of humility among those making outlandish, farcical or unsubstantiated claims about their ‘powers’.  It’s true there are unexplained healing miracles and mysteries the world over, but most acknowledge that there can be no attachment to outcomes.  Healing is no substitute for medical science or psychological services either. It complements these by going outside of pure anatomical symptom-based analysis. After ten years of practice with sound, I have come to discover that healing is an art form.

It is not anywhere near a perfect science and it is not typically effective when purely intuition-based. If the healing practice is grounded in an ancient holistic study like Traditional Balinese or Chinese Medicine, then there is already a time-honored holistic system and body of literature or lineal wisdom in place.

Healer or Hyper?

To echo Cat’s point, those who have trained in the holistic arts know that the ‘Golden Rule’ is that nobody has the authority to force or fix anything. My first Balinese teacher, an exceptional channel called ‘Jero Ayu Sekar’, never once described herself as a ‘healer’. She never claimed to ‘fix’ anybody’s life. Nothing is, in fact, ever broken…

I have visited my share of Bali practitioners who embellish. One Western European past-life specialist lectured me about his abilities and my inadequacies for 40 minutes. I nodded and smiled. We were in the same room, but I may as well have been a piece of furniture. I finally interrupted and asked if he wanted to know why I had made the appointment to see him. “Fix-It-Felix” hyperbole and lack of practitioner presence turns off the public. Moreover, it muddies what a bona fide holistic practitioner is really about.

I have come to observe some of my so-called sound therapy peers in Bali (most with limited or no training) tell me that ‘this tuning fork will help a person improve their relationships’, ‘this frequency from the latest new electronic sound wave device will evaporate depression and despair’.  Other ‘healers’ are convinced that the shock of a giant metal instrument planted atop the crown or bashed against a crystal laid flat on someone’s ‘Third Eye’ will somehow open their ‘chakras’. Electrical devices, like surgical tools or drugs, can offer essential relief but can they substitute for the subtleties and evolution of a healing journey, which often requires a total recalibration of perception about illness?

Fresh Perception

Dealing with perceived flaws, frailties, excesses and absences requires outside support from a practitioner who defies allopathic or Judeo-Christian conventions. Each stage of life (including this surreal age we are in now) provides a fresh set of physical, emotional and mental challenges to navigate.  Nothing can be fixed but ‘healer-artists’ can help.  As we are witnessing today amidst a global crisis, the inability to interface in a healthy way with the outside world due to prejudice, worry, rage, paranoia, fear, grief etc is rooted in conflicted inner relationships. Talking about it with clinical counselors doesn’t always work.

There are a number of esoteric gifts, tools, and techniques available in the energy world to open a receiver to appreciation, acceptance and new awareness.  But the receiver has responsibility to do 85-90 percent of the work. 

What I would add to Cat’s list of how to choose a ‘healer’ is: be realistic about your expectations and beware of placing healers on too high a pedestal.   Integrity is big but it is unrealistic to expect that anyone lives like a modern saint. ALL holistic artists struggle with their own imperfections.  They have limits and vulnerabilities. They are on their own journeys too.  Unhealthy projections placed on holistic professionals by their guests create the illusion that healers are incapable of making mistakes. I believe the age of the ‘Guru’ is over precisely because we are realizing that everyone, including the advanced spiritualists, are flawed and cannot know it all. Life is a 360 degree healing journey; or, as a Jungian might put it, everyone has a shadow.

Holistic practitioners are artists first. Quality matters in art. Solid training, experience and credentials matter. When someone joyfully and repeatedly shows up to their craft they become better at serving through it.  Those working with sound, color, essences, movement, visualization, Light, Nature’s Elements, healing touch or other energy modalities can provide added vibrance to the energetic painting already adorning the human canvas. Ultimately, the healer-artist is a space holder and cheerleader for the soul’s unique, incomparably exceptional qualities that are already complete inside each being.