Times I Thought I Was in a Loony Bin: Impossible to Count
This trip is multi-layered, like peeling an onion. I want to do things I love, things that take me out of my comfort zone and a few things that are totally wacky. Recently I heard about the Shaking Ashram in Bali. Intrigued after a 3 minute conversation, I checked online and booked the minimum required stay of 5 days.
The shaking meditation does what it says on the bottle. You shake to the sound of music for six hours a day. The believe behind it is that any emotional or physical blocks stay within you and that by shaking you are releasing them and you return to alignment. Sort of like a bottle where ingredients have separated and once you shake it the contents become uniform again.
During each two hour shaking session, not only you shake but you are supposed to put some tobacco in your mouth and let it sit there. It has been blessed by Ratu Bagus, the guru who runs the ashram and it is meant to aid you in cleansing and releasing. I had not realised I was meant to ingest anything and was not happy about it. So I didn’t.
I spent the first two days in a total state of shock. Telling myself I was leaving but scolding myself at the same time for wanting to give up before the five days were up. We did the shaking in a big room where the Balinese living in the ashram slept at night. It was filled with enormous photos of Ratu that you were supposed to focus on while you repeated the mantra “Om swastiyastu Ratu Bagus“(I greet you great soul, I bow down to you great king) while loud rave or pop music played on. People screaming, jumping around and rolling of the floor. In a different time, they would have been assumed to have been possessed. It was truly awful.
Everybody seemed to be ill with colds, coughs and chest problems. The theory is that if you are sick you are “processing” or clearing your block. I wondered though, if my mother was right and it had to do with the 6 hours a day barefoot on a very cold tiled floor. The phlegm hacking was stomach churning and it happened all the time…I found myself praying for the rave music to begin so it would drown the sounds. I discovered a rat moving about. The altar had offerings that no doubt proved irresistible so I moved as far as possible. I found it very hard to concentrate, it was impossible not to follow its progress across the room. I later discovered that there were more than one…I tried not to think about all the toddlers and children sharing their sleeping space with rats
By day 3 I felt much looser in my body, less constrained. My legs were not hurting as much. What was even better is that I was managing to keep my mind blank for short bursts, something I had never managed with any other type of meditation. I have a fairly intense interior monologue going on. Yet here I was managing to think of nothing for 20 minutes at a time. Ratu would come in during each session for a short while and walk about. He would either touch a person or playfully move his head forward as in “I am sending you my stare”. Everybody would go insane. Jumping, screaming and more rolling on the floor even crazier than before. I kept thinking I was in a nuthouse. I discovered that the reason people were reacting in such a way when they looked at his photo, when he touched them or stared at them was they would get a surge of energy. He stopped by me several times touching my back and repeating “you are electric, you are electric”. Nothing. I am afraid I am a hard nut to crack.
By day 4 I developed my own mantras and affirmations that worked much better for me. I was also struck by everyone’s sense of gratitude. To life or the universe. If they were hurting somewhere it meant they were clearing something. And they gave thanks for that pain that was helping them get rid of something unwanted. Most people I know do not openly express gratitude like that. I think in our society we just feel entitled and forget to be thankful. I know I do. It was very warming to be surrounded by so much open gratitude.
On day 5 a girl who had stayed less than a day left. I couldn’t blame her. Though I was not discussing with myself the need to leave anymore, I remembered how I felt only a few days before. It did take me 2 or 3 days to shed all my preconceived ideas and be in a place where I could turn things to myself. If for example, there was blood curdling phlegm hacking right by me, it would bring to my attention the fact I need to be more tolerant of others, whereas before I would have just been disgusted. I am glad I stuck to the 5 days. I did not partake of the tobacco in the end. Whereas perhaps by day 4 or 5 I might have been tempted to try it, my leap of faith did not extend to believing none of the rats had ever managed to get into the urn that Ratus kept leaving open.
I intend to continue shaking and curiously, I spent the week after I left sick in bed. Headache, fever, cold, cough, stomach and a bout of sciatica. Was I processing or did I just catch something after 10 weeks on the road. I do not know. What I do know is that I am calmer and more connected to myself. And that can only be good. Thank you.