On Spiritual Gold Rush in Bali

Welcome to the hidden undercurrent of Bali's spiritual scene, where seekers flock in pursuit of enlightenment, but sometimes stumble upon the treacherous waters.
This article delves into the cautionary tales of spiritual journeys on the island. From the zealous quest for powers to the pitfalls of misguided knowledge, brace yourself for an eye-opening exploration of Bali's spiritual gold rush.

Setting the Scene: the World's New Age Spiritual Capital

Bali - the Island of Gods - beacons with promises of magic that can be part of your life too.
Fueled by the popularity of works like "Eat, Pray, Love" and word-of-mouth descriptions of miraculous events and insights that occur on the island, people journey to Bali hoping to find guidance from renowned healers and spiritual guides.
Bali is undoubtedly the world’s new age spiritual capital, attracting practitioners, healers, and shamans from far and wide. Coaches and gurus lead life sessions and broadcast their recorded content from the confines of their beautiful Bali residences. 
Here, you can find anything and everything: from Tibetan singing bowls for centering and relaxation, to ecstatic dances for invigoration and unity, to tea ceremonies that encourage quiet reflection, just to name a few.
People who journey here in search of unique experiences and deep realisations carry those Bali treasures in their hearts and minds, spreading the seeds that have been sown here around the globe.
However, in this article, I want to talk about the flip side of the coin - the spiritual gold rush undercurrent in Bali. This phenomenon is characterised by an overly zealous pursuit of spiritual powers and the misguided or careless application of knowledge.
I will start with the notion of belief as it is a prerequisite for setting things in motion. I will ask: What happens when we believe that someone has the power to transform us? When should we exercise judgement?
I will then speak on the issue of commercialisation of spiritual practices in Bali with a story of quick-fix enterprises. 
Next, I will address the issue of personal responsibility. Are Bali’s visitors participating in spiritual activities mere observers, puppets, or blind seekers? And what can each of us do to take personal responsibility for both the experiences we have and those we propagate into the world?
I will conclude by inviting the reader into the energy realm of Bali in the sequel to this article.

Belief and Healing: What Happens When We Believe That Someone Has the Power to Transform Us?

In my years of study under a spiritual Master who conducts healing sessions, I've encountered two distinct groups of seekers. Some approach these sessions with scepticism. These people usually leave in a huff, never to return again. Others come with unwavering belief in the Master's powers. These believers come back with tales of miraculous recoveries, attributing their healing to the Master's influence: “The doctors in my home country could not believe it, but all my gallstones have disappeared!”, “We were trying for a baby unsuccessfully for years, and now I am pregnant,” and so on.
So why do we have such a polar response to what is essentially the same treatment? Could it be that the power of suggestion plays a significant role here? When individuals wholeheartedly embrace the belief in healing, are they better able to overcome their ailments? And does the presence of the spiritual Master act as the catalyst that pushes the magic button, facilitating a transformative shift in the seekers?
This phenomenon may be rooted in a deeply ingrained generational instinct within us, urging us to seek guidance from higher, wiser figures. In turn, this facilitates a more receptive approach to change and healing.

Belief and Destruction: When Should We Exercise Judgement?

Some years ago, at a time when the Balinese had no free access to medical services, I was a witness to a peculiar but sad event. A local man was suffering from undiagnosed AIDS. For diagnostics, he was brought to a renowned healer in Denpasar. The healer examined the man, who was in agonising pain that was affecting his sanity. The healer concluded that there was some black magic involved, and named a female neighbour as responsible.
Needless to say, the family of the man was deeply disturbed by the news, and it took them a while to figure out who that female neighbour might have been. In the end, someone remembered that the man had beef with an old lady over access to a spring some 10 years prior. 
A few months later, the man passed away in a hospital, and a post-mortem concluded that AIDS was the cause of death.
This story underscores the potential consequences of relying solely on traditional healers for diagnostics. Consulting medical professionals could have alleviated the man's suffering and prevented the family from wrongly attributing his illness to black magic, let alone creating negative feelings towards others.

In Search of Magic: on Quick-Fix Enterprises

The healing market of Bali is, well, a market. That puts money on someone’s table. And it would be naive to think that no business element is ever involved.
In Bali, the healing business is multi-layered, starting with the healers themselves—who, after all, have families to feed—and extending to the guides and agencies who refer customers—and also working to support themselves. This is the naked truth that any visitor has to accept.
The spiritual gold rush brings all kinds of people to Bali, and many have only a limited time to take in all that Bali has to offer. Here, I want to share a story of an enterprise that served as a quick-fix, one-stop spiritual hub to cater to the needs of visitors on short vacations.
It involved a pair of entrepreneurs who, shortly after their arrival in Bali, established a bustling tourist destination which offered traditional healing sessions, tarot readings, and other mystical activities. It was skillfully marketed and tourists came there by busloads. 
The downside of this magical funfair was that the traditional healers were chosen primarily based on their proximity to the entrepreneurs' establishment. Of course, every member of staff carried that distinct Bali touch in everything they did, but the experience of visiting that place vs. an authentically powerful Balinese healer was analogous between going to a commercial massage salon in Bali vs. visiting a generational traditional massage Master in their local home.

Fuzzing the Hype: on Matters of Popular Opinion and Discretion

Let me explain: the roles each of us play in the collective experience called 'Bali' are not to be underestimated. We are not just mere observers; we are also consumers. What we consume, we then propagate into the world, our opinions shaping the demand. I now want to address the issue of popular opinion that drives the spiritual rush.
As an illustration, here is another tale involving real-life events. It began when a group of expats discovered a powerful traditional healer practising in the mountains. He was a highly skilled massage and medicine practitioner specialising in beauty and youth enhancement. His treatments were effective, and his services gained widespread acclaim through word of mouth, attracting clients, predominantly women, from across the globe.
People report emerging from his private massage sessions rejuvenated. But there were also women that felt violated because their massage involved an unsolicited youthful uterus treatment (that is what the masseur himself called the procedure). 
One woman confided in me, expressing shock at the lack of warning from her friends who had suggested the healer to her. She blamed herself for getting hyped in the first place and going to see the masseur. 
The man seemed to be aware that his actions were completely inappropriate because he conducted these procedures at the very end of his massage sessions, then quickly called in another patient.
More stories surfaced over the years. Some particularly sensitive women could not shake off the experience of meeting him. They describe feeling his presence in the confines of their homes. Whatever the power he had over them at those times was frightening and the experiences were not pleasant.
And let me tell you, we cannot possibly deny that the man had a lot of power. He was indeed a very powerful man. However, I am not convinced that 'healer' is the right title for him, especially not with a capital H.
Back to the role of the popular opinion, I guess many of his clients were too ashamed to speak out about their experiences. And probably just preferred to concentrate on the benefits that they were getting from those sessions. For, as I repeat, his techniques did work. And, I have no doubt that the uterus massage was genuine.
But, as everything in Bali, the magic is in the kind of energy that guides the experience.

On the Power of You

To avoid misguided spiritual encounters in Bali, keep these strategies in mind:
Trust your instincts: Pay attention to red flags and trust your intuition. If something feels off, take a step back and reflect on the situation before proceeding.
Build your community: Sharing your experiences with others can provide valuable insights and support. In the article Bali: Enter the Energy Realm, I explore how community plays a role in traditional spiritual practices in Bali.
Embrace introspection: And because Bali is a place of energy and introspection, consider your experiences as an opportunity to delve deeper into yourself by tuning in to your innermost feelings.
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