Bali: Balance and Belonging

                                          

I completed ‘Reflections on the End of Time’ just before Day 5 of Wave 9. Then, following a long-standing intuition, I withdrew from writing and went on a media-free visit to Bali. I had been intending to go there for years but the opportunity to visit a friend arose at what now felt like a perfect time. I made no attempt to influence our schedule but had a strong sense of what would be involved, especially meeting two people and a strong experiential engagement with Dragon/Serpent energies by which I have been much occupied during recent times (1). Although there were 4 or 5 people travelling over the period, this account focuses only on my own experiences.

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On the first day I went to my friend J’s land for a preliminary grounding meditation. A Hindu Fire ceremony would follow to mark our arrival. This was conducted by G, a ‘master healer’ who embraced me warmly and later said that he recognised me from an earlier life where we ‘had karma’. I recognised him as one of the people I was due to meet on my journey and knelt by his side through the ritual, surprised at how comfortable I felt reciting Hindu mantras and making flower offerings to the Fire. A long plane journey had lifted me entirely out of intense energies I had been dealing with in Ireland and I felt entirely present in this very different world.

When all offerings have been made and the Fire starts to die, G blesses us with water. I am already in a powerful altered state as the first drops hit my face. Their impact clarifies my consciousness, awakening a strong, one-pointed focus that crystallises in me regarding whatever is to follow on our journey. Despite being tired, I stay focused when we go back to G’s house for dinner. Members of his family join us as we sit around open areas in front of low buildings, talking and easing into a groove of new adventure. G says that as a healer he has no power; the energy he works with comes from God. He uses a form of reflexology and offers to treat me. I accept, despite warnings that his treatments are painful.

G explains that pain serves as a stimulus to awakening and triggers the brain to release hormones wherever they are needed in the body. I feel calm and quite amazed at how quickly the first of my intuitions has come to pass. I sense that G’s awakening will prepare me for my meeting the Pandita, J’s teacher and the second person I must connect with. This will happen in a few days but first my body must be opened to receive. As I think this, I am sitting with my back to the wall in G’s healing area, feeling an energy of stillness and pure presence all around. I could not have planned the scenario more exactly if I had tried.

I arrive early at G’s the next day. We sit in the same area as last night and G starts to work on my left foot, pushing deeply into tender points. He will stop at my request. A peculiar affinity binds us as he works. Remembering his words about awakening the body, I breathe the pain in deeply, carrying it where it needs to go, and breathe deeply out to expel any residue from my body. From the first wave, my arms rise like a kung fu mantis, complete with hissing, before pushing down to stronger, deeper tones.

Apparently these are very loud. G’s mother asks what’s going on. He says I am using prana to facilitate the treatment. He has never seen this before and is surprised. The energy from my body goes straight back into his so that he feels renewed rather than depleted. I say that I am just responding out of instinct. He is very excited and eager to continue. Thereafter energy passes back and forth between us, as through an infinity loop centred on my foot. Once a rhythm is established, it is easily maintained. I become utterly unselfconscious. My movements are strong and precise. G’s touch now feels rigorous and nourishing despite initial stabs of pain.

At several points, my Heart opens inexplicably and tears well up. I have a sense of gratitude and beauty as this happens. We know it’s not appropriate to break the flow with words. When my left foot is done, G covers it with a towel and switches to my right. The difference is uncanny. Another quality of feeling is called forth, and a more intense physical response. I am amazed by the sounds that issue with my breath as we continue. In twenty minutes we are done. G says this is the first time he has ever been able to finish a whole treatment. I feel enlivened and renewed.

As we talk over lunch, G explains the role of ritual in Balinese life. There is, it seems, a ceremony for all occasions. In building a house, for example, there is a ceremony to let wood know that it is no longer wood but a door and stone that it is no longer just stone but a wall. All parts of the house must be harmonised energetically. Houses are meticulously laid out with separate areas for different branches of an extended family. Pride of place is given to the family temple which, regardless of size, maintains a sense of sacredness at the heart of everyday life.

G asks why I think so many of the people who visit Bali say that they intend to return. I reply that it’s unusual in our modern world for people to live where their grand-parents lived and for everything to be so scrupulously integrated in energetic terms. We rarely get to experience anything like the sense of belonging that Balinese people enjoy, beginning with ceremonies that welcome them as children into life. In our quest for belonging, I think, we are moved to return to places where we first experienced a sense of it, even if we can’t ultimately belong there ourselves.

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My friends come and we leave for a temple where G’s ‘grandfather’ – a renowned healer and mystic – used to stay. Two priests now live there with their families. We are warmly received and taken on a trek around rice-fields and fish-ponds by means of which the local community survives. We then prepare for another cleansing ceremony under the eye of a giant Siva carved in stone. After this we ascend steep steps back to the temple and are allowed to meditate in what used to be ‘Grandfather’s room’. I make a strong connection there, which moves G greatly.

Night has now fallen. It is August 7, the mid-point of the 5th Day, when the creative energy of the 9th Wave is at a point of breaking through most strongly. We are invited into the family temple to pray while also focusing on the motivation which has brought us to Bali. The energy in this temple is very strong. I kneel barefoot on the rough ground and sink into a deep meditation, surrendering everything. I sense a deep urge to find the Source of Creation in the centre of my Heart. This urge has been growing of its own accord for months, without deliberation on my part.

The priest starts to chant. I close my eyes, feeling absolute love and reverence for all life. My hands reach into the pulsating spiritual field that surrounds me and pluck a golden sphere from the air. I draw it back into my Heart and the presence of Source opens tangibly inside me. I am shattered by the impact of its vibration and shed many spiritual tears as my inner system reconfigures to adjust. I am quivering still, ecstatic and raw, as the priest calls us back before administering another blessing of flowers and water. The golden sphere pulses irrepressibly at the centre of my Heart.

G brings me to an altar that has special significance in relation to his Grandfather. Intuitively, I channel my Heart(’s energetic) signature into the stone and open a gateway through which answering energies may flow in response to his wish for deeper communion with ‘Grandfather’. A strong flow opens. G is seized by emotion. I stand aside, knowing that this energy is for him. As I do, an even stronger flow pours into me. Later, G says that we have permission to sleep in Grandfather’s room. My intuition is to sleep under the stars, in line with an energetic stream that continues to pour in through the family temple. G accepts this at once.

I awaken next morning with images from the Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Lord, the great prayer of Hinduism) in mind. The warrior Arjuna arrives at the scene of a major battle and – seeing sons, brothers and fathers as well as former teachers in the other army – throws down his bow, unable to continue the fight. Krishna, his charioteer, then delivers his famous speech. Arjuna must take up his bow and fight so that the Dharma may unfold, knowing that what is immortal in all beings can never be killed. In saying this, Krishna reveals his universal aspect and Arjuna’s doubts are resolved

I tell this story to J as we look on to the rice fields over breakfast. It contains early evocations of Unity Consciousness, both in Arjuna’s scruple and Krishna’s revelation of his ‘universal aspect’. I am conscious as I speak that this simple, self-sufficient community would be totally unaffected by the catastrophe scenarios our ‘developed’ societies are now conjuring. This reflects the warped condition of consciousness upon which our modes of existence have been based.

Later that morning we set off for a ‘secret and sacred’ yoga centre where we will stay for the next few days. After lunch there, we walk through rice fields to the confluence of two rivers, where yet another purification ceremony has been arranged. We enter the water just past the confluence and lie into gently surging waters, as if aspiring towards Source. I experience a wonderful sense of innocence and spontaneity as I do this. Then we are blessed individually by a priest on the bank.

The following day we make a short trip to visit J’s teacher, the chief Pandita of the island. This man also seems very familiar. Clothed in white and gold, he is about 70 years old. His energy is shimmering, almost translucent. A light of awakening radiates from his eyes. As I kneel he salutes me with an enthusiastic thumbs-up. I touch my Heart discretely in response. Eight people have gathered to join our ceremony this afternoon. We are directed to sit in a sheltered space and meditate ahead of a preliminary cleansing ceremony.

When it is my turn to sit before him, Pandita uses a ladle to pour water over my head. Having noted the power of water in earlier ceremonies, I am keen to maximise impact on this occasion. I am so focused on breathing in the blessing that I don’t leave time to breathe out. After the first two ladles I am gagging. A third follows quickly. I struggle to exhale. A noise accompanies my out-breath that sounds like a snorting beast. It expresses an incredibly strong power that seems to originate beyond me.

Many people are present as this happens: the Pandita’s family, other visitors and locals from the village attracted by our presence. There is much laughter at my snorts. A gesture from Pandita stops this, I think, from behind a veil of cascading water. My kung fu snorts continue to flourish through a few more rounds. Then I am led to an area where I change into ceremonial robes. When everyone is ready we kneel again in the sheltered area.

Pandita ascends a raised dais to one side. We are to begin our private meditations. He will recite mantras and perform other ritual actions, after which he will embody Siva and come to each of us as we meditate. (These, at least, are his words as translated.) I am feeling strong: thoroughly cleansed and powerfully charged by the water. I slip into meditation and have already ordered my light body when he begins to chant and, later, rings a bell. Its tolling has precise effects of refinement and clarification.

My spine snaps straight and my chakras are powerfully activated from the bottom up. I feel wings sprouting from my shoulders – not celestial angel wings but leathery Dragon ones. A Dragon’s Head sprouts from my shoulders, supplanting my human face. I note this as the metaphoric rendering of a profound initiation before thinking that I really don’t need to monitor and surrender beyond words into whatever other transformations may be looming.

At that moment the Pandita appears in my expanded Heart-consciousness, resplendent in a white blazer and gold sarong. Then his image morphs into a golden sun erupting from a pure white ground. This sun explodes from the centre of my Heart and has a shattering effect on what remains of structure in me. For twenty minutes or whatever remains of the meditation, I sit strongly in my kneeling position, experiencing wave upon wave of ecstatic devastation within. These sweep ‘me’ away, unremittingly, until the session ends.

Then I snap back into coherence, feeling clarified and renewed. Immediately, the Pandita’s attendants bring food and water. A chicken has been killed and cooked for each of us. We must eat it now to aid physical assimilation of the experiences we have just undergone, but first another blessing is required. Pandita comes before each of us for this purpose. The stem of a feather protrudes from under the food in our baskets. We are asked to pull on it while an assistant presses down. In turn, each of us withdraws a broken stem. When my turn comes, three whole feathers spring out.

The Pandita whoops delightedly and spends some minutes before me, pointing, gesturing and saying things I don’t understand. In my still altered state I have no need to query. It is clear that what has happened relates to what I was writing before I left Ireland (about Source-based spirituality supplanting alignment-based forms and co-operation with Siva’s creative-destructive impact being the best way to facilitate this). Details seem as unimportant as the Pandita’s fussing. I gather that my feather-pulling bodes well for the fulfilment of inspirations received. Another Pandita arrives then and our session is curtailed.

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Next morning I meditate in the yoga centre. Pandita said it would be possible to connect with him – or Siva through him – at any time. At a particular point I feel a White Rose blossoming in my Heart. A field of pure white light then forms, from which a Golden Sun erupts just as it had the day before. I let this sequence run its course and repeat the White Rose visualisation for continuity. As it blossoms once more in my Heart, a White Lotu opens from my Crown, its petals falling open in fours and eights until there are too many to count. This is unexpected but feels significant, since the White Rose derives from Christian mystical tradition while the Lotus is Hindu. (It is also exciting to feel my Heart and Crown opening at the same time: this has been the pattern of my meditations since.)

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It is August 11 (13 Wind) and the beginning of a Harvest Moon celebration. The first major event (a Dragon Festival!) will start that night. People return to the village from all over for this occasion. We set out after dark from the centre, again dressed for ceremony. Streams of people in their finest clothes throng a narrow path which leads out of the village through several rice fields to a ‘Dragon temple’ in the countryside. The landscape is beautifully shrouded in pale light. Soon we come to a stone façade whose presence I would never have suspected.

The stream of people carries us into an open forecourt. Tables have been set for festivities to come. A whole roast pig is displayed on an elaborate wooden frame. There will be a party later, I gather, but already my eye has been drawn to a narrow entrance beyond the tables. It is flanked by elaborate dragon heads carved in stone. As guests of a prominent local family, our party is ushered through to a set of sharply descending steps, bounded on either side by the dragons’ coils. These extend down to another entrance and an inner courtyard that is partly visible and also open to the sky. Fierce guardians are set in stone at various points on the way down. I descend gingerly. Symbolically I am entering the Womb of Earth, an Underworld.

Beyond the lower entrance, an extravagant spectacle awaits. Altars are stacked high with brightly coloured offerings of fruit and flowers. Statues have been decorated with parasols and aprons. The Dragon lines lead to a central altar where a resolute deity whose name I can’t recall holds their tails, ensuring balance and right conduct. Mats have been laid out on the ground and people are already sitting in patient anticipation. The whole space is wonderfully lit by yellow lamps.

We take our places as more families continue to arrive, including infants and toddlers, all finely dressed. Soon the space is full and the ceremony starts. Priests sit before the Dragon altar. Little baskets are distributed so we can take part in prayers while raising coloured flowers in our joined hands. Two gamelan orchestras strike up from a pavilion behind the altars. Later, priests pass through rows of participants, blessing us with gifts of rice and water.

The music feels especially profound in this stone chamber of the Womb of Earth. I open my eyes after the blessing and see the whole display with new eyes. The space has been brought alive by light and sound, colour and devotion. A human community is actively engaging powers of Spirit/Nature on which its well-being depends – giving thanks and urging renewal of a balance which sustains it.

[Already in Roman Britain, according to myth, the Dragon power was out of kilter. Merlin, whose energy holds the programme for the whole Celtic world, was forced into subterfuge in order that a Divine Child, a future king, might be born into his keeping. Here in Bali, despite invasion, the sacred balance has never been lost. The lives of our hosts are consciously dedicated to its preservation. Realising this, I realise better what it means to truly belong.]

After a first cycle, people rise and head back up to the forecourt while others come down for their experience of thanksgiving and renewal. We are invited to sit to one side, on stony ground, our backs to walls of stone. I experience five cycles of wonderful ritual in this way, feeling the stone and the Dragons coming more alive with each newly rousing wave of activation. As each cohort enters and leaves, the carpet of strewn flowers grows thicker and with it my sense of wonder.

I feel privileged walking back though the fields after our ceremony. I am so full of charged vibrations, of kundalini risen, that there is no room for food and drink, nor any need of them. The moon lights our way back to the village.

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The festival continues the next day. It seems the Dragon energies have been relayed from the temple in the countryside to a Siva temple at the edge of the village. By early afternoon this temple also is crammed with people in ceremonial dress. Many others wait outside. Inside, every statue and pillar has been adorned with aprons or parasols. Altars are piled abundantly with offerings of food and flowers. Prayers are said and blessings given. The gamelan orchestras strike up and Dragon energies are newly activated on the margins of human community, having already been transposed there from the Womb of Earth.

A solitary dancer takes a spear and makes a play of marshalling explosive powers: echoes of St George except that nothing is killed. He then leads a procession out from the temple. I am among the last to leave and find myself at the rear. One of the orchestras follows right behind. Its music drives the Dragon energies forward through humble streets to a temple that honours human ancestors, animating the serpentine course of our procession. I feel a Dragon’s head protruding from my Heart (2).

The village extends over a series of low hills that undulate and swerve so that, from my place in the rear, I see the Dragon’s Body symbolically conveyed by a winding column of a thousand brightly dressed people stretched before me. Behind, the gamelan continues to raise pulsing energies in me and our whole living stream. Once again I feel privileged to experience a human community embodying cosmic powers in a sacred play designed to integrate them into our order of existence and vice-versa.

The Ancestor temple at last comes into view, seemingly on an opposite edge of town. The procession streams through a preliminary forecourt before entering a large sunken area where various shrines are laid out on one side. We come to rest before a central altar. The priests recite brief prayers. The spearman brandishes his weapon and makes placatory gestures in front of the ancestor shrine. Then the entourage moves off again, this time to a centrally located ‘village temple’.

Our second journey is much shorter. It leads to an elaborate walled structure that rises impressively over a bustling street. Its open interior is exquisitely crafted and laid out. Dragon heads again protect its entrance. I am swept through by a surging crowd, still mindful of every step. The forecourt is well-tended, with lush grass growing between shaded porticos on either side. The head of the procession has already crammed into an elevated space at the rear, where three sets of steps each lead to a break in the wall. The Dragon energies run along the middle line.

Our host urges J and me to ascend the steps on our right. I need no more encouraging. Entering, we find just enough space to squeeze in. We find ourselves facing a nine-tiered pagoda-like structure that rises high above us and the village behind. The priests offer prayers and more blessings. The spearman shepherds Dragon energies beyond the threshold of the nine-tiered tower where they are relayed vertically out to Cosmos and the Heart of Heaven.

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The next day, after a closing ceremony at the Siva temple, an intense Agni Hotra (Fire) ceremony is performed by three visiting priests at the centre. I am asked to start the fire and pray for purification of my ego as it builds. ‘Siva’ energy again fills my Heart as the Fire rages with our offerings and chants. I quake inwardly with the force of it, shattered yet again. Later I am blessed with water and adorned with flowers. A sacred fire burns strongly in my Heart.

This is our last night at the centre so I propose walking through the rice fields to the Dragon temple out of town. J accompanies me. It is late when we set out but a Full Moon illuminates the landscape. J finds our way resolutely through narrow tracks that border the fields. I follow in an other-worldly haze. Eventually, we arrive at low grey walls that seem to rise from nowhere. Moonlight gives them an eerie spectral glow.

The temple is deserted. An iron gate has been pulled across its entrance. It is not locked, however, and shifts easily to admit us. I pause at the threshold, seeking permission. This is granted and I step into the abandoned forecourt. Two nights back, enthusiastic youths had been running cartwheels with a roasted pig. Now there is no diversion.

A stone-framed portal to the Underworld still beckons, its Dragon guardians at once wrathful and inviting. I salute them and proceed slowly down the steps, honouring the polarities evoked by their undulating coils, right down to the altar which evokes their Source and binds them to it in right relationship. The ceremony I witnessed here expressed the role of human stewardship in maintaining this balance, evoking what has been lost in our modern world. Its loss has created an objectified environment where we feel unable to belong.

I stand before the altar, praying, seeking permission for what I now feel moved to attempt. I turn away, my back towards the centrepiece, and call the positive/’male’ current into my right side. It swarms and surges through my extended arm until I manage (purely by intention) to achieve a regular flow. The ‘negative’/’female’ current feels very different, unmoving and still. I then enact a balanced expression of these powers: without thinking, I bring my hands together in a mudra (middle finger of left hand pressing into centre palm of right) as shown at the midpoint of the 9th Wave. This leaves me feeling balanced in relation to both polarities, aware equally of constancy and innovation.

I come to, conscious again of my physical environment. It feels miraculous to be standing in this Womb of Earth and under an open sky at the same time. There is no light except for a pale glimmer from the moon. Two nights ago this place was alive with sound and colour, the chants of priests and children’s cries, resonant with a sense of Mystery and wonder. Now, in the silence of these high walls, I make ready to ascend back to the surface of Earth, having achieved what I believe was the purpose of my visit: to gather balanced Dragon energies at Source.

J returns. He has been exploring while I stayed in one place. I don’t ask where he was or what he found but follow a balanced, unitary Dragon line on our enchanted path back to the village and to bed. I believe this third, creative, integrated force to be the Way of the (Divine) Child; not just ‘male’ or ‘female’ but ‘both … and’, the way of the integral human, pending rebirth. Much will come of this after October.

[On our way back I see swastikas carved into the walls of another temple. I also saw this symbol in Tibet and experienced it there as evoking a balanced, centred energy with its own power of dynamic propulsion: Source-based spirituality! I ask my yogi host about this and he confirms that in Hindu tradition, the swastika evokes a balance of ‘+’ and ‘-’. It also implies a power of self-generated movement. I reflect before sleeping on this latest experience of integrating the consciousness of Source – that from which all Dragon lines proceed. My dreams that night are of reconciling discrepant fe/male tendencies in my soul.]

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Next morning we leave for the temple of Lempuyan, which is known as a rarefied spiritual centre. It is after dark when we arrive at a car park some way up a mountain. The walls of a temple loom directly above. Lights flicker in the valley below. The sounds of a children’s chorus drift up as we dress for a preliminary ceremony in this lower temple. It seems there are several stages and 1,728 steps on the way to a main temple on the summit.

The lower temple is imposing and quite beautiful. As usual, energies of balance and containment prevail. Three doors in the main wall open to reveal three sets of Dragon lines rising from the valley. The flanking pairs run either side of a central altar/tower and converge on a second tower-like structure at the back. I ask about this and learn that the rear tower evokes Divine Source while the first evokes its manifestations in space-time. A central Dragon line enters through the middle door and runs directly through the first altar/tower to the second.

I kneel in this stream facing the altar, weighing fe/male polarities in my left and right arms before balancing them as at the Dragon temple. It feels as if I am drawing the energies from there to here, and also that I need to awaken them permanently in my self. The priest sits in a kiosk to one side. We pray with him, making flower offerings. He blesses us with water and leaves us to meditate a while. I feel movement of the Dragon energies within and active presence of the Siva vibration. It seems as if something is being cleared while something else is growing underneath. Eventually, it breaks through and another cataract streams out through my Heart.

We share food before driving further up the mountain to commence our ascent by foot. After another brief ceremony, we are on our way. The steps are mostly regular but some are uneven and worn. There is dense vegetation on both sides so, apart from the sky, there is nothing to focus on but the process of ascent itself. I feel strong Dragon energies as we go, rising from a mythical womb towards some elusive zenith, in me and in Earth herself.

Eventually, after just one more ceremony on an exposed plateau, we arrive. The temple is spartan and bare, an essential structure in every sense. A forecourt gives way to a higher ceremonial space. There are only partly covered terraces in which to take shelter and sleep. The priest hasn’t accompanied us, just a local guide and a porter carrying supplies. The sky is overcast so only the chilly air reminds us of the altitude. We are promised panoramic views after dawn, including of Mt Agung, the island’s highest and most celebrated peak.

Wrapped in my sleeping bag, I dream of a war between two groups, perhaps native Balinese and Dutch colonists. I have no role in the dream but simply bear witness compassionately, without attachment to either side. When I awaken there is a heavy mist so I can’t see much more than I could last night. The temple is physically rude but energetically sublime. I go to the ceremonial area for a private meditation, ahead of a group ceremony which will follow later. The theme of non-attachment figures strongly, as does a notion of focusing energies of my journey so far on a prayer for all the people and creatures of Earth ahead of the 5th Night (of the Mayan calendar’s 9th Wave), which is now just a few days off.

I direct this power into the Heart of Earth and through an opening in the altar before me. From there it passes out to an endless sky. I remember calling my ‘highest Self’ into my Heart, so that my whole soul might be available for service at this time. This triggers an inflow of spiritual energies and an emotional response which is almost overwhelming, so that my body shakes even though inwardly I feel very strong. I rise from my kneeling position when this process has run its course. Turning then, I see that two priests have been watching. Both touch their Hearts with respect. I respond in like manner.

After a light breakfast, it’s time for our group ceremony. We begin with the familiar sequence of prayer, blessing and meditation. Then a more intense ritual is proposed. We move to a terrace on the edge of the mountain, outside the temple walls, and stand in line. The priests sit to one side, chanting in Sanskrit and flicking water from a deep bucket that also holds hundreds of tiny flowers. I am bare-chested and the water is cold on my skin but its primary impact is on my spiritual and emotional bodies.

As soon as it hits, an immediate release is triggered. Something deep inside me opens from the centre of my Heart and I ‘see’ Krishna and Arjuna in their chariot roaring out. There are no words involved. Everything is carried by the overwhelming power of that image and the energy which drives it. Torrents are unleashed. All dams are broken that would impede the chariot’s course. I am shattered yet again, by sheer intensity and the infinite tenderness of Krishna’s address. It’s as if I am speaking it myself, and to myself; as if there is no Other. Arjuna’s role is simply to elicit Krishna’s words.

With this awareness the energy seems to abate. My eyes are closed but I sense that the blessing has continued down our line. Then, without warning, a second wave of revelation hits. The chariot thunders out again and Krishna’s wordless teachings resume. I am utterly overwhelmed and feel my Heart shatter for a second time. More water splashes over me. There is no thought of conflict pending; just the infinite, indefatigable love of Krishna’s prayer. I am shaking and conscious of intense heat. Another wave of water hits. This serves both to clarify and amplify the process. One wave seems to integrate only for another to break, deeper and stronger than before.

I am wholly given to what is happening inside, without thought of outer conditions. More inner heat, more physical water: this cycle repeats six or seven times. By the time my transformation is complete I feel empty, cleansed and strangely renewed. I open my eyes. The priests bid me step out and bend forward from my waist. I oblige and they empty several ladles of flowery water over my head. Now, physically saturated, they say that I am finished. Dazed, I retrieve my shirt and stand half-naked while my friends await their turns. Later, the priests hail me enthusiastically. I have no idea what they are saying and don’t think to ask for a translation. I don’t suppose this matters: our energetic link is pure and complete.

[It’s only afterwards that I reflect how unusual it is for a person raised in one tradition to have full-blown mystical experience in the imagery of another. It also strikes me that Krishna is an avatar, a conscious embodiment of Divine Love/ Awareness in human form. I see this as another stage in realising Source-based spirituality.]

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The next day brings us to Ubud, intent on visiting further sites. The first is an ancient cave which is said by guides to date from the 11th century (and the arrival of Hinduism in Bali). The cave is T-shaped and about 15 metres deep with 5 metre arms on either side. Niches have been cut into the walls. Some are empty while others house primal stone representations of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, the (male faces of) Hindu Trinity.

The cave exerts a strong magnetic pull into the Heart of Earth, providing a perfect balance to the rarefied atmosphere of Lempuyan. All of us are immediately affected. We are being grounded, brought Home to Mother, again. The Hindu shrine may date back only 1,000 years but the cave as a site of spiritual initiation dates from a time when experience of the Goddess was so pervasive that She didn’t need to be imaged or named, because Her presence was felt everywhere. The pull of Her energy here is so intense that anyone who pauses to be still can’t help but be affected by it.

We move on to another cave whose wide mouth funnels into a narrow birth canal-like passage that runs about 30 metres back. Following it, we reach a small chamber where three people can easily crouch. Behind this again, in total darkness, I find another opening that resembles the neck of a womb. It is blocked by a conical stone that proves to be free-standing. Having sought permission and working entirely by touch, I manoeuvre myself into the tiny space behind this rock. The passage before me now resembles a vagina, faintly illuminated by dim light from the entrance.

I close my eyes in meditation, curled like a foetus in my stone cocoon. It’s easy to imagine being reborn of Mother (Earth) from this position. I sense Dragon power pouring into me, gathering momentum to bear me into life. Suddenly impelled, I ease out from this space and let myself be moved by invisible currents down the birth canal and out towards light. Turning back then, I see a stone effigy of a primitive wo/man set before an un-carved block, as if s/he had just been born of it. This image of human life/consciousness being tied to and recently emerged from the stone consciousness of Earth is very much in keeping with the energy and themes of the first cave.

We go on to a primal ‘Source’ area where a river in a deep gorge flows into four caves associated with Brahma, Vishnu, Siva and Buddha, respectively. A huge Dragon Rock diverts its flow. Climbing it, I watch as spray from a waterfall above is permeated by rays from the sun, producing magically transitory rainbows. I would have liked to explore the caves but it is getting late and one of our number has been left alone, unable to make the steep descent. It is enough for now to be inspired by an awareness – coded into landscape features here – that our bodily human origins are of Earth and Water, the primary Goddess elements.

I know that the inspirations of this day will impact deeply with regard to work I must complete on returning to Ireland (see ‘The 10th Wave’ update). This impression is deepened when we drive later to a temple dedicated to Durga (aka Kali). Kali-Durga represents the wrathful aspect of Parvati, wife/female counterpart of Siva. In the wonderfully nuanced and diverse Hindu pantheon, she is the ‘destructive’ power who corresponds to energies of the 5th Night (‘Nights’ being quintessentially feminine), which starts tomorrow.

Her temple is located on the outskirts of Ubud. It’s possible to drive from a main road straight into its forecourt. Again, two sets of steps lead to an elevated ceremonial space. The actual shrine is on a hilltop overlooking lower levels of the temple and is accessed via a bank of steep steps which lead to an ancient rocky outcrop that long predates the formal temple. The remains of an old altar are visible at its centre, which is also where the dragon lines from below converge. Primal stone images of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva are still in place. Above is the Durga temple, recently refurbished.

I go up to this temple and stand before its altar, paying resects self-consciously as a man. I then go down and follow a path around, behind the temple and under it. Here I find a small shrine, sacred to the Goddess. It is much older and more densely charged than the structure above. One of our female companions is intensely drawn here and it feels appropriate to defer my interest. It is clear that she will receive strong inspiration so I wait outside until she is complete.

I enter briefly when she has finished. This was a shrine for High Priestesses. My presence here as a man is not straightforward, although the space is welcoming and permission has been granted. I sign in energetically and offer a prayer of surrender (‘dying’) into Night 5, pledging to allow every dismantling of my ego structure. I also promise to return in a week to prepare for the mid-point of Night 5, during which I will be flying back to Ireland.

                                                                    *

The next day our two women leave and J’s Moslem friend R arrives to be our driver for a trip to Java. We catch a late ferry and arrive at Mt Bromo just after sunrise. Currently dormant, Bromo is a volcano that last erupted in April. Its most devastating eruption happened in 2004. This turned a formerly lush valley into a desert of grey ash. Trees are charred and bare on a distant slope, with limbs bent at odd angles where they were hit by flying rocks.

We walk down the valley towards a temple that is built over foundations established centuries ago. Already surprised to find a Hindu population in this remote highland of an overwhelmingly Moslem country, I am even more surprised to find that the temple is essentially similar to those we visited on Bali. Again twin Dragon lines converge on a main altar/tower. This features nine levels, depicting the graduated rise of humanity from a reptilian mode of consciousness and being. The main entrance is guarded by two figures draped in seven serpents: three each side and one emerging from the head.

The temple is clearly intended to have energetic links with its environment but, unlike on Bali, the thread of connection has been broken here. The local priest is unavailable so, after a preliminary meditation at the altar, I accompany J to the rim of the volcano. The trek up takes only a half hour, since half of the mountain is missing. A sharp ridge runs around the crater’s edge. Grey slopes fall precipitously towards a steaming abyss. White smoke and sulphurous fumes waft up: the slightest slip and there would be no surviving.

J wanders to a higher point. I kneel on the edge of the rim and begin a meditation to see what might be seen. Many people were killed here during the eruption of 2004. I want to ask why and the gaping hole below seems like an excellent place for putting questions to the Heart of Earth. I tune in and feel my consciousness shift. Catastrophe brings awareness of imbalance. This is hardly news but my focus continues to deepen. I sense that something is changing in me but can’t say what this is. (It was only two weeks later, when I began to feed this inspiration into ‘The 10th Wave’ – a Sacred Play to mark the end of the Mayan calendar – that understanding truly dawned).

Eventually, my body starts to sway. A wind seems to have risen, carrying the gaseous fumes towards me. Perhaps they are affecting me! I begin to feel light-headed and open my eyes, remembering my perilous location. The ‘wind’ appears to be coming from the crater. I am perched right on its edge and could easily pitch over if I were to lose consciousness! I register this fear with some annoyance, despite the rational grounds for it. Then I put on a plastic mask, move back an inch and see my meditation out. I am sad walking down, although the other mountains retain an eerie beauty. This valley is a Wasteland, a dereliction of the Garden, and though my plea for renewed communion has had some impact, at least in me, I don’t know to what effect.

                                                                    *

We leave Bromo early the next morning. R has arranged for us to visit a mosque but it’s far away and already evening when we arrive. J is keen to open dialogue and bring non-Moslems here for that purpose. We are introduced to the Imam and a younger man who is the leader (Ki: pronounced ‘kee-eye’) of the community. He has a sharp mind and powerful energy which focuses with laser-like intensity. He answers J’s overture by stating the core beliefs of Islam in a courteous but uncompromising manner. He follows up with the main practices: pray five times a day, visit Mecca at least once if Allah wills …

These messages are rendered curtly via R’s translation, leaving an impression that there’s no more to be said. These are the conditions of involvement and they’re not negotiable. Discussion already seems stymied. ‘You should only visit Mecca by God’s will, when you feel the inspiration?’ Yes. ‘Then I have come here by God’s will and even if I don’t call God ‘Allah’ I would be perfectly happy to do so.’ The Ki leans forward. ‘I don’t pray at five given times everyday but many times, and always by God’s will. Would this stop me from praying in your temple?’ No.

A dialogue opens. Familiar ground is covered, including the association of Islam with terrorism and exclusivity. J wants to break stereotypes by offering direct exposure. Our host apologises that he can’t offer refreshments due to Ramadan. We are invited to stay overnight and will be served a meal after dusk. We are welcome to pray in the mosque and to remain at the back when the next prayers begin. I accept this invitation and, having washed as directed, kneel before the central aperture, there being no altar. I ask no questions, preferring to proceed intuitively, by God’s will, as it were.

J rises after a few minutes, leaving me alone. I go into meditation, connecting with the place, its people and tradition, while opening my Heart. What follows is a full-blown mystical experience as energies of place, people and tradition flow back, manifesting as Divine Love in me. I haven’t asked for anything and accept without question that these are essential spiritual energies of Islam. They stream in for a half-hour and then I am done (3). Tears of ecstasy roll down my cheeks. My body feels liquid as I rise. J is on the steps outside talking with our hosts. The Ki looks at me intently but says nothing. It’s clear that I’ve had an extraordinary experience.

A small room has been cleared so we can sleep on its floor. We rest a while before attending the next prayer session. After dark we eat alone at a small table. A professor of English from a nearby University has been summoned to translate. The Ki is delayed so discussion starts without him. The role of women in Islam is soon raised. Why are they not permitted in the mosque? We believe that it is better to keep women and men apart, so everyone can pray without distraction. Why do they have to cover themselves? We believe that the woman is like a treasure, to be looked on only by her husband. Who is we? Moslems. You mean Moslem men? Yes, and women too.

In Europe, America and other places women choose and act for themselves. They say that this opens a new dimension to politics and culture. What do you think of that? We don’t have the levels of education for that. When we have more advanced levels of education, women can speak more for themselves. The professor is uncomfortable and the topic shifts before the Ki arrives. I wish he had been present while ‘the woman question’ was being covered but suspect that what went on to happen might not have had this been so.

I find his talk illuminating although the professor is clearly unable to render nuances in the debate. The issue that most interested me was the apparent chauvinism of a core belief that in order to attain Paradise it’s necessary to have a pure Heart, a connection with God and be Moslem. So I can have a pure Heart and direct experience of God and still be spiritually lost? Yes, it’s a question of morality. How? Al Koran is the last in a series of revelatory books, therefore its message is most authoritative. In terms of spiritual content or morality? Yes, the spiritual morality is most important. And so it went: the Ki’s answers became increasingly repetitive in translation. Energetically, however, our exchange deepened. At one point he fixes me with a stare so intense that I consider shielding myself to deflect but the innocence of my Heart prevails and from this a trust develops that leaves him grasping for ever more precise formulations that our translator then butchers to redundancy.

V, who speaks street Indonesian, later said that the Ki’s words became more and more profound (such that V couldn’t even begin to translate). This confirmed my sense that the Ki was drawing ever deeper on his sacred book and that, for him, knowing this by Heart is not at all the same as knowing it by rote (4). I also gathered that ‘morality’ is to be understood in terms of a practical commitment to collective well-being, in addition to mystical prowess. I acknowledge this as an excellent point while disputing it as the exclusive preserve of Moslems. The Ki then asks what religion I am. I have no religion but practise a universal spirituality. The professor translates. R adds that I used to teach philosophy.

What do I learn from my philosophy? the Ki asks. I stopped teaching six years ago. Since then I have travelled all over the world having conversations like this. I find that my Heart opens more as a result of each one, so that my practice is more complete and I become more compassionate and generous. Do I drink (alcohol)? No. Smoke? No. Womanise? No. This seems to have more impact than any philosophy. The Ki says that he is just an ordinary man trying to do his best. I don’t know why he said this or how it may have suffered in translation. Our discussion finishes soon after.

                                                                    *

I am last into the meeting room next morning. Everyone has gathered for leave-taking. (Again, no breakfast can be offered because of Ramadan.) R asks if I have anything more to say to the Ki. ‘Thank you.’ ‘Thank you’ he replies. ‘And that I would be honoured to receive his blessing.’ R translates. The Ki weighs my request. ‘You said yesterday that you were guided by Allah?’ ‘I have no problem allowing that: Yes!’ He closes his eyes, focuses and recites a short prayer. Seconds later, a clearly benign energy descends upon us. Having received it, I say without thinking that I would like in return to offer a Heart blessing beyond words. My Heart opens as I speak and a fine golden energy radiates into the room. The Ki and Imam bow their heads, gathering it into their Hearts. We part fondly then, sensing that something good has been achieved.

                                                                    *

Our next stop is another lengthy drive away: a ‘secret jungle’ in East Java where the King of Evil is said to reside. R’s contacts will arrange for us to spend the night meditating in a cave there. Only the Pure of Heart can enter. Bali is child’s play by comparison. There seems to be a lot of drama around this but I am interested in the relationship between fear, darkness and evil. Also, this is what our journey has thrown up and I am therefore pre-committed. It takes a long time to find our contact’s house and as long again to reach our destination with him and an assistant in tow.

It’s dark when we set out from the coffee shop of a National Park into the ‘secret jungle’. Our guides enact a farce by way of ‘opening’ it. After twenty minutes of sweaty trekking we arrive at an impressive site: high, broken steps rise from thick vegetation to the dark mouth of a cave where the Pure of Heart go to meet the King of Evil for unknown reasons. I like the place and look forward to being in it. Its entrance is narrow but curves back towards an expansive chamber – some 12 metres wide, 30 deep and 8 high. A young Moslem couple is already there, apparently for a long stint. They are Pure of Heart but would probably have liked to remain undisturbed.

Our guides perform a ‘ritual’ by lighting a clutch of incense sticks before the altar: a double-seat carved in stone at the far end of the chamber. It rests on a jagged platform of natural rock over which a sheet of plastic and a straw mat have been thrown. We are urged to begin our meditation. They will return for us after dawn. I kneel before the double-throne, resolved to focus beyond drama. My aim in coming here has been to remember innocence: in my Heart, in Darkness and now in the wash of histrionics. I would have preferred total darkness but the couple have a nightlight that illuminates the whole interior, albeit faintly. Soon they go to sleep in their niche. J also retires after a brief sitting.

I hear rats scurrying at the edge of the plastic. Bat whirr in dark vaults overhead. I gather from the couple’s lack of caution that there are no snakes. That established, I walk slowly, barefoot, around the chamber, touching the stone and attuning myself to it. When I return to meditate, a powerful energy arises. I imagine my way past the empty throne of balanced human (fe/male) energies into the Heart/Womb of Earth. This entails many bouts of shattering and clearing. At last I am ready to deliver my prayer: ‘Mother I am sorry for the suffering we have caused you; I love you and I thank you. Goddess I am sorry for the suffering we have caused you; I love you and I thank you. Beloved, I am sorry for the suffering we have caused you; I love you and I thank you. May we be forgiven and forgive. Let us make a miracle this time.’

The energies of this sequence are very intense and I feel drained when it is finally complete. It builds from earlier cave experiences in Bali and also from what happened at Bromo. At no point did I feel the slightest fear. Rather the context has certainly aided my breakthrough. The Heart of Darkness has proven here also to be the Heart of Love. I sleep then, thinking that further inspiration might come in dreams but none does. I still feel happy as we leave our no longer Secret Jungle next morning.

We arrive back in Bali the following day. I rest, integrating the energies of our Java visit ahead of my farewell return to the Durga temple tomorrow. Everything has now begun to re-arrange in my imagination towards powerful expression in October’s End Time Play. I am careful not to push this river. There is no need given the insistence of its flow and a steadily gathering awareness of my own Heart as its local Source.

                                                                    *

J drops me in the forecourt of the Durga temple the following afternoon. I ascend the steps to her shrine and sit a while pondering the sequence of events that has brought me here. Today is my Mayan birthday. I go up then to the formal temple and pay my respects before coming back and walking around to the Altar of the High Priestess. This is a moment of high portent for me. I enter the tiny cavern, ground myself, open my Heart and pray. A profound link is established and my meditation begins. I get to a point of pledging my dreaming to the fulfilment of Earth’s Highest Dream (which is to ascend in Beauty) and am moved to include the prayer from my night in the Secret Jungle. When I finish, having sought forgiveness and a miracle, an almighty irruption occurs that reduces me to a quivering mass.

The entire priestess lineage of that place pours in through the left side of my body, and then unfathomable Durga energies. I am left to process the impact for maybe an hour, dimly aware that it represents a feminine counterpart of the Siva initiation that I experienced at the Pandita’s two weeks before. It is also an example of the type of self-willed ego-destruction that I had anticipated regarding the 5th Night (which I now associate pre-eminently with Kali-Durga). When the primary shattering subsides, I pray that the Siva-Durga energies might marry in my Heart, surmounting creativity-reaction tendencies. I also surrender into the mid-point of Night 5. This begins at dusk tomorrow and is the time when the genius of Day 6 will be conceived.

                                                                    *

The next day I am back on J’s land with our healer friend G. We will make a Fire ceremony to close my journey and open another for friends newly arrived. G’s prayers to Gurus Brahma, Vishnu and Siva are now more easily heard. It is remarkable that Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati, their ‘wives’, are never mentioned (5). This is not an oversight: as at the T-shaped cave, markers are required to evoke essential yang forms. There were no stones to image the Goddess in that cave because she is the cave (or at least used to be known as such), as She is Earth and the substance of all mater-ial forms. Every yang stream is implicitly balanced by an emergent yin form. This is how Consciousness evolution proceeds in time but is often forgotten by yang overseers of that process.

At the end G distributes ceremonial food, missing me out because I am still in meditation. Returning, I challenge his omission. He jokes that I couldn’t be seen while flying. Unmoved, I pull him out of his lotus. He yields easily and rolls into my lap, frolicking like a puppy under the eyes of Gurus B, V and S. Later he says that he doesn’t feel like saying goodbye. I say that there is no need and, standing opposite, open my Heart spontaneously to relay a wave of golden light into his. He says that it feels very powerful. I reply that power is not important; what matters is that the reach of its connection isn’t limited by space or time. I realise as I say this that it expresses a Consciousness of Love; of Unity in motion across form(s).

                                                                    *

That night I am dozing but suddenly come to. As if by instinct, I press the flight tracking button on my screen. A little globe appears, showing the plane’s trajectory from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam. The time is 3.33. We have just passed the Russian border. This is the mid-point of my journey and of Night 5 (which for me is extended because of time zone variations)! A golden light surges from my Heart to envelop the world in a gesture of Pure Love and of newly manifesting Source-based spiritual creativity. I am still learning how to work with this.

Afterword

For my first week home I do nothing more than lie around. I have no energy to write or dance. Although my ego discerns an urgent call for both my soul is pre-surrendered to Night 5, whose waning yin power holds it in thrall. Then, moving into Day 6, a torrent is unleashed: the birthing of what before had merely been conceived. It begins with tears but transmutes into rapid writing and ecstatic dance. I complete this piece and, at the same time, work through a revised schedule for ‘The 10th Wave’, a Sacred Play to mark the End of Time. I will share a revised, articulated outline of this soon.

Notes:

(1) I spent 16 years re-membering the pre/Celtic spiritual legacy of my native country, an Earth-based ‘religion’ called Druidry. It is said that St Patrick banished ‘snakes’ (Druids: Dragon priests/Serpents of Wisdom) from Ireland. This is vastly overstated but begins (only) to explain why, instead of kundalini risings, we have had epidemics of child sexual abuse. Dragon energies flourish in Bali due to a creative fusion between imported Hinduism and earlier animistic spiritual forms. Their well-being distinguishes Holy Land from Wasteland. I went to gather something of these energies and bring them Home.

(2) I thought first that this image was just showing how Dragon energies were moving ‘horizontally’ through the line of our procession but it became clear later that it also images a specific power of the Heart chakra: see text for incidents of Heart-blessing at the mosque and with G. This has continued to develop. Likewise, my protruding Dragon’s head at Pandita’s signifies an opening of the Crown, later symbolised by the Lotus. My Dragon wings don’t imply a power of literal flight but of metaphorical transcendence, imaged by the Air Dragon in Druidry. Esoterically, the ‘Feathered Serpent’ evokes a similar sense of kundalini risen in other traditions. This is an autonomous developmental potential that ‘Churches’ seek to control by demonising ‘snakes’. Putting enmity between the woman’s seed and theirs (as Genesis does) pollutes ancient streams of sacred sexuality with crippling neuroses and stifles the creative-generative powers of God/dess in Wo/Man. This is the substance of our ‘Fall’.

(3) My processing style is primarily kinaesthetic. Every ‘shattering’ implies transformation. It is not repetitive in that consciousness is constantly being refined. Allowing this means it can happen easily, quickly and inwardly, eliminating a need for outer catastrophe. The aim of our current changes is Consciousness transformation. This is best pursued in consciousness, not by predicting falling rocks and dollars. The examples cited in my account could easily become typical. I will develop this after ‘The 10th Wave’, which shares the learning involved by experiential means and links to the 9th Wave.

(4) As a mystic of the Book, he seemed to be transcending into his text, or by means of it. This would be almost the opposite of what my own experience has been but it is also something I can respect.

(5) The Hindu pantheon is a rich and protean affair, subject to constant shifts and realignments, as the process of Divine Reality appears to be. (Masculine) Brahman represents ‘Ultimate’ Reality which Shakti – the Divine Feminine – bodies forth, creating an illusion (Maya) that the forms bodied forth are Reality. This principle governs the relationship between the main gods of the Hindu (masculine) trinity and their shaktis (corresponding feminine aspects). Thus Brahma is the Creator, or ‘Ultimate’ Reality. Vishnu is the Preserver, who maintains the Dream (illusion) of existence even as Siva the Transformer appears to destroy the reality it is falsely taken to be. None of this would be possible were it not for the roles of their feminine counterparts at every stage. This reminds us that Shakti is mysteriously part of the (Ultimate) Reality that She mysteriously bodies forth. It would be helpful if those who pronounce on our current changes had a better sense of issues that this only starts to unravel.

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