One of the spots I was most looking forward to visiting in Bali this week were the famous healing waters at Tampak Siring Temple. It’s a Hindu Temple located in a valley between two hills in central Bali, and is sacred to the Balinese people as a place to “melt all the bad influences in the body and purify the soul and mind”. You go there with an intention of being healed of something that has been troubling you.
The theme for our morning practice the day of the trip was “I FORGIVE”. This was probably the 4th time this year that I have done this exercise with Jen, so I actually thought, I got this, this will be easy. I have worked really hard to forgive those I had been carrying around in a negative way, whether they asked for it or not. I feel I have truly made peace with these people in my heart. And then it turned inward and became “I Forgive Myself”. Ok, that part was a little more tricky. I struggle everyday with beating myself up, and tearing myself down…so forgiving myself always feels like a challenge.
I went into the healing waters with that in mind, and with a very clear intention–to rinse off that nasty old crone who lives in my head. The one who constantly says things like “You’re fat”. “You look terrible”. “YOU AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH”. It’s absurd–I would NEVER let someone talk to people I love like that, yet I allow this voice to penetrate my thoughts and my heart regularly. I wanted to go to the healing waters and literally “Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” (I’ve been singing South Pacific songs in my head for 3 days; Bali Hai anyone? It felt fitting). I dunked my head, in and out of flowing water, 12 times, trying to wash this demon out.
Walking out of the waters, I expected to feel cleansed. Elated. Renewed. Or at least content. Instead I felt decidedly…bad. Sad. Unsettled. Like I wanted to go cry without knowing why, and close myself up in a room with no one around. How different this felt from what I had imagined it would. And since I had an hour long trip back to Soulshine in a car with 6 other people, I couldn’t shut everyone out. I know, I tried.
Someone brought up a complicated situation in my life, and asked me the question “Do you feel guilty?”. I was so overcome with the entire experience that I couldn’t articulate any feelings, so I just cried. We returned and I went right into a massage, where I had an hour to process the feelings and figure out what what was going on in my head (and my heart).
And it became really clear, really quickly:
I DON’T FEEL GUILTY.
For the first time in ages. I am finished punishing myself for sins committed 15, 20, 25 years ago. I have repented, I have done my time, and I’m finished. I HAVE forgiven myself. I don’t know if it was the intention set during class, or the healing waters, or just…me. But today, right now, I’m there. I forgive me.
Our Balinese tour guide/driver/guru, Agung, shared a story with our group about why the Balinese make offerings 3 times a day.
They make offerings to the Gods to say thank you, to get protection from them. But they also make offerings to the evil spirits. They need to appeal to the evil spirits as well as the Gods, so that everything in their lives is in harmony. They understand that there is good and there is evil, and instead of fighting against the evil, they try to balance it out with good. They make offerings to the evil spirits to create this balance, to make peace with it, to make friends with it.
Maybe rather than trying to force an exorcism of this evil spirit in my head, this self-critic, I need to become friends with it. Make offerings to it. Everyday. So that I can change the dialogue that it has with me. So that I can give it a different, more helpful role.
I didn’t get what I expected from the healing waters, but perhaps I got exactly what I needed.