Oh Holy Ground!

I meant to take Tjokorda Rai’s directive to heart; but little did I know how many opportunities would present themselves to me in such quick succession, facilitating my connection with the ground.

Like yesterday morning, when I left the pool after swimming laps, picked up my sandals and began to walk to my yoga class. Crossing a long wooden footbridge through jungle… traipsing on rocks entrenched in the path alongside the rice paddies (now covered in bright green shoots)… down the footpath lined with frangipani trees… past the rice farmer’s shack…all along the dirt path winding along fields, shrines, ravines, villas and garbage… and, finally onto the concrete path that leads from Santa Putra to Intuitive Flow yoga studio.

Despite protruding rocks, some muckiness and hard surfaces along the way, I was glad to be nourishing the soles of my feet; stimulating nerve endings that were for too long cushioned and shielded from hard edges, points and pebbles. I stepped onto the patch of grass on the verandah at the front of the studio, gave thanks to the earth.

And early this morning, I met Ida at Ed’s house (she owns it) because I love her medicinal (herbal and floral) garden. Two weeks ago, I’d asked Ida to walk me through it and teach me about the trees, leaves and flowers that heal.

I removed my sandals and followed behind Ida studiously taking notes, taking pictures. Although I’d already learned about the benefits of white turmeric,  and hibiscus, there were many others that I’d never seen or knew about – kalor and noni among them. Each had its own properties; for the hair, the brain, the skin, to improve circulation, reduce a fever, fight against cancer. I tiptoed among the trees and plants careful not to leave a heavy footprint. Still, I imagined my feet soaking in all the healing properties that surrounded us, above and below the ground.

When the tour was over, I brushed the dirt from my feet and we settled onto pillow-covered benches in the shade under Ed’s house. Ida noticed that my back was covered with mosquito bites. She disappeared for a few moments. When she returned, she told me to turn my back to her, then applied a mixture of oil and salt, rubbing the salve deeply into the bites. Sure enough, the rising itch subsided almost immediately.

I returned home in the late morning and just in time: the momentous Odalan (temple birthday) ceremony taking place at Family Guesthouse all day tomorrow was being preceded by another ceremony this morning called mecaru. Only after seeing the vast array of offerings and shrine decorations, the gamelan musicians sitting in the shade at the ready, the pemangkus (priests) dressed in top-to-bottom whites, the toing-and-froing of all the family members, neighbors and assistant offerings makers; only after milling about the compound and family temple in bare feet did I learn the purpose of today’s ceremony: Blessing the ground and appeasing the evil spirits that lurk below.

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