Night of the Balinese Spirits
It’s 3:30am on January 10th, 2018 and I’m wide awake. I’ve been lying in bed absolutely wired since a little after midnight, and this is not normal for me. My normal is: once my head hits the pillow, I’m out like a light. On the rare occasions I have trouble falling asleep, it’s because I drank coffee after 1pm, but today I didn’t drink any coffee. As a matter of fact I didn’t drink any coffee yesterday either, so that's definitely not the reason. I can’t think of any logical explanation for this unwelcome nocturnal alertness.
I tried reading, journaling, a Michael Sealey guided meditation, a short silent meditation, counting sheep, slow deep breathing – nothing worked. My mind is restless and churning and refuses to turn off. And it’s not being very friendly to me at the moment, my mind. It has sunk into an unusual dark pessimistic mood and is badgering me with annoying questions. “What if this journey is actually not going to end well? What if your happiness isn’t going to last? What if you never accomplish anything? What if you eventually run out of ideas and money?”
Me back to my mind: What are you talking about, where is this coming from? This journey has been overflowing with magic so far, how many more examples of synchronicity and perfect alignment do you need to trust you’re on the right path? Why have you decided to start worrying now out of the blue when there is literally nothing to worry about? Can we just go to sleep already?
Finally around 4 am, I dozed off.
The next morning I walk groggily to the hotel breakfast table. (Lack of sleep is not enough to keep me away from breakfast.) My neighbor, a Spanish woman who lives in London, is already there. “How are you?” she greets me politely.
“A little sleepy,” I reply, taking my seat with a giant yawn. “I couldn’t fall asleep until 4 in the morning.”
Her mouth opens in surprise. “You know, last night it was a special night in Bali. It’s the night that all the bad spirits come out and are active. Between midnight and 4am. A Balinese priest told me about it.”
“Well, that explains it,” I say. “Did you have trouble sleeping?”
“No,” she tells me.
Hmm. So some people are immune to the spirits that roam this mystical land? Why are they picking on me? I pick up my phone and text Helen, my partner in crime and yoga practice during this sojourn in Bali. (Just kidding about the crime – the only criminal activities we committed here were occasionally driving scooters the wrong way down a one way street.) Did you have any trouble sleeping last night?
Her reply: Yeah I couldn’t sleep!!! WTF? How did you know? Was it the moon? Hahaa. I was wired! Literally dancing around my room in the dark after the power went out! I was like – this is ridiiiiiiculous, I’m normally out like a light!
If this was just coincidence, it was a strange one. Our inquiring minds needed to look into this.
I asked Tina, the charming Balinese woman at the front desk, about it. She didn't know anything about a night of Balinese spirits, but she also admitted with laughing embarrassment that she wasn't a spiritual person, so this wasn't her field of expertise.
A few days later, we asked our Balinese guide if there was really a special night when bad spirits come out to play. He said, oh yes, that’s Kajeng Kliwon. Every month, there are special nights in Bali: the new moon, the full moon, and Kajeng Kliwon. That’s the nights the dark spirits come out to like, have a party. The energy is very active. It was a few days ago, I’m not sure which day exactly. Let’s check the calendar.
He brought out a Balinese calendar. Sure enough, January 10 was marked “Kajeng Kliwon.” He told us we’re becoming sensitive to the energy here.
That’s not hard to believe, considering we’ve enthusiastically embraced Bali’s spiritual side during our 6 weeks here, including visits to Balinese healers, kundalini classes, Shamanic breathwork and of course our daily yoga and meditation. The open-minded spiritual side of me who knows life works in mysterious ways isn’t surprised, but the tiny skeptical piece of me who would appreciate tangible scientific proof for everything is fascinated by yet another sign that the spirit world is there, and real, and powerful.
There’s one piece of the story I didn’t mention earlier. Before I fell asleep, I decided to drown out those depressing voices in my head with some inspirational YouTube viewing. Around 3:30am, I ended up watching a Super Soul Sunday conversation between Oprah and Elizabeth Gilbert, during which they discussed Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey – how everyone who steps up to answer their true calling is meant to go through that journey; it’s something universal. How we all face obstacles and go through trials and tribulations and they all serve to build up our talents and prepare us for that final big battle we’ll eventually reach. (If you want to listen for yourself, it's here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55-Q73YPDJs - the ads and intro end around minute 2:55.)
I was listening to this, feeling comforted and totally identifying with the being on a journey concept, until Elizabeth mentions the climactic scene every hero’s journey is leading towards, the big battle, after which you lose your fear and then you become the hero, and then I get nervous. I’ve had enough battles in life. I don’t want to deal with any more. Just the thought is exhausting and makes me want to pull the covers over my head and hide. Then I start wondering, what’s my big battle going to be, am I going to have to go through some long miserable ordeal, because I would really prefer to bypass all that thank you very much …
But I keep listening. Oprah asks Elizabeth, what was your big battle? She replies that her big battle was coming to peace with all her inner demons. All the voices she carried with her her whole life, the voices that said, you’re never good enough, the fear, the anger, the guilt, the shame.
It was a perfect parallel to those voices that had been ricocheting through my head the past few hours. And if that’s my big battle, I can handle that. I said a thank you to the Universe for the message, told the voices in my head that I appreciate their concern but no need to worry, everything will be fine, and a little later I fell asleep.
That night probably wasn’t the big battle of my life journey, but it was exactly the kind of internal conflict you would expect to encounter with a bunch of dark Balinese spirits out and about, luring your own inner demons out of the shadows to dance the night away.