Pffffttttttttttt. Despite my eyes being closed I can feel a pillow of smoke being puffed up and over my torso toward my head. A gentle wave of soft air follows before I begin to allow myself to relax. ‘BANG, BONG, BANG, BANG’ – the air above my stomach is shattered by the sound of a smashing drum and the reverberations instantly pull me to attention.
I am booked in for an Indian Sharmanic healing session and, other than the treatments’ intention to clear old energetic imprints, I have no idea what to expect. While modern medicine focuses on the physical, culture obsesses with the mental and psychotherapy address the emotional, Shamanic Healing is said to bridge a person with their spiritual side. So here I am laying on a healers table in the middle of The Byron Spirit Festival having just shared the basis for my booking – pain in my abdomen, before my energy bridging treatment begun.
It started with a quick traditional Native American ceremony to purify my energy field by placing some loose leaf (sage) in a shell like bowl, lighting it and using feathers to keep it breathing and alive. Known as ‘smudging’ the ceremony honours the four elements and sacred directions – air represented by the feather, water by the shell, earth with the sage and fire signified by the smoke created.
Three minutes or so pass with no noise, voice, smoke or feathers. Do I open my eyes? Is this part of the treatment? My session has only just started … surely it hasn’t finished. I open one eye, then another looking around for the healer. Am I meant to get off the table? I perch myself onto my forearms to survey the scene before spotting my practitioner 10 metres away, still topped in in his Indian headdress. The healer is chatting to someone.
This was my third attempt to book a treatment with the Shamanic healer with connections from ancient tribes in North America. Yesterday’s session was cancelled and my earlier time slot booked today turned out to not be convenient. I’d hoped that this late afternoon visit to the mysterious tent lined with animal skin drums, rustic musical instruments, wands of feather and a soft smoke plume would prove differently. Another few minutes pass. Do I just leave? His assistant sits not far away. “He wont be long,” she says.
The festival, not itself in Byron Bay but in the nearby hinterland village of Mullumbimby in northern NSW is definitely a feast for the eyes, mind and body. Against a backdrop of serene rainforest surrounds, dreadlocks meld with athletic sculpted bodies, the vegan health conscious and inquisitive minds – producing a fun and festive village vibe. Chairs make way for floor cushions and rugs while organic latte stalls offering gluten free slices sit as substitute coffee carts. Despite the eclectic mix and age range of festival attendees, everyone has one thing in common – a relaxed pace and contented smile upon their face.
The first yoga session on the first day was a full house – not surprising since the instructors were considered among the best in the world. As we squeezed into a little corner of the hall with 100 or so others completing a round of ‘sun salutations’, I decide that these are the type of classes best appreciated by the most dedicated of yoga-ites. “For the rest of the festival program,” I whisper to Melissa, “I’d like to try the most unusual and eclectic of all the workshops.”
So far, the program has been so much fun, often intriguing and frequently thought provoking. A tantric class in the morning, Tigress Yoga at midday, a visit to the Mullum markets for lunch, belly dancing followed by Kundalini techniques in the afternoon and a wild music dance infusion of tribal beats and laser lights at night. The selection of workshops, instructors and subjects on offer appeals to the novice like me right through to the dedicated spirit seeker. The only problem is deciding which sessions across the five halls and venues to go to. If in doubt, there is always the Chai Tent and acoustic entertainment area lined with food stalls to invoke the senses.
So, that’s how I have ended up here on a table surrounded in festive-goers, still waiting for the return of the Shamanic healer to complete my appointed session. Another few minutes pass and I consciously try to imbue myself with a sense of calm. Who just walks off in the middle of a treatment? Should I still pay? My thoughts are interrupted with a deep voice. “I just saw a friend I haven’t seen in years and needed to say hello”, the healer explains to me. He has returned. I don’t know how to respond, so wait for him to indicate that the session is about to continue again.
There’s more banging over my abdomen, a rattle and long feathers are moving air in different directions across my body and I’m breathing deeply. Whether my medicine man is in a trance, using objects like stones or crystals and clearing old trauma, I can’t tell. My eyes are closed, so I guess the proof will be in the pudding.
The healers voice signals the treatments end. “The solidification has been broken up. Your lower abdomen pain will be gone in three days, and won’t return,” he declares. “Right, OK, well thankyou,” I reply. Hoping his convictions are right, I start to rise from the table. “Do you have diabetes in your family?” he continues. “My grandmother had late onset diabetes,” I advise. “Hmmm”, he says, “I want you to do something for me. Next time you go to the toilet I want you to taste your urine.” “What? “ I enquire. “Yes”, he says, “dip your little finger in and taste it on your tongue. If it tastes sweet then my instinct is confirmed and your body is not processing sugar well.”
I pay for my treatment and head off to the next scheduled workshop with Mel, still trying to process the last 45 minutes. “How do you feel?” she asks. “Actually, surprisingly, I don’t have any pain,” I reply – with thoughts of urine still on my mind.
Byron Spirit Festival www.spiritfestival.com.au