“The most difficult aspect of being a healer is the discipline of being vegan,” Pak Wayan, a young Balinese healer says, before he lights up an incense stick and starts chanting mantras in Sanskrit. Decked in a white shirt, sarong and an olive-hued udeng (Balinese headdress), Pak Wayan reveals that for healers and holy men, consuming meat can affect the chakras (psychic-energy centres) of a person. “We believe that eating meat can invite negative feelings like jealousy, bitterness and anger. Love, compassion, joy and gratitude come from high vibrational foods like greens – what grows from nature,” he explains as his hands hover above me, as if pulling out invisible threads from my body.
The concept of harmony of mankind with God, nature and fellow humans, defines the Balinese philosophy of life – Tri Hita Karana (three reasons for prosperity) – the same belief which laid the foundation of one of the world’s best wellness sanctuaries – Fivelements, where Pak Wayan is performing the healing ritual on me.
Save for the sounds of the raging river and sweet serenade of humming birds outside the bamboo hut I am in, the Panca Mahabhuta is a silent 90-minute ritual where chakras are balanced and negative energies are cleared by Pak Wayan’s healing hands. This is the kind of spiritual, soul-mending sessions that attract scores of jaded hearts to Ubud, Bali’s cultural and spiritual centre.
Nestled on the banks of the Ayung River, Balinese guardian statues and altars dot Fivelements landscape, while cleverly hidden speakers reverberate with sounds of traditional Balinese music. Walking into the compound feels like stepping into a 1960s poster advertising a slice of island paradise – frangipani trees dance gleefully among towering tropical foliage where three bamboo mandalas sit majestically within the lush landscape. It is in one of these mandalas that a range of sacred arts, meditation and healing therapies are offered – I opt for a beginners choice: basic yoga with a local yogi Pradnya Wati who offers me a hint at just how breathing techniques and stretching can change the way you feel and think.
The eco-wellness retreat takes the art of transformation and respect for Bali’s rich traditions to a celestial level – every single detail at Fivelements revolves around nature. My abode, Akasa (ether), is one of nine luxurious villas named after the five elements in Balinese spiritualism and employs the usage of recycled timber for its floors, high-grass roofs, low-wattage lights as well as oddly-shaped bio-mimicry fans, which reduces the level of electricity needed. To be honest, there’s little need for a ceiling fan as each verandah has a private tub which shares the shade of the lush foliage, and welcomes the breeze of Ubud’s altitude. The concept of bringing the outside in, extends to its restaurant – Sakti Dining Room.
I figured my editor had an ulterior motive, sending a meat-loving, coffee-drinking person like me to a wellness resort where the dining menu comprised of locally sourced, organic, and raw vegan offerings. But like many sceptics of plant-based diets, I was proven wrong. The man behind the magic is Chef Tantra, who spent countless nights researching the effects of plant-based diets after his wife discovered a lump in her breast. His efforts paid off; his wife’s health improved; and the innovation and complexity in the flavour of the food at Fivelements increased, earning the Sakti Dining Room a multitude of internationally recognised accolades.
Among the offerings that can turn anyone with a carnivorous appetite into a vegan disciple are creative, palate-pleasing dishes like the Barley Risotto, Chickpea Cassava Flatbread and the Coconut Panna Cotta with passion fruit sorbet – all made with ingredients harvested on the grounds of Fivelements itself or sourced from local farmers.
But food, as the therapists at Fivelements teach me, means more in Balinese culture than merely items to be consumed. The therapists at Fivelements introduce me to the Sakti Bath – a bathing ritual in the island, known to possess healing properties. Starting off with an hour-long full-body deep tissue massage, it is followed by a scrub made from sea salt, infused with holy basil and lemongrass. They then prepare your private bathtub to revitalise your energy levels the Balinese way – freshly cut ginger, stalks of lemongrass, sliced Balinese lime and orange as well as bundles of pandan leaves. Soaking in my tub while watching the tide of Ayung River gently caress the boulders in its way mirrors the tranquillity I feel.
Soon, Pak Wayan informs me that the ritual is over and that all my chakras are clear – how can it not be? At the end of my three days there, I owe it to the plant-based food, morning yoga sessions, rejuvenating spas and a stunning room with an equally breathtaking view.
At the Sakti Dining Room, fresh juices are served with a stalk of lemongrass. The fragrant herb not only acts as a stirrer – it also doubles as an extremely effective and eco-friendly straw.
Address: Puri Ahimsa, Banjar Baturning, Mambal, Bali, Indonesia 80352