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The Balinese Guru

Updated: Jan 11

I remember scheduling the trip to Bali. It was September 13th 2022 for a June retreat of 2023. I was on the phone with a booking agent from Bali while I was in Kauai, Hawaii, visiting a friend. I decided to take the trip to Hawaii because my oldest son, Conner, was at Pepperdine and his younger brother, Ian, was in his first year of college at the University of Pittsburgh. I remember calling Conner and saying, “Hey guess what, you won’t believe this, but I booked a yoga retreat to Bali, so when you graduate from Pepperdine you and Ian can come with me as part of your graduation gift!” He said, “Sounds amazing mom, you always figure out cool trips.”

After Conner died, I decided I wasn’t going. Heck I couldn’t function for the first month, how was I to promote a yoga retreat in Bali? Ian decided it was better to go back to college because staying in LA was a constant reminder that Conner was gone plus most of his friends had left for college.

One morning after completing my daily ritual of lighting a candle for Conner, reading my daily devotional book and journaling I realized it was important for Ian to continue the plan to go to Europe.

Since Conner’s death, the trip hadn’t even been considered because the family was in pure shock. I would text or chat with Ian every day and he matured quickly and understood that mom needed this daily communication. I tried hard to be “real with him” when it came to my most painful grief feelings; but at the same time he was only nineteen years old and in another state. I didn’t want my grief to weigh heavy on him, so many days I kept it light.

One day, he said, “Hey, we are still planning on going to Bali, right? I mean, in honor of Conner we need to do this”. He was so cute.

“Mom you can do this.. get out of bed…make a poster and you can sell it out in a week!”

It is funny how parents think they can hide their feelings from their children. How did he know I was still in bed? He knew I was sad and had given up on the Bali trip without even discussing it.

Off to Bali on June 21, 2023

Although my grief was still really strong, I made the decision to go to Bali. For the last year, I had tried to run from my grief by traveling. But Bali felt different because I took Conner with me. (Note: you can’t ever out run deep grief, but I tried to). I wore my necklace filled with his ashes. It didn't feel like I was running away this time. I was excited to meet with Ian and start our “New Life Experience”. I believe it is very important for a grieving person’s mental state to do something to shake things up a little.

Bali has always been on my bucket list. During my final conversation with Conner, he told me to travel and do retreats and enjoy all the things that I wanted because I had dedicated my life to him and Ian. Now was the time for me.

Looking back, these words were so inspiring and imperative for Ian’s and my healing process…

There are so many moments that you will never be able to recreate. Those moments when you think “Wow it was the perfect place, the right timing, beautiful people, amazing food and deep spiritual meaning”. This trip was all of the above and more. It was magical. I was thrilled not only because Ian was coming but my soul mama Lori, and my niece Aryel which enhanced every moment. The Guru experience is one I will never forget and we all agreed that the information we received coupled with the surroundings and our emotions was very profound.

The meeting with the Guru wasn’t on the itinerary.

It was one of those “coincidental” moments. You know, the kind that makes you think there are no coincidences?

When I arrived in Bali, my driver was extremely sweet. All Balinese are just so kind. She said early on in our conversation, “Miss Karen, I heard about your son ,Conner, no worries he is okay, I want you to meet my Guru.” I thought “okay, why not?” I had just traveled 25 hours and was so tired and was finally in Bali… so sure. We decided to wait until my son, niece and Lori arrived so that we could experience the Guru all together so she scheduled the meeting for the next late morning.

The next morning we all rode together to a remote part of town to the small village off the grid to meet the guru. As we arrived we noticed how simply beautiful everything was. The Balinese family structure gives great homage to God first then the family and each village has a guru. Each family has a smaller temple on their property, and then each village has their community temple, and each day they go through a morning offering to connect with God and nature. For me as a Christian and someone who studies yoga philosophy, this makes sense… especially since Conner passed. I find my morning routine of lighting a candle, reading scripture and talking with God offers a deeper connection to what truly matters. Connecting with love and light and not jumping into the chaos of the world is so important.

My morning ritual seems to be the only way through this grief.

It has taken my personal tragedy and manifested it into one of being of service.

Walking through the small village, it was obvious how happy everyone was as they fed chickens, cleaned the dirt floors of the outdoor kitchen, placed pretty flowers around and lit small candles for the morning offering baskets. We were greeted by several people who guided us to the area where the guru would conduct his consultations and healing sessions. As the four of us sat on some couches, they offered us tea, filtered water and food along with their never ending beautiful smiles.

The guru was a slender shorter man who couldn’t speak English so he had an assistant sit next to him to translate for us. They both chain smoked natural cigarettes! Lori and I were having a day of “You don’t know how we feel, we lost our sons!” In early grief over the loss of a child, you quickly learn that people don’t understand unless they’ve been through it. Losing your child goes against the natural order of things. So I was sitting there with the obvious judgment that this guru was a waste of time. so did the guru know how we felt and didn’t focus on us. My son, Ian, looked at me and said, “Mom, he knows you think he is full of sh__!” So I lightened up a bit and allowed myself to be more open.

(I guess I was being a Karen…ugh!)

Although we only came for an hour of healing, it turned into a six hour event. The guru spoke through his translater ands we three sat quietly and listened. Throughout the day, when he spoke, one of us would randomly burst into tears. Lori was the first. The guru spoke to her about her son, Hayden.

She cried and the guru asked “Do you want me to help you with this?

Will you allow me to heal this?”

One by one, we each burst into tears as we received messages that could only be for us. It was uncanny. We were individually taken into this small hut and he worked on us in an energetic way, using an electric acupuncture machine as his main instrument to determine blockages in our body and mind. When you came out of the private session, the assistant handed you a glass of salt water to rinse your mouth, hand you a sarong and then walked you through a little jungle with some old planks of wood to an outside shower. The water was cold and invigorating! Once we had all showered and dressed, there was a break and we were encouraged to eat more delicious simple food. This time allowed the guru to rejuvenate himself from the four healing sessions he completed.

Each person took about 45 minutes but combined with breaks and eating made for an amazing but very long session. Afterwards, we realized that this wasn’t the usual routine for the guru. He spent more time with us than normal and recognized Lori and I’s obvious stubborn behavior. (Lori asked him, at one point, if he’d ever lost a child?) I believe he was patiently catering to our special needs of extreme grief and we each had profound individual experiences.

The guru told me that my heart and lungs were having problems and I needed to eat more roots for better digestion and also needed to love myself more.

He also told me (and this is personal, but I will be honest) that I was stuck in my second chakra and was blocked from having romance. I thought well duh.. I have been divorced for 13 years and never had a real boyfriend. Also, when you're grieving the death of your child, finding the new love of my life isn’t high on the list of priorities. I caught myself and made a decision to be open minded and really listen to him. The crazy thing is that two days later I developed this deep cough and my lungs felt really full. When I got back to the states my EKG was bad and apparently I had a heart attack, or what is called Broken Heart Syndrome. I’m pretty sure this happened the day Conner died.

We wanted to know WHY?!! Why were our beautiful boys gone? Why didn’t the angels intervene and save them….WHY?…..

Ian was the last to go and after many meals and hours of this experience, both Lori and I felt we needed more answers because we are both so very heartbroken. The session was in its last hour and we felt kind of disappointed, a little ripped off (although it was donation only), and mostly emotionally ripped off. Yes, we had received some answers and the Energy treatment, but there was still a void for the two of us. I was thinking,”Okay.. It is what it is… try to enjoy the complete experience of being in Bali with your son, your niece and your amazing soul mama and just let it be Karen.” And then it all made sense.

The day before when Ian arrived in Bali, we sat down and he told me that he didn’t want me to carry his grief, that “He was a Man now” and his grief was his and that he wanted me to know this as a way to ease my pain.

Now in the last ten minutes of our “Guru Experience” the answers came.

The guru asked Ian, “So Ian, what can I do for you?” Ian said and it still brings tears to my heart, “How do I go on when my identity is Conner’s and Conner’s identity is mine? How do I go on with life?” The guru said, “Because you are a man now, you understand that Conner was a gift!” Within a few moments, one of the ladies came out with a bucket of water and started to wash Ian’s feet and was looking up to him and speaking to him in Balinese, so we were not sure what she was saying, but it was magical. The guru was smiling, smoking and time seemed to stand still as if Lori and I were witnessing some sort of moment that one only reads about. Ian looked up to me with the most amazing smile and said,”See. I told you I am a man now!” Lori and I had the biggest smiles on our faces and that is the exact time that the guru gave us the lesson.

He said “See this is how the two of you should be. God gave you the biggest gift. God gave you the opportunity to create life.”

“God didn’t guarantee exactly how long your son’s would live.” He waved his hands to the heavens and said, “What are you worried about, Conner and Hayden are in heaven! Would you have not had your sons if you knew what was going to happen?! Your responsibility is being a mother… this is what you wanted. You have the responsibility to not only continue to be the mother to your sons, but to the whole village! It is Mother Earth, not Father Earth. People look towards the mother to see what you do, how you handle yourself in times like this.” He leaned back in his chair and just sat there and looked over at his assistant and gave a smirky smile. Lori and I just looked at each other as if we were just spanked really hard. It wasn’t the answer we wanted or thought we would get. At first it didn’t sink in because it felt harsh and kind of wrong! I think we both wanted to be wrapped up in a cocoon of love… I mean after all, the worst thing in the world had happened to us.

The next day we were on our way to a sacred location for a healing water ceremony. We were in line to prepare offering baskets and to set our intention for when we go into the water with a priest. It felt similar to a baptism and was in this amazing waterfall underneath a thousand year old temple. Ian was in line with me and asked, “Mom what are you asking for?” I said, “I am asking God to take care of Conner.”

He looked at me and said, “Mom Conner is okay, you need to ask for self love.”

I hadn’t been sure if Ian really listened to anything that the guru said, but at this moment, it was obvious he did. My mind shifted but I still asked God to take care of Conner but I honored Ian’s wishes and asked for self love.

Another profound teaching that was unexpected was when we went shopping. Ian has been wearing Conner’s clothes since September 24th 2022. It was now June 2023 and I never thought it was strange that he did this.(Heck I still sleep with Conner’s pillow from his dorm room). As we strolled the streets and stores of Ubud, Ian was buying a lot of new clothes and I asked him, "Wow, you're really buying a lot of clothes, and then he looked at me and said, “Mom, it’s time for my own swag.” It was definitely a heart stab, but I realized this was good and healthy for him.”

I never take it for granted that Bali was a once in a life-time experience and the “Guru Sessions” was much more profound than we realized at the time. When we got back to the states, we fully received the message that God gave us these gifts.

Lori and I both agree that the guru's words, although harsh at the time, were deep rooted in love.

God gave us a gift to create life and didn’t promise us anything. Would we have chosen not to have our boys if we were told what was going to happen? Of course not! Hayden and Conner are in heaven. The role of the mother is strong and we need to be of service in whatever way we can. We’re still the mothers of our sons that are still on earth and, of course… the village! That always makes me giggle because it’s a pretty tall order. The guru was also right when he said that society watches the mother to see how she will move through such a tragedy.

Sometimes I ask myself: “Would we have received this exact information from an expensive therapist?” Probably not. This was an authentic exchange and I see it as a gift from God. It was exactly what we needed to hear to move through…not on, we don’t think you ever move ononly through… into a new life filled with grace and love.

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