Letters from Ubud: Dark things tread here…. how vampires, creeps and predators are feasting on the soul of the world – and why it actually matters.
[Extracts from notes to editor: This mission has gone sideways. Things are derailed. The bad guys are winning. This story is a goddamn shambles! It’s A war zone out here. There’s almost nothing but villains and idiots and a horizon littered with their victims, willing or otherwise. The spiritual questers, man, they’re just flying straight into the jaws of these vampires. It’s like a nightmare mashup of Apocalypse Now and The Exorcist, styled by Lululemon… Its.. just…. basically…. horror.
Send a medic. We need an Intervention….
[Editor: When the student is ready, you never know what sort of Master may appear
~ * ~
ZEST Cafe, Ubud, Bali: We are sitting in a circle. Ten women in Ubud, Bali, gathered in one of the multitude of ‘sharing circles’ here, popping up like fungal blooms all over town and advertised as ways to ‘build community’, ‘create intimacy’, and teach ‘authentic relating’.
This circle, like all the others, is hosted by either an ambitious new arrival or a local entrepreneur looking for leadership, looking for networking opportunities, cross-pollinating the established tribe of healers with the massive in-coming tides of those hundreds of thousands who come to Ubud, possibly the world’s most famous and influential spiritual healing centres, for help, for a new life, for an antidote to the loneliness or anxiety or downward mobility of the ones they have left behind.
These are circles for those who gather to tell their stories, to hear others’, to make friends, perhaps, express themselves in genuine ways no longer provided for in fractured families, or superficial friendships or the hellstorm of toxic illusions raging across social media.
They come to be in spaces where they can perhaps unburden themselves, relieve loneliness, be real (or at least make a start at it) or deal with serious issues. Many come with the mental, emotional, psychological and physical health problems they have traveled to Bali to heal – and those also come, who earn a living from the others.
The topic today has caused a quiver among the secret group invited from all across town. We are heading, in shroud of secrecy, into one of the taboos that remain sacred here, dangerous – even – in a town that trades on shattering boundaries, exploding limits and treading bravely where our own cultures have feared to tread.
We have gathered in a ‘safe space’ to share our stories about sexual abuse in the yoga community.
Because Ubud has set itself up as a safe space. It’s in all the advertising. Isn’t it?
Only women are invited to this circle. There is trepidation. There are the unstable boulders of dread, and tendrils of euphoria as well. These topics are deeply personal and the pergola set aside for the meeting is quivering with the risk, and perhaps with shame and outrage, even before we begin.
We are from 8 different nations and of varying vintage of experience of Ubud, these women gathering as the evening sky turns steamy apricot above us, and the roar of the traffic snarls behind us, and the dragonfruit smoothies and medicinal teas are served.
Between the ages of around 12 and 70, each woman takes her place in a soft flurry of various robes and feather earrings. A melodic clatter of bangles, malas, amulets and crystals heralds our constellation and the facilitator, a young American dressed in classic Ubud earth-tone lycra, her skirt hitched high on her thigh, breasts pushing tight against a halter neck, large belt buckle hauling the eye to her crotch and tresses impeccably scattered across her bare shoulders, shakes a rattle, burns sage, hums mantras before settling herself cross-legged at our helm.
“We have come together, sisters, to talk about the truth about what is going on here in Ubud,” she says, with a dulcet, yet serious and anguished voice. “I honour your bravery. I respect your pain. These are powerful and important topics.
“You are all invited together, here, to share your stories, thoughts, feelings and experiences about sexual abuse, about the things that are going on here, and which we know are dangerous to admit.”
She has had her own experience.
It’s what inspired this gathering. It is why I was invited. And it hovers, like a strange milky cloud in the clarity she is promising us, in what has really inspired her to take this lead.
It’s a courageous move, to open this conversation. Everybody knows it. There are things you cannot say, even here, where the spiritual community advertises its credentials in authenticity, intimacy, yoga and healing. And a lot of that is going on in Ubud where all sorts of expat yoga entrepreneurs behaving like vampires, calling themselves shaman, gods, goddesses, healers… while often behaving more like sociopaths trawl the tourist scene.
Where we have opened a Pandoras Box of ancient wisdom, alternative medicine, ‘intuitive’ therapies and shamanism, mixed through the old, rich soup of yoga, ayurveda, Tantra – anything which can provide a trusted platform from which to spin a new idea, which can turn dollar and influence, and perhaps genuine assistance, to millions of people fleeing their homes and cultures which are everywhere in crisis.
Entrepreneurs and ‘way-showers’ in Ubud may have set their tap root down here ten years ago with offerings of Yoga, backed up by Balinese animism and shamanism, but those early beginnings have exploded into a technicolour of massive, unregulated ‘creativity’ and experimental offerings as avalanches of tourists and distressed pilgrims surge into what was once a ‘healing centre’, but is now a juggernaut of bewildefying proportions.
It may once have been a ‘yoga town’, but these days its not clear if what’s called yoga has anything left of this rigorous and ancient science. It is not clear how much of what’s on offer in Ubud is valid, or even safe.
Sex parties, orgies, orgasm rites, hallucinogens, pyramid schemes based on everything from essential oils to cash dollar, polyamory, trance dance, erotic healings, shamanism are all offered by people, mostly under 50 (with some gruesome and extremely dubious exceptions), universally un-apprenticed, utterly unaccountable and notoriously secretive – and savage – when criticised.
The healing pyramid is stacked high in Ubud, with naive or willing newbies, full of First World Dollar, and First World anxiety at its base, and a meticulously networked, cloistered elite at top, which administer access to power and wealth for those who keep its secrets, and which exiles those who don’t.
The most influential here are certainly also the least transparent.
They run the economy with a cult-like rigour, and blow smoke across their borders by fanning the easy flames of disillusionment with the traditional power structures of our ancestral cultures; banks, the food industry, medicine, Patriarchy, money, religion, monogamy – these are the enemies they point to, as they blow plumes of sacred smoke around their own suspect ethics and their own abuses of power and influence.
These are the traitors to the soul of the world. While Ubud’s spectacle of healers is the antidote to all that ~ just bite the apple… just a little taste will do….
It is very dangerous in Ubud to tell the secrets that are spilling over now, and circulate in coffee shops, at raw food cafes and private groups on social media. You can whisper them, you can even snicker, stamp your feet or raise your eyebrows, but you cannot say it out loud – that dark, and dangerous and predatory things are going on.
That there are vampires in the lotus of Ubud’s multi-million dollar spiritual mecca.
Their trail of undead is easy to pick up: moonblinked students left traumatised by one-size-fits-all shamanic breathwork sessions, who shuffle out of town quietly, racked with shame and wondering about ‘possession’.
People sent to hospital after detox programs gone bad.
Tourists picked off for US$5000 buy-ins on the White Lotus Pyramid scheme, which has paid out its pimps in $hundreds of thousands, as they prey on their own yoga students and the easy flesh of new arrivals.
Relatively decent folk who arrive looking for belonging, all too often end up grinding up against some greasy hot bod at ecstatic dance, and trading whatever was left of their chastity for membership of the orgiastic trend setters and a new hobby in anorexia or micro-dosing…
The whispers are…. that while it is very much encouraged to open your legs, your heart, your trust, your wallet, your yoni and your fly to the sacred rites of yoga, tantra, shamanism, and ecstatic rites and substances, you need to watch your back.
I cant help thinking, as I settle into my seat among this all-women’s gathering – it is horribly uncomfortable to feel it – that it’s possible, and even likely, that not everybody is here to solve a problem or even tell the truth.
I have been in Ubud long enough to never assume that any thing or any body is what they have taken obvious pains to appear…. I cant help thinking, that it is also very shrewd of our leader, and perhaps some of the others, to be taking their places in this tale.
Because there is a certain allure, and its many people’s dream come true – a yearning even stronger than healing or becoming orgasmic – the possibility of becoming someone, here in Ubud – if you can find a cause or an idea or a meme to hang your facebook profile from. Now that is really intoxicating.
It is likely what undid the best and early efforts to offer anything sincere here.
Those early teachers, these days are all goddesses, and shaman and empowerment facilitators, dressed as divas, or gigolos, or advertising that they are under direct tutelage of Mary Magdalene (since Kali has now worn out her merchandise), or aliens, or gurus, or some rat-bitten shaman from their month-long trip to Peru, who must surely be sending poisoned transcendental arrows through the psychedelic web at Ubud’s grotesque and juvenile upstart magicians – because they do that sort of thing when betrayed or irritated.
Yes, even those who may have been innocent enough here ten years ago – ex SCUBA divers who picked a better, more profitable new business; ex-hookers who saw tricks on the Tantra train; ex nobodies, really, who knew somebody in Ubud, and were given a ladle at the gravy train – even those who started off just silly, are mostly now extremely powerful and hellbent on cultivating guru-status, and milking it.
And there are millions of willing guru-makers among this wonky planet’s lost and anxious – that’s possibly you! – or your daughter, or son. So beware. This is for you. It’s not as easy to find a spiritual path as you think – and less so one who is safe to guide you upon it. Beware!
Among the millions of us with mental, emotional, financial and sexual health problems – looking for a magic bullet, or at least an unforgettable orgasm with a partner who looks like a hero out of Avatar is no longer just a foolish daydream – its a ticket to being eaten alive by predators who know you’re coming, and have dressed up as exactly that fantasy, to suck at your soul.
And don’t think you’re immune. Or that you wont end up as a victim, and then a vampire yourself – because that’s how it works, if you remember the basic biology of this sort of thing.
At first you’re all wide-eyed. Then you’re sort of bewildered. Then you feel left out. So you lose 7 kilos and get a face full of paralyser.
Now you’re wearing a crochet bikini to ecstatic dance. Now you’re rubbing oils up against some guy with a man bun and a squirrel-skin waistcoast. Now you’re experiencing acrobatic sex, and other addictions. Now you’re feeling something metamorphic. Now you’re taking drops at full moon parties. And next thing, you look in the mirror at your own bewitchy eyes, and your teeth are growing pointy, and its new flesh you’re after….
Yes, the benefits of becoming someone in Ubud are immense. All the sex, parties, invitations, followers and ecstasy you can think of. Not to mention the intoxicating privileges of belonging to the central sphere of influence which generates a lot more money, power and kink than your normal life back home .
If you cant be one – you can always accuse one – it’s a way to get attention.
And it has been well role modelled all over the net. Tearing down the old structures, hell-raising against patriarchy, or outing bad men, pioneering victim narratives, (as the recent Me Too and Toxic Masculinity fever has shown us), is another way to head up a tribe – it’s risky, especially in a small town, but it has made plenty of wannabe influencers successful. These are very dangerous times.
And as for women – dont get me started! – as for women here, they are being herded like farmed prawns into the notion that what they and the whole world needs is ‘womb power’, ‘or menstrual moon magic’, or to get their vaginas de-armoured by erotic masseuses who get paid to put their dirty fingers…..
Because it’s vivid obvious, surely, isnt it? That what women really need, now that we have freedom, education, employment and the rest.. is to turn around and provide that back into the culture – to do our part in making life good and fair and just and nourishing for everybody – not just for ourselves, and our reproductive organs!
Back at the circle, we are all on the edge of our tasselled cushions, waiting for the talking feather to be shaken, and the sharing to pour forth.
It takes a lot of heavy breathing for our leader to begin.
She rides long, sensual ripples moving visibly through her body as she closes her eyes, showing us how she gathers the strength the start, how she plugs into Mother Earth before she speaks. I feel sorry for her. I watch the belt buckle and the soft thrust of her nipples, pushing up against the fine fabric that barely covers them, as she commands an electric hush, an enthralled rapture of surge and anxiety, and then she begins…
She came to Ubud to recover from the bruises of her youth and a sense of pointlessness and despair back home, in North America, she says.
She came with a passion for learning, for something better, for a world where there is no harm to animals, and where the goddess reigns without the dread evils of Patriarchy, the deceptions of religion, the horror of war and exploitation. She had followed the stepping-stones, of which there are plenty in Ubud, to a teacher, to a retreat centre, to a school and eventually into the closed and powerful circle of the who’s who in Ubud’s prosperous and glamorous spiritual nerve-centre.
Her alleged abuser took her through that threshold. He is a well-respected Voice in social change, business and, like the others, looking to get on the radar as a sort of visionary, a prolific speaker and high profile leader in Bali, with tendrils well beyond this heaving, thriving, lucrative little island. He is a man who makes a living from his position arguing for a new way of living on Earth, from teaching, running several successful restaurants and businesses, and with international influence across social media and at his schools, retreats and workshops where he shares his thoughts and endeavours toward a world of ‘healed humans’, growing food in peace, doing good for themselves, each other, and the planet.
He is trusted. And that’s how she says her trouble began.
Her story is that she came to study with this man. He opened her eyes to new ways of living. He articulated the dream that was unborn inside her. He looked inside the tangle of despairs, griefs and confusion she was carrying and showed her a pathway to turning all that into good deeds, popularity, a business and a sustaining vision.
Then he opened her eyes to his special, private spiritual massage work, where he could help heal her traumas, initiate her to mystic powers, show her the divine, and transform her pain into ecstasy, into the direct guidance of the goddess and forever feelings of power, purpose and optimism.
And then, at the high profile silent retreat where he had leadership and trust, he opened her eyes to his own naked body, and the healing powers of his sex.
He took her to a private space. He began a healing session which quickly moved into the revelation that he was not just an ordinary man, and that she had the special privilege, in fact, of being in the presence of an earth-based ambassador for off-planet Special Forces on an the interplanetary mission to rescue Earth from the dread clutches of demonic bad guys with a vile plot to undermine all beings.
(This is not such a ludicrous story, I will confess to having some stock in it, as do many other seemingly sensible people – HOWEVER – one must be very, very careful when being told by others that they are Special Forces, coz Special Forces don’t tell…. and they usually don’t carry their cosmic wands and beams of power in their undies… [just a tip})
He explained the inner secrets of his power and his mission; that he was in league with benevolent forces from a yonder galaxy, working through his teachings and cellular labyrinths, to rescue certain chosen but afflicted human souls, and the entire home planet eventually, through cosmic tantric rites.
It was off-planet healers who provided his mission, his influence, and had choreographed their meeting, so that she could receive initiation through the gifts of magic that he carried, stored and issued through the sacred wand of his cock.
He encouraged her to receive him.
He seduced her.
He fed her sacred teas.
She said she felt terrified. She admitted she felt allured. She said she felt betrayed.
She says she said no.
It wasn’t easy.
But she says she said no, and she was punished for it.
He hunted her down, to complete the intergalactic healing assignment. To let her know that his catches didn’t get away so easily. He frightened her. He wanted her.
But she had asked around, and the same stories were being whispered elsewhere. She had put some pieces together. She knew she wasn’t as ‘special’ as he told her. She knew he had many others. She says he was a notorious ‘initiator’ with his cock-wand of glacticness. She says she felt she had been lured. The story haunted and terrified her. She is leaving town, she says, going further out, going into silence, seeking help and comfort, but before that – she says she feels she needs to lead us all toward sharing of our stories, and maybe doing something useful.
The story she shares is compelling, but it isn’t unusual. I’ve heard it many, many times here – and so have the others. There is no real alarm among the ‘sisters’. The story causes lots of dewy eyes, but merely falls upon the pond of our shared circle, makes it own ripple, then sinks to the bottom.
Each woman goes on to tell similar tales; about being propositioned by healers, or spruiked mercilessly at cafes, or horrified by the sexualising that goes on in yoga here, or dance gatherings, or intimacy workshops, promising to heal trauma, but very often causing it.
Mostly the stories get weaker as the circle lurches around. There is some discussion that maybe having an encounter with intergalactic alien intelligences inhabiting various cocks and vaginas around town is not as bad as having your soul devoured by a meaningless life in the West- and eventually an impromptu shop is set up, where one among us peddles her ‘sacred jewellery’ to the group.
Nothing much came of this. I left feeling bewildered. Feeling oddly disgusted. But later I was asked, seriously, to see what I could do to take steps to have reports made against this man. For his employers to be notified. For a grown up to do something that might put up a boundary, or at least start a conversation at a proper and useful level.
I made the calls. And when I did, I was met with a surprising and enthusiastic YES! from those who had the power to limit the accused’s activities. They knew he was up to no good. They had suspected it for a long time. All they needed was a complaint. That could validate his suspension.
But when everything was arranged. Her safety guaranteed. Powerful forces gathered to quietly close off at least one of this man’s hunting grounds, with no risk at all to her but a surety of protection for those who would step into his web next, she said, quite simply, no.
She said she had decided to ‘let it go’. That she was ‘no longer going to participate in negativity‘. That she would though, be happy to assist his future victims, if I could pass on their details, because she had been inspired to become a guide and counsellor to victims here, of sexual predators.
I got the message. She was onto something. If we were to stop the sexual predators, then her client base would wither before she even made her website.
~ * ~
Now.. why does all this matter?
Let me tell you how I see it.
We are, indeed, it is vivid obvious and dire, at a perilous time in Planet Earth. Whichever way you look at it, the soul of individuals, or at least the basic sense of meaning and hope is in the blender of anxiety and despair everywhere.
It’s time for a very grand adventure. It’s time to see, as it rises to the surface, all sorts of errors and conflicts. All sorts of bad ideas and destructive habits. All sorts of corrections and changes are required for us to get our own souls, let alone the much debated soul of the world and all her myriad beings back into safety, back into a reality which supports life, instead of destroying, plundering and terrifying it.
This is the exact scenario required for a Very Grand Adventure.
We are all a part of it now.
A calling is well underway – the trumpets, drums and shrieks of soul and ecosystem are loud and clear, and the thrill and terror of great change and courage is summoning us all.
Yes, it’s all very scary.
There are those who feel the call, and will not take the adventure. For these there is the dread exile into wasteland – a place of anxiety, depression, waiting, addiction, misery and ancestral ghosts and horrors.
There are those who will jump! Like a vast armada of hopeful new tadpoles, surging downriver to the ocean of deeper wisdoms they come – innocent, but brave enough to dare set out – to look for ways to answer the call that has come to them as illness, as despair, as grief, or addiction or the strange, dreamy knowing that there is something more out there, beyond the curdling sea of their own homes and societies.
These are the fat, delicious offspring of nature’s urge to replenish the human story, to enrich the myths we are living by, and re-pollinate our stories, and lift our idea of ‘real’ into something new, something that might bring beauty and goodness and hope and love to the global story – all wobbly with need for uplift.
This urge to test new waters, to refresh our cultural heritage, to overthrow our bonds and the dire grip of cultural and technological evil is the logical next step in the restoration of the human story,
What if…. at the mouths of these great rivers, carrying newborn spiritual questers, who are brave and daring enough to swim away from home, are patrolled by predators?
What if… of all those thousands who come, most swim straight into the jaws of those who are not supportive at all of their quests, but hungry for their fat and their pockets.
What if… this vital fleet of adventurers, destined to head out beyond the confines of their families and cultures, of the realities that have made them sick or miserable, are being easily devoured by hunters, disguised as prophets, lovers and healers?
What if…because of that, they fail. And everything they might have brought back to the hurting worlds they left is lost?
What if… it really matters, what goes on in Ubud.