Author and Reiki Master Cat Wheeler shares a variety of extraordinary experiences from her time living in Singapore and Bali over the past two decades. She talks about how she learned to clear spaces of unwanted energies and achieve fearlessness.
Detail from “The Birth of Hanoman,” I Gusti Made Deblog, 1936, Museum Puri Lukisan, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
Introduction. Extraordinarium features personal experiences of the extraordinary as a way to explore their diversity and to broaden the conversation about how such experiences impact people’s lives. Publications such as Fate and Fortean Times have featured such personal experiences over the decades as a way of giving experients a voice, and part of Extraordinarium’s mandate is to do the same – to ensure that those who have extraordinary experiences have a forum in which they can share them first-hand, in their own words. From there, critical inquiry and respectful discussion can follow. (See below for details on how to share your own experience).
Welcome to the second installment of “In My Own Words.”
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Foreword by Christopher Laursen. Cat Wheeler, better known in Ubud, Bali, as ‘Ibu Kat’ (Mother Kat), has been living on the Indonesian island since 2000. A Canadian expatriate who was raised in Vancouver, she is a writer, social activist and Reiki Master. Her book Bali Daze (previously published as Dragons in the Bath) is a lively series of brief anecdotes about living there, building her own house, adjusting to the way of being on the island and even having the occasional encounter with strange things. Bali Daze is required reading for anyone considering resettling in Bali, and it is well worth reading for all who are coming to visit. It sets the scene for the nuances of Hindu-Balinese culture that is truly unlike any other in the world. Cat writes about how one must become more flexible to live there, respecting and adapting to the ways of the Balinese people, sharing their own knowledge while maintaining one’s own personal integrity. She writes a column, Greenspeak, for the expatriate English language newspaper the Bali Advertiser, and actively converses with people – locals and those from afar – sharing their lives and the issues they have to deal with on a daily basis. For Cat, writing on the environment extends concerns of preserving nature, land use, and pollution to virtually everything that may impact a person in the place where they live.
I sat down and had tea with Cat one cool, rainy season afternoon at her shady home in Ubud which is situated on the edge of a ravine – the place where an alternate dimension exists, where the Orang Sungei – the River People live. She writes in her book, “The River People are generally friendly and sociable, but have been known to become angry when people throw rubbish down the riverbanks. Then they will drag the polluter down, sometimes to his death.” One of her dogs, Kasey, had met such an unfortunate fate in the gorge beside her home. Afterward, Cat recalled to me, she would dream of him and record these dreams – to find out that her housekeeper Wayan Manis had shared the same dream. In Bali Daze, she recounts the joys and frustrations of living on the island, of taking care of rescued animals, of growing gardens, and the friendship and humour she’s shared with her Balinese staff, Wayan Manis and Nyoman.
Cat shared several extraordinary incidents that she experienced over the past 20 years, both in Singapore – where she lived in the 1990s – and since moving to Bali. Here, she shares six of these moments. What I find striking about them is the variety of experiences. Encounters with sword-wielding apparitions, shoe-throwing energies, things going mysteriously missing, a moment of transoceanic synchronicity that led to a friendship, and possessed schoolgirls.
The Haunted Rowhouses
Early on in Singapore, I lived in a row of old houses that had been built by the British. After independence, they went downhill, from being officers’ quarters to being drug dens with prostitutes and gangs – really rough trade. It was like that for about 30 years. Just before I moved in, they’d been all bought and gentrified, so they were old and restored. But they were hopping! And because they were cheap for Singapore, the people who lived there tended to be artists, writers, designers, landscape architects, creative people who were travelling a lot so the houses were often empty.
A good friend mine [Donna]… moved into a house two doors down from me. And because she was on the road almost all the time and her furniture had not yet arrived, she was over at my house most nights for dinner. One night she came over, we visited and ate dinner with some friends and I, and she went home. A few minutes later she was back, her eyes like saucers, saying there’s something weird going on in my bedroom. There were four of us altogether. Nicole, Donna and my friend Jenny, who is very psychic and intuitive, and very open. She and I learned Reiki together and had been doing very interesting work together for several years at that time.
So we all went next door and up the stairs, opened the door to Donna’s bedroom, walked in, and there’s a WHOOSH of cold energy. Whenever I’m in the presence of something like that, my left side feels chilled. So I knew, Ooo! something’s cooking in here! Nicole and Donna went running out in alarm and huddled together half way down the stairs. Jenny entered the bedroom and immediately doubled over and started howling. I didn’t experience any of this; I started to channel. I put my hands on her shoulders, just moved with her and tried to keep her grounded. And after a little while, I thought, This is getting boring. Now what is really going on here? I opened all of the doors and windows. For some reason, Donna had about 40 pairs of shoes in there, and I felt moved to pitch them all out onto the balcony. I said, Okay, that’s enough! Out you go! I started jumping up and down, making loud noises. I had no techniques at that time. There was a kind of sound and a blast of energy went out the bedroom door. Donna and Nicole said they felt it go past them on the stairs as a cold wind, then it was gone. I thought, Well, I wonder what happened there?
This was my first experience, a long time ago. I wasn’t so well connected at the time. I phoned around to a few people and asked, How do you clear spaces? No one had any idea. So I had to create a technique, which I did. And because this kind of thing is all about intention, it worked. After that I started to get some calls from neighbours. There were a lot of old energies from that period of gangsters, drugs and prostitutes – a lot of really sad, stuck, lost spirits.
I had a big upstairs room where my Reiki Master would teach when she was in Singapore. I apprenticed with her for 18 months before I became a teacher myself, mostly at my house. One evening after a workshop when the students had left, several of us were unwinding over dinner downstairs with some wine. There were five or six of us in the house — Reiki masters, level twos, level ones. No one was upstairs. Suddenly there were two loud bangs overhead and I was sent upstairs. My Japanese roommate kept her shoes in a bookshelf at one end of the long narrow hall. Something had taken her shoes and thrown them down to the other end of the hall. So we all had to go upstairs, open up the doors and windows and clear it. It took some time, I guess because we hadn’t cleared the room where we’d been raising energy for two or three days and it had really built up. Finally we felt it was gone and went and finished dinner. Donna returned home and immediately discovered that it had moved to her house! In one way or another, we got quite a bit of practice.
It’s spiritual housekeeping. If you’re in a space that’s dirty, you have to clean it! It’s not dangerous. The energies are not angry or malevolent. They’re just sad and stuck. But I always protect myself well first as standard operating procedure.
Cat Wheeler and Chiko, an eclectus, a bird native to eastern Indonesia.
The Dinner Guest
Cat’s house seems far from the bustling main roads of the cultural centre of Ubud, Bali. For visitors to find her house, she needs to give detailed directions that involve finding the narrow alley where she lives. She tells me,
This is a very highly charged piece of land, according to the Balinese. I’ve had a couple of Balians – shamans – visit me here, walk around, come back and say, Not many people could live here.
Sitting on a daybed overlooking her garden and the jungle beyond, Cat gives me a sense of the space around her. She points to the north. “The big death temple is there.” That’s where high caste cremations occur, the final part of a long process after Balinese-Hindu people die, which begins with ceremonies, processions, and often a burial. When a priest chooses the right date for cremation, the body is exhumed and further rituals are carried out before the body is paraded down the street on a platform and taken to the cremation grounds. Cat points to the east. “The river frontage is right below us, in a deep ravine.” This is where the River People reside, and Cat’s house is right on the edge of it, her fence forming a physical boundary between her backyard and an altogether separate dimension where Balinese people generally do not venture. To the south, “The priest’s house is there,” Cat points out. He is her landlord. “It’s a very lively piece of land,” she adds, pointing. “The dogs sometimes just stand here and stare at that corner.” She indicates a spot where the jungle crawls up from the river to shade the edge of her garden. What could entrance the dogs at the edge of the deep river gorge? Cat launches into a tale about an encounter she had with something on the perimeter of her property.
I had a dinner party once and eight people were sitting around the table. I was sitting with my back to the forest. I was chatting to a friend who was sitting beside me, and she happened to look past me [to the forest] and said, Oh my god! I turned around and just caught the edge of this huge face rising up out of the dark jungle on the other side of the wall, the face was perhaps three metres high. Just as I was trying to focus on it, it pixelated and just dissolved away. Colleen and I were the only people who saw it. Did it want to join the party?
Because this is such a highly charged piece of land, because of the work I do, I put up a barrier, a boundary wall which very clearly separates my side/your side. I’ve asked that it be respected. It’s not unseldom that things happen on the other side, but they do honour our agreement and stay out of the house and garden.
One of the strangest things that ever happened to me took place before I moved here, more than 15 years ago. I went up with a friend to Candidasa in August, the cremation season. We were staying in a little place near the sea. Our room was a small cottage with an ylang ylang (grass) roof. I’m allergic to grass roofs and I asked if I could have a bed made up on the bale in the walled garden, so I could sleep outside.
A bale, which literally translates to something like ‘space out platform’ according to my Indonesian language teacher, is a simple wooden structure composed of a platform and a roof held up by four wooden pillars. It is traditionally found out in the rice fields, a place for farmers to have a siesta in the heat of the afternoon, or for friends to sit in when they visit. Such structures are also found at hotels, in villas and in Balinese compounds. Cat continued to recount her experience.
Of course the Balinese consider it absolutely mad and terribly dangerous to sleep outside, because of all the spiritual activity. They themselves sleep in closed-up rooms, usually with the windows tightly shut.
I’m a Reiki practitioner and teacher. Before I went to bed, I laid symbols [that I use for various rituals] all around the bale. It just felt like a good idea.
All around – at the beach, in the mountains, in the distance and not so far away – there was chanting, gamelan music, there was drumming, all kinds of death ceremony rituals going on in the night. Lots of energy in the air. I had a hard time falling asleep. I opened my eyes at one point thinking, What is going on here? It’s so lively. I sat up. And coming at me out of each of the three walls of the garden were these apparitions: faces, masks, swords, severed hands. They’d fly out of the walls right up to the edge of the bale. And then they’d disappear, pixilate, where I’d laid the symbols and protection. Just like a movie! And it would not quit.
I wasn’t frightened. But after quite a while I felt, Give me a break, guys! Hours of this! Only when it began to get light did the action stop. I was absolutely exhausted, but intrigued.
“Have you told Balinese people about this?” I ask Cat.
It’s very difficult to describe what happened in Indonesian. They would think, Why would you sleep outside? That’s crazy, all kinds of spirits walk at night.
The Possessed Schoolgirls
One day there was a possession in the school across the street. I heard people screaming and running and the school loudspeaker ordering everyone to go home, quickly. My Balinese staff told me I should go help. I asked, should a foreigner go over there and do that? Is that appropriate? They said yes. So I put protection around myself and climbed the steps of the school against a tide of hysterical teenagers and teachers and started to hold the space for this girl who was possessed.
“She was what?” I ask.
They do have possession here. I looked it up on the Internet afterwards, and it seems to be not uncommon with teenagers of a certain age in many countries.
There were two girls. One was catatonic and the other I can only describe as crazed, enraged. I sat and held space for the catatonic one. Her friend, to her credit, was bravely cradling her. The other girl was possessed by a dark entity, she was full of ferocious energy. If she’d had a knife in her hand, she would have disembowelled everyone in sight. She would rage then periodically collapse and huddle, shivering, behind the school temple. Wayan Manis came and joined me after a while, which was very brave for a Balinese. This probably went on for an hour, until finally someone sent a car around and they took the girls away. I asked for holy water and the principal, who was also a priest, sprinkled it over Wayan and me. The teachers told the girls to take a month off, go see a Balian and do what needs to be done. But a week later, the girls insisted on coming back to school and the same thing happened again.
“Catherine Wheeler, it is not your time to die…”
About thirteen years ago I was thinking about moving to Bali from Singapore. I came here with several friends and we stayed on the south coast. One morning four of us went walking by the sea. It was a quiet, early morning, not stormy at all. We were walking on the sand about three metres from the waterline. Suddenly, almost right in front of the hotel, a huge rogue wave came up, two metres tall – a wall of water – and hit us like a train. My three friends were swept up a surge channel. I was luckily thrown into a breakwater because I can’t swim. We were all banged up a lot, but we all survived. It was a very traumatic experience.
Three or four years ago, maybe ten years after this event, I got an e-mail out of the blue from a woman in Argentina. She said, You’re going to think I’m absolutely mad. She studied dreams and she wrote, Last night, I had a dream that there was a bay in a tropical area and a boat was rocking and the waves were high. There was a feeling of danger, but a voice said very clearly, “Catherine Wheeler, it is not your time to die.” I Googled Catherine Wheeler and your name came up. You must think I’m crazy. Does it make any sense to you?
I wrote back to say that’s really very interesting! [laughs] That’s exactly what happened! She’d dreamed about an event that happened to me a decade or so before. A very immediate dream with my name very clearly stated, so she was able to find me. What is going on there? One person’s name clearly enunciated to a complete stranger on the other side of the world. Go figure…
We became friends. She’s a journalist and has featured me in a couple of articles in the Argentinean women’s magazine she writes for.
Cat Wheeler’s book Bali Daze can be purchased for Kindle from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, or Amazon.ca – or from Ganesha Books in Ubud, Bali.
Dealing with Dark Forces
Ibu Kat has encountered many things living in Asia. But, as she shows in the following experience, she has empowered herself to maintain control of the spaces she occupies. It is a skill that she’s developed over decades through the practice of Reiki and intention.
My first house in Bali was also by a river, and there was a really dark energy around it. Horrible house! Things were constantly disappearing. I’d be alone in the compound with the front gate locked. I’d put a hammer on the table, go answer the phone, come back and the hammer would be gone. It was constantly happening. Things would be gone, never, ever to reappear, which I thought was just very, very annoying.
Then one night, my puppy disappeared. He was on a long chain on an overhead line because the fence had not yet been finished and the house was near a busy road. I went to the gate to see off a visitor and was gone for maybe 30 seconds. When I got back to the house the dog was gone. The chain was gone. There had not been a sound. I was absolutely furious by this time. This was intolerable. You guys – this is going too far! So I stood on the porch and shouted, “Alright, that’s enough! This is my space, not your space. This has got to stop! I’m really fed up with this. It’s over! Go! And send back my puppy!” I was so worked up, I went and sat in my office and huffed. Two minutes later there was the sound of a rattling chain and this wet, muddy little puppy runs in to sit at my feet. Where had he been? How had he disappeared in utter silence trailing that long noisy chain? He was pretty spooked.
That was a big lesson for me. I learned that here in Bali especially, you must have very strong, clear boundaries. Sometimes, the spirits are malevolent here. There’s a lot of black magic being thrown around out there by the Balinese. People are directing black magic toward other people all the time. It’s very dangerous. I protect myself against it. It’s sad to see the Balinese feeling very vulnerable to all of these energies. They feel they are helpless against negative energies and can only be protected by a priest. They don’t understand that they can do that work themselves, they can protect themselves with intention and simple rituals.
Be fearless. Fearlessness is different than courage. It’s a state of being. You get there after being frightened a lot, you eventually work your way past it. There really is nothing to fear except fear itself.
The extraordinary incidents Ibu Kat has experienced remain mysterious and unexplained. “Bali is an energy vortex,” she says. “There’s always something going on. Keep your balance. And don’t be afraid.”