Wayang Goleks sold at Taksu Galeria, Ubud, BaliWAYANG GOLEKS

More Than Just a Unique Souvenir

A Piece of Indonesian Culture

If you have ever visited the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali, you would have likely seen puppets, known as wayang in Indonesian, for sale as a distinctive gift or a holiday memento. One of the most popular available for purchase in Bali is the three dimensional, wooden Wayang Golek, also known as a rod puppet. It is easy to understand their appeal as their facial expressions are so animated, their costumes so intricate and the craftsmanship so superb (at least the ones that are not mass produced).

To truly make a talking piece of these lovely puppets when you return home, it is well worth seeing an authentic Wayang Golek performance. However, unless you are visiting West Java this is unlikely, so the next best way to supplement your storytelling skills is to continue reading.

Indonesia has a rich history of puppetry which dates back 1,000 years. Puppet shows were, and still are today, part of many important social occasions such as weddings, births, religious ceremonies and cultural days. Indonesians have a high degree of patience so often performances start at 9:30pm and go until 4:30am, if not longer. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that they are not so tourist-friendly today!Wayang Golek Puppet Master

Known as a dalang, the puppet master is considered a consummate storyteller musician, comedian and philosopher. He, along with up to 30 assistants, delivers dialogue using voices specifics to each character. Through an ingenious device called the banana log the dalang can operate two or more puppets at the same time. The dalang also directs a percussion orchestra known as gamelan. View a diagram of how these magical performances are arranged.

Depending on the type of show and the region of Indonesia, the dalang conveys Hindu epics, Muslim legends and Javanese historical tales in an engaging manner. In the case of traditional Wayang Golek shows, the focus is more on mystical beings fighting between good and evil. Fortunately, there is almost always a happy ending!

As Philip Kennicott wrote in the Washington Post, “They are extraordinary works of art even when inanimate; in the hands of a dalang their rudimentary motions take on exceptional subtlety. They strut and mope, bean each other on the head a lot, and enact complex stories while all the time swaying, just a little bit, rather like people on the edge of a dance floor.”

THE MAKING OF A WAYANG GOLEK

Behind the cultural context and pageantry of the performance, the finest wayang golek rod puppets require detailed craftsmanship. Made from light, softwood, the most intricately carved and painted section is the head as it creates the personality for each of the story’s characters. The head incorporates an elaborate headdress and a long neck that can swivel.

Wayang Golek Puppet Before Being PaintedAfter the facial features are completed, the head is mounted on top of a wooden rod. The arms are then carved into two sections; shoulder to elbow and hand to elbow; and then connected by wooden sticks. The construction of the puppets contributes to their versatility, expressiveness and aptitude for imitating human dance.

Watch a family as they start with a stump of wood and proceed to create by hand a magical rod puppet.

There are five different types of characters in Wayang Golek Puppetry: refined; semi-refined; strong; emotionally uncontrolled and special. It is a fascinating cast of characters, so learn more here.

CHOOSING YOUR WAYANG GOLEK

A good place to get a first-hand overview is a visit to the House of Masks and Puppets located in Mas village which is just a few minutes’ drive from central Ubud. This quaint museum houses a collection includes more than 1,300 masks and 5,700 puppets. Surrounded by traditional Balinese villages and rice fields, it is well worth a visit.

You may feel overwhelmed with all the delightful choices, but a practical rule of thumb is not to over think the purchase decision. They are generally sold as couples, so if you immediately fall in love with them then they are the right ones for you! Their heights vary as does the price, but to be authentic buy the larger puppet pairs.

However as they are made of wood, be sure there are no boreholes in which insects may live. You can even give them a gentle tap to see if any wood dust comes away.

If you purchase from a reputable shop, these potential problems will not be an issue. Beware if you buy them from a cheap souvenir shop you may not pass customs inspections on your return home. It would be terrible to turn your new loved ones over to a grumpy customs inspection officer!

PLACES TO SHOP IN UBUD

It can be tempting to buy Wayang Goleks in the markets or mega-souvenir shops that tourist buses typically stop at. Prices will indeed be lower, but the quality will be far inferior and the durability much less than at a more upmarket shop or speciality boutique. It is well worth buying ones that will be sure to impress!

A new gift boutique on Jalan Hanoman, the Taksu Galeria, sells beautiful sets that were hand-crafted by a West Balinese family with a long history of excellence of detailed craftsmanship. The Galeria owners went further by selecting fabrics to match each wayang golek’s personality.

Taksu specializes in 35cm tall Rama and Sita puppets. This loving couple are the main protagonists in the ancient Indian epic poem, the Ramayana, which is one of the largest and most treasured in the world. The romantic legend tells the story of Prince Rama who is married to the beautiful princess, Sita, but they are banished by his evil stepmother to a forest for fourteen years. Wishing Sita for his own wife, a demon king with 10 heads, Ravana, kidnaps Sita. She cleverly leaves a trail of jewelry for him to follow and after an intense battle is rescued by Rama who returns home to be crowned as the king and she the queen. It is one of the truly great love stories with an ever so happy ending. Purchasing one of these couples, each one with unique facial expressions and costumes, could make for an intriguing Valentines gift.

No matter your choice, wayang goleks are some of the most visually attractive memories

of your Bali holiday.

Do you wake up every morning ready to tackle the day with enthusiasm? For many people this does not happen as the realities of daily life have a way of sneaking up on you to damper your natural zest for life. There is abundant advice about how to retain your motivation, including classics such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, meditation, and a harmonious mixture of work and play. We have all read about it, heard it and steadfastly tried to live by these tried and true goalposts.  Yet, sometimes we need to assess how to get inspired, and stay that way forever.

Yet, sometimes even these are just not enough. So how to get inspired? Here a few simple ways you can use that will motivate and inspire, even on the dreariest day.

  • According to Meghan Markle, American TV star and new wife of Britain’s Prince Harry, running is a great form of moving meditation which gives her greater mental clarity. Even with time restraints, a quick run with her dog gives her the mind-body connection so essential to stay inspired. Running has long been associated with physical health, but is increasingly known for its ability to calm the mind. It must really work as Meghan was able to captivate one of the most desired bachelors in the world!
  • A classic that even Oprah Winfrey uses is a vision board that helps to manifest your dreams into reality. All you need to start with is a piece of poster or foam board, and then place pictures of how you see yourself in the future on them. These can be cut out from magazines, so a vision board is an inexpensive and in-your-face means to remind yourself daily of your personal goals.
  • Another popular how to get inspired method is daily affirmations or positive sentences that you repeat to yourself. They are to the mind what exercise is to the body. Essentially they empower you to replace your “I cant’s” with “I can’s”, and your fears and doubts with confidence and certainty. With regular repetition, they reshape your beliefs to give you a more positive perception about yourself and the society that you live in. They are a simple and effective way to not only manifest a goal, but to live a life full of positive energy and gratitude.If you are interested in learning more about the power of positive affirmations, here is an educational article.
  • Tapping is a new trend in stress reduction. It facilitates tappers to enhance their ability to stay focused. It is based on the combined principles of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. It is easy to do on your own in your home for free. Watch this video to learn how to rewire the brain to respond in healthier ways.

THE BEST HOW TO GET INSPIRED HACKS EVER

If you are looking for intuitive sparks of inspiration for dealing with life look no further than cards. They are super easy to use and the positive effects take virtually no time to kick in. What’s not to love about that combination in these days of trying to meet work deadlines and manage your personal life at the same time!

Add the beautiful island of Bali to the equation and you have a sure fire way to recharge those batteries every day. I found all of these motivational tools at central Ubud’s Taksu Galeria on Jalan Hanoman.

  • Who isn’t inspired by flowers? Beth Bell has been taking flower photos for years as she fell in love with their vibrant colors and delicacy. Yet she was also impressed with their natural capacity to endure. The result is a collection of her images with a divine truth on the front and a complementary affirmation on the back. So just pick one up every morning as you are leaving the house and kick butt for the rest of the day! Feeling a bit down, then take three with you. They will provide guidance to an unanswered question or situation…….. lifting a heavy load of stress from you. Another easy solution to the how to get inspired question.
  • Feeling like a game of chance? Pick an Insightful Reflections question card with an answer card to provoke thoughts you may never have dreamed of before.
  • Bali and especially Ubud is famous for the high standards and imagination of its painters. People travel to Ubud just to select a few paintings from boutique art galleries lined along many of its narrow gangways. Bali Blessing cards are miniature replicas of these awesome paintings, so that you can take back so much more with you than one or two paintings. Each one has its own inspirational statement on the back. Put them in a bowl and collect one a day. The set even comes with a book to explain how each painting and words are connected. This is a special way to remember Bali and stay plugged into your dreams at the same time.

So if you have been asking yourself how to get inspired and stay in that mode, then look no futher than the Taksu Galeria.

Say Goodbye to Wheat

Wave Hello to Health

In its various stages of growth, wheat fields are a glorious sight…. vibrant green stalks fluttering in the breeze evolving into an earthy straw color as harvest time draws closer. Yet, when most people think about wheat they envision a toasted sandwich with yummy fillings or a plate of steaming pasta smothered in a thick tomato sauce. For these people, it is hard to even imagine a life without wheat or other grains such as barley, a main ingredient of most beers, and rye which is the foundation of popular breads such as pumpernickel. They would ask why even consider giving these up to live a gluten free life. This highlights widespread lack of understanding of the benefits of embarking on a gluten free diet, a choice more and more people are consciously making.

What is a Gluten Free Diet?

To best appreciate what going gluten free involves, you have to understand what gluten is. Generally, it is a protein found in various forms of wheat, barley, rye or grain hybrids. As it aids in holding food together, it can often be found in many kinds of food such as crackers, cookies, cakes, pancakes, sauces, breadcrumbs, croutons, corn flakes and brewer’s yeast. It’s even found in products you would never guess, for example, drugs and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements and even something as seemingly harmless as play dough.

Although it initially sounds daunting to give-up all of this, it is fortunately now easier than ever. Switched on restaurants feature gluten free dishes, stores stock numerous clearly-labeled products and home cooks can take advantage of a myriad of tasty recipes without a touch of gluten.

Why Abstain from Glutens?

An estimated 1 in 100 people worldwide have celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder where gluten causes damage to the small intestine. It does not discriminate and can start taking its toll at any time in your lifespan if you are genetically pre-disposed. The only cure is a 100% diet free of any amount of gluten. If it not diagnosed, it almost always leads to serious health consequences.

It is easy to understand why people who realize they have celiac disease, cut out all glutens. Yet an increasing number of people are opting out of consuming all food containing any form of gluten. Is it a fad or a fact? After all, there are so many ways being promoted as a means to a healthier lifestyle, not just giving up your favorite grain-based foods. However, mounting medical evidence indicates that permanently eliminating glutens from your diet can resolve a number of health issues.

This is especially true for those who are gluten sensitive or intolerant, a situation in your gut versus a food allergy as some people think. Conventional medical doctors and alternative medicine practitioners are increasingly correlating
symptoms such as stomach disorders, chronic fatigue, neurological disorders, nutrient deficiencies, anaemia, nausea, skin rashes and depression with diets which with even a small proportion of gluten.

Gluten-Related Health Issues No Longer Considered a Coincidence

The rise in many health issues is today considered a result of the rapid evolution of agricultural practices and a daily diet consisting of a much higher share of highly processed food.

It is no surprise that many people are sceptical of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and potent glyphosate pesticides such as Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. There is widespread concern that farmers are increasingly applying glyphosates just prior to harvesting, thus increasing the risk that they could get into many food products. Furthermore, increasing reliance on processed snacks and meals in today’s western society is contributing to an imbalance in our guts. Although gluten is the glue, many of these scary foods also have an extremely high sugar content that also contributes to many body imbalances.

Virtually everyone is exposed to a much higher degree of environmental toxins and other allergens which are difficult to avoid. These factors have all contributed to some degree to a much higher susceptibility to nurturing intestinal flora which can lead to gluten related illnesses. Sadly many people resort to other alternatives to reduce or eliminate health issues which have gluten as a root cause, when it is simple to just regularly eat cuisine with no traces of gluten.

Benefits of a Gluten-Gone Diet

It is easy to understand why celiac disease carriers convert to such a diet as it clearly minimizes the risk of associated diseases. The arguments for those ranging from no symptoms associated with gluten to those with gluten intolerance are becoming more compelling as personal stories of how health is restored once gluten is removed continue to populate mainstream and social media.

The huge advantage of going ‘gluten gone’ is that there are no negative side effects, except perhaps for the initial cravings for those overly processed food items. Stick with it for a month and judge for yourself.

So what are these seemingly convincing reasons to give up our most cherished dishes?

Your Gut is a Big Beneficiary

Reducing or eliminating gluten, greatly improves digestion. Many people with what is known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome which is associated with diarrhea and abdominal cramping discover that life returns to normal with a change in diet.

On-going inflammation of the large intestines indicates they are not happy with your dietary choices. It can lead to a bulging, bloated waistline and over time malnutrition as nutritional food is expelled as waste rather than nurturing the body as nature intended.

An Energy Bonanza

Wake up in the morning feeling ready to tackle the world. Even when eating healthy foods, too much gluten slows the absorption of necessary nutrients, especially iron. As good as coffee tastes, you may never feel the need to get you
moving in the morning if you revolutionize your diet without gluten.

Reduce those Cravings for Fast and Processed Food

Gluten has been found to be addictive which explains why we crave certain foods even though we clearly know they have no nutritional value. Cutting out gluten and being more aware of what is in your food will generate more healthy choices. It will become second nature to avoid fatty and carbohydrate heavy items, and opt for more fruit and vegetable-centric dishes. Meat, poultry, fish and seafood contain no gluten proteins, but beware of the sauces and marinades which often contain gluten. Cheese lovers will be relieved to learn that they are also guilt free.
Selecting dishes free of gluten will come instinctively after several months, and you start to become your new self.

Discover a New World of Eating Options

A lesser-known benefit is that it opens up an entirely new universe of delicious ingredients to cook with or eat on their own. Your senses will welcome the new textures, sensations and smells that come with exploration. Quinoa and
buckwheat are the new wheat, so give one a whirl. Even the staple carbohydrate of Asia, rice, is gluten free and there are myriad ways to elevate this simple grain to five-star status.

Shopping has never been so easy with mandatory labelling in most countries and many products proudly claim that they are gluten free. Nowadays there are even healthy snacks produced sans any gluten.

Rudrashka are natural seeds found within the vibrant blue fruit of large evergreen, broad-leaved trees which are indigenous to the Himalayas across India and Nepal. It also flourishes in other areas of Southeast Asia, where the volcanic soil is conducive to its growth.

In Sanskrit, the plural of Rudraksha is Rudraksham. The name literally means “the tears of Shiva”. It is said, while contemplating Man’s suffering, Shiva — the great Mahadeva, the divine gift-giver — unexpectedly began to cry tears of compassion. As his tears fell, he guided them towards Earth and transformed them into seeds…for the benefit of those seeking freedom from suffering and union with the Divine.

UNIQUE ENERGY CHANNELS OF RUDRASHKA

The varieties of Rudraksham range from 1 to 23 faces known as mukhis. The most common of these beads is the 5-faced Rudraksha. The greater the number of faces, the rarer the bead. Although, the 1-mukhi is the rarest of all. Energetically, it is priceless.

In a research treatise, Dr Suhas Rai and his team at the Indian Institute of Technology in Benaras confirmed claims that, indeed, Rudraksham have “special and specific powers, or radiant qualities that are quantifiable”; and these powers vary from bead to bead dependent upon their different mukhis or faces.

POWER OBJECTS OF HOLY MEN AND WOMEN

Within the community of saints, Rudraksham are sacred power objects, which possess the power to positively influence and protect every aspect and expression of your life and soul as you walk the path to your Immortal Enlightenment. Yet, to express their full divine potential, their power must be activated through specific spiritual processes.

Otherwise, it will remain virtually dormant in these natural ‘holy’ objects. The knowledge of how to bless/activate them properly, as well as the many uses of both natural & super-natural sacred power objects, are part of the soul sciences of ancient India, first recorded in palm leaf books 3000 years ago.

RUDRASHKA USE IN AYURVEDA

Rudraksha beads are widely used in Ayurveda to cure several diseases. Rudraksha Therapy is a very effective way to aid in curing diseases and is proved to be better than crystal or magnetic therapy.

RUDRASHKA FOR RELIEF OF STRESS

In recent years, studies show that wearing Rudraksha beads combats the effects of stress, including hypertension, depression, and high blood pressure without the harmful and often addictive side-effects of tranquilizers, anti-depressants, and beta-blockers. Studies show that men and women experience heightened energy levels, stamina, and peace of mind within a few hours of placing Rudraksha beads in direct contact of their chest region. In the long term, Rudraksha beads have been shown to reverse the effects of stress, alleviate depression, eliminate anxiety and other mood disorders, as well as improve concentration, enhance relaxation and exhibit anti-aging properties.

SEVEN KEY BENEFITS OF WEARING RUDRASHKAM

  1. Rudraksham change the karma of the wearer, leading a person naturally to the right path of truth and purpose, making the pace along the path quicker and progress easier.
  2. Rudraksham are effective in controlling stress, thus help in eradicating worries and blessing the wearer with greater peace of mind. In over 6,500 years of documented use, Rudraksham have been shown to produce no negative side effects.
  3. Rudraksham bring clarity, sharpen the mind, and increase the power of Intuition.
    Rudraksham create powerful “protection circles” from negativity and remove obstacles along the path to your success.
  4. Rudraksham charge the soul with shakti (spiritual power), increasing the soul’s own radiance and its ability to more fully express its divine power & wisdom in the material world.
  5. Rudraksham create a more intimate connection with the positive forces in nature and the cosmos, help to heal the vital energies and bring them into harmonious balance.
  6. Rudraksha are scientifically proven to have many health benefits.

Feeling stressed and out-of-sorts? What can you do to naturally regain control of your life? More and more people are looking back to the past to find ways to optimize their today, specifically chakra jewelry with gemstones.

One such method is truly ancient, dating back to the ancient Egyptians who used crystals to ward off illness and negative energy. You’ve likely seen crystals and stones used in numerous movies and tv shows, both factual and fictional, as amulets and talismans. Often they were just held in pockets or on simple chains to keep their vibrational energy close to the body. However contemporary designers offer a wide selection of jewelry which showcases their amazing variety of colors and shapes at the same time as enabling the wearer to lead a more fulfilling life.

Yogis have even gone a step further by combining the healing power of gemstones with the colors and designs which represent the body’s seven chakras.  The outcome is stunning chakra jewelry with gemstone centerpieces.

WHAT ARE CHAKRAS

Literally translated from ancient Sanskit as “wheel”, chakras are often visualized as a swirling wheel of energy. As “energy vortexes” or concentrated energy centres, chakras are a major belief system in eastern cultures to keep people operating at optimal wellness levels. There are seven main chakras in the human body in which energy flows along the spine, starting from the base through to the crown of the head. Each of these seven corresponds to certain feelings and emotions.

1. Root Chakra — Represents our foundation and feeling of being grounded.

  • Location: Base of spine in the tailbone area.
  • Emotional issues: Survival issues such as financial independence, money and food.

2. Sacral Chakra — Our connection and ability to accept others and new experiences.

  • Location: Lower abdomen, about two inches below the navel and two inches in.
  • Emotional issues: Sense of abundance, well-being, pleasure and sexuality.

3. Solar Plexus Chakra — Our ability to be confident and in control of our lives.

  • Location: Upper abdomen in the stomach area.
  • Emotional issues: Self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem.

4. Heart Chakra — Our ability to love.

  • Location: Center of chest just above the heart.
  • Emotional issues: Love, joy and inner peace.

5. Throat Chakra — Our ability to communicate.

  • Location: Throat
  • Emotional issues: Communication, self-expression of feelings and the truth.

6. Third Eye Chakra — Our ability to focus on and see the big picture.

  • Location: Forehead between the eyes (also called the Brow Chakra).
  • Emotional issues: Intuition, imagination, wisdom and the ability to think and make decisions.

7. Crown Chakra — The highest chakra represents our ability to be fully connected spiritually.

  • Location: The very top of the head.
  • Emotional issues: Inner and outer beauty, our connection to spirituality and pure bliss.

Source: MBGMindfulness

In a healthy, balanced person, the seven chakras provide exactly the right amount of energy to every part of your body, mind and spirit. However, when one or more of these chakras is blocked, too open, spinning too quickly or not functioning properly, then wellbeing on many levels can be affected. Yet, energy will flow with ease through the chakras if your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual state is looked after carefully. Yogis, in particular, pay great attention to keeping their chakras opened and aligned in order to lead a life of joy and good health. By studying the source of each chakra’s energy and listening to them, they become more in tune with their natural energy or life force known as prana.

THE BENEFITS OF WEARING CHAKRA JEWELRY

No doubt chakra jewelry is stunning in its own right, but they also have healing potential, especially for wearers with the right mind-set. The original yogis living in the Indian sub-continent, not only appreciated energy flows through the chakras, but also how to harness this with the curative powers of crystals and stones to optimize well-being on multiple levels.

The symbolic design of each chakra paired with complementary gemstones and crystals offers many benefits, including;

  • Chakra jewelry with gemstones absorbs negative thoughts and connect the wearer with positive energy. For instance, people struggling with an issue find they can shift the focus to a more optimistic outlook. This allows them to re-frame an obstacle and fueled by affirmative thoughts to overcome it.
  • They sustain mental calmness, peace and emotional focus.
  • They strengthen spiritual energy to facilitate life balance.
  • You can connect physical, emotional and spiritual imbalances with the chakras that empower them. With these discoveries, you can begin to balance your chakras, and live a harmonious life.

If none of these sounds valuable, then their vibrant colors and unique designs will make a fashion statement even on the streets of New York and Paris. And depending on the quality of the crystal, it can be an affordable reminder to always look on the brighter side.

TYPES OF CHAKRA JEWELRY

The chakras are energy vortexes in your body by which various aspects of universal energy can be “stepped down” for specific uses. So if you want to clear and stabilize a specific chakra, wearing a piece of gemstone jewelry associated with that chakra through its matching color and symbol will help in many ways. The crystals themselves are natural conduits of energy with their own healing properties, so you receive double value. When you add intention and meditation, you will bring balance to chakras that are out of alignment.

Many people prefer to wear a chakra jewelry bracelet or necklace consisting of all seven stones, the aim being to keep all the energy channels flowing smoothly.

GUIDE TO STONES AND CHAKRASChakra Jewelry with Gemstones at the Taksu Galeria, Ubud, Bali