Intensive Health Meditation - Bali Usada Silent Meditation Retreat at Forest Island

If you’re looking to cure or manage a health condition, prevent illness, experience more peace and joy in your life, or struggle with mindfulness meditation, this post is for you.

Recent work by Elizabeth Blackburn, who shared in the 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of the anti-aging enzyme telomerase, has shown that our thoughts and emotions, especially highly stressful thoughts that involve worrying about the future or ruminating obsessively about the past, influence the rate at which we age. The immune system and the ability of our cells to keep dividing and regenerating themselves are now known to be regulated at least in part by the brain. Our thoughts, behaviors, emotions and life experiences can influence our susceptibility or resistance to disease, not just by moderating inflammatory processes in the body but by actually up- or down-regulating our genes.

While entire new fields of medicine such as psychoneuroimmunology and epigenetics have sprung up to explore these connections, this insight is the basis of the Bali Usada Health Meditation technique developed over 20 years ago by Merta Ada, a medical intuitive and one of Southeast Asia’s leading meditation gurus. A form of mindfulness meditation, the Bali Usada method focuses on learning how to heal yourself through cultivation of your “harmonious mind”, a mind characterized by four qualities: concentration, self-love, mindfulness and wisdom. What is “wisdom”? The understanding, gained through your own sensory experience, of the impermanence of all things.

Pak Merta Ada

Bali Usada is only taught in the silent retreat context, in an acknowledgement that it is difficult to train your mind to really focus while still participating in normal life. Removing the obligations and distractions of the day-to-day and freeing the mental and emotional bandwidth that we normally use up on thousands of daily interactions, as we prepare what we will say or do and analyze the responses we receive, creates a space where there is nothing to focus on but yourself. This may sound uncomfortable or boring (and likely will be if you’re not motivated), but if you’ve tried to learn meditation through classes, apps or simply self-guided quiet time and never had the practice click, this immersion could be what you need to get that first taste of total stillness and peace. And once you’ve visited that place, it becomes much easier to return to.

Forest Island bodhi tree

Bali Usada is taught in a structured 7-day course that always begins on a Sunday afternoon and ends the following Saturday. The program is offered in select locations around Indonesia, but English-language training is most frequently available at Forest Island, a private compound in central Bali. The first hours after arrival are dedicated to meeting other meditators, settling in to your room, and orientation, including surrendering mobile phones and other electronics for safekeeping. Sunday evening, “Noble Silence” begins. For the next five days retreat participants must refrain from speaking, reading or writing (other than questions to Merta Ada and his staff). No alcohol or smoking is permitted, although if absolutely necessary meditators may smoke away from the main facilities.

Bali Usada Forest Island compound

Each day begins at 4:30am, with the first meditation at 5am, and includes about nine hours of practice concluding around 9:30pm. Unlike some meditation retreats coffee and tea is available all day, and the vegetarian fare is delicious and more than ample. Meditation sessions are 30-60 minutes in length, with breaks of at least 15 minutes between sessions. In addition to meditation, each day includes two taped lectures by Merta Ada. These differ from the doctrinal discourses given at more religious or “strict” meditation retreats, and instead focus on explaining the philosophy and logic of the techniques being taught at a practical level, including true case examples from Merta Ada’s years as a healer.

Pak Merta Ada medical intuitive

The first three days of Noble Silence are devoted to honing your concentration by paying close attention to your breath - looking for and experiencing in real time changes in the breath and the sensation of the breath in your nostrils. This first half of the course essentially forces you to learn mindfulness meditation – you have nowhere to go, nowhere to be, nothing to do except watch your mind wander from your point of focus, and bring it back. While this process is mentally exhausting for beginners, you’ll come away with a meditation breakthrough or at a minimum, a much sharper and more aware mind. And for those motivated primarily by health concerns, a focused mind with the ability to discern very subtle bodily sensations is necessary to the healing aspect of the practice. You can think of Bali Usada meditation as a lens, taking the scattered and reactive energies of your mind and focusing them into a powerful source of energy for healing.

Bali Usada silent meditation retreat accommodations