Healing, Jamaica Style

· Long Read Healing & Meditation

An adventure (long read) – by Chintan

Chintan at the sea

Looking back, I picture myself on the parents’ bed, early Sunday evening, playing with the magic box. Turning the dial, the static dissolves into beautiful music, back to static, and then to Rochester’s gravelly voice saying, “That you, Mr. Benny?” I stay with the Jack Benny program to its conclusion, and then switch to the Adventures of the Shadow.

I am eight years old and it is 1952. My parents just purchased a television, and it is even more magical than the radio. Now I can see Jack Benny and The Lone Ranger. They look different than I had imagined.

These sounds and images fly through the air and somehow come to me. I do not understand it, but I love it! My father explains that it has something to do with frequency. The sounds and pictures vibrate at a certain frequency and if you tune your radio or TV receiver to that same frequency, you get that program. In 1952 the TV had only one station, so when it featured something useless like the news or bowling, I would be back on that huge bed turning the dial, bringing in all my friends and heroes, drawing in the magic that was somehow floating in the air.

Jump 40 years and it is now 1992 and I am 48 years old. The parents’ bed is gone and the radio brings in only repetitive music and government-controlled news. The TV has over 30 stations and I still like changing channels, but the magic is gone. I know too much. I know how the programs are made, where they come from and how totally useless most of them are.

It is 1992 and I am in the mountains of Jamaica. There is no electricity up here, no radio or TV to pick up all those electrical waves floating around. However, I am not up here to be entertained. I am here to experience a different magic: the magic of healing. As I attempt to write about my Jamaican adventure, my mind has wandered back to that child’s experience of the magic of radio. I see a similarity between the magic I experienced in 1952 as I pulled Superman and Amos and Andy out of the air, and the magic that my 48-year-old self experiences by being able to tune in to the mystic realms that lie just outside the normal mind.

It is 1992 and I am in a ‘Church’ in a remote part of a foreign land; drums are beating, black people are chanting, my body is shaking, my breathing is deep. I can feel my blood circulating, as my life is flashing before me and my eyes are viewing miracles.

How did I get here? I believe it has to do with frequency, with vibrating at a certain energy level. It is the gift of prayer and meditation. It is said that normally we humans use only 2% of our minds. What then is happening in the other 98%? With meditation, life gets more and more strange, surreal, and mystical. Ordinary reality becomes as tasteless as white bread. The world of ego, money, power, identity, family, possessions, competition, loses all appeal. The dial is now tuned to different stations and what comes in is magic, sometimes frightening, sometimes with a beauty that can melt the heart. The past and future become vague and the present is all.

Backing up a bit

My wife, Nancy, and I married in 1991. It was a meeting of two extremes: a silent, sitting, English lady meditator and a jumping, howling, primal therapist, Rajneesh meditator – two worlds colliding, fighting, loving and finally merging in a sweet, loving union. We had no money and she wanted to go to Jamaica to visit an old girlfriend and have an inexpensive vacation. Being the practical one, I said, “No, we can’t go. We must work hard and save lots of money. Then we can go to Jamaica.” Then, ‘by accident,’ I found a book in a used bookstore about the faith healers of the Philippines. It had color photos of the healers reaching barehanded into people’s bodies and removing tumors. For some reason I kept this book at the head of our bed. Nancy and I had dreams and visions. Mine were not very clear. Perhaps there was too much internal static. Somehow Jamaica kept coming to me. A voice was telling me that Jamaica and healing and the two of us had to come together.

It was clear as mud,
but it covered the ground,
and the confusion
made me head go round.”
– Old Jamaican song

Somehow it all came together. We charged everything to a credit card that we had no hope of paying off, took several deep breaths and flew to Jamaica. Landing in Negril, we were met by Nancy’s friend Catherine. Nancy had assured me that I would immediately fall in love with her great friend. Wrong! We were both Virgos, had similar issues, and instantly hated each other. We spent almost a full week camping out on her beachfront property and had a relatively good time, sunbathing and feasting on the local produce. The tourists were typical, and the natives saw only our pocketbooks. By the end of the week we were rested, tanned and totally bored.

We left most of our belongings with Catherine and boarded a ramshackle ‘bus’ which was heading away from the tourist areas. We had only a phone number for a friend of Catherine’s, a couple of backpacks, and hopefully enough money to survive. Jamaica’s idea of suitable public transportation was a mini-van, capable of comfortably seating around nine people. There were sixteen people in ours. Nancy and I, the only white people, sat in the back. For 20 miles we prayed. God heard our prayers and managed to keep this crowded mini-van from tipping over as it took hairpin turns at 300 miles per hour. For three days we traveled in these vans, and had interesting adventures, mostly with other white people whom Nancy had once met or people that Catherine suggested. We ended up in some nice places, but it was not what we wanted.

We both had the idea or the vision that something special was supposed to happen, and it certainly was not happening as houseguests of privileged white folk. Finally, we got clear that if we were truly going to follow our vision, we had to strike out on our own. By hitchhiking and arranging short rides in various cabs, we ended up late in the afternoon in a little town called Port Maria. It was totally unimpressive, very dark and dirty and hot. However, no white people, and the blacks, being unaccustomed to tourists, either ignored us or treated us in a friendly way.

We decided to stay.

Our first order of business was coffee for Nancy and food for me. We began a foot search for an upscale vegetarian restaurant. There wasn’t any. I am getting cranky, feeling like a young child in need of a bottle. Late afternoon, hot and tired and hungry, and here we are at the best-looking restaurant of the bunch and it looks oddly like a waiting room at a railway station with hard benches and metal tables. The menu does not look inviting. The special of the day is Cow’s Head Soup, quite a few steps away from vegetarian. Should we go in? Yes, says my beautiful, always hopeful wife. Maybe they have something vegetarian. I doubt it, says the skeptical one. We are probably going to get preached at also. Look at the name of this place. The signboard reads:

Essie’s Faith Restaurant

Just what I need – Cow’s Head Soup, instant coffee and a fanatic Christian! But we go in! And, lo and behold, Nancy is right. The cook graciously agrees to prepare something special for us. The skeptic relaxes, gives in. The coffee is good! We are served food, which is surprisingly good. This place feels good, really good. Everyone is friendly, and not a fanatic Christian in sight.

Following our meal, we venture out in the late afternoon in search of accommodations. We talk to the locals and are given contradictory information. We wander and are taken under the wing of a young man named Rocky. Rocky offers us his room for the night. We decline, telling him we need our own space. As night descends, we leave Rocky and take a three-dollar a night room in town around the corner from the Faith Restaurant.

“Let’s go back to that restaurant for dessert and coffee,” suggests the love of my life. “Coffee? Yeah mon, no problem.” We sit there, lost in each other, letting the rest of the world ebb and flow, vibrate at its own pace. The coffee is good. The cake is good. The feeling is good. We are finally in Jamaica. We are finally here! An old woman approaches, smiling sweetly, perhaps a beggar, perhaps a local. She speaks. I do not remember her first words, but I do remember the power in her voice.

It was Essie, owner and proprietor of the restaurant. She asked how we enjoyed the food and we responded positively. She smiled, seeming pleased. That smile! There was such warmth in it. Essie, Nancy and I became instant friends, instant family. There was no need of preliminaries, no need to trade histories, feel each other out. It was as if I knew her, trusted her, and loved her.

This is the real magic of my story.

The events that were to follow would be dramatic, mystical, unbelievable, the stuff of great drama. But that moment of encountering Essie was to me the real magic. Essie would tell us later that on that night, she was tired, having worked 16 hours that day. She was heading home, but there was a voice in her telling her to approach the white people and talk to them. And so, we talked of many things. We told her of our experiences with meditation and healing. She shared with us an outline of her 60 years: her rise from poverty, her troubled marriage, children, and her surrender to God.

When she discovered that we had booked a room for the night, she suggested that we come back to the restaurant the next day with our belongings and that we could be her houseguests. We spent a restless night in the hotel listening to a group of men drink and play poker through the right wall, and a reggae/disco strip joint through the left wall. The next day we wandered around the area, visited an old plantation and did some shopping.

Back at the restaurant, Essie was not around, but her daughter Trisha, her cook, and her driver all had instructions to feed us, take us to her home and entertain us. We arrived at her home, which was luxurious by Jamaican standards. Her housekeeper Verona showed us to our private room with attached bath. Her son Clarence took us for a two-mile hike to a German-owned beach resort, and we swam and taught Clarence how to swim. Back home, Verona had prepared a veggie feast. Later, we played pool with Trisha, Clarence and Essie’s grandson Dwayne. Essie did not get home till after 11pm. By that time, we were blissfully asleep.

In the morning we visited with Essie, learned about her life and struggles. We fell in love with her. She was the essence of love, and the purest Christian I had ever encountered. Her whole life seemed based on faith. And when we told her of our desire to create a healing center back in America, she suggested that perhaps we would enjoy coming to a healing service at her church.

It was Saturday, and the next service was scheduled for Thursday, so we left Essie and her family and went in search of an idyllic spot on a white sandy beach. We found it two days later about 20 miles from Essie’s home, near the town of Port Antonio. We spent three days on the beach. It was not idyllic because we had to share the space with six young Germans for two of the days, but it was nice anyway. We swam and made love and met a lot of the local people.

On Wednesday we set off at 7am to get back to Essie’s home. Turns out it was Ash Wednesday, which is a Jamaican holiday. No busses. So, we hitchhiked and walked and got rained on and finally got to a part of Jamaica that had a few busses running, and got crowded in with hundreds of others, and by nightfall, exhausted, hot, and bruised, we got to the restaurant in Port Maria. Essie was not there, and it took almost two hours to arrange to get back to her house. At six in the morning, Essie was at our door urging us to get up. Now, at this point, we were expecting to get dressed, have breakfast and drive two or three miles to the church. WRONG! The ‘church’ was up in the mountains near… Port Antonio, that we’d left with such difficulty.

We had gone through hell the preceding day to get from Port Antonio to Port Maria, just to get back in a vehicle and return to Port Antonio. We looked at each other and just laughed. It seemed so cosmically correct. So, we journeyed. And what a journey. Accompanying us was Essie’s daughter Trisha and another family. The three of them were in the front. Essie, Nancy, Trisha and I were in the back of the pick-up truck, and of course it rained most of the way. We spent most of the trip under a tarp.

I promptly forgot the names of the family traveling with us, but I was very interested in the husband: a tall, well-dressed Jamaican man whose eyes were quite yellow. His manner was gently formal. Essie explained that he had been reluctant for years to attend one of these healing ceremonies, but was now in the late stages of cancer, and had decided to put his fear and judgment aside and give it a try.

He was our driver.

Leaving the main roads, we climbed into the mountains, leaving civilization and paved roads behind. It took close to two hours on these ‘roads’. We had no idea where we were or where we were going. The fear kicked in as soon as we arrived. We were the only white people. We did not know where we were! Nancy envisioned us hung upside down, our throats slit, the main event in the ‘healing’ ritual.

The church was a square structure, doors front and back, small windows at the sides, a cement floor, and wooden chairs facing a stage / altar area. More chairs were set up on one side of the building. On the other side were a few chairs, some drums and other percussion instruments. Down from the stage area was a table, supporting bottles of liquid and vases filled with flowers. In front of the table was a single chair facing the stage. There were colorful pictures of Jesus and his disciples painted on the walls, and quotes from scripture.

The ceremony began.

A young woman, who looked remarkably like a skinny Aunt Jemimah, the pancake lady, began by lazily leaning on the altar and speaking rhythmically. She was eloquent. By the time she finished, my mind was at rest. This woman was speaking truth. Her words were inspired and forceful. The gist of her 15-minute talk was that we were all engaged in a spiritual war. There was evil in the world, and we needed to be strong and healthy. She spoke passionately about the healer and of her ability to channel God’s loving energy. Halfway through her presentations, my judgments disappeared. My anti-Christian sentiments did not belong here. This young woman was speaking truth, love, and wisdom. It did not matter that the terminology was Christian.

Following her talk, a man spoke for a few minutes. Then people in the congregation gave testimonies regarding the healer and their own healing. Essie spoke lovingly about the healer and urged all of us to not waste time in doubt and mental masturbation, but to just let our eyes and hearts open. Periodically the drums beat, incense was lit, and women moved gracefully through the room. I was thrilled by it all. Finally, Mother Roberts came forward. I guessed her age at sixty, but her body was youthful and strong. She wore glasses, her eyes penetrating, but there was a softness about her, a loving quality, and a motherliness.

She spoke!

By this time the words were unimportant to me. I was tuned to a different frequency. Whatever she said went right to my solar plexus. I felt that I was receiving the healing already. The gist of her message was that sickness was a manifestation of evil, and that God could take that evil away. It was important to be a spiritual warrior. It was important to be healthy and whole. As she finished her talk, and moved forward to the healing area, the drums started beating and several women started a song. Most of the congregants joined in. I joined in, not knowing the song, not even knowing whether it was in English or not. It had power. One of the women came dancing through the church holding a smoldering bowl of incense. She was twisting and turning gracefully, clearing the air, clearing the space. The whole energy in that building seemed to be saying, “God be with us – devil / negativity / fear – get out!”

Nancy was fifth in line for healing, and I was seventh. We were seated to the right of the stage area. As one person was called forward, we all moved up one seat until we reached the seat. The healer, assisted by several women and one elderly man, began by rubbing liquid on the arms and legs of the ‘patient’ with quick and powerful motions. She would reach up under women’s skirts, down inside shirts, into pants, sometimes instructing the person to remove garments. Whenever she worked on the sex center of a person, she would instruct people of the same gender to surround them and hold up a sheet for privacy.

For the first four healings, I remained in the seating area and could only imagine what was going on between Mother Roberts and the people she was healing. I could see that she was working intensely. It seemed that her hands were forcefully penetrating into the people, and although that force rocked them this way and that, they appeared to be in no discomfort. When it was Nancy’s turn, Mother Roberts asked her why she had come for a healing. Nancy replied that she had some concern about minor pain in her breasts. Mother Roberts called for women to come forward and surround them with the sheet. Essie was one of the women who responded. She whispered something to Mother Roberts who then looked over at me and indicated that I should come forward. I joined the women, and nervously watched the miraculous. Mother Roberts rubbed her hands and arms with oil, and then proceeded to massage my wife’s breasts. She then smiled and said, “There is nothing wrong there.” Without a moment’s delay she then began running her hands down Nancy’s torso, her chest, arms and legs. Finally, her hands came to rest on Nancy’s stomach.

Her movements began to intensify as Nancy’s body began to gently rock. I watched in amazement, as Mother Roberts’ right hand seemed to disappear into Nancy’s stomach.

This cannot be happening!

I blinked several times as her hand slowly emerged. She opened her hand and there in her palm was a coin about the size of an American dime. As she slowly passed the coin to her male assistant, I looked at it closely. On the coin were two distinct floral patterns, much like the ones on the American dime, but in the center were the words ONE PENCE. As I stared closely at the coin, the illustrations and words slowly faded and by the time the coin was safely in the assistant’s hands, it was blank. While the next person received a healing, I embraced Nancy and escorted her to a seat. She was positively glowing.

When Mother Roberts asked me what my problem was, I honestly stated that I had no physical problems that I was aware of. I just wanted to experience this miracle. She checked me out, and ended up working on my stomach. My intellectual curiosity was screaming at me to watch closely to see how the ‘tricks’ were being accomplished, but, as I stated earlier, I was tuned to a different frequency. I could feel her hands entering deep into me. There was no pain. It was, in fact, pure pleasure. The sensation was one of deep warmth and comfort. I was aware that my body was gently moving from side to side and that a prickly kind of energy was moving from my solar plexus throughout my body, causing my arms and legs to tingle.

As I felt her hands moving away from me, I looked down to see her palm holding two coins tied together with a string. I could see no graphic depictions on the coins. My feet did not seem to be making firm contact with the ground as I left the seat and walked away from Mother Roberts. Essie came over to me holding Nancy by the hand and indicated to us that it would be all right for us both to stay close to Mother Roberts. “Just be free.”

For the next 3 or 4 hours, I did just that. Throughout the ritual, the percussionists kept up a steady beat and periodically the turbaned women danced throughout the building. Many of us danced as well. I watched 30 or 40 healings, or maybe it was 3 or 400 healings. Under oath, I would not be able to give too many reality-based details. I was in a state of ecstasy. I had no desire to be anyplace else. If I died here with these people, in this church, in this time, it would be perfectly fine with me. Coins emerging from stomachs were nothing compared to most of the healings witnessed. During some of the healings, it appeared that Mother Roberts had exhausted herself. I saw her beating on her arms, as if she were willing more life to them. Her face remained calm and loving throughout the day, but at times it appeared that her body would collapse from the intense energy she was expending.

One by one the people moved onto the hot seat as the rest of us danced and clapped and celebrated. I stayed as close to the action as I could. I wanted to see it all. With every healing, at least one object was removed from the body. I saw straight pins coming out of eye sockets, matchsticks coming out of armpits. My rational mind kept reminding me that these things could not be happening, and yet my eyes were seeing these things, and my heart and soul were celebrating these happenings.

A young woman, disheveled and dark, dark not just in skin, but also in energy, was brought forward by two colorfully dressed older women. The young woman seemed frightened, and very reluctant to be there. Mother Roberts spoke gently to her, and I could see the young woman’s body visibly relax. The oil was applied, and Mother Roberts began her search throughout the body. Finally, her hands came to rest on the woman’s head. The healer was intensely working to part the woman’s thick hair. I remember thinking, “What is she looking for? What could be hidden in that great mop of hair?”

I was very close, and inched up even closer. My mind, still in a state of disbelief, wanted to focus very closely. I watched as Mother Roberts began working on one spot. The hair was neatly parted, and one small bare patch of dark skin was exposed. With her thumbs, she began kneading the flesh, as if she were working to burst a pimple. Initially I could see no change in the woman’s scalp, but the healer continued kneading that one spot. Perhaps a full minute later, I began to see a dark spot, or should I say a darker spot, appear between the healer’s thumbs. I kept my gaze riveted on that spot. At this point it seemed that the applied pressure had simply created the spot. Seconds later, however, the spot had metamorphosed into a small bump. The healer continued the kneading motion as the bump slowly increased in size. It was now approximately an eighth of an inch in diameter and was elevated approximately a quarter of an inch above the scalp.

“What in God’s name is coming out of her?”

Mother Roberts used the thumb and index finger of her left hand to keep the hair parted and the bump exposed as she turned to her male assistant and requested a pair of needle-nosed pliers. The pliers were apparently a common request, because they were instantly provided. Mother Roberts applied the instrument to the object of interest and slowly and gently pulled out a two-inch long nail, which was slightly bent. There was no blood! The young woman was dismissed, and the healings continued.

The most dramatic healing that day involved our driver. Deathly ill, suffering the late stages of cancer, the doctors had given up on him. He looked like he was about to die any minute; there was no energy, no life force in him. The healer worked especially hard on him, searching throughout his entire body, and at times pulling away, apparently exhausted. I felt I knew what was happening. The evil (sickness) in him was so strong that the healer had to use everything she had to combat it, and keep it from killing her. At one point, she pulled back and began slapping her own arms, energizing her own life force. She requested that more oil be poured into her hands, and that the gentleman remove his trousers.

I joined a group of men who moved forward to surround him with a sheet and watched, fascinated, as she began probing his scrotum. I glanced occasionally at the man to see how he was dealing with this. His eyes were closed, his face averted, but there was no visible sign of discomfort. She spent some minutes pushing her fingers deep into the scrotum with one hand, while spreading the scrotum apart with the other. I could not imagine what could possibly come out. And then I saw it. She had found it! Her index finger was under the scrotum, pushing upward and through the translucent flesh. I could see what appeared to be a tiny splinter or a blood vessel. It was about a quarter of an inch long. She began kneading the flesh, pulling and tugging, and as she worked, the ‘splinter’ came more and more to the surface, until one end broke through. With one hand, and I must emphasize that the hand was empty, she took the splinter between two fingertips and began to slowly pull it out. As it emerged, I watched it change form. When it was halfway out, its width had increased tenfold. It was now as thick as a paper match, and brown as dark chocolate. With a final tug, it came all the way out. She was now holding a pair of silver colored safety pins, one large, one small, joined together.

It is what I saw. What can I do?

The ceremony went on and on. After a while, I just immersed myself in the energy of the place. I danced and sang and even cried a little. I hugged people, drank a little water and watched cockroaches and clusters of hair and disgusting clumps of matter pulled out of bodies and deposited in a bucket. It began to feel sort of normal.

The final event of the day for Nancy and me was a ‘bath.’ Essie escorted us over to a very small building about the size of an outhouse. We were turned over to a large elderly woman. While Nancy waited outside, I was ushered in, and asked to remove my clothes. I did so, and was given a quick sponge bath with water containing special herbs. With the bath complete, the woman took out a Christian bible and read the 25th Psalm. Following Nancy’s bath, we were given a whiskey bottle filled with a special potion and instructed to drink a shot of it after each meal for three days. During that period, we were to abstain from meat, sex, alcohol, drugs and immersion in water.

The ride home was fun, and lighthearted. I had many questions, but did not quite know how to ask them. I also did not want to have answers just yet. I just wanted to bathe in the experience. That evening, exhausted, we arrived at Essie’s home. The house was filled with young people, sons and daughters and friends. Nancy became quite alarmed when Essie came into our room and instructed her to stay in the room while she had a chat with me. When I returned from the chat, I instructed Nancy to not ask questions, and just stay in the room, and that soon the mystery would be revealed. Nancy was convinced that something awful was about to happen. Perhaps the healer had found cancer in her or something like that. By the time she was allowed to come out into the living room, she was threatening divorce if I did not tell her what was going on.

What was going on was a surprise birthday party for Nancy. Essie and I had, at the last minute, cooked up a party, complete with decorated cake and champagne. It was wonderful. Essie said a prayer for Nancy. Her daughter and friends sang songs for her. Nancy sang a song for them. Everyone cried. Essie declared that we were now part of her family. “You have a black family in Jamaica!”

These events took place back in 1992. I have not returned to Jamaica, but there is not a day that passes that I do not tune into that church and feel!


Chintan (David Hill) is a writer, and author of Mastering Madness.

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