Just got home from our Monday practice of tetada kalimasada, and thought of writing about it. The 2-hour session usually energizes Girlie and myself, and we stay up a bit before going to deep sleep.
Tetada is shorthand for terapi tanaga dalam, Bahasa Indonesian for inner-energy therapy. The precise meaning and origin of the word kalimasada is disputed. It can be a Balinese word or the name of the prince’s sword in the Javanese Mahabharata.
Kalimasada started 500 years ago in Surabaya, East Java. It was the exclusive practice of one family, but in 1991 they decided to share it to the wider public. Pak Eddy Surohadi and his wife Ibu Ida made the decision, and currently lead the dissemination of tetada kalimasada, TK for short.
Girlie and I took up TK in July 2004, and have experienced its benefits. We have more energy in our daily work-life, and we are less prone to the minor ailments that come with getting older and sedentary. Girlie attributes her relief from hot flushes to TK. Those with more advanced practice can do self-healing and also heal others.
Focus on healing
Although TK has its roots in one school of Indonesian martial arts or pencat silat, the practice introduced in the Philippines focuses on its healing effects. Like other Oriental practices, TK is a combination of breathing techniques, movements (called jurus), and meditation (called tafakur). The emphasis is on “practice.”
The breathing technique of TK is called “triangular breathing.” The first time I heard this, I wondered what complicated technique is involved. It turned out to be simple. The first side of the triangle is the inhalation – slow and steady, and diaphragmatic. The second side is the slow, steady exhalation. What completes the bottom of the triangle comes after the inhalation. We “press and hold” our breath.
We start our regular kalimasada sessions with triangular breathing, while sitting in lotus position. We call this duduk nafas. As beginners we had only 8 counts inhalation and 8 counts exhalation, plus 15 counts of pressing and holding our breath. Later, we did the full 15-count inhalation and exhalation and the 33-count press and hold.
The same triangular breathing applies to the movements or jurus. We press and hold our breath while doing the movements that can take as long as 45 to 54 counts. That is why kalimasada exercises are called “anaerobic.” The breathing technique is easier to understand than to practice. Even after three years, I still find it hard to hold my breath until the end of each the nine jurus.
A fellow practicioner who looked my age, but turned out to be more than a decade older, attributes his appearance to this breathing technique. He says that when we press and hold our breath, the body starves for oxygen and extracts whatever it can from the bloodstream, including the free radicals. Hence the blood gets renewed more vigorously and more frequently.
After doing the different jurus, we end with a special kunchi movement that locks in the energy we have generated. We sit again for a closing duduk nafas, followed by a 10 minute meditation, called tafakur, where we direct our energy to different parts of our body.
Emptying the mind, directing the flow
Our Indonesian teachers emphasize that tetada kalimasada is not about harnessing some mysterious or mystical force. It is about tapping the potential of our bodies and minds through breathing, movement, and meditation. The breathing and movements generate energies and we train our minds to concentrate them and direct their flow.
When I started to do the tafakur, I found it difficult to follow the instructions – just intent my energy to my hands and then empty my mind. Too many ideas and images rushed in and out to distract me. I tried keeping count of my breathing, but that didn’t work either.
Since I couldn’t prevent thoughts from intruding, I tried a transition strategy of organizing my thoughts during the tafakur. I started by thinking of the people who are in my “circle of concern” – my family, friends, communities and comrades, and offered prayers for them. Later, I shifted to prayers of thanksgiving for people who are blessings in my life.
Slowly, I managed to still my mind.
I still remember the sense of wonder at feeling the energy welling out of my palms. Later, Girlie and I practiced projecting our energy and sensing energies around us.