Getting Unstuck in Bali With Ketut


I have been to Bali a few times since I moved to Hong Kong in late 2008.  Never before, though, did it occur to me to seek out Ketut Liyer the medicine man/palm reader from the memoir Eat Pray Love who, because of author Elizabeth Gilbert’s dependence upon him for spiritual guidance, gained fame and a cult-like following.  Many people don’t know that he was pretty well-known as a spiritual healer in Bali before the popular book and film.

Why did I seek out Ketut this time?   My husband and I came to Bali (and Ubud to be more specific) to detox and revive our bodies and minds.  Ubud means purification in Balinese.  On a personal level, I desperately wanted to get away from big city life and routines in order to get unstuck – in writing, for my relationships and in caring for my diabetes.  I needed inward time to re-prioritize what I believed to be most important to achieve goals.  Lately, it has been a struggle for me to find order and clarity in daily life.  Included in my frustration was a feeling of burn-out and increasing tiredness related to blood sugar testing, infusion set pump changing and maintaining exercise for optimum control.  In my 36th year with diabetes, I have begun to feel tired and worn-out.  I guess you could say I have been feeling wearily out-of-control.

Funny enough, this goes against the grain of thinking here in Bali where there are no shoulds or shouldn’ts and doing nothing is actually seen as an activity.  My idea was to find my center in a place where time is kept by the rooster’s crowing at dawn and late afternoon thunder signals the day’s end.  Beauty is harmony here, and sadness the worst kind of sickness.   Our driver to Ketut’s home assumed my need to see the palm reader was because I sought a cure for an illness or a problem, and even suggested I bathe in the Ubud holy waters for healing.  I denied that I had any problems, telling him that my desire to visit Ketut was only a curiosity.  Nothing more.

When we arrived we saw that a handsome commercial sign had been posted in front of the entrance, signaling Ketut’s celebrity status.  We walked along a small path and Ketut’s brother gave me a  ticket.  “You are number seven.”  The wait was long, but relaxed.  I read for a bit then walked around the village keeping an eye on my watch.  Ketut spent anywhere from 15- 20 minutes per person.  Four women from Jakarta, 2 college students from Northern Europe and a couple fom Japan were all ahead of me.   About 50 people a day come to seek guidance from Ketut, who is 96-years-old.  I began to see how the daily crush of visitors was somewhat of a burden for the old man as more people arrived through the archway.  When it was my turn, he greeted me and immediately began telling me about his ill health and his kidney stones which “required many expensive operations and I have to pee a lot, you see.”  He excused himself for the bathroom while I waited alone on the straw mat.  He returned smiling and thanking me, grabbed my hands, and told me he would look at my ears, back and palms to see what is “inside my life.”  He asked me my name and when I told him my name, Elizabeth, he laughed and asked “Eleezabeth Gilbert?”  Turning from his sitting position, he grabbed a hardback book worn and dirty, and showed me what Ms. Gilbert had written,

“To Ketut, my teacher and friend”

“That’s very nice Ketut.”  I told him, wondering where this was going.

“I need you to read from her book because I not understand it all – you read it for me?  Start here where it says medicine man…”

“The medicine man, as it turned out, was a small, merry-eyed, russet colored old guy with a mostly toothless mouth,” and there he stopped me.

“As it turned out – what is that meaning?”  Ketut looked at me very seriously.

“Hmmm, well here she means expectations.  Before she met you she thought you would be someone else, perhaps.  Something different than a very old, merry guy.”

He looked at me with disappointment.  “It is true I am very old and toothless.  I am ugly. What is this word russet?”

“Um, brown, dark in color like coffee.”  I wasn’t sure if this activity was a device Ketut was using with some deeper intention but I continued to read and interpret.  In doing so, I slowly began to realize I was giving him English lessons.  Cunning.  I closed the book when I finished and asked “Now what?”  He laughed, took my palms, called me “preeety” a hundred times, told me I was like a “quinn” (queen),  that my lips were like sugar (could he tell?), and how the double lines (wrinkles) on my brow meant that I was smart.  Sometimes “too smart.”

“You know the difference between hate and love – what’s right, what’s not, when so many do not.”

I wanted to believe Ketut was a visionary and at the same time reject him as a benevolent fraud.  The truth is, he is neither.  Ketut just said the things that came to his mind, and that wasn’t hard to do as he was suffering a bit from senility.  He was surprised I only had one child, marked me as inpatient and too quick – “don’t drive so fast – please”  and told me that I had nearly married another man before I met my husband.   That was all true.  How had I given it away?

I never told him I was sick and he never mentioned it.  He told me I was strong and so young – I guess 46 might be youthful to him.  I wasn’t disappointed or surprised that he had not said anything about the pump hanging between my breasts (obvious and visible) or that he had failed to recognize the childhood illness in the palm of my hand or at the back of my neck.

It was a worthwhile visit, but I didn’t realize this for a couple of hours.  I think Ketut wanted me to understand that he appeared old, ill and ugly… but what was the truth?  Underneath his self-deprecation and praise for me,  I wonder now if there was a little Balinese psychotherapy going on with the intention of helping me see things more clearly.  I walked away understanding how I sometimes blame diabetes when I feel weak and incapable.   I admit I use my condition as an excuse for not being able in the widest sense of the word.  I get angry and upset with lack of control, and those emotions are what get in the way. I feel sick and worn, and I allow myself to feel like that.  Diabetes becomes a barrier because of my negative feelings and outlook.

Sometimes diabetes really  is a barrier, but I work diligently through the frustrations of every day to ensure that I am maintaining adequate blood sugars for a long healthy life.  It’s not easy, but worth all the effort.  It is in fact a very positive aspect of my personality, of my life.  According to Ketut I am a beautiful queen with a rich life, and a family.  I have harmony.  “You will live to be 100-years-old.”   This is what Kutet saw.  It’s time I believe it, too.

Leave a Reply

13 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
13 Comment authors
JessViviJosephElsie NawabJackie Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

I saw Ketut today and was told all those same things! Happy to see my eyebrows, cheeks, nose, chin, and that my lips were sweet like sugar etc, and that I inspire people, that I will be rich and successful, and thati shouldn’t leave my boyfriend, otherwise I would be broken.  I guess we ask go there to meet the same Ketut as Liz, but it is disappointing that is all recycled palm reading. My boyfriend insisted it was all suss and fake and I told him I liked to think otherwise; that it was genuine. I won’t be telling… Read more »


Reading some reviews on…Ketut before our trip has not ever came to my mind..but I wish it had. My husband and I visited Ketut in January 2013. During our visit we had to pay $50 for both of us. I was the first to be “healed”. But before we began, he asked me to give him money, then allowed to sit in front of him. He told me he is happy to see my ears, he is happy to see my cheeks, my eyes are good eyes, that my lips are like sugar, etc. All was done nicely with smiles,… Read more »


So that’s what Ketut said to all of yous…? To tell you the truth, I wasn’t interested in going there in the first place simply because I’m scared of palm readers, I’m scared that they’ll tell me all the nasty stuffs that I knew I have in my body in the first place, which will leave me feeling a lot worse… And now I think I’m gonna give Ketut a try. I’d give anything to be able to escape from these concrete jungles to find myself stranded in a place like Bali, having a person like Ketut to fill my… Read more »

Elsie Nawab
Elsie Nawab

I have been on President Clinton’s vegan diet since November. I have detoxed and revived without having to leave home. My burnout is gone and I am requiring less and less insulin. I have the same energy I had when I was 16 years old. It is an amazing diet. I noticed the positive results in just two weeks. I eat a lot and I don’t really have to worry about elevated blood sugars. I am on a high plant protein diet and pasta. Yes, pasta! I have had type one diabetes for almost 50 years. I can not believe… Read more »


I have also read on quite a few other websites of people going to see Ketut and he told all of them the same as he told Shaunda!!!! a bit sus I think…..Im a bit disapointed as planned to go see him next month.


I saw Ketut in October, what a funny, spontaneous man! yes he said some of which was the same as the others, but I am glad i got to meet this amazing man. What if he is right? Maybe not, but Ketut gave me hope, a laugh that we need in our lives. Isn’t it about keeping the magic alive. I have type 1 diabetes like Ellizabeth, life is short and living us some positivity in our lives is such a good thing. You know anything is possible, live life and not worry about what he said that was the same, you… Read more »


Guys…. I think K’tut is right in all ways….and I do believe he helped a lot of people to get better physically and mentally…you know why….empty your cup of tea (mind) and start fill it up slowly….and you will find out that he is right. Remeber “you are what you think” and he helped you to think the way he wants you to think….arrrgh difficult huh???? no simple….if you think you are ill than you will …if you think you are happy you will…. it is all in your mind….it controls you in both ways to good and bad….dangerous huh….yes….… Read more »


I visiting Ketut in April, and contrary to the above, I had a difference response from the man. I wasn’t told the above at all (except the pretty part, which I’m cool with – ha ha) Some forgiveness should be given for his age and mental well being, I never expected much on arrival from him. It wasn’t what he said that stirred my soul, but the depth of the small moment I got to share with another human. The path he told me, was exactly the path I was told by another healer and two psychics since.  So I… Read more »


Hello all,
I’ve been also to this man Ketut Liyer in Ubud. And the exact same things Ketut had to say to me, you can read in Shaunda’s reaction, here written above.
It safes you alot of dissapointment and time if you don’t go. I decided not to give any money, because it’s obvious he is a con man.


CON MAN!! My husband and I decided to go & see Mr. Liyer to have a palm reading done. We had our readings done seperately to see how they would ‘match up’. Well….I didn’t expect them to match up quite so well !! He said the EXACT SAME THING to me and my husband WORD FOR WORD!! Here is how his con man’s script goes: 1. You are pretty/handsome 2. Your lips are sweet as sugar/honey 3. You have pretty ears 4. You have pretty, pretty perfect nose. 5. You have a strong chin 6. You have a line between… Read more »

Copyright © 2009-2020 Diabetes Media Foundation, All Rights Reserved.
ASweetLife™ is a trademark of the Diabetes Media Foundation, All Rights Reserved.
DMCA Compliant