Walking the Path

After 21 extraordinary years with Osho in his commune in Pune, India, experiencing his mind blowing vision of celebration and meditation, I rather recently discovered The Path of Love, a beautiful 7 day process that has the potential to change your life. I was facing the biggest loss ever and was at a tough and dark place inside as I joined for the first time. I desperately needed help and I found it there in the most miraculous and magical ways. Since then I have supported that process and staffed a number of times all over the world and I am forever grateful to everyone involved in the POL .

The Path of Love has grown and evolved and is constantly offering new retreats and trainings, the latest one being “Walking the Path”, an advanced 4 days process for anyone who has already done the basic one.

Since I first read this tittle I have been inquiring inside as what it means for me to “walk the path”.

Today I am in the kitchen in the beautiful community where I live with very dear friends. There is no Guru here, and on the door is a sign that reads “Centre for Conscious Living”.  Many people here have participated and staffed the POL and are excited to join the new “Walking the Path” soon. I can hear a friend in the living room explain to a newcomer that to her going to staff POL is like taking a vitamin shot, and it feels so good!

I feel grateful to be here and in a good place inside, but I am also burning with some intense issues; commune life is very intense and challenging, and I am constantly confronted and stretched.

This morning I notice that I would love some support. I also notice that reaching out isn’t as easy as I wish it was, that retreating is an obvious option, that looking for confrontation would feel safer and more confortable, that I could instead go for a walk or keep cleaning the house or move this energy that is building inside in other ways. I could engage in small talks, I could even have a glass of wine or lie in the hammock with a book…the list seems endless.

Yesterday already I had mentioned to my friend here that I am facing something I need help with and would love his support. He was busy and unavailable then, but I took it personally and felt he was not here for me when I needed him; I felt hurt, pissed, disappointed…blablabla…

If groups have always helped me in some ways and have usually been intense and juicy rides, walking the path is obviously now, here, in this kitchen, facing this very situation and confronting the volcano boiling inside this body mind organism.

How am I going to deal with all of this? How much Seeing can be allowed? How much Intelligence can shine through? How much space can be created? What is the next move, if any?

I want it here, now, every moment and forever.

I want this very breath to be my path, and I want it to be an ongoing lightning setting my being on fire. I want those words right now to carry my heart’s deepest longing; I want my passion to shine here, wild and unhindered.

As I grow older I have little space for compromise; I want it all and I want it now, and I would rather be alone than in relationships where I don’t feel met at my deepest core.

Walking the path is being fully present with whatever is happening, inside and outside; it is being fully open and ready to take real risks; the risk to be seen as I am, in all my glories and in all my imperfections, in my sweetest expressions as well as my ugliest and darkest ones; the risk to speak up, or the risk to keep my mouth shut for 24 hours before I open it again; the risk to be seen and take my space or the risk to instead take a deeper breath and give space to others.

Being alive is an art I keep fine tuning; allowing the creative fire to burn through and shine and take me to unexpected places is an ongoing challenge.

Real is what turns me on. Real is what brings my heart and sex on fire. Real is my passion and the love of my life.

There is no walk and there is no path.

 

the moment I knew that I would take Sannyas

On January 19th 1993 I entered the Osho Commune in Pune for the very first time. I had been in India since 5 years already, studying at R. Tagore’s University in West Bengal and then travelling around with my backpack and my long dreadlocks in search of the divine. I was a hard-core hippy then and I had never heard of Osho.

One day, on the banks of the marble rocks near Jabalpur, I met an Osho Sannyasin. He took me on a boat under the full moon and seduced me to go to Pune and check it out. I felt finished with India and was reluctant to have any new experiences in this country, but somehow I changed the ticket and went to Pune for 5 days.

Those days I was having recurrent flashbacks and scary out-of-body experiences. I always felt very alone in that.

The commune was in the middle of a huge carnival celebrating Osho’s death, and the place was throbbing when I entered the gateless gate. That night the Buddha Hall was packed as I sat there in the middle of thousands of people for my first meeting of the Osho white robe brotherhood.

There was a juicy band and great dancing. Just before sitting down I suddenly felt myself expand and fill the whole space. I became bigger than the space. I started to feel fear, again. It was another one of those scary experiences that I always tried to suppress and overpower. My heartbeat became faster, I wanted to leave, go for a walk, do something. Just then everyone sat down and a pin drop silence descended. I was still out of my body, fighting what was happening, having flashbacks of those days not so long ago when I was in coma and paralysed in Delhi.

 

As I looked around wondering how I could possibly leave the hall, Osho’s voice came “Close your eyes, be here, feel your body, just go in, and in and in and in”

In that moment, I let go for maybe the first time in my life; I surrendered, dived into His words, and let Him guide me and hold my hand.

When I opened my eyes again, I was back in my body, fear was gone, and love was all around.

Osho was now my master, I would take Sannyas, and the 5 days in Pune would turn into 2 decades.

Those hallucinations never came back.

 

 

 

an overland journey from Calcutta to Berlin, 1989

1- Pakistan. The little village of Sust in northern Pakistan is the very last stop before the Khunjerab pass that stands gigantic at almost 4700 meters in the high Karakoram Mountains. It is also the entry point into China. This is the land of the last snow leopards. In less than 40 miles a bird could be in India, Afghanistan or Tajikistan. For me Xinjiang, in the Far East region of China is the aim. The pass is closed most of the year, lying under heavy snow at sub-zero temperatures, and on May 1st it officially opens. I am in Sust since a few days, sleeping on the floor in the kitchen around the open fire with at least a dozen others. This is a check post point and life is tough. It is cold, smoky, food is scarce. We are a handful of westerners, a few colourful people from Tajikistan and some traders from the nearby regions. We are all on our way to Kashgar.

An old bus with tinted windows is stationed there by the still frozen river; it will drive us to the Chinese border as soon as the road is clear. Every morning since a few days we inquire desperately as when we are going to move; and today is April 30th already. But the weather forecast doesn’t look good, the pass is apparently out of reach and so we must wait.

The next morning a couple of traders from Urumqi are engaging with the bus driver in a heated discussion. Impatience is in the air. They want to leave today!

What happened then I never knew, but I suspect that some baksheesh was paid and so the bus was suddenly ready to go.          

We all got in and off we were.

The ride is one of the most spectacular I have ever experienced. I was used to sit on the roof of buses during my journey north in Pakistan, and it was an intense yet delightful place to be during the peak of the March heatwave; but here there was no chance. It was dry and cold, snow was covering everything around and we were slowly moving above the 4000 meters line.

After a couple hours the bus suddenly stopped and we were all told to get out.

That was it!  The road was actually no more accessible, and in fact we should never have left in the first place. Snow was getting thicker and we had no choice but walk the last bit!

How long was the last bit we had absolutely no idea.

And so on May 1st 1989, I wrapped myself with all the clothes I had and covered my head with a yellow Shiva scarf. Of course I was a hippy and the idea of sunscreen or sunglasses or a hat had never even occurred to me. I put my pack on my back and up we walked. We were less than 20 people, from such different places, on such different trips, but here we were, moving step by step, up and up and up. I remember an English man who was travelling with his Hong Kong girlfriend. She seemed so exhausted and unhappy and she had 2 suitcases! He was a big guy and I still see him carrying that luggage on his head leading the way while his girl was threatening to just stop and sit on the snow. I remember an older lady from some remote village in Tajikistan; she had come to Pakistan for some medical treatment and was now on her way back home through those high mountains. Two men were taking turns to help her up. It was totally surreal and I felt in a movie from a different time. The air was getting painfully thin, the sun was bright and blinding, but the nature and the high pics all around were so absolutely breath-taking.

I cannot remember how long we walked. It was one step at a time, one breath, another step, and another breath…

This very moment was all there was. How we got here was a mysterious unfolding that only the divine could possibly make sense of. I recall the feeling of being completely one with life and the magic it is made of. I recall that sense of being in the hands of something infinitely bigger than my little self. I recall the awe in my heart in front of so much beauty. As the amount of oxygen was diminishing with every step so was the holding of the mind; everything became lighter and a strange sense of emptiness was pervading the air. Life was being lived, fully and dangerously. In that moment there was no thought about tomorrow and the feeling that I could die here and then was an obvious possibility; and yet in that moment I felt more alive than ever, more present than ever and in touch with something that clearly would never die.

We finally all made it to the top and crossed over to China. By foot. On the snow. At 4733 meters above sea level!

The long overnight trip to Kashgar was excruciating. I was snow-blind.

 

2- Tiananmen Square, Beijing, May 1989

After 4 days and nights in a train from Urumqi I arrived in Beijing. I had left Calcutta 3 months before and was travelling overland. I had spent days on the roof of local buses up along the Indus River in Pakistan under the scorching April heat, had hang out in the most extraordinary Hunza region of Kashmir, crossed the Khunjerab pass by foot at almost 5000 meters, then entered China and the oasis town of Kashgar where I recovered from snow blindness in a welcoming Uyghur family.

The sun was rising as I walked out of the station.

During this last month in Western China the only news we had was from the English edition of the “people’s voice”, a daily newspaper that we often got a week after it was published, and as I remember all was really good and happy in this great country.

Stepping out of the train already something felt odd. I soon found out that there were no buses or subway, basically no traffic, demonstrating students everywhere, and that the huge 6 lanes streets were jammed with … bicycles! I can’t remember how it happened and it does sound surreal today, but I got a bicycle here and then, sat on it with my pack on my back and off I was through the streets of Beijing looking for the cheapest guest house!

The cheapest Guest House I found was a 5 star hotel. On the top floor and overlooking Beijing with breath-taking views, was a restaurant under renovation, and there we could sleep on the red sofas and keep our luggage on the thick carpet between the tables. “We” included a few dodgy Polish business men and a bunch of hippies on the same trail as I was. We were all ultimately going to be on one of the Trans-Siberian trains that were running twice a week between Beijing and Moscow.

The tension in Beijing during that time, the energy on the streets, and the creativity people were showing was just something so outrageous and that I have never experienced again. After about a week, I moved out of the restaurant and joined a group of students in one of their buses stationed in a corner of the great Tiananmen Square, where I was anyway spending most of my time.

We all hang out together, ate noodle soups, drank tea, and at night we all were working under a kerosene lamp at the back of the bus where I would be translating pamphlets into English, French and German.

After so many weeks travelling on my own I had found a family. We were smoking lots of Pollen and everything and every breath was out of this world. I actually had little idea what this student revolution was all about, but I loved hanging out with those guys my age, I loved driving my bicycle for hours without holding the handle and get lost in this mind-blowing city, I loved the buzz, I loved the madness and I loved being high.

I had no idea at the time that those very days in this particular square were going to be carved in history forever. Even more unthinkable that it would be carved with so much blood, the blood of those I had shared such precious moments with.

As far as I was concerned and as far I understood there was no sign that something bad was going to happen any time soon; in fact it sounded that the movement was picking up, that more and more were getting involved, that the government was going to fall and that victory was coming soon. The energy was rocketing, it was just unbelievable.

I could easily have stayed an extra week, but on Wednesday May 31st 1989 I found for 30 dollars a trans-Siberian ticket on the black market and left that very evening. The trip to Moscow would take 9 days.

Only upon reaching Russia a week later did a newspaper find its way to the train. I remember staring at the picture on the front page. Tiananmen Square filled with tanks and corpses. In shock and denial I was mumbling “where are all the people, where are my friends?”

Some survived, some were jailed, some were killed.

Those weeks of freedom on the pavement of Tiananmen Square were an extraordinary time in history. A time that may never happen again. A time that impacted me in more ways than I understand, that changed the course of my life, and for which I am forever grateful.

I dedicate this chapter to those who lost their life standing up for their freedom.

 

 

3- Siberia. We are now at the very end of May 1989 and my Tran Siberian Express is approaching Irkutsk by the Baikal Sea. I have unknowingly left Tiananmen Square in Beijing 48 hours before the army would march in and kill thousands. Before boarding the train I had followed my intuition and spent my last 100 Dollars on the very best jeans I could find. They were bad by any western standard but they did look like jeans and I was told that somehow I would get good money for them in Siberia. I had about 30 of them stacked in yellowish wrapping cloth.

We were now about halfway to Moscow and I was starting to wonder how I would sell those jeans. I had hardly any money to eat, and I would need to spend a night or two in Moscow and buy another ticket to Berlin.

Just then, a bunch of local business men entered the train. It seemed that they were ready to buy anything that looked vaguely western. The first one who approached me got the deal- He took my jeans and left me with a stack a 100 rouble notes which filled my little backpack. I was not sure how much it was and I was fine with finding out later. From then on the restaurant compartment changed configuration; the straight tourists were now watching their cash while all the hippies just asked for the very best.  Caviar at every meal and smuggled Chinese Champagne replaced the goulash soup. I was obviously rich, but in less than a week my short visa for the Soviet Union would expire; I would need to be out and those roubles would be worthless once I crossed the iron curtain. We had a few more days before reaching Moscow and another miracle would need to happen before then.

I was sharing the compartment with 3 other young guys from England. We had a great time. I was only 23 then but was still the older one and I was enjoying this role. I was rolling the joints, paying for all the meals; I had so many stories to tell and I knew it all. When the train slowly stopped in the huge Novosibirsk station I clearly understood that it was at least a 20 minutes stop, and I ordered us all “let’s explore the station and come back with ice creams”. And off we were, out of the compartment, and up the stairs. What happened then I never knew, because those 3 friends I never met again.

I lost them in the crowd, panicked, and finally just made it back to our train. I am still sure that less than 10 minutes had passed but the train started to move as I just got in. I looked around and certainly my 3 friends were not back. I got hold of the manager and explained in my best Russian what had happened; he run to the front of the train, talked to the conductor, and came back in. The train had to leave.

He and I went back to my compartment to look through my friends stuff and make an inventory! Their passports were here and their bags were full. They had walked out for a few minutes just wearing a jacket in search of ice creams. And now they were left behind in the middle of Siberia without passeports.

I was now alone in the compartment and I invited the conductor for a glass of champagne. We had such a wonderful time! He hardly spoke English and my Russian was rather poor, but we managed as I recall, to have deep talks on philosophy, religion and the meaning of life.

I ordered more bottles of champagne and plates of caviar.

We slowly were approaching Moscow, and although I was generous with my cash, my backpack was still full of it.

The second miracle happened in the middle of the night, as I was sleeping alone in my compartment. Another kind of business men had entered the train and those had dollars. Again the first one who knocked on my door got the deal. He gave me 3000 dollars and took all my roubles. This time I was rich and it felt real !

The falling of the veil

One day the veil falls and you find yourself out of the wheel, out of the dream, out of all you knew to be real.

Or the veil never falls, no matter how hard and how long you’ve tried.

Or maybe on the very last breath it falls anyhow, uncalled and in spite of you.

The veil may still be in front of you, or it may be gone. You may never have been interested in what could possibly lie behind it; or maybe you have been a spiritual seeker for decades, digging alone into your inner world and searching out there for someone to guide you.

It all doesn’t matter really. Who you are doesn’t care. Covered or uncovered, aware or unaware, free or in bondage it doesn’t make the slightest difference. Your essence, your true face, your original nature remains unchanged.

Being awake is who you are. Being awake is the ocean behind the waves. Being awake is the very stuff existence is made of. There is nowhere to hide. Even death cannot help you. Being identified with the dream and losing the connection with what you are is a very human struggle. It is part of a bigger unfolding where consciousness plays with all possible combinations. Consciousness is all there is and consciousness doesn’t care if it moves through Nirav or through a tree or through a lightbulb. Whether Nirav is aware or asleep and identified makes no difference at all. Consciousness couldn’t care less. In fact consciousness means that there is no one here to care. What an extraordinary absence!

In the fire of Arunachala- my latest encounter

17-jan

A few months ago I had been riding a beautiful and smooth wave for a while. Life was easy and generous. Not much drama or frustration, and I could feel myself sinking deeper inside. Maybe that was it. Maybe I was at last letting go. Each time I would contemplate on life or death I would find no fear nearby. Maybe I was finally at peace.

I went to Tiruvanamalai at the feet of the sacred mountain Arunachala, where I love to spend a few months every year. I soon started to get quite sick, and after about 3 weeks of severe headaches, high fevers and chills I one morning decided to go to the local hospital and give my blood. I ordered it checked for Malaria, Typhoid and Dengue fever, hoping they would find me positive for one of those and treat me.

The next morning when I went to collect the result I was pulled aside. The 2 doctors looked concerned. I was testing positive for everything!  Yes I could be cured and yes they could help me. I had however to stay here as my platelet count was well within the danger zone. I was given the choice to either go to a high end Hospital in the big City of Chennai 5 hours ride from here, or get hospitalized here and then. The risk of internal bleeding was high and going home on my own was no option.

From that moment onward, death had me by the neck and never let go of it for another week. It was a constant 24/7 connection. The overdose of Chloroquine they gave me in order to treat the malaria gave me petrifying hallucinations. I started to lose my eyesight. Death was once again knocking, checking where I was REALLY at, and scaring the shit out of me. Not only was I facing the possibility of dying here, but I was clearly going to go mad first. I spent those first two nights wide awake, terrified, convinced that those drugs were destroying my brain.

In my experience Arunachala acts like a mirror and will expose and burn whatever bullshit and illusions are still there.

I ended up healing completely, and the experience of those days and the weeks that followed is still with me today.

Those days were not only scary and on the edge. I was living completely moment to moment, breath after breath. In magical and strange ways really I was once again in touch with the divine. The biggest shock was probably to face the fact that death was still scaring me to the core. How could the only certainty in this fleeting life be such a terrifying prospect? How free was I really if a mild taste of death was still affecting my wellbeing and inner peace? So many questions got hold of my deepest beliefs and left me in state of inner chaos.

I am not sure if it burned to ashes, but the spiritual ego definitely suffered a major blow.  This experience connected me in the rawest way possible with my vulnerability as a human Being and brought precious humility into my heart. Although I would not wish that experience to anyone or to myself again, I feel deeply grateful for the disguised gift that it was.

Sometimes nothing works out

Sometimes nothing works out and I feel hurt, pissed, sad, angry, frustrated. I just want to sulk and hide under the blanket.

In those moments, I wonder where the joy in my heart has gone, what has happened with the ease and flow I was experiencing just a while ago?

Where is my connection with the divine, that space of total acceptance, that embracing of all there is?

I feel the dark side of the moon showing itself, the shadows of my inner world knocking on my door. I feel drawn into a space of discomfort, a space I had wished extinct, a space that challenges to the core who I believe I should now be.

Attempts to move out of that space and look for the light seem so futile; trying and change the situation seems utterly old fashioned, overdone, exhausted.

I feel trapped. I can smell the depth of the discontent, the darkness of the night, the helplessness I am in.

There is no way out. And now the way in too has been taken away.

Knowing that “this too shall pass” doesn’t help; understanding that in the world of duality everything has a shadow side doesn’t soothe the pain.

This pain is the yearning of the soul, the tearing apart of all the beliefs, the un- and rewiring of the mind. In those moments this pain is all there is, all there need be- it is all and nothing both. This pain is the remembrance that life is an eternal unfolding, a mystery to be lived, a mystery to die into, and a mystery to be celebrated in all its glory.

 

 

 

The New Delhi Happening

Part 1-

It is 18.15 on the corner of the Paharganj main Bazar just opposite the imposing New Delhi Train Station. It is rush hour and the market is buzzling with millions of people. In less than 30 minutes my train will depart and take me to the City of Agra, just a few hours away from here. My pack on my back and my drum around one shoulder I am waiting while my friend is collecting some pictures from the photo shop.

As I am looking over the crowd gathered there, here she comes, smiling. Yeah! The pictures are ready! As I try and ask if the pictures look good, something feels weird, really really weird!

Only half my mouth is moving. I am suddenly paralyzed on one side of the body!

Here in the midst of the New Delhi’s madness, stoned, with all my possessions in a little backpack, and a train in now 25 minutes! This is absolutely surreal!

We are in December 1989, and I am not travelling alone anymore. I had met Shelley 2 months before on the southernmost point of Crete where I was living naked under a Tree. We had fallen in love and she was now following me on my well known hippie trail around India. We had just walked around the Annapurna Sanctuary for 4 weeks in Nepal, and were now going to zoom around India for 6 months. But first I was going to show her the great Taj Mahal!

How stoned, unconscious and fearing nothing we must have been that evening is still beyond my imagination. I clearly just had a major incident in my brain-possibly a stroke.

But we made it to the station and got into our train! I was stubborn and changing plans was against my philosophy. The train ride was intense. We were both 23, we had long dreadlocks, we looked wild and we were wild! With only half my body moving the other passengers thought that I was completely drunk. The train was packed but somehow someone gave me a berth and I could lie down.

We arrived in Agra late that evening, and after the usual struggle with rickshaw drivers we finally managed to find a cheap guest house.

Two weeks later we were still in Agra. I was now lying on the bed of a local hospital, under drip. I had been misdiagnosed since days, no one knew what my problem was and all the antibiotics I was taking didn’t help at all. I had just spent 24 hours in Coma a few days back and my condition was obviously serious and getting worse. But somehow we didn’t realise and trusted that life would take care. We were doing our thing and were moving along.

The Agra hospital had certainly no intention to have a foreigner die on their premises, and so before sunset they sent me to the Apollo Hospital in Delhi.

The train to Delhi took forever, but finally at 2 am we got a rickshaw to drop us in India’s largest hospital with our dirty backpacks. By then I surely looked really sick and like a skeleton, but the emergency room looked like hell, filled with blood and screams and people looking far more impressive than I did. Someone’s head had a hole in it. Someone’s leg was on a table next to his stretcher. A doctor finally had a quick look at me and told me that I was okay. He gave me another antibiotic pill and off we were again on the streets of Delhi.

It was now 3 am on a Sunday morning, and this was going to be my last day in this body.

 

Part 2-

After a few hours’ sleep we are waking up somewhere in Carol Bag in a much fancier hotel than I was used to. There is carpet on the floor. We got scammed by the rickshaw driver as we left the hospital in the middle of the night. But this is all irrelevant at this point.

It is around 8.30 am and Shelley goes down to the reception and calls the French Embassy. It is early, and it is Sunday, and yet she can smell that this is very soon all over for me.

Less than an hour later a young French doctor arrives in the embassy’s car. He is shocked. I have been in this condition since more than 2 weeks, without a diagnosis and without proper treatment. This is the first time that someone really looks at me since I became suddenly paralyzed on the street. He takes his time and I feel hope and trust again. I am in good hands. We will do tests he explains, but first he has to guess right and act now. Results would come too late.

His first hunch is that I am suffering from Infectious Mononucleosis and that an Oedema had developed in my brain, explaining the coma and the paralysis. He is right and this will save my life. I look so unlike anything he ever saw that he also suspects that I could have at least Aids and another tropical disease as well, but luckily he will be wrong on that one. He injects me with a good dose of cortisone, pays the hotel bill, gets us into his little car and off we are through the busy streets of Delhi to the reputable East West clinic.

I am given a room there and my girlfriend can stay with me. It will take a week to get all the tests done and get the pressure in my brain down to a point where travelling by air can be an option.

Finally one evening at around 8 pm, the van from the embassy arrives at the clinic and 4 officials from the French embassy knock on the door. They have organized tickets to Paris, and we are leaving now on a direct Air France flight. There is a chance that my brain doesn’t cope with the flight and so the doctor has to sit next to me.

And so on a freezing morning just before Christmas 1989 I landed in Paris, walked through the airport corridors with my doctor on one side and Shelley on the other, got picked up by my Dad, and was brought straight through Normandy to the emergency room of my hometown Hospital. That same afternoon, on the 18th floor, I slid into the tunnel of an mri scanner.

 

Part 3-

Completing this chapter isn’t easy as I have to omit the juiciest parts.

I was 23 at the time and I just had my first significant encounter with death. I came very close. Most significantly, it marked the end of my hippie life as I had intensely known it. I never touched drugs again and I instead would soon discover meditation. Out of this I would soon meet Osho and be absolutely ready and open for what He was about to propose.

As I left the hospital on Christmas 1989, I was prescribed a year of convalescence; but instead, after 6 days at home with my parents, I bought a ticket to Western Africa. I would spend the next 2 years living naked in caves on the Island of Gomera and in Senegal. Life was easy, wild, and completely in touch with nature. I had a beautiful girlfriend and we then moved on slowly all the way to New Zealand.

What had happened in Delhi had shaken me to the core. What was I after? What was I running from? What did I really long for? I was aware that I was now doing extra time, that another chance was given, and that sooner or later death could take me back, and this time keep me.

Those years travelling in the wild were a time of convalescence indeed, a time of chilling out and of transition. Those were golden days, insouciantly living a freedom somehow long gone, and I was getting ready for a new adventure, an inner one this time. I was getting ready to open up, to feel, and to say Yes.

(…as this chapter is closing, a new one is about to open. More stories coming soon…)