Tribute to Meera, part 1

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Few people have influenced the course of my life the way Meera did.

As I look up and around right now, I see my walls full of amazing paintings, filled with leaves and trees and mysteries; filled with the taste of the unknowable. So much beauty and love and movement and silence in every stroke, so much depth, so much of the divine shining through…How I became the painter that I am today is a story that started in 2000 in Osho’s commune in Pune, India.

I was a bodyworker then. I was working in the Commune giving individual sessions, and I had spent basically every day of the last decade in bodywork and therapy trainings. Meera was a unique character in the commune, she was obviously full of Osho and she was around every winter leading her creativity workshops and trainings. I had often stopped by to watch her incredible demos in the Multiversity Plaza, and I had been to many of her exhibitions which she organized every year at the end of the season.  But really painting was never my thing and to be honest I had never held a paint brush!

One day in November 2000, Meera was about to start her yearly 2.5 months painting training in Pune, and one of her participant had requested a French translator. I was finding myself in a gap then; I was going through a heartbreak and was getting tired of giving so many sessions. I was still very involved in the commune but sensed a wind of change. I approached Meera and we had a little chat. She explained that she never takes someone on the staff who hasn’t first participated in at least one of her groups, and that maybe I could do that. I replied that I had never painted and was not that interested, and clearly if I seemed to have unlimited money for heavy therapy and inquiry groups, I was not ready to spend a cent on something like a creativity workshop.

I remember that moment when she paused and looked so deeply into my eyes that time simply stopped. It seemed that she was seeing something I had no clue about, something like a hidden diamond I could not even dream of considering. I had often experienced this feeling of being seen so deeply and so totally, but right now it was something different. Meera was looking at something beyond my depths, something beyond everything I think I am, contemplating a potential I had no mean to comprehend.

Meera took my hand and broke the silence :  “ Wao… yes, come and join, this participant will only do the first part, it lasts 2 weeks, and it is Primal Painting! You will like it. Come. I will make an exception.”

We never talked again about this very first meeting. So much had transpired, so much had been said, and yet…all what remained was a mystery that left me deeply shaken.

( part 2 …)

Creativity

Creativity has nothing to do with you. Creativity is the very heartbeat of the universe; it is that which is prior to all your ideas of what is right and what is wrong, what is beautiful and what is ugly. Creativity is what was bubbling before you came in, what remains when you are not, and what will be here long after you are gone. Creativity it the stuff that fuels every breath you take, every feeling and thought going through you, everything that happens within and without. Creativity is the beyond in action, every moment and forever. The starry night in a movement beyond the speed of light, or that magic in your heart, it is what keeps you not just alive but thriving. What this universe is about we have not the fraction of a clue. Creativity is the unknowable manifesting itself.

Teaching creativity is a contradiction in terms, and the concept of getting somewhere on the path of creativity is a fallacy. There is no path and nowhere to go. Some advertise “meditative art” but art is always meditative, because art only happens when you have disappeared. Anything else isn’t art. It is vomiting, and the modern art galleries all over the world are full of just that.

What I want to convey and share through painting is my experience of the divine, what I want you to maybe get a glimpse of is the space beyond who you think you are, what I can maybe point to is the magic of existence throbbing through your every breath

A taste of the beyond, the slightest disengaging with the illusion of being someone at all, and creativity shines in a million rainbows.

Forms and shapes appear and reveal the ever-present mystery of life and death. Explosions of lights and colours are bound to destroy your false identifications and bring forth the ecstatic nature of who you really are.

Tiruvannamalai -part 1

For years Tiruvannamalai sounded to me like everything I dislike; dirty, crowded, traditional, full of temples, rituals, beggars, no fun, bad food… No one had ever been able to give me an answer that would turn me on enough to come here.

I had heard that not visiting Tiruvannamalai had been my Master Osho’s only regret in life, and when one day I was offered a house here I came for a month to check it out!

Since then I keep coming back, I keep missing the place unlike any other when I am away, and every time the same magic reveals itself, and the same mystery enters my every breath.     

Arunachala is the mountain responsible for everything that happens here. The huge Shiva temple in the city of Tiruvannamalai at the feet of the mountain, Ramana Maharshi and countless others spending their life and attaining Samadhi here, the millions of seekers who come here for a day or a lifetime… Nothing of this would exist without this mountain.

I have a long and rich history on the spiritual path and in self inquiry. I spent over 20 years meditating every day, from Osho’s active meditation techniques to 21 days Vipassana retreats to simply sitting for weeks in complete silence and isolation.

When I first arrived here, I went to the Ramana Ashram and found the meditation room adjacent to the main temple.

I just came from what was then Osho’s Commune in Pune and I was used to perfectly maintained, beautiful and spotless spaces. The Osho Auditorium where we were meditating was always perfectly air conditioned, smell free, without a fallen hair on the marble floor. The silence was always to be respected and even when hundreds of people would sit there together, the slightest cough would be enough to see you escorted out.

As I entered the meditation room, I spotted an empty cushion and sat on it in front of a picture of Ramana. In the middle of the room a dog was sitting; people were coming and going; some were sitting with eyes closed, others were moving around and someone was reading a book; the window to the temple was open and singing was happening on the other side; the fans were on, a clock on the wall was ticking, and the door was constantly opening and closing.

I closed my eyes. I opened them. I looked around. I looked inside. I felt the wind and the activity around. I could hear all those noises outside.

In spite of me, in spite of the sounds, in spite of the movements, I was drawn inward. I was being engulfed by something far greater than anything or anyone around, and my eyes were widening inside; a feeling of melting and letting go was taking me; there was a clear sense of Oneness, a clear vanishing of the Ego, a vast sense of Emptiness.

As I walked out an hour later I knew that my life was never to be the same again.

I made my way to the nearest chai shop by the side of a busy street, and grabbed the last half broken plastic chair. It was just before sunset and traffic was intense, exhaust fumes filled the air, rubbish was all around, and some beggars looked rather scary. I ordered my chai with half the normal amount of sugar.

I still recall that first day in Tiru a few years ago, sipping my tea in complete amazement. What the fuck was that!? How could I feel here closer to myself than I had ever felt before? How could my meditation be deeper here drinking a cup of tea on a dirty crowded side-walk than in the most modern meditation hall?

As I sat there, watching Indian life go by and slowly drinking my tea, I noticed how my mind had become so much quieter; my jaw was dropping, the sense of time was dissipating, concerns about past or future were appearing as rather vague memories; the present moment was shining and taking all the space.

The sun was slowly setting and I had just spent my first few hours in Tiruvannamalai…

Many more days and months would follow… and part 2 is coming soon…

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 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 comfortable, 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 this all? 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 !

Meditation

For almost 30 years MEDITATION has certainly been the one word running continuously through my daily life. Combined I must have spent a few years “in meditation”. Satori groups, meditation retreats, 10 days Vipassana courses, 5 and 7 weeks retreats in complete silence and isolation, and the daily routine of at least 3 hours of different meditation techniques. Meeting Osho I discovered active meditations. His famous “dynamic meditation” became my favourite one, and for years I woke up at 5.30 every morning to be in the hall ready to breathe, jump, cathart, dance and fall into the centre of the cyclone in utter silence. Dynamic meditation was a simple formula for a great day ahead.

After 20 years in Pune following that incredible and juicy regimen I one morning found myself in Mumbai at the feet of Ramesh Balsekar. He told me something I had never heard before and that would change my life forever. There was according to Him no need to meditate, but if you felt to, just taking a few minutes in the evening looking back at your day and investigating one event that you obviously did was enough. “Dissect that event and find out if you REALLY did it”. That was a puzzling proposition, but that investigation again and again, every single time showed the same result: I was not the doer of any action, not even that one. Actions happen through this body mind organism. There is no doer whatsoever.

For years afterwards that specific investigation did run inside like an undercurrent until one day I realized that the understanding had settled without any doubt and that the inquiry had dropped by itself.

Today I would simply say that Meditation is remembrance. Remembering who I am. Osho’s last word is SAMASATI. So is Buddha’s. “Remember who you are”.

Meditation techniques are a way to bring that remembrance to the light. Meeting Osho has been the greatest blessing in my life and meditating in His garden under his guidance was fun, juicy and the gap between the outer and the inner was bridged every single time.

I still enjoy sitting in silence with closed eyes. I still enjoy active meditations. In the same way I enjoy cooking, painting, walking, making love, having a talk with a friend. Whenever I remember who I am I am in meditation.

Most of the time I am in my centre, connected, present and enjoying the play of life. Sometimes I am identified with this body mind organism and believe I am the doer of those actions and thoughts and emotions. Now I know the way, I know the space, I know the knack. I could say that I know who I am…and yet I do go astray once in a while, and I am okay with it. The idea that staying in my centre is a greater thing, deeper and more holy is also falling apart. In fact all the ideas of who I am and who I should be are all falling apart. Something is happening which is beyond all my ideas, beyond any doing, beyond any description, and that something looks more and more like nothing.

I have been a spiritual seeker since as long as I remember. Finding out who I am was the single most important drive inside. Meditation was the motor, the main tool.

Today as the seeker is dying and the seeking is giving way to something beyond doing, meditation is also changing. I don’t quite understand what is happening and I am okay with it. Trying to understand is not important. Accepting the new unfolding is clearly all I need to let go into.

This new happening isn’t always comfortable. I often feel pregnant with something I don’t comprehend, something I can’t push nor do anything about, something that by nature I absolutely cannot name.

I am washing some dishes in the communal kitchen this morning and my friend asks me if I could write something on meditation, and I go “yes, of course”. I know that words will come in spite of me and that whatever comes will be perfect. There is complete trust. And here I am and words are flowing. Meditation is presence, meditation is spontaneity, meditation is life running through this organism called “Nirav”, through this laptop and through the birds singing in the garden. Meditation is love, meditation is freedom, meditation is easy…as easy as the wind moving through the autumn leaves.

Meditation is no mind, meditation is openness, meditation is all there is.

Meditation is remembrance.

Samasati.