led me, the rationalist, a cynic, the worst sort of individualist, who
guards her privacy jealously, the person who shudders with horror at
absolutes, at dogmas, to an ashram in Claxton Bay in the middle of a
cluttered mind-thoughts spilling untidily everywhere, rolling into
incomprehensible splodges. Fear of the march of time, too tender
attachments, of meaninglessness, of living in a country where a gimmicky
spiderman grabs more attention than a kidnapped child.
of that. None of it. I don't know. After fright there was flight.
here I am in a room, perched on top of a double decker bed in a dorm,
watching the thicket of varied foliage through the louvered windows.
Minutes ago broad, jagged leaves were bleached by the noonday sun, then
turned into a blur of dense green, weighed down by a patter of heavy
raindrops, seconds later, now, a still-framed life.
is quiet and time enough, here in these rooms on a hill surrounded by
trees, to watch the oblong reflection of light on the pale green floor,
observe the movement of my fingers on this keyboard, the interplay of
bone, vein, skin and brain.
drove past overgrown cane, uncut thigh-high grass to get to this hilly
place, left behind in Port of Spain the rituals of my daily life, family,
nearly didn't get here-a mishap which necessitated a visit to a doctor
giving my motherly heart pangs of guilt, a husband who said "don't
go-stay", the birthday of a precious family member. It is easy when
immersed in the din and flux of life to think of yourself as
indispensable, to find yourself occupied, tasks, appointments,
obligations, spilling over, to-do lists, wild juggling. There are always
excuses to stay in the comfort zone.
dramatically convert a three-day foray out of town into an exile. But to a
city dweller the country, with its endless fields, narrow quiet tracks,
tropical, bucolic quiet, languid dwellers, its sameness, brings on panic
left with yourself. That's scary. What if I got to know me and didn't like
what I saw? Easier to be deluded. Still.
this was no holiday either. If we wanted to chill drinking cocktails in
the sun and watch cable we were in the wrong place (I went with a dear
friend-a second mother).
much was implicit in the "Blue Star" ashram's guidelines set by
"guru-ji"-Sri Vasudeva. There were rules. Dawn awakenings,
meditation, seva (when the communal work was done-floors swept, dishes
washed, food cooked, plants watered) guided meditation, simple vegetarian
food which you served yourself, chanting before bed, a general hush, ten
45 minutes during that first meditation on our first evening, in a hall
flooded with dusty orange twilight, my eyes remained closed but my
thoughts wandered-darting into troubled spots, reposing in little joys,
circling puzzling issues. I was everything but quiet. While everyone else
sat cross-legged on sheets on the floor or chairs I shifted my feet,
wrapped my hands around my knees, shifted.
held my hand at the end of it and said, "your eyes were shut but your
mind was everywhere." I knew I came here to learn to be still.
explained it better the following morning during the dawn meditation. His
philosophy is based on the obvious premise that bodies age, houses fall,
money is made and lost. That we all need to find a still place beyond our
conscious minds where we observe ourselves, recognise the mortality of our
bodies and the immortality of our souls. That's where peace is found.
quite the opposite of dogma, fluid as knowledge and change itself. Don't
judge people, he said. Hold beliefs as ideas rather than dogmas-they may
change with new knowledge, circumstance. That frees you from misery-no one
is absolutely bad, or absolutely good-nothing is as bad or as good as you
think it-nothing is absolute. Everything changes.
understood what the scientist from America who has made the ashram her
home was talking about. Sri Vasudev's essential message is recognisable in
modern psychology and psychiatry.
is about taking charge of your mind, directing your thoughts, finding a
cool centre to retreat to, rather than being flung about by circumstances.
ashram community is diverse, from a Canadian postal worker, a Bajan
acupuncturist to abused children from the neighbourhood-people who have
been searching for meaning, and who, in the process of counselling
troubled souls, working with the children or in the wellness centre, find
a purpose in their lives.
woman addicted to drugs and alcohol said she was able to replace all those
holes in her heart created by addictions with her life here-rising at
dawn, meditating, doing yoga, preparing meals and washing up in a communal
kitchen, putting her academic background to use in the farm.
is night-time now, and I can see the flares from the refinery, many
torches lighting up the sky.
narrow paths are dark with wild canes. Time for chanting. I am astonished
to find that the scattered thoughts vanish with the night breeze, that the
chant was a lullaby, comforting, a kind of faith.
the chants continued - Sanskrit words, in praise of courage-I felt that
quivering centre of mine get stronger.
are still a few hours to go before I leave. Quiet can be weighty, a time
to recognise how fragile we are, how easily swallowed up by the earth, how
thinking about what Sri Vasudeva said-that no one should go around with a
begging bowl asking for love. That we must love ourselves first.
I write this my phone, which went mysteriously dead within minutes of my
arrival here, rings.
is a friend. We giggle wickedly. My sister calls. We talk with comforting
familiarity. My husband calls. Simply says, when are you coming home?
beckons with a rush. Yet my clamouring mind has been quietened. For now