Tantra, mantra, fortune tellings and unfortunate tailings … what a week the penultimate week has been!

The second to last week of treatment has been one of the strangest, toughest, most exhausting and, perhaps, most exhilarating, yet, and it has almost nothing to do with Ringo and Miranda. They are great as always, if rather busy. No, the emotional rollercoaster of the week is due to other forces taking over – both for good and ill.

First of all, late on Saturday night as I am walking home from a much-needed dinner at Laguna Vista  – Guruji having given us a surprise (and surprisingly long) Satsang, no doubt in the interests of recruiting more people for the workshop due to start the next day – I am attacked by a Great Dane of a dog standing in the road. Not barking or jumping up as most of the dogs here do but minding its own business, I do the same. But whether it’s the lingering smell of the garlic naan and vegetable saag I just demolished or the sight of my (less than juicy) ass wiggling by, it wanders past behind me and decides to take a bite, savagely sinking its teeth in without any warning and walking away just as nonchalantly afterwards.

Needless to say I am shocked and scream out some obscenity, grab my left buttock in pain and check to see the damage. Two or three red and bleeding puncture marks. I’m limping, I’m annoyed, I’m concerned. What if I have rabies? “I’ve just been bitten by a crazy dog,” I tell the Indian ladies I run into moments later. Okay, not crazy in the foaming at the mouth sense, sure, but crazy in the one-moment-its-quiet-the-next-it-has-my-bum-in-its-mouth way. “Why you walk alone?” they ask. Like the dogs here, women always go in packs, especially at night. It’s only crazies who got it alone. But I am alone, tired and have no wish to go to the hospital tonight, so I find what I can amongst Gosh’s ointments to dap it with – some alcohol and some left over spray can of iodine – and try to go to bed. I have to be up early for the start of Tantra Mantra Yanta, that is, if I can walk in the morning and am not rabid and/or delirious with infection by then.

The next morning, however, I am none the worse for wear and get to the Space early. But, telling Yolanda my story, she is wide-eyed in horror: “you have 24 hours to get a vaccine,” she tells me. “If you have rabies, there is no cure.” Great! I’ll go at lunchtime, I say, and off we go to start the workshop – a few hours of chanting, a break for breakfast, make a yantra, more time to sit and drink chai (or, in my case, get a double shot of rabies vaccination; because prevention is the only way to avoid death by rabies) more time to sit and chant, then the piece de la resistance, covering ourselves in brown paste and sitting around – yup, you’ve guessed it – chanting. Manta mantra manta….Ommm

This last for several days. By Wednesday, however, Gurji’s Tantra Mantra Yanta is over and if I have one more person asking me how it was I think I will scream.

For you see, my first response as we settled in on Sunday early morning was ‘interesting’ and at first it is. I like chanting the easy simple mantras “Om” and the seed syllables for the chakras as a group, tuning into the vibrations created in your throat, body and in the room at large, losing your own in the communal voice. I like making the yantra and am grateful to finally learn what a yantra is – a kind of mandala made of coloured rice; beautiful, representing the symbol of the chakra we were working with: in this case, Muladara. I like rubbing myself all over with a brown paste of Ayurvedic herbs; and I love the fire ceremonies we do on the final days. I’ve always enjoyed a good bonfire and these are amazing. And I do feel moved by the offerings we make. But the long afternoon of chanting an interminably long mantras, whose meaning no one explains – 45 minutes altogether, 45 mins in our mouths silently and thank god we were let off another 45 minutes in our heads – when I was getting faint with hunger and feeling like I was about to pass out, not so much. Nor the incredibly uncomfortable bloating in my stomach that follows, leading me to seek out Ringo early the next morning.

Apparently though, I am not the only one who struggled with the long hours of sitting, the inconsistent eating schedule and the pain of sitting sukasana (easy cross legged – easy?! my aching knees!!!). Whether it made that individual as angry, frustrated and as close to tears as me, is uncertain. But when we finally finished at about 4:45pm, I am just overcome with hunger – no longer hungry, struggling not to cry and just wanting to be left alone. Perhaps this is a natural, to-be-expected reaction to all the energy work that was supposed to be happening. But who’s to say? I feel unsupported in the experience, rightly or wrongly, and am doubting very strongly the efficacy of the whole process.

This is not helped, I’m sure, by the results of the body scan Guruji performed on us the first morning when we hugged him. My chakras, he says, are totally out of balance. The End. I kind of knew this already, but what I am supposed to do to correct the imbalance I am still none the wiser about, and my question to him about my stomach problems is also unanswered. But perhaps I am foolish to think that my physical problems can be healed through energy work. There are plenty of people here willing to tell me that my trouble eating are to do with blockages in my lower chakras, that they can heal these with crystals or mantras, etc. But as yet… Ringo’s pink digestive tonic seems to help best, if anything, and I am very glad to get back to the clinic on Wednesday…except for all the excited, eager, greatly anticipated question how was Guruji?!?

Like me, whether consciously or not, almost everyone has high expectations, and I for one neither wish to disappoint or be disappointed. So I modestly reply that I am refraining from judgement, but how can one refrain from judgement when even that is taken a judgement? “How do you mean?” they ask. And of course, what I mean is that I am trying not to be negative and closed off to the potential powers of a kundalini master, but for me the whole experience was such a rollercoaster of ups and downs, and at times just seemed so unproductive or unsupportive of what I am trying to do here – so much in conflict with the treatment I am getting at the clinic – that I can only feel a bit cheated!

I am trying not to feel any of these negative emotions, as I understand how much resistance the mind puts up and that just as the lucky are those who believe they are lucky so (the theory goes) these critical voices may just my ego resisting the powers of good that are trying to unblock my chakras and lead me to enlightenment; and that a real guru is someone who works so subtly that he could well walk past you in the street and you would never know, but that his energies will be working on you anyway.

In other words, not all that glitters is gold and I should not be looking for fireworks and lightning-strike miracles, but being open to the fact that this ordinary man, a father to a baby boy who is making his first crawling movements as we sit around meditating, is completely competent and conscious of what he is doing, and that it is all for my best, even though (my Ego raises its head to say) he hardly seems to be doing anything or to be here much at all and we are given long breaks of inertia between long sessions of chanting without much explanation of the rituals, meanings or process. I am trying not to be cynical because I understand that this is a deeply sceptical/epistemological problem that we have here: problem that is, about how we can truly know anything, but especially that which is beyond ordinary human comprehension – and that I am a novice in all things tantra, and that I seem to be the only one who is doubtful, and who wants to be that? The only one not vibrating and pulsating with amazing rising energy just because I am too stuck in my Western mentality of “seeing is believing”?

But whether it is Shakti (a powerful energy located in Muladara chakra, at the base of the spine) stirring or just my own conflict at taking time out of my Body and Bone schedule to sit around chanting a lot of long, difficult mantras I do not understand, I am left feeling angry, annoyed and irritated by the experience, both at the time and money invested and by the lack of guidance on where to go or what to do next. ‘ Hence, whenever someone asks me how it was I want to avoid answering, because this is not the response I want to have, nor does it necessarily reflect the reality of the situation. Just because I am doubting the efficiacy of the process is not to say that it is not working. On the contrary, it might be proof that it is. Yolanda, who I respect very much and who has a lot of experience as well as professional interest in tantra gurus, is also refraining from judgement. The test, she says, will be time and I am happy to go along with this too.

So, straight from Guruji to Psychic Sue: Tuesday was a day of prophecies and predictions, some more predictable than others. For while Guruji’s advice was typically Indian, that I should get a family because I will need to be taken care of in my old age – a person from my own community he was specific enough to add; the Intuit’s was of quite another sort. I will not reveal all this English mystic had to say, but it did quite take my breath away and leave me wondering is that really what the future holds? Then, great! Bring it on.

Thanks to the rabies boosters I pop into the hospital for, at least I can rest assured it is not that!

The best news, however – and most pertinent here – was that the worst of my health worries is behind me. (And my chakras are not irrevocably blocked!) Picking up on the history of eating disorder, she said that I have the situation more or less under control, explaining that the planet I am from in my past life had a scarcity of food and, being still connected with that, I am likely to always prefer to eat little and often; that intuitively I know what is good for me and it is only the mind that has been bombarded with conflicting messages. “If you can choose when to eat and listen to your system,” she said, “it works very well. You naturally choose very nutrious foods, and…” she says eagerly, “I like your cooking! Do you cook?” All in all, she says, its an issue that is bring resolved, and throughout the rest of the week this is the message that comes to me from various other sources too – from Gosh in the kitchen early morning, from the Irish Chinese acupuncturist who puts me under a state of near labotoby solmnolence and calm, and from Ringo at the clinic this morning – Friday – when he checks my stomach. It is okay, he pronounces, and for this day, don’t I know it!

Last night, Louise cooked for us. I was hungry and ate with gratitude the lovely food she had lovingly prepared with good prana and spices from the Spice Farm. This morning, I woke up hungry, went to the toilet, left the clinic before stretching class to go home and eat the most peaceful, quiet, blissful breakfast, and then, a second one an hour later, my stomach responding very naturally both times. Then I go to see the acupuncturist, David, and feel the Chi flowing as he puts the needles in. I swim in the sea with energy, drink ginger and cardamom tea and feel amazing. I feel myself, my body, my life, all mine, back to me again. Me, and not me, but part of a universal consciousness that ebbs and flows but that right now is flowing in sync, a part of nature and not separate or antagonistic to it.

Treatment is almost over, just a few days left next week, and I am looking forward to doing yoga again once I get to Rishikesh where I will meet up with Louise for a chai (and beyond), seeing my family and friends back in England in March and …whatever else the future holds. Who knows? I may have had some clues and insights this week, but I also know that “we still have judgement here…” And on this bank and shoal of India, I’d quite like to dive straight in and swim with all my life and light.


One thought on “Tantra, mantra, fortune tellings and unfortunate tailings … what a week the penultimate week has been!

  1. The way you wrote this and the style of humour made me laugh so much. Anna thought I was crying in bed as she lay in the bath. A winning combination . I can tell you conquering some demons ….the little devils.

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