Living in the Mind
I've been here for two weeks. I'll no doubt be here for at least 6 more before I get to explore more of this or any other country. I've seen lots of people arrive and leave Dharamshala and I keep having to remind myself I'm here for a different reason. I'm here to do a job, to help this Tibetan youth movement. It's a good job. It's my priority.
But with Hannah and Rob gone and my sessions for the Tibetan youth workers beginning in earnest, I thought it's time to look at some of the many classes on offer here. Yoga. Reiki. Meditation. Tibetan or Indian cooking. The tourists flock here for these things.
I met an Israeli and an Iranian, both of whom had been on a Tai Chi course. It was just beginning again. Three hours every morning for three weeks. 8000 rupees (about 110 pounds) - hugely expensive for this part of the world, but these two people told me it was special.
I turned up at 8.30 the next morning. The spot was idyllic, in a clearing in the forest about 500 metres above the main town. I'd never done Tai Chi before. We started with some simple exercises, shifting weight from one foot to another and swinging our arms. The teacher, a Canadian-born Chinese guy now living in Amsterdam and teaching his way across India, had a good voice for it. He put us at ease and let us get on with it.
Something happened a few exercises in. We were standing rooted, lifting and lowering our arms very deliberately, trying to feel every millimetre of air. Eyes closed. After one or two minutes, my head felt very warm. My chest felt constrained and I had a general tingling sensation all over. I kept going but within seconds needed to sit down. Once I'd rested I got up to try again, but almost immediately the same thing happened. Next time we broke to sit in a circle again I told the teacher. He said it was quite normal. We were channeling energy and my body wasn't used to it. I was amazed and started looking forward to stretching my stamina and capacity.
In between exercises the teacher would give readings, things he said he'd learnt from various teachers and gurus. "You are not the mind & you are not the body. The 'I' underneath is pure consciousness, pure love, pure beauty." Or more mundanely: "The quality of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. If you have shitty thoughts, you'll have a shitty life. If you have beautiful thoughts, you'll lead a beautiful life. Think about it."
It's not that I disagreed. But something about the way he spoke made me wince.
No more energy fireworks in the Tai Chi itself. But at the end, when we were holding hands in a circle, concentrating on sending round a pulse and a chant, it happened again. I had to open my eyes and deliberately detatch.
The teacher told us we might start feeling very tired after practicing. We might start sleeping 10 or 12 hours every night. I went up to him at the end. I said I was concerned it might infringe on my responsibilities to this organisation I was volunteering for. He looked at me and smiled.
"Nothing has happened yet. You're living in your mind, in your fears. Yhis course is about self-mastery. You have to do it and see what happens. You have to be OK inside yourself. You're not going to gain any benefit from any job until you're OK inside yourself. It's up to you. You can go on living in your mind and your fears or you can work with us on developing yourself. If you don't want to be free, that's OK."
Not humble. Not compassionate.
I felt he should have added: "Oh and by the way, it'll cost you 100 pounds. No installments, please."
I decided against the course. I'm going to some yoga and cookery classes. And I'm getting on with running the seminar. Feeling good.