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Published: Verve Magazine, Features, August 2009

Giving up a neurotic SoBo life to spend time at a yoga and meditation camp for 10 days may not be as difficult as it sounds, and could be a process of self-discovery finds Sitanshi Talati-Parikh

In our jet lagged, jet setting, jet spreeing and jet skiing lifestyle, is anything worth the effort of waking our numbed consciousness into a half-awake stupor, struggling to comprehend the deeper meaning of life, whilst a cock crows its loudest best? I struggled with these, and a million other questions, as my Loved One held our destiny for the next ten days at ransom, to a Presumptuous Class that claimed to ‘bring clarity to one’s life’. It was so passé, so trite and so cliché. But at 5 a.m., as Loved One, quite matter-of-factly dragged me out of bed, I realised that this was one dawn that I would have to see, with my eyes wide open.

As we sped down the clear morning roads – I gasped. The Arabian Sea was a colour that I can only describe as cobalt blue – a hue I had never before seen in our often-murky seas. My cranky desire to hold back, to not like Presumptuous Class and to prove to Loved One that I had given it a shot, but it wasn’t working for me suddenly seemed very inconsequential. I reached the location and stood grudgingly, waiting for something groundbreaking to happen.

And then, Aura walked in. I can only describe her as Aura – because she simply had a powerful presence, a persona that seemed to float above the ground, which seemed rooted in reality – one who could joke, smile, look grim, shed tears, and yet was beyond it all. She, of the fair face and lustrous hair, made us work on our ‘inner self’ – from within to without; through meditative exercises, emotional workshops, and spiritual discourses. She took me to a point where my heart bled, and I realised that we often live our lives in non-experiential non-existence. When the myriad emotions and emotional baggage that we subconsciously or unconsciously carry around with us get a chance to find a way out, it creates a clean slate: accepting the things that weigh us down, exploring them and then letting go of them. It is a catharsis for the soul. Aura was serene, as serene as I would want to be from the inside – the quietness that I often miss, and then forget how it feels in the noise of our lives – emanated from Aura, and her wispy fingers touched my soul, reminding me what it meant to be quiet, free, and happy.

Aura ran a tight ship and a strict regime – no latecomers allowed (and she was picky down to the second), a raw food diet, meals only when designated. And, in our boob-tube lifestyle, Aura had the gumption to suggest discarding television, newspapers, magazines, tea, coffee, smoking, inebriation and what-not-else, from our ‘sensational’ existence. Sigh…I could taste the fondue, bite the chocolate, relish the pizza, and devour the curry, but all only in my fertile imagination. Mohammed was going to the mountain, and the climb was exhaustingly uphill.

The next week was a roller coaster for my mind and body. Every morning, ritualistically, I would struggle out of bed and speed down the snaking road, by the cobalt blue seas, towards Aura. Every morning, Aura would batter my mind and soul, pervading my Intelligence, Emotional, and Spiritual Quotient. I felt myself simmer down into a willing and subdued silence, whilst another part of me jumped up with questions to the statements and answers to the questions.

Pranayama began our mornings, as we eased the art of holistic yoga into our lives and spirits. They claimed that at the end of the week, I would be a happier, jumpier and more exuberant person, completely revitalised. The cleansing process had begun. As I sat back on the threadbare mat in vajrasana, biting back a feeling of discomfort, I pondered about the luxury we leave behind, making the superhuman effort to accept this simple lifestyle. With breaks for herbal tea, fresh juices or light uncooked meals (ashgourd raita, anyone?), I realised that the only valuable allowed here was an open mind.

The days were now longer, and yet not as stressful. I could go on for longer hours without having to compromise on time or work. I was beginning to feel lighter. I could now understand, how, living years like this, I could become like Aura. But could I live like this for years? Already, friends howled and tormented Loved One and I, since we had absconded into yogic delights, leaving behind the neighbourhood of the blissfully alcoholic and the late night seekers. I was now living at a plane, where I never saw the people I used to see, and felt removed from it all. It was a distant memory that seemed to fade and hover in the sky like a lazy cloud, unwilling to move, but ready to pour down on me at any moment. I knew my weightlessness and enlightening of spirit would be washed away in that downpour.

What hovered at even more dangerous proximity was the Silent Retreat: two entire days of yoga, meditation, raw food, discourses, oneness with nature, and above all, silence. There was a strict regulation on not speaking or communicating with anyone during those two days. As a part of our ‘learning exercises’ we wandered blindfolded on the barbed-wire hills, entrusting our fate into the hands of a person who was a stranger before this camp. As we remained abandoned in the rainy woods, hungry, tired and unwashed, finding that what we take for granted is the most beautiful thing of all; as we spoke our minds, shared our thoughts and opened up our emotions to strangers, I realised that it is easy to just be.

Silence is often considered evil, something dreaded as akin to loneliness, and it is easy to succumb to the anxiety that the thought of silence breeds. Left adrift in our own thoughts, in quiet environs, I suddenly found that my mind and its monumental and continuous thoughts often drowned out the greatest sounds of all – the sounds of nature, the sounds of stillness. And shockingly, in these sounds of stillness and nature, my own normal thoughts came rushing back with renewed clarity and vision, crystal clear. We often want to say so many things, that we really need not say….

Back in the midst of commotion and chaos, I realise that the life I have carved for myself forces me to break free from the shackles to regain sanity. And yet, we live in this reality. As soon as I was back, into the world I loved and yet was often exhausted by, and into the never-ending partying circuit, I realised over cocktails and conversation that my newfound enlightenment could only be applied bit-by-bit to every moment of my day in this insanely chaotic world – and it would automatically unfold into a fabulous coherence. In the very end, it all boils down to who we want to be, or not be.

The author attended a corporate Siddh Samadhi Yoga course taught by Najoo and Manoj held in Mumbai with an accompanying Silent Retreat in Manor.