The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book:
SING YOUR SHADOW DANCE YOUR DEMONS
The chapters describe an outer mirroring and experience from my time in the Ashram in India that is later understood in a deeper way...
1. A MIRROR
The people gathering around Bhagwan were a most varied breed and came from all walks of life, some with high standing and fame in the world, some with no outer credentials to show for themselves. There were stockbrokers, heart surgeons, multi millionaires, famous movie stars, world-renowned therapists and International growth movement leaders. And there were housewives, gang members, hippies, farmers, mechanics, private dancers, librarians and schoolteachers. But what we all had in common was a personal, undeniable and inescapable pull towards the energy Bhagwan emanated, towards his teachings, his meditations, and his personal presence.
For some it was perceived as a deep and devotional love, for others as a profound meditative spaciousness. We all had our own stories of how we got there and they were all amazing and poignant.
There were personalities in the ashram whose company I would never have sought out if I had been anywhere else. The misfortune of being associated with “such characters” was one of the judgmental arguments my mind had come up with as reason against taking sannyas until I intervened with the point that I did not have to be part of a “group”, but could have my own connection with Bhagwan regardless of what others were doing around him.
I later learned that almost everyone there had their own, very personal connection with him; that having a spiritual teacher is a utterly personal thing and not a group phenomenon, even though it may look like that from the outside.
As it were, I would naturally get drawn to some sanyassins as if they were ancient friends while others stayed on the periphery of my life in the ashram unless I had been requested to work with them or otherwise accidentally made a connection.
I was soon to learn however, that nothing happens “accidentally” and some of the people I judged the most would in time become profoundly dear to me and very close to my heart.
A few days after I took sannyas Deepti and I had moved from our blue hotel room by the railway station and into a servant’s quarter of a stately Indian Mansion situated just around the corner of the ashram in Koregaon Park. Deepti knew the owner from previous visits and with her usual skill managed to get us a room at a very good price.
Our space was on the ground floor and had its own entrance, a heavy, carved wooden door with lacquer cracked by sun and weather. It locked by pushing a strong black iron bar through two hoops, one attached to the door and the other to the surrounding doorframe. When it was in place we could hitch on our newly purchased padlock and lock it with the key. There was an iron bar on the inside as well so when we were both home at night we would lock it from the room. We both had a key but it would take a little communication and awareness not to lock each other either in or out, which we learned by trial and error!
The space was about sixteen by eighteen feet and had a black and white checkered marble floor, which felt nice and cool in the heat. The walls were freshly whitewashed and from the high ceiling hang a big, wobbly fan. Adjacent to our room a door with light blue paint led into a shared kitchen and we had to go outside to get to the bathroom, which consisted of the regular hole in the floor framed with matching ceramic foot steps on the sides and was complete with water faucet and plastic pitcher, as well as a simple shower coming out from the wall.
We had been to MG Road, short for Mahatma Gandhi Road, which was the big main road in this area of Poona, to do our first big shopping and arrived back in an overstuffed rickshaw full of the essentials such as mosquito netting, futon mattresses with cotton filling, bed sheets and towels. The rickshaw driver had requested extra money for the “furniture delivery” and was miraculously granted at least a portion of his wish by Deepti, who was turning out to be fair while maintaining her boundaries.
Now our room was organized so we had a side each with our beds surrounded by the mosquito netting which provided a kind of privacy screen, and our dorm-like abode felt good and homey.
Many sanyassins lived in similar spaces since there were many of these huge Villas sprinkled all around the area close to the ashram.
I had heard about a young German sannyasin woman who lived not far from us with her little daughter of about 3 years old. Many people were upset with this woman about the way she treated her child and had tried to talk to her but to no avail. She would scream at the child and even beat her and often leave her alone, locked into the room for hours on end, even overnight, when she was off to the ashram or doing other things.
This Spiritual Community, as most ashrams, did not encourage children and had no facilities for childcare so those who had brought their children with them to India would usually have to find a caretaker or “Aya” amongst the local women. The German mother however saw no need for this and would not receive any assistance from the sanyassins living around her either.
I had just walked out the back gate of the ashram - a small wrought iron piece of art - which was attached to the fence that ran all around the compound. There were fuchsia colored vines with bright yellow centers trailing in and out through the pickets sending a sweet honey like aroma into the air as I passed, waving my hand to the guard on duty and making my way towards my new abode.
Walking by the area where the German woman lived I peeked towards her room remembering the stories I had heard and I noticed her door was open.
Hesitantly I stopped for a moment curious to see the little girl and also anxious about the mother being there.
Their home was one of a row of servant’s rooms situated in a long, low building. A dark blue door centered their space and even though it was open I couldn’t see anything inside the room because of the bright sunlight outside. In front of the building was an open courtyard with an old pump in the middle. It had a chipped concrete base big enough to sit on.
I started moving towards it when I suddenly heard a child’s voice calling out in German to someone inside. Startled I stopped where I was and the next thing I saw was a very tiny child with fine blond hair in a faded red dress running out from the room into the courtyard. Her eyes were squinting against the strong light and she didn’t see me at first.
She was so small, so delicate somehow, and transparent. The feeling in my heart overwhelmed me. A sudden strong surge of warmth welled up from inside of me towards this little being and intuitively my energy and body moved towards her full of care and compassion. I was just a few feet away from her when she saw me. I felt warmth flowing out of me in big soft liquid waves, my arms reaching towards her.
As if she had been hit by this tide she stopped abruptly. For a split second we were just there together, her and I. Then her little face suddenly contorted into inexplicable terror and she let out a deep hoarse sound resembling “Noooo” as she turned around and ran back into the darkness of the room behind her. I heard the sharpness of a woman’s voice and the heavy door was slammed close.
I stood motionless, stunned by the intensity and speed with which everything had occurred. I still felt the fullness and glow in my chest and belly. What had happened? Why did she react as if she had been burned by this energy? Why didn’t she want the love that was there for her?
I walked back to the road in a haze, slowly making my way down the road to my house.
I was shaken by this experience for a long time and not until years later did I understand more than viscerally what had happened.
When I eventually came back to Poona to stay “forever” and work in the ashram I was granted a personal "energy" Darshans with Bhagwan every three months and sometimes even more frequently. These Darshans changed over the years, but the main format was the same: a close up meeting with Bhagwan in the form of a wordless energy transmission between teacher and disciple. He would usually touch your third eye or heart and stay connected with you in this way for a while allowing the energy to pass through him into you. You would never know what you could expect to experience…or how you would feel afterwards. Some people felt nothing, yet changes, radical or subtle, would occur in the following days or months. Others would have powerful experiential encounters, which could be both on an energetic, spiritual, emotional or physical level and at times bring deep shifts in consciousness.
It wasn’t unusual after one of these Darshans to see the receiver collapse in an orange puddle on the mosaic marble floor in front of Bhagwan and have to be lifted up and placed somewhere in the hall where they might take hours to “recover”. Some of the guards were even called “lifters” because their job was to lift people that weren’t able to move by themselves.
Along with the energetic transfer from Bhagwan there was usually intense chaotic music with many drums, flutes and other instruments. Early on Bhagwan also started using a group of women as his “mediums”. They would be present with him on the podium and fortify the energy by allowing it through their bodies as well, swaying and dancing. For some years the energy Darshans developed into so-called “blackouts” as well, and in addition to all the above, Bhagwan would signal for all lights to be turned off for a period of time during the peak of each encounter. This would happen not only in the hall, but all over the entire ashram and to me it felt very special. No matter where you were you would stop, be still and connect inside and also with Bhagwan and the people having Darshans. We all became one organism.
One of my scheduled energy Darshan dates was coming up. I had been feeling the old longing for love and “being close” a lot lately as a sharp wound stinging in my chest. In this ashram where so much joy and love was so readily shared and utterly available I felt the isolation of my imprisoned heart strongly. The moments where the jail doors opened and I was able to fly out to meet the soft, nurturing eyes and embraces extended to me, were vibrant and ecstatic. But they were still few and fairly short-lived compared to the time I seemed doomed to spend watching others live. Too often I found my self having to decline the invitation to join in, not knowing how to break out of the hard gray shell that encapsulated me. The sweeter my encounters with life and love, the longer and more endless the time in-between seemed to be. I was longing for love in this place where love was everywhere.
Walking to Darshan I felt the familiar soft, cool stillness descend on me as I passed the “sniffers” and was making my way down the pathway along Bhagwan’s house. The pungent smells of Tuberoses and Gardenia reached me in waves of sweet aroma and I could feel the silky smoothness of my long dress caress the skin of my body. The stone pathway felt warm under my feet, still holding the heat from the day. The Chuang Tzu Auditorium felt different at night all enveloped in the velvety darkness and a constant buzz of cicadas and geckos. It felt safe and sacred, womb-like somehow.
The hall was dimly lit with a golden glow around the area backing up to the House. It was about one third full and there were maybe 20 more people behind me, so we would have a relative small intimate Darshan by the look of it. I was assigned a place to sit towards the front and quietly rolled up one of the Silk lunghis I had brought with me into a firm roll and tugged it under my tailbone for support as I sat down. The other shawl was to protect my arms against the ever-hungry mosquitoes that would feed unabashed on anyone who sat still for more than a short moment. They were known to be the greatest challenge to meditators throughout the ages.
The musicians were tuning up their instruments and the last people found their places in a quiet unobtrusive way and soon an expectant hush settled over the space. I felt a slight tightness in my throat and chest and took a deep breath, letting my body relax a little more. The sounds of the ashram outside were muffled and seemed far away. Occasionally the cry of a peacock would pierce the air. There was a gentle wind moving and it felt good just being here.
Then there was a rustle up at the front. The door to Bhagwan’s rooms was opened by Vivek and along with Lakshmi she flanked Bhagwan as he with his hands raised together in front of him floated towards us exuding innocence and delight. As if in one motion everyone in the hall raised their hands in Namaste and I felt the now familiar surge of joy and sweetness rise from my heart as I returned Bhagwan’s greeting.
There were more and more people taking sannyas every night now and tonight was no exception. I always loved watching how he was with each different person; how he seemed to be able to reach them so effortlessly and melt away any resistance in the most unusual and surprising ways. I thought that aside from everything else he was also a master therapist and I was grateful for any chance I got to be at Darshan to witness and learn from this magic.
After about an hour the energy Darshans began. The intensity seemed to increase with each one and I would feel my body tingle or buzz even from where I was sitting.
Finally my name was called. I quickly made the short way up to the area where Bhagwan was sitting and was as always almost blinded at first by the light and energy close to him. He motioned me to sit down in front of him, turned around to say something to Lakshmi and then returned to me with kind presence. I looked at his face. He had fine features. His upper lip was almost entirely covered by his mustache and his chin was hidden by a long flowing, soft-looking beard that was mostly gray with a few strands of black. When he laughed or smiled some of his teeth would show. His eyes were big and dark brown framed by perfectly shaped black eyebrows and his skin had a golden luminous glow.
As I looked into his eyes I didn’t seem to find any particular expression on his face. I felt the muscles in my own face slightly tight. There was no expression coming by itself from inside of me and I was not about to create one. There was no point in pretending. Actually I needed not to pretend, to be able to stay with what was truly happening. I allowed my face to just be. And I felt the longing for the delicious lightness I savored when warmth and feeling would pour out from inside of me by itself. But that wasn’t happening now. Again I felt the yearning for love, for closeness and connection. I wanted Bhagwan’s love.
“Nidhi” he said, his face very close to me. “Gently raise both your hands and let them meet mine”. He stretched his arms forward and extended his slender beautiful hands for me to touch his fingertips.
The instant our hands connected I felt as if I had received an electric shock and it took all my will power to keep my hands in place. As if catapulted in the opposite direction by a forceful magnet every cell of my body was rebelling and wanted to push away from this intense energetic current.
Through this encounter I was given a profound and sobering realization.
I did not want this love.
For love to enter the place in me that so desperately needed it, I would have to open the doors of the vault that kept all my grief and despair so securely safeguarded; If I were to let love into this part of me I would have to revisit the places I unknowingly, but most fiercely protected.
Just like the little German girl I was screaming “Nooo” with every part of my being.
2. THE LOVE THAT IS ALWAYS HERE
Over the years my experience has deepened around these mysterious amazing weavings of old experience turned perception that becomes belief and structure, and how these weavings make up a reality that is not real.
Like the encounter with the little girl in India and my experience in Darshan with Bhagwan we may feel we want something, we may want love, but we don’t seem to be able to have it or to make it happen.
We don’t understand why.
We are not in touch with the many interwoven layers under the surface of our immediate awareness.
Just like there can be layers of clouds in the sky blocking the rays of the sun, it is a gentle step-by-step process for these energetic layers to unwrap themselves and clear the way. And when they finally start moving aside, each shift allows more light.
At a point in my life I had been moving through a long period where there would be a repeating theme or state “Velcro-ing “ itself to me in a very challenging and painful way.
Someone might express what I interpreted as a negative opinion about me, a judgment or “labeling”, and I would perceive it as unfair, hurtful and that I was not being seen. I would end up feeling misunderstood, condemned, unloved and at times very upset and wanting to protect and defend my self. It would play like a court case inside me and I would be manic with arguments in my own defense. I understood the connections to my history, but even though I could see what was happening I could not let it go. My mind would be turning and spinning and constantly return to the issues. My body would be in agony with agitation. My belly would be tight and hurting and it could be hard to breathe and sometimes impossible to find rest or go to sleep.
Underneath the spinning and unstoppable loop in my mind that was preventing the energy from going down into my somatic experience, there was also a collapsed sense of being a victim. At times I would be revisiting the pain and despair of my little girl and feel the way I did when sitting in my small “in-between living room and bathroom” space, exiled by my mother because I had “done” something she considered bad. I revisited the enraged and despairing feelings of powerlessness and utter heartbreak. Yet some deeper level seemed inaccessible to me.
At a certain point during these years some difficult outer circumstances with a landlord, who was not taking proper care of the house I lived in and yet had a way of turning responsibility and effects of this malpractice unto my husband and me, catapulted me into a rage that was beyond anything I had experienced.
The situation of disrepair had been going on for some years and had now come to a peak with an emergency in our home that was threatening our health and truly rocked our instinctual sense of security. The song that was constantly going in my mind was: “Where were you when I needed youuuuu …” and as was my way I allowed my body and voice to express what was arising to further connect with the energy. I remember standing at the sink doing dishes when my body started unfolding its own momentum, and when anger began moving I sensed that I had to drop what I was doing and remove myself from anything that might break. In the corner of my mind I feared I was going to loose it and go crazy. Rage was building like an oncoming storm. My voice and entire being was absorbed in its expression and it felt utterly freeing and powerful and fantastic although there was a sense of riding a very thin edge of not knowing at all where this was going to take me. Yet there was enough trust and a sense of my own capacity to allow and hold. I was in no way doing any of this. It was an effortless powerful energy happening through me.
It felt like a band across my solar plexus was coming alive and pumping black fumes and substance and the effects were clarifying and cleansing. There was screaming and growling and roaring, and my legs where hammering the ground while my arms where swinging like windmills whipping the air.
By the end I felt like the atmosphere must feel after a thunderstorm. My breathing was light and supple, my body grounded, my solar plexus open, and my feet, legs and pelvis buzzing with energy, having foundation and roots deep into the ground. My voice was strong and clear in spite having been used fiercely and continuously throughout. There was a sense of substance and strength, an ability and courage to stand up for my own being and send off any arrows of judgment and condemnation coming at me. A sense that “these judged qualities are not mine…. not for me…go elsewhere and leave me be…get off me! I don’t care what you think about me…those thoughts are yours, not for me. “
It was a space of “ I do not care what anyone thinks of me. All that matters is that I have ME, my life energy, my strength.”
It was an encounter with my childhood mother, whose echo was also living inside of me. And this time we had reached critical mass and the ancient fear had given way. It felt like victory…like re-inhabiting myself…like coming home. It was an encounter with anyone from whom I had ever felt judgment or misunderstanding. It felt like a final reckoning with anything that was not on my side.
And something had been cleared out of my solar plexus area. There was a new black softness there and a heightened sensitivity.
Some days after this I was sitting with beautiful women, who was sharing the difficulties she had in her youth trying to care for her little special needs daughter in the right way. She often hadn’t known what to do. As I listened I was suddenly and viscerally struck by what felt like a thick substance of love that flooded my heart and being. It made my entire body shake from its force. My mouth and jaws started to move and sobs rose from deep inside me. The deep love this woman had for her child was tangible to me and in this recognition I suddenly knew that my mother loved me. She had always loved me. Her wounded structure made her suffer and not able to participate fully in this love. But it was there regardless. This love that permeates everything was always there, for me…for her....for all of us.
I felt grief for my mother…grief for me…. grief for our human conditioned structures that render us blind and cut off from this love. And I saw the workings of my own conditioning: My early life experience, when I was completely receptive and available to love, of arrows coming at me - both energetically and in words - had been a shock for my young system. The pain and shielding in my solar plexus was a useful and learned attempt to protect from the horror and agony of this.
And there was understanding of how this experience and resulting shielding had made up my perception of what is…created my sense of reality.
In the mysterious interwoven ways of life’s unfolding a veil had been lifted. I had been given a powerful glimpse and a key for myself. I began bringing alertness to the shielding pattern in my belly area, recognizing my automatic learned reaction and misunderstanding, which caused rejection of love.
I began to touch into the love that is always here.
Nidhi Rice offers a variety of healing modalities including sound, body and vocal expression, inquiry, somatic experiencing and subtle energy work.