I’d gone for a long walk on the beach, as I had done every morning since arriving in India, turning the cogs around money and relationship. “How can I grow my business?” “How can I feel more financially secure?” “Am I creating a business that people want?” “Am I offering something of value?” “Should I end this dalliance with him?’ “This isn’t a relationship” “It’s a relationship” “Is this really what I want, or have I created another distraction to something more fulfilling and intimate?” “What should I do?” “Where should I go next?”
I sat at a little beach restaurant and ordered a juice. My mind blending and macerating thoughts and questions and worries and incomplete answers. Instead of deep breathing and appreciating the view of the ocean in front of me; its shallow frothing waves unapologetically licking the shore, I pulled out my phone to check emails. Can you believe the audacity of the scene? Me, in India, on the beach at the crack of dawn with all the possibility of clarity of mind and space before me and there I was checking my phone. In some defense I had been expecting a call that I needed to take but it was not guaranteed to come in that morning but I had my phone; just in case. Just in case I would miss something that I couldn’t possibly wait 45min to find out, just in case an un-promised phone call would arrive, just in case the revelation I needed would miraculously appear in my inbox. Yes, that’s it; I was waiting for revelation.
After my walk I was booked to have an emotional release session with a long haired bearded Indian man named Vipin who I was told was the ‘real deal.’ For the past two years I’ve resisted the healing arts in Goa. It’s an oversaturated healing town with no shortage of long haired, bearded gurus waiting to feast on your insecurities. But, for some reason, when my friend Aman pointed to Vipin sitting on a sandy beach lounge with some friends and said “he does good work”, the decision was made immediately – perhaps without my participation – when I passed him on the beach the following day and booked a session, without thinking about it. I learnt to trust that the moves of my body a wiser than my mind sometimes – an observation I learned from my friend Judy.
So, after long walk on the beach to the soundtrack of worry and fatigue, I found myself laying on a dusty mattress, the hot air hanging mercilessly around us cut occasionally by an ocean breeze, when he dug his heal into the sole of my right foot and said “You have been thinking too much about money.” I immediately laughed out loud, and he laughed too and then I couldn’t stop laughing because, up until then, I had felt so alone with my thoughts that it was as if I was the only one in the world who knew about them. So alone in the pirouetting of lack and worry that those thoughts had become the heaviest, most complicated burdens that could be decoded by only the most intense inner struggle and disconnect. Then suddenly, almost joyfully, this sweet, calming stranger just demystified my stress as casually as if he told me I needed more salt in my soup. It made them sound ridiculous. But, in a strange and subtle way, hearing this sweet, calming, voice giving a foreign accent to those thoughts told me that I was heard.
We both laughed more, and then I cried. A relief and then a recognition. Was that my revelation?
He carried on and as he worked up my leg, with the heel of his foot, like he was ploughing the field for a ripe harvest of fermenting emotions, the pain was excruciating in the most dense and inescapable way. I kept thinking of childbirth and wondering if I would cope with it. I’m not pregnant and have no possible path to childbearing in my sights right now but still, these thoughts arose and I respect the workings of my sub-conscious mind. This is what emerged from the place in my mind I can’t control.
Then he mentioned my childhood.
“It was stressful?” he said, in the Indian way where a statement was the same as asking a question.
“Unstable” I corrected him. Ok, yes, maybe stressful might be a better word I thought, but I didn’t say that.
His heel bore down on my inner thigh and he asked about my parents; all was good there, I told him.
Then I yelped for dear life; the release of whatever toxins and or deeply buried emotional memories he was trying to squeeze out, had me reaching for the fetal position to make it stop. “You have stressful relationships” he told me; a clear statement with no ambiguous question lingering. Yes, yes I suppose the distance I create; either physically or emotionally causes me stress. I want so much to be in a healthy, intimate relationship – but I have to wholeheartedly admit, I’m wondering if I know how to have one.
And this is how it went for an hour. He bearing down into the deepest part of my fascia with his heal, intuiting my life story and the little hurts and the big joys that I’ve neatly packed and stored in my body, while I occasionally yelped for dear life, breathed like a woman in labor or told him to fuck off. When it became too much he held my head, stroked my hair and hummed “you are only body, no mind.”
At the end of our session, after extricating his foot from my thigh, he sat beside me and said “Your heart chakra and your sex chakra not connected” in his broken English. “Sit, close eyes, meditate.” Our session was at an end and this was his final analysis. And in the deepest part of my being, I knew that he was right. The ‘sex’ chakra he was talking about is connected to foundation and to home. It is the part of our lives where we feel safe and grounded. The heart is how we express true, deep, vulnerable love. Often, to feel safe in our foundation we have to be honest and open in our hearts. Or something like that!
And, there I sat in meditation. My mind drifted, not able to hook itself. There was no worry, no fear, and no end goal. Without reason, images of mandala’s swirled themselves in woven patterns and I followed black trails that only seemed to connect and flow without any direction or purpose.
And then I lay down. I had one hand on my heart and the other on my belly. This was my first emotional release session and I felt like I was not my body, or my mind. I just wasn’t thinking at all. I was both unmoored to thought but tethered to feelings that seemed to float and feed me in succession; one by one, organized and patient. Not the usual barrage of thoughts and feelings that seem to come at me like a stampede most days.
I lay there, my mind floating, above and within. Beyond and beside me. I was feeling nothing and everything at once. Or, maybe having the experience of nothingness. My fingers tingled and I felt like a shape of wet cement. My body shaped wet cement.
Later that day I took another walk along the beach. The sun was setting to my right, and I was heading south away from the maddening crowd of the heaving drum party and toward the quieter end of the beach. It was the same direction I had walked earlier that morning but my experience now was vastly different.
The quality of my thoughts had changed. I was ‘back in my body’ as we often say in yoga. Which really meant that I was back in the moment, feeling the sand underneath my feet, paying attention to the dogs and children running around me, appreciating the color and diversity of the people walking past. I wasn’t thinking about what I didn’t have or where I needed to go or how I was going to do it all. I was like that Mandala in my meditation, moving with no attachments and without the need for an end.
The mandala is a Buddhist and Hindu symbol meant to represent the universe. There are many interpretations of what a mandala is, and what it symbolizes. But, essentially it is infinity. The never ending journey of living and life. Some of the most impressive mandalas are those created by Buddhist monks where they spend days, sometimes weeks, using colored sand to create the most intricate of mandala patterns and then, once finished, they’ll destroy them. It’s a reminder to let go, a lesson in non-attachment. For me, they represent the beautiful chaos of the world; that we can move in such vastly different ways to each other and yet, we’ll overlap, we are connected.
I didn’t know why the mandala became such a strong image for me during that mediation, or why it kept weaving its pattern in my mind over the course of the day. But, I kept walking until the vast ocean and the stretch of sand ahead of me began to feel like a secret shared only by myself and a few others.
To my right I watched the sun evanesce into milky shades of blue and pink and orange until its shape dissolved into nothing more than the sky it inhabited. There was no sun and no distinguishing cloud, only an illimitably lit dusky sky. And I thought about how this is all it will ever be day after day; the sun rising, the sun setting. The infinite pattern of universal movement.
Then, I walked toward this; a woman deeply concentrated in the making of her mandala in the sand. She was bearing her heel into the sand, twisting and turning, to make her mark. I smiled a little, and felt profoundly duped. There are always little reminders, small gestures and great offerings. And just then, I knew that everything, inherently was right. I had my revelation.