I’ve been in Australia for just over four months now. Time has flown by since I last updated this blog, and it has taken me some time to get used to being in a different hemisphere. After disembarking cargo ship MV Bahia on 27th
August, I spent a week in glorious Sydney, where I wandered around in the Botanical Gardens and in vintage shops, sang kirtan at Govinda’s, and saw ‘La Boheme’ at the famous Opera House. Sydney is beautiful and vibrant, and was a nice place to get used to being in civilization again after a month at sea.
Finally, on 2nd
September, I hopped on a train to Brisbane, Queensland, to meet Sameer, my reason for coming to Australia (see previous blog for background). After a loooong journey along Australia’s coastline, I arrived at Brisbane Transit Centre in the middle of the night, where Sameer was to pick me up. I felt somewhat dazed after endless hours on trains and buses, and a little nervous, too. What would it be like to meet him after three years of intense communication over the internet? Would it be awkward? Was I crazy to cross half the world by cargo ship just
to meet him?
When we finally met, in all of Brisbane Transit’s Centre neon-lit glory, it wasn’t strange or awkward at all. It was completely natural, as though we had known each other all our lives and just been apart for a while. Sameer pulled me into a big hug, then pulled my suitcase at a breathless speed to the car park, and we drove off into the night. We’ve been together ever since. The transition from writing and talking online to actually being with each other has been surprisingly smooth. Looking back, our meeting was a magical and unexpected unfolding of a friendship that slowly turned into love, and one that now rests on a strong foundation, no matter where it will lead. In the three years that we knew each other before we even met, lots could have gone wrong, but didn’t. We both lived in different continents, moved jobs and locations many times, met many new people, but the interest in each other never faded. We were with each other all the time, no matter where we were in the world. So it’s therefore unsurprising that things took this turn, and though it’s early days in
some ways, it’s those years that have given us the knowledge that if it’s meant to be, love can grow and be sustained in the strangest circumstances.
Viewed from the outside, we’re an unlikely couple: an Indian auditor and a European yogini priestess who met via TravelBlog. And of course some of this can be a challenge, especially for a free spirit like me. Yet it’s our love for India, travel and spirituality that connects us, together with a much deeper connection that can’t be named or explained even if I cared to try. Crazy as it seemed at the time, I’m glad I listened to my heart and crossed the oceans to meet him, even if there was no guarantee of it working out.
Sameer lives and works in Toowoomba, a small mountain town about two hours drive from Brisbane. It’s a visually beautiful place, full of parks, gardens, trees, plants and birds –but, as I noticed all too soon – it’s utterly boring, too. Especially for me, having just left New Mexico with all of its spiritual and cultural riches. On my third or fourth day here, I was literally shell-shocked. Toowoomba is extremely conservative, a
family town with family values that has the dubious reputation of being Australia’s ‘incest capital’. If you’re a vegetarian, forget eating out - there’s one organic cafe called ‘Oxygen’, which is the town’s culinary saving grace with a couple of veggie options, but that’s about it.
Nonetheless, other than connecting with Sameer, I had decided to come here to finish the final edit of my book ‘Meeting Shiva’, so I reasoned that lack of distraction would probably be a good thing for me. I spent my first week relaxing in a small place called ‘Eco Ridge’ in Preston, about thirty minutes drive from Toowoomba. It’s a wonderful eco retreat in nature, complete with solar panels, wood burners and worm farms. With its wallabies and giant hedgehogs, it was the perfect place for me to acclimatise to being in rural Australia.
Thereafter, I rented a small studio in a large garden from a lady called Wendy who found me on Gumtree. It’s a writer’s paradise: large panelled windows overlooking lush plants, herbs, vegetables and trees (kiwi, avocado, palm and more), and surrounded by chickens, two dogs, guinea pigs and a cat. It’s a stone’s throw from Queen’s Park and
the Botanical Gardens, and as close to nature as you can get in a town. So, I whiled away my days editing my book, doing sadhana, networking to meet some like-minded people (difficult but not impossible: I met some very interesting people, and recently gave a talk on Ayurveda at a monthly spiritual networking club), trying out Ayurvedic treatments and advice on Sameer and others, and getting out at the weekends to visit Brisbane, Gold Coast and ashrams in the surrounding areas.
In fact, it’s the areas by the coast that are a lot more interesting, in particular Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Byron Bay. They are vibrant and full of spiritual/yogic happenings. In Brisbane, we participated in an awesome seven-hour fire ceremony in December facilitated by a Guru-ji from Canada; it was a monumental prayer for peace where many Sanskrit mantras were sung vigorously and copious amounts of ghee and samagree were offered into the sacrificial fire. At the end of the fire ceremony, Guru-ji led us into offering fruit into the flames, as well as a huge piece of cloth to the sounds of dynamic drumming. On the same weekend, we also attended a fabulous kirtan chanting
night by Australia’s own Kevin James, which completely melted our hearts. He tours the worlds with his chanting circles, so try to catch him if you can!
Brisbane is also home to the infamous Peter Kennedy, a Catholic ‘rebel priest’ who was sacked by his Archbishop for ‘contravening aspects of Catholic doctrine’. Peter Kennedy adheres to Advaita (non-duality) theory and the teachings of Indian mystic Ramana Maharshi, practices Vipassana meditation and is just a tad too liberal for the Catholic Church by welcoming women priests and homosexuals into his congregation. Therefore, after 28 years as head priest at St Mary’s Parish, he was ordered to pack his bags. Undeterred, Father Kennedy led his 1000-strong flock into exile. He, together with his associate Terry Fitzpatrick and other supporters, now leads eclectic services at the TLC Building in Brisbane that consist of meditation, inspirational readings and discourses, the Eucharist and prayers. If you want to find out more about Peter Kennedy, a book called ‘The Man Who Threatened Rome’ was published about him, and a documentary called ‘The Trouble with St Mary’s’ (http://thetroublewithstmarys.com/
) was recently released. For more information on upcoming events, see their website: http://stmaryssouthbrisbane.com/
So, with these contemporaries,
my time in Queensland hasn’t been as uneventful as you’d think. However, eternal nomad and pilgrim that I am, I recently got itchy feet again. Not necessarily because I’m averse to staying in one place; but because Toowoomba just isn’t the place for me. So I decided to visit an ashram in the bush near Byron Bay, about four hours drive from here. There, I made the delightful acquaintance of the enigmatic Swami Prem Samaya, and shared my living space with beautiful pythons, kangaroos and gigantic spiders. You can read all about my adventures in Samaya’s ashram in the next article! Links to some of the places and people we have visited and loved:
EcoRidge Retreat http://www.ecoridgehideaway.com.au/
Kevin James http://kevinjamesheartsongs.com/t
Avatar’s Abode http://www.avatarsabode.com.au/
Ananda Mela http://www.anandamela.org.au/
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