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Published: October 27th 2008
Osho Leela is a friendly, open and welcoming place. The large house consists of beautiful rooms with wooden floors and massive bay windows, many of them converted into dorms for the visitors, two kitchens, a dining room, reception rooms, and large gardens, where some of the residents live in caravans and pine lodges. A lot of the people, an eclectic mix of men and women, who live here are sannyasins
, ‘renunciates’. However, sannyas
, traditionally the Hindu asceticism adopted by those who renounce the material world in favour of spiritual pursuit, carries a different meaning in Osho’s universe. His sannyasins
are expected to follow a celebratory, rather than ascetic lifestyle, allowing a deeper, inner transformation through transcendence, rather than denial, of desires. Hence, Osho Leela regularly houses many parties, festivals and celebrations, such as ‘conscious clubbing’ weekends. This philosophy makes a lot of sense to me, in particular after living in Indian ashrams and witnessing that premature suppression of natural desires and even addictions can often backfire severely, especially, but not exclusively, in young renunciates. Desires, like unprocessed emotions, don’t just ‘go away’ only because you deny their existence. Sooner or later, they will rear their head again with a vengeance, and
because of their connection with guilt and outwards pretensions, can re-appear in a much stronger and darker form.
My first day at Osho Leela starts at 7 am with a ‘dynamic meditation’. Osho believed that the modern Western mind does not meditate well naturally, and therefore needs to engage in some form of dynamic meditation to ‘prepare the ground’. He said ‘if people are innocent, there is no need for dynamic meditation. But if people are repressed, psychologically are carrying a lot of burden, they need catharsis.’ Dynamic meditation, he said, helps them clean the ‘backlog’, after which any method can be used. I really believe that to be true: you can do all the yoga and meditation in the world; if you haven’t dealt with your psychological and emotional baggage, then it’s only part of the story.
Dynamic meditation consists of four stages: deep fast chaotic breathing, a bit like the kapalabhati pranayama (rapid continuous exhalation) I normally do as part of my yoga practice - just much more... chaotic! It’s quite a disorientating experience, designed to loosen you up and get you out of your head. In the second stage, you ‘playfully act out your madness’
- in practice, this means lots of screaming, swearing, punching the air and stomping around. The idea is to purge anything that’s in your system, whether you feel angry, sad, tearful, and so on. In the third stage, you jump continuously and shout ‘hoo’, then stop for the fourth stage and freeze exactly as you are to observe what’s going on inside the body. The fifth stage consists of celebratory dancing to beautiful Indian music. At this point, after all the screaming and shouting and jumping around, I feel free, flowing, alive and joyful, immersed in dancing sensual temple dances for Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna. I imagine myself to be in an Indian temple, only, when I open my eyes, it’s a large photograph of a bearded Osho, not Shiva, that meets my eye, but I don’t let that perturb me.
After breakfast, the community assembles in the group room for the daily morning meeting. Expecting a dry board room meeting, I am surprised to hear loud club music blasting from the room. I enter and see some of the community members dancing vigorously to songs such as, ‘I like the way you move’. Well, I think, if
you can’t beat them, join them! Unusual it may be, but it proves to be excellent fun. I feel like I’m in a club, only it is 9 am, the sun is shining, and we’re not drunk. I can’t stop smiling. What a fantastic way to start the day! After the dance, it’s hugging round. I give and receive big warm, heartfelt hugs whilst we say ‘Be the master (or mistress!) of your life’ to each other. Then, my CEP buddy and room-mate Sarah and I receive a virtual ‘welcome shower of love’ and the actual labour division starts. I spend the morning in the kitchen with Medah, a first-generation Osho sannyasin
, preparing lunch, whilst listening to and singing along to Indian mantra dub. The Lords of Karma have a funny sense of humour. Without fail, each and every time I stay in an ashram or community, I am condemned to kitchen work, as though they knew how much I loathe it. At Mandala Ashram, I spent three days chopping vegetables in the kitchen - I wasn’t supposed to, but one person fell ill and I was asked to cover for him. I remind myself with a wry smile that
transcendence of aversions is part of the tantric path. And actually, it’s really quite good fun when it’s done in community. With the right attitude, work becomes a meditation, and I manage to create a lovely, colourful salad.
Wednesdays is community day, and it starts with the ‘AUM Meditation’. When I first hear this term, I imagine us chanting ‘Aum’ continuously in true blissful, yogic style. I could not have been further from the truth. The AUM meditation, originated by Veeresh, is a ‘social meditation in which you learn to master your emotions by expressing different states of mind, moving from one polarity to the other.’ You can read about the entire process yourself at ; but in short, it consists of a number of stages. We begin at 7.30 am with dancing to a couple of loud music tracks to get us into our bodies, followed by a stage which is called ‘Return to Hell’. In this stage, we stand in a warrior position, face another person in the room, and shout at them with all our might ‘I hate you’, or, in my case as first timer, ‘NO!’ and ‘I’m angry.’ We do this continuously for
about twenty minutes with different people. The point is to rid your system of any tension and negativity, and really exhaust yourself with that, which is said to open the door to love. I find it to be a welcome, cathartic release, although screaming continuously on top of your voice can be pretty exhausting. Stage Two consists of our approaching of another person, looking into their eyes and saying ‘I’m sorry if I hurt you’, followed by a long hug. At this point, I am in floods of tears, although we haven’t reached the crying stage yet. The screaming release tends to free up the emotions that are stored beneath the anger, quite often sadness, pain and regret. To me, it feels as though every person who has ever hurt me is apologising through the human being in front of me, and I, in turn, am apologising to everyone I have hurt. It is very moving.
This is followed by a sequence of ‘shaking’ the body, and the crying stage. In this stage, we sit closely embraced with another person and simply cry, perhaps remembering a sad event of the past that we haven’t processed fully. It may sound
strange to be ordered to ‘cry on command', but it’s not difficult at all. My partner for this phase and I sob like there’s no tomorrow. It’s amazing to observe waves of buried grief emerge in this process. We wail like mourning women of the Middle East, a cultural practice I have always felt envy for. After about fifteen minutes, we transform the tears into laughter in the laughter stage, followed by a ‘going mad’ stage, in which we are encouraged to let go of everything we still carry, without holding ourselves back. If we can’t go all the way in this exercise, the leader of the meditation says, we will always hold ourselves back in life as well, holding ourselves back from living life to the full. After all this emotional release, we engage in the ‘Dance of the Lovers’, expressing sensuality and sexuality through dancing with our selves, followed by a round of ‘Namaste’ and more hugging.
It’s a hugely cathartic process, and afterwards I feel as light as a feather, alive, bouncy and full of energy. And, I am told, this was only a mini-AUM, normally the process takes much longer, hours or even days! It’s a somewhat unconventional way to start your morning, but the community does it every week and I can really see the sense in it: it’s good housekeeping, getting all the emotions that we in the modern world are so encouraged to push down and ignore out of your system in a safe way.
Yes, life at Leela is intense, in the spirit of Osho who said: do everything fully and completely. Embrace and enjoy whatever you are doing, until you are ready to let it go. (The community is taking this seriously and has set upon building a fanciful 'Smoking Temple' for the few community members that still smoke.) And, although it’s a very different experience for me, I am really enjoying my time here. I love the yogic path deeply, especially the more esoteric aspects of it such as the fire ceremonies - yet I have often wished that there was more free flow, more letting go, more uncontrolled authentic movement, as in my other love, shamanism. The Osho mix feels like a balance between the two, between East and West, masculine and feminine, body and spirit, and yet it seeks to transcend all duality. This union, this dance between the path of love and the path of meditation, I believe, is what more and more of us are striving for these days.
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