Madhuri describes her first encounter with meditation and the fear this creates (in all of us)
The local book club in this small town in Missouri read my book, and then asked me to teach them meditation. We had several weekly meetings, with the few who actually showed up (the others, hearing I liked to warm up with a little loose boogey, said they did not like to dance, and would not come.) We did Kundalini, and listened to Relaxing the BodyMind, and did candle-gazing; nothing that would freak them out too much, for they tended to be paralyzed with self-consciousness in case somebody should see, and neither did they want to experience discomfort.
A pattern soon emerged; if I met the women in town they would say enthusiastically that they were looking forward to coming this week; but then they would not show up. Since I would have carefully thought up just the right meditation, and then cleaned the house, and so on, I was inclined to feel cross! But then I remembered this:
I first experienced Dynamic in a church basement in San Francisco in summer 1973. Blindfolded, I dove headlong into the cluttered darkness inside me, and I lived there as best I could for an entire hour, facing the murky chaos. When the meditation was over and I removed the blindfold, I knew some line had been crossed – this strange world of the interior was going to have to be explored.
In December of that year I went to Bombay and met Osho. I had no knowledge whatever of spiritual teachings, methods, masters. I just sat there all flummoxed while he put a mala over my head, and all sorts of strange buzzings, throbbings, and electricities commenced inside my head, feet, chest. And I obeyed instructions: Dynamic on Chowpatty Beach every morning! Plus the special meditation he had given me to do!
Then, working at Sheela’s parents’ farm in Baroda carrying dirt in bowls atop our heads! Then the wild, moist, howling, jumping, screaming meditation camp in Mt. Abu! I went for all of it as hard as I could. (It still delights me that Osho said to my sister in a private meeting, “Even I was surprised at Madhuri!”)
But simultaneously, running on a parallel track, another thing was happening: I was terrified, my guts were being torn open, my bones were showing, I was being dismembered, broken apart down to the marrow, down to the howling sky. I was so scared that I spent my money as fast as I could so that I would have to leave when my 6 weeks ticket was up! I bought sarees, and had outfits made, and bought jewelry, and statues, and god knows what all. I even bought presents for people I barely knew and felt no real connection with. It was difficult to get my money spent – the hotel was only eight rupees a night – but I did my best.
The other thing I did: I stopped eating. I cut my portions waaaay down, and very quickly became extremely thin. I did this in order to maintain a feeling of control about something. Osho could get into my vitals and dismantle them, but he could not make me disintegrate utterly, because I still had the power to refuse food.
When I got off the plane in San Francisco in my new khadi cloth trousers and shirt, my rich Jewish forty-ish professor boyfriend (I was twenty-one) said that I looked like a concentration camp victim, that this was not good, and that he did not like it. He said the clothes I had brought back were all cheap-looking, poor quality. That, he said, was India. I didn’t care. I felt exhilarated with my scrawniness. I had done it! I had made something happen!
I had no plans to return to India. Osho had said I didn’t have to wear orange, so I was swanning about in my hip, skinny clothes, lost as a cat on the moon.
One evening my boyfriend, who loved going to psychics, took me to one in a house in a leafy suburb. We entered a room crowded with books. A fat woman in a print dress sat in a chair behind a desk on which reclined a black feline. The woman stared at me. “If you don’t go back to your Master,” she said sternly and without preamble, “you’re going to fall back to where you were before!” And that is all she had to say to me. I had not had time to say a word.
Still I did not listen. I did Dynamic every morning. I began to eat one meal a day and the rest of the time drank Tab, a vile diet cola.
Four months later I went to a party with a friend and the punch was spiked; with the sort of thing people spiked punch with in those days. I laughed all night. In the morning as I drove home through the fog I knew that I did not want to live, as I had been, without laughter; I knew that I would go back to India. I did not know how; I had spent my savings on the first trip.
Two days later I got a phone call from a girl I knew. “I’ve just inherited money, and I want to go to India,” she said. “I don’t want to go alone. If you’ll come with me I’ll pay half your ticket.” Three days after that we took off from San Francisco. I carried with me just a tote bag containing an orange turtleneck, a pair of orange trousers, and a loaf of sourdough French bread as a gift for my sister. I thought I’d stay a month.
After one week I knew that in this place of unspeakable loveliness, in the hushy, dripping monsoon, I could save my life. I never left again until we all did.
The anorexia took a year to come out of. Osho never badgered me, never gave the disorder a name, nor had I ever heard it named. He just said, “Eat more fruits and wegetables!” when I had broken my fast with barfi and become briefly ill. He just sat there Being, and it was that Being that gave me the courage to face my terror. Here was someone who sat in Light – so it was possible. Just knowing this, seeing this, was the rapier which pierced the murk.
Text and illustrations by Madhuri