Aneesha shares insights she has gained in her life, and particularly in recent years, as she is moving from an extrovert to a more introspective life in preparation for the ultimate adventure.
I have written a lot about Osho Pulsation, Tantric Pulsation, and Celebration over the last many years. Now I would like to share a more personal article, one that reflects where I am in my life journey, and what is important to me now.
Teaching and training in the work of Pulsation has been my passion and my joy since my early twenties when I trained in neo-Reichian emotional release and body work. As extraordinary and wonderful my years of work as a group leader have been, I notice that something is changing for me in my life. I write about this because I’m sure it’s not only me who is experiencing these changes. My whole generation – the so-called ‘baby boomers’, and so many sannyas friends from Pune who are entering ‘senior-hood’ – are all facing major changes on many levels as we age.
In his commentaries on the Dhammapada, Osho talks about an idea that was current in the time of Buddha, about the four cycles of human life. The first 25 years of life are dedicated to education and preparation for making a living in the world. From 25 to 50 one lives as a householder, fulfilling all the duties of family life. The third cycle from age 50 to 75, is called “facing toward the forest”, when one is still involved in outer life, but preparing, through study and meditation, to turn inwards, away from the world. In the fourth stage, the world is fully renounced and one becomes a sannyasin.
As I pass through my mid-sixties, I recognize that there is a shift in my interests, as well a desire to slow down, to meditate more, and to work and travel less. I have begun to realize that with my insanely demanding work schedule, I don’t manage to maintain a solid, steady meditation practice; and this suddenly feels more important. I want to have a regular sitting practice that can support growing deeper roots into my being.
In some ways my life has become one-dimensional, in that it is too mobile to deeply relax into what is most essential for me now. When I do manage to listen to my still, soft, inner voice, I sense there are other tones and colors inside me, calling to be heard and expressed. I feel a longing to pursue different, fresher, untried aspects of myself.
At this juncture, it feels important to allow a dis-identification from my long-cultivated self-image. Being a traveling Osho therapist has been a significant chunk of my self-identity for most of my adult life. I understand that this identity is, in large part, a mask that I wear. A more essential part of me nudges, with increasing insistence, to drop deeper and just be still and quiet for awhile.
I have reached a time in my life when I know clearly that I’m much closer to the end of my life than the beginning. My days are numbered, so to speak. Let me be clear – I am as vitally healthy now as I have always been. But even if I live for many more years, I know that from now on anything could happen to the body, and sooner or later it surely will. At a certain point in life, aging, illness, and death become intimate companions on the path – whether we are conscious of it or not.
Recently I have been reading Irvin Yalom, an American psychoanalyst who is now in his mid-eighties. He has spent a lifetime working with people in private and group psychotherapy. Together with his patients, he looked deeply into the issue of death. Yalom has uncovered a myriad of presenting symptoms which, when examined more closely, can only be expressing, or obscuring, an underlying, unconscious fear of death.
Of course we are afraid of death! We have no idea what will happen to us when we die. And most especially it is the ego that trembles, the sense of the individual “I”, the illusion of a self that is separate from the rest of existence, that finds itself at a loss in the face of death.
In our society, to speak of death and dying has been considered by many a matter of bad taste, or simply unacceptable. In modern times, the inevitable aging and illness, decay and death of the body has been hidden away in hospitals and old-age homes. We spend our lives ‘whistling in the dark’ so to speak, avoiding the truth of the impermanence of the body and our limited time as embodied, alive beings.
Over the years I’ve heard Osho speak so much about death. We are urged again and again to acknowledge the truth that the life of every individual, whether plant, animal, or human, has a beginning – birth – and an end – death. This is how nature functions; it is not an aberration, and yet we treat death as if it were something unnatural. Much of the misery and suffering that we experience in life has to do with our unwillingness to see and accept this. Most humans unconsciously cling to the illusion that we will somehow ‘beat the odds’ and manage to avoid death.
In the spring of 1978 Osho gave a discourse series called “Take It Easy”, based on the doka of Zen Master Ikkyu. In almost every discourse he spoke about aloneness, emptiness and nothingness, and the significance of the moment of death. I loved this series and listened with rapt attention as Osho described the freedom and joy to be found in the experience of emptiness, and no-self-ness.
This was really unknown territory for me – I so much enjoyed the feelings of fullness and engagement in dancing, singing, celebrating, and involvement with people and groups; I really thought I was an extrovert. These discourses turned my attention inwards, towards an inner depth I had barely met, and I realized that I was much more introverted than I had imagined.
In discourse one morning Osho answered my question about this, and told me,
“…for the first time you are coming closer to your natural climate. Now don’t forget it, it will be of immense help. Once you know who you are naturally, then things change. Then you don’t go on groping in the dark, then you start following a certain direction. Then your life has a sense of direction. Then you don’t waste your energies all over the place. Then you know what is for you and what is not for you.”
This new understanding of my natural climate pointed me in the direction of Vipassana meditation and I discovered a new passion – silent sitting meditation, watching my breath. Towards the end of Poona One, as my meditation deepened, I became very interested in death – not because I actually wanted to die, but for the formless space death implies. Osho’s proximity, and the daily dose of grace he showered upon us all, seemed to open inner doors to the formless, to the emptiness of being.
Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, Osho left Pune for America. In an instant, the world I had come to rely upon disappeared almost overnight. It felt like a kind of death, but it also contained an element of mystery that unfolded into new, unexpected directions. On the Ranch in America, sitting meditation took a back seat for awhile, as I plunged with enthusiasm into the world of work as meditation.
After the Ranch, back in the world for awhile, I was drawn to read the books of Stephen Levine and Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, who were the contemporary ‘gurus’ of death and dying at the time. Their teachings led many people in the eighties to work with dying people, and they wrote about the very significant transformation of consciousness that is possible at the time of death. I again became fascinated by the mystery of death, the unknowable-ness of death.
In my thirties I had an intuition that when I got older I would work with dying people in some way. Looking back, I had no clear picture of how or when, but somehow I could ‘see’ it out there in my future. Now, in my sixties, the idea has resurfaced, and I feel excited to dive afresh into this long-held interest.
In California, where I now live, I recently completed a two-year End of Life Caregivers training at the Metta Institute. The Metta Institute’s founder, Frank Ostaseski, also founded the Zen Hospice in San Francisco during the Aids epidemic in the eighties. Ram Dass, who has also worked extensively with the dying, was one of our teachers in the training.
Through this training I have re-discovered sitting meditation, and the value of maintaining a regular meditation practice. We know that meditation grows our capacity to be present with another, as well as with ourselves, in the moment. In the context of learning how to be with dying people, the Metta training is built on a foundation of Zen Buddhist Mindfulness practice. And it is an excellent preparation for my own inevitable end of life.
As I age, I become more interested in the psycho-spiritual and transformational aspects of the aging process, and how life can be lived to the fullest, even in the face of illness and dying. I have discovered a rich literature in this growing field of compassionate end-of-life care, and plan soon to train as a hospice volunteer. I am creating a new group called “The Forest Years: Transformational Aging”, to explore the issues relevant to aging and end of life.
Over the coming years, I plan to give myself more free time and space, to slow down enough to hear my own quiet inner voice. I will continue working with people, because I am nourished deeply by this. But I welcome these changes as the ripeness of life reveals its unique treasures.
I feel like the seeds that Osho planted in my being all those years ago are coming to fruition now as I age. Establishing a more regular meditation practice becomes more important as a preparation for my own end of life. I consider this a very precious time, and I don’t want to miss it!
Aneesha has been a disciple of Osho since 1976, and has mostly worked as a therapist in his Multiversity, as well as teaching Pulsation neo-Reichian body work around the world. Tantric Pulsation developed in response to Osho’s suggestion that the work of Reich should be developed in collaboration with Tantra. Aneesha’s book ‘Tantric Pulsation: The journey of human energy from it’s animal roots to it’s spiritual flowering’ describes this collaboration, and is available at Amazon. oshopulsation.com
A Forest Years workshop is scheduled at Miasto, November 9-12, 2017, more dates and locations but not yet confirmed.