A taste of Navanita’s teaching about learning to remember to listen to the body and loving it! Interview by Punya.
I meet Navanita at my favourite coffee shop on top of the ridge between the two beaches (Arillas and Agios Stefanos). She had arrived with two cars, accompanied as she was by a few participants of her group The 6th Sense: First Move, Then Understand, the culmination of a two-year training called Dance Body Essence: Somatic Movement and Natural Dance which is presently held at our Corfu Buddha Hall.
I attended the open class on Saturday and the stretching class this morning, overcoming my innate laziness because I needed some personal experience of her work before meeting her, and a bit out of courtesy.
Walking into the hall I noticed the 1:1 maps of the human body shown in various layers; the reason of their presence was revealed to me later. At first we were invited to feel our bodies from within and to savour the ‘yumminess’ inside. Without effort and without any ‘shoulds’ I felt my heart opening to this body which has been with me for so many years. I slowly danced towards the windows of the hall and while looking into the garden I experientially understood what it means to love nature, to love our planet. The thought came that unless we learn how to love our own body by listening to it, we will not be able to love and care for our planet either.
By looking at the charts we learned where the organs are and how they look like, how many vertebrae we have in the spine, and how far into the head the spinal column reaches. I found out that there is actually some space between the vertebrae and I liked knowing that. While slowly moving I sensed that my spinal column grew, it felt more flexible and I visualized internally that the spaces glowed light green. After giving the inner organs some squeezes and stretches through bending in one way and then the other, I sensed how refreshed they felt, how much more room there was between them.
I didn’t quite understand what Navanita meant by saying “through movement you come into the Here and Now”, until I started experimenting and walked around the hall like a young coloured man: lots of fluid movements in the body, no great sense of direction, just enjoying the movements in my body. I immediately came back to myself, into the ‘now’, and having a ball with being there I looked around and discovered in wonder the paintings hanging on the walls next to Osho quotes.
The instructions were given live or over the microphone and were sometimes translated. I first wondered who was speaking, because Navanita no longer speaks with an Australian accent which was so typical and endearing in Pune when she was running the lunch-time stretching classes or the Dancing with the Master meditation. The voice did not have that tedious, condescending, ‘compassionate-loving-understanding’ tinge we sometimes hear from other group leaders. I thought that maybe it was just me that felt this way because she is my old friend, but those around the interview table confirmed that they also feel she is ‘like an old friend’. So refreshing!
Navanita is so much part of my ‘closer family’ that we did not even count the years we had not seen each other. We just went on from where we left. As part of my homework before meeting I had read up on her bio and found out that she had been a sprinting champion. Of course, as sannyasins we rarely talked about our lives before joining the ‘club’, but it made perfect sense because in my mind’s eye I had always seen her as a ‘jaguar’, as someone who enjoyed the movement of her body to the max, and could hardly sit still (or be serious for that matter!). By the way, I also found out that in our cells there is a lot of humour!
On the Ranch we worked together in the foundation crew, pouring concrete into six feet deep steel-reinforced holes, clad in cute pink outfits and scarves, a fashion invented by ex-model Hari Chetana to make fun of the heavy duty jobs we girls were performing. Her laughter was and still is infectious, and could be recognised from afar.
When we heard about her bus accident in 1994 it was a total shock for all of us. To think that this ‘jaguar’ had broken both legs and even her back! I visited her a few times at the hospital across the street from the Osho Commune, but the sight was so devastating that tears still come to my eyes when I think of it.
“It was the best thing which could have happened to me,” I hear her say to me today.
In hospital, during those long eight months there was plenty of time to meditate with her body (something she had taught herself already as a child). She asked the body how it could heal itself and she listened to the answers. This search lead her to become what she calls, a ‘spiritual body detective’, and the quest continues!
Her teaching skills come from being a trained PE and creative dance teacher and finesss instructor, from the many contributions to therapy groups in Pune, and from the many years she has conducted her own workshops. She often facilitated Osho’s last meditation Talking to the Body/Mind, but she always felt that there was a missing link. She remembered that Osho had acknowledged that he had not found the best way to teach the meditation and that he had opted for one way: hypnosis. Maybe, had he had more time before his death he would have experimented further, the same way he had done with all other meditations. Navanita feels that through experiencing the body from the inside the meditation takes on another dimension: it becomes a direct, tangible, conscious experience, substantial and empowering. Everybody is encouraged to perceive it in his or her own individual way.
The expression “The body is your best friend” which I read in her leaflet, appealed to me immediately. For a long time Navanita had been looking for an alternative to the phrase “Love your body”, because when we hear this imperative we immediately say to ourselves “Oh yes, I am a bad person, I do not love my body.” With “The body is my best friend” we can just go and find out for ourselves if it is true or not. Then the body responds – and nods.
The interview takes on a momentum as if one of us sitting around the table is going to write a book or at least a thesis about her findings (surely some of it will be available in this magazine quite soon). I am thrilled to hear what she has discovered about the systems and cells we have in our body (bone structure and muscles, lymphatic, nervous, vascular and endocrine system); they all have their ‘voices’. While listening to the message of the heart and blood the students understand that as the blood reaches out to receive the vital oxygen inside the lungs, they also learn that it is healthy and vital to be open to ‘receive’. I also get the message while she illustrates it with her arms stretched out wide into the air. “Yes, the heart is reaching out to receive! Giving and receiving are essential to live totally.”
The lymphatic system teaches that we can protect ourselves but instead of contracting and making ourselves small, we can take that power inside, into the heart of the body. This was an important learning for many students in Russia, Navanita says. Interesting is also that the ‘voices’ of the systems are the same wherever she is teaching; bodies are all the same, no difference between countries.
For many years she had been labelled as the girl who ‘just’ teaches how to move the body, even in our sannyas community. Osho explicitly says ‘You are not the body, you are not the mind’ but we interpret it as if the body is of no importance. It is not widely understood that through moving and connecting with the body not only will we be fitter, but that many psychological problems can be solved. Navanita emphasizes “it is important that we give strength and healing to all the cells first before dealing with the trauma. We cannot move in there aggressively, otherwise it will just come back.”
According to Navanita the tendency nowadays in all healing and therapeutic circles is to give more importance to the body. This explains the increasing interest in Somatic Movement Studies. After three years of training, Navanita is now also a Somatic Movement Educator; she says that the vocabulary she is using is similar to theirs because it fits well with her discoveries while doing the detective work through her own body and that of others during the workshops and individual sessions.
Although three hours have passed, we all still look fresh and radiant and could have gone on into the night if it weren’t for our cold feet. The participants were a journalist who promised to write more about Navanita’s work, two women from the medical profession (who can apply what they have learned from her in their own profession), her driver/assistant, and her translator for the German participants in the workshop. They are running off now to do the Kundalini meditation!
The following day I attend Navanita’s open class Divine Drunkards. Nisha, the caretaker of the Corfu Buddha Hall and I are the only ‘outsiders’ – everybody else is part of the training. The warm welcome I feel in their eyes and gestures touches me deeply. I feel Navanita surely has her own special way!
Text by Punya for Osho News