Sagarpriya describes the Conscious Living course which she gives at the beginning of the season at the Osho Miasto Centre in Italy
It’s March. It’s cold on the Tuscan hilltops; it can even be snowing. But the staff of Osho Miasto is returning after holidays to gear up for the new season, and everyone knows that the work will be practically non-stop until the next New Year’s Eve.
With the advent of Miasto’s newest program for work meditation, called ‘Living the Commune’, there will also be additional people arriving who have never participated in the workforce before. And everybody—both the seasoned and the new people—will attend a six-day training of which I am the leader. It is about using life situations to help you grow, about finding your center as you work, about not losing the bliss of meditation just because you’re involved in goal-oriented activities.
I love this little adventure, because I get to work, too, alongside everybody else. With a few such courses under my belt, I already know more or less the general structure. Every morning we take on the tasks necessary for Miasto’s functioning. Before we start, we listen to Osho talk about Conscious Living for twenty minutes, then we decide our jobs for the coming three hours, and then…action.
Anything can happen. Once I took the responsibility for cleaning Buddha Hall, Miasto’s largest meditation room. From the beginning there were not enough people choosing that job, so I said to the group, “Remember me, out there all by myself. If you have time, please drop by.” Around noon, I was getting tired from mopping the floor—even though I have a fair amount of skill in how not to get tired. Nobody had joined me and I wasn’t in the best of moods. Just when I was wondering if my course was a failure (in my case, at least), one person arrived. He was too well-dressed for cleaning, a jewelry importer from Rome. Even though he hadn’t much experience in mopping, he took over in an awkward and tentative way and I could rest. Then Shakti arrived—she is a key figure in the co-ordination of Miasto—and together the three of us created such a loving atmosphere! We were finished by lunchtime on the dot, and very satisfied. Some months afterwards, that man wrote me a letter saying how important his experience had been.
So, as I was saying, we work in the mornings, but in the afternoons (and also the whole first day) we are in the group room studying certain subjects. The very first subject is how to create high satisfaction—taking responsibility for your own happiness. People practice choosing the place they want to be, feeling the preferred body position in that place, and relaxing into their rhythm. This rhythm is very important. Every living organism, from the smallest single-celled animal, has a natural rhythm. Rhythm only disappears when mind comes in. So, resting in a state of no-mind, you automatically find rhythm. It may be an obvious rhythm, like the transfer of weight from one foot to the other. Or it can be less visible—like breathing. When you are in contact with the rhythm, it’s a sign that you are relaxed, at ease.
After these first three items are in order, you enter your own heart and wait for an impulse to act (or not act). This impulse can come in three ways. One possibility is a push from inside some part of the body—an arm, a leg. Or a second possibility is having a vision of yourself doing something. Or third, the impulse can simply move your body into action, and you notice it afterwards. With this much attention to the natural action arising in you, you eventually arrive at the top level of satisfaction, because the gesture, or whatever it is that comes, is effortless, and you are functioning as a hollow bamboo through which existence sings its song. This is fun, or you could say, this is bliss.
The same day in the afternoon, our subject is the difference between the dimension of presence and the dimension of desire. These dimensions are opposite to each other. I demonstrate a way of working based on desire. For example, if my task is to place some socks on a chair in the corner, I head for the socks saying in my mind “socks…socks…socks” and after I get them, by the fastest possible means, because I want the job to be over, then my mind thinks “chair…chair…chair” until the job is complete. I never feel my body or my legs walking. I’m completely out of touch with natural rhythm. I’m “dreaming” of a later moment, when the goal will be reached, and missing the chance to make this moment a satisfying one.
Then I demonstrate the same thing again. I start by choosing my place and body position and just resting there. Rhythm arrives, and soon I am doing something that is satisfying in itself, but not always in a straight line toward the goal. Sometimes after a few steps in one direction, the energy simply stops. I have to wait. This is also very important: not to panic and overrun this period of waiting. Just trust, and action soon begins again. And in this manner—enjoying your steps or your crawling or your stretching, enjoying the persons, the pillows, the blankets that you meet along the way—the socks arrive to the chair in a miraculous way, unexpected and elegant.
On the second afternoon in the group room, our subject is automatic behavior. And from day three we study relationship patterns–how to keep on trusting our natural flow in the dimension of presence when somebody else is trying to pull us into desire.
Just to give you an idea of one of the exercises I use: We have two mattresses placed in the middle of the group, one on top of the other, representing a bed which needs to be made. Then by the side, we have two sheets, a blanket, a pillow and pillow cover, or whatever is available for the task. Two persons are to make this bed together. They have equal responsibility, but for the sake of the exercise, one of the persons starts to imagine that the other is “boss.” If the second is not careful, he or she will become the boss, and in directing the first person, lose the natural, un-motivated action from within. You can imagine some of the sentences of the first character who is pretending to be incapable: “How is this to be done?” “What do you think–is this right?” “You know better than I do, you decide.”
My last experience with this exercise was memorable. The first two people to try it got quite entangled. A man was playing the dependent one, and his partner, a woman, moved into her habit of helpfulness, offering him instructions, which of course didn’t succeed—the work simply stopped. Someone else from the group, seeing their failure, jumped up to do it a different way. She basically made the bed herself, speedily, with efficiency, in an energy of power and pride. Everything looked okay, but not to me. I said to the group that probably this woman will get exhausted in life. And in fact, she had come to the group completely tired out, resting for the first eight hours of the group as if in a coma.
The final experimentation with this exercise was the ‘unmaking’ of the bed with myself and the same man as partners. He was really good at playacting his part! He enjoyed pressuring me to take decisions for both of us! Nothing happened for a while, as I invited him to choose and he kept on saying “you decide.” So I looked very carefully for where to put my body. The right place was far away from the man and from the bed…about 10 meters distant. I got in touch with my rhythm. I breathed. I breathed again. And still nothing happened. We were both silent for a long time. And then I heard myself say (third type of impulse), “Do you know dancing?” This question took him by surprise. He said, “Yes.” I said, “Then dance!” He said “I don’t have any music.” I said, “That can be arranged. What kind do you like?” “Not Italian,” he said, “Persian.” I played a little bit of two pop songs, and he selected one. Now we were in business because he was deciding. And then the bed was easily dismantled and the mattresses ‘danced’ off to their corner, with two other people from the group spontaneously joining in the fun.
As I said in the beginning, March is not the best time of year to go to the countryside, but I always enjoy the way the unexpected happens in the Conscious Living group at Miasto, so much so that I forget the weather. I just remember the warmth and the intelligence of the people. One year they were complaining that everyone was forced to have a cake for their birthday, and we laughed about that. Another year we had Navino playing his usual role of kitchen co-ordinator in a demonstration. He was telling everybody to hurry up because we were late with putting the food out. Just one person who stayed with “place, body position, rhythm, heart, action” changed the whole atmosphere, and the look on Navino’s face was priceless when he realized that he was literally unable to speak another sentence of control.
While talking of kitchens and food, let me mention that we do eating meditations together at lunchtime every day. Among other things, we practice letting the hands rest while the mouth chews. Normally the hands want to do something to speed up the process of chewing, which of course they can’t really. But with a fork, they play with the food, they prepare the next bite, or they lift the new bite in front of the mouth before the present bite is even swallowed. The only result is that we don’t taste and savor the present bite—we lose contact with it half-way through, if not from the very beginning. It’s nice to be present while eating and to be alert to old, mechanical habits that sabotage our enjoyment.
In a nutshell, this is what Conscious Living is all about. Sometimes while observing ourselves we see actions which come from presence and are satisfyingly fresh. Sometimes we find ourselves repeating the past—behaving mechanically—and then with a little laughter and a few jokes, we can use those same situations which have become lifeless, or do those same actions which have become stale and boring, in a new way.
Text by Sagarpriya – read more about Osho Miasto in this magazine
In 1977 Osho asked Sagarpriya to work as a group leader in his Poona commune. He gave her first group the name Urja, which means ‘energy,’ and this has been the theme of her courses and trainings for the past 33 years. Osho also told her to write books. Two have been published in Italian: Il tocco del Maestro: Massaggio Psichico and Le due sponde dell’amore: maschile e femminile interiori. Sagarpriya is Director of the Conscious Living Institute, which hosts meditation events and trainings in Italy. She created the Conscious Living course, which you just read about, for the staff of Miasto, but anyone who is interested can participate. www.consciousliving.it