The new kid on the block


Sandesh shares his feelings of becoming part of a community and of taking courage to move from the known to the unknown

Sandesh came to visit me in my little office and while warming our hands around a cup of Greek saffron tea we share our difficulties and exciting moments of becoming part of a new community. Sandesh came to visit Corfu two years ago, participated in a singing morning with Anadi in Alexis Zorbas and from that moment on he knew that he had found his place: a place with a Buddhafield. He had been looking for a new home for some time. After selling his successful business in the Caribbean, where visitors can swim with wild dolphins, he wanted to create another community somewhere in the sun and started a new project in the Dominican Republic, again together with his partner Daya, which eventually did not materialise. But what was happening here was exactly what he was looking for: a gathering of friends interested in meditation.

It did not take long when he discovered that there was another meditation centre higher up in the hills: the Buddha Hall which Vasanti built for her Gurdjieff retreats. The new hall was in its first year of offering workshops which were not exclusively Sacred Dances and it felt natural for Sandesh to offer his expertise in this start-up. “The juice for me is in the creative part of helping to manifest a vision or idea. I am not really a business person, I just know some things because most projects involve being in the marketplace to some extent, and that the bills need to be paid….”

Sandesh had been an entrepreneur since he was a young man. He started up bars and restaurants in London when it was still the centre of the world – at least for music and fashion – and then sold them again once they were running. And during his sannyas years he organised countless parties and festivals around the communes. A real initiator, mediator and manifestor of things.

These talents are so alien to me that I am listening to Sandesh’s stories with jaw dropped and eyes staring. On the other hand when we talk about arriving here as newcomers into a well-established 30-year-old community, we know that we are experiencing very similar fears, hurts and insecurities: one feels like ‘the new kid on the block’.

Although Sandesh is not only a newcomer to this place but functioning as the manager of’the new kid on the block’ which is a 200 square meter octagon on top of a hill, the Buddha Hall, his exposure to misunderstandings is not only directed to him as a person but also to this new venue.

I remember, and mention to Sandesh with some embarassment, that when I was still living in Scotland I was not very pleased when I had discovered that there was a competitor about 40 miles from my village. We were maybe the only Reiki teachers in the whole of Scotland at the time! I used to check on him, when and where he advertised, always afraid that he would steal my potential customers! One day I met him in person – I liked him a lot, by the way – and understood that he is attracting his own people and I attracted mine. This only meant that just more Scots came into contact with Reiki and meditation!

But Sandesh’s story is so good that it is beyond embarassment: He was out at sea with his clients on the boat, beautiful weather – on the shore stood the beautiful venue he had built together with Daya, years of efforts to make things run smoothly – everybody relaxing on the boat, one of the staff with binoculars on the lookout for the dolphins, the main attraction. There they are! Well spotted! But what is that in the distance? Another boat! How do they dare! This is my ocean! These are my dolphins!

The joke was he had just been talking to the guests, one of those ‘guru’ talks he used to be very good at. It was all about ‘spirituality’ and all that stuff. What he was saying was in such contrast with the feelings that had welled up in his chest that a bright spark of intelligence pierced through the dozing consciousness of that pleasant afternoon. Instead of projecting the energy out and blaming those incomers he saw how ridiculous, narrow-minded and unconscious his reaction had been. He started to open up to the idea that others might also enjoy his dolphins and his sea. They approached the other boat. On it were people like them, people who loved dolphins – and there were indeed enough dolphins around to share – and the sea was vast.

We ponder about why we have such strong reactions towards incomers. In nature, animals will chase any intruder from their territory because the stretch of land under their control would be the hunting ground to cover the needs of their pack. This way – in particular when food is in short supply – the race can be kept alive: at least the animal who was strong and clever enough to keep his territory will live to breed the next generation. So this is still in our genes, it appears.

We remind each other of other moments, when maybe as kids we had to move to a new place. If you were a looker, the local kids might fear we steal their boyfriends or girlfriends. We would start showing off our talents in the hope that we would be acceped easier. The list of adaption tricks are endless… But finally we resent everybody for not being accepted and seen for who and what we really are.

Putting on his ‘guru’ hat again Sandesh says: “Speaking about being ‘spiritual’ – speaking about it is one thing and waking up is another. To use every opportunity to look at one’s reaction and how we deal in the moment with things that we perceive as threats – that’s where the work is, that’s the waking up. If I go ‘aha’ and I have the willingness to risk the known for the unknown – not that I have to do anything … when I can pay attention to how I am feeling and how I am reacting – rather than just reacting – that is always ‘big’. That’s what happened on the ocean. When those people came into my territory and I had that reaction it was a moment to either go ‘aha’ or just go into an unconscious fearful reaction (which I would usually have done and which my mind still wants to do).

“Now here I am on the other side, ‘the new kid on the block’. The reality is I feel gratitude to the people who have helped create the Buddhafield here. Without that I would not be here, nor probably the Buddha Hall. The interaction between each one of the players in the Arillas Buddhafield movie are all possibilities to pay attention and to wake up. I am not talking for others, I am talking about myself. When I feel hurt or misunderstood there is an opportunity for me to say: Aha, I am going into reaction here, the same ‘old movie’ and can get out of it. I just need to let go, accept, move on and keep reaching out. I keep trying not to close down and not go into reaction, not to become defensive or aggressive, condemning or judgemental. This is an opportunity for me to stay open and continue to risk the known for the unknown.”

“I know that the Buddha Hall is not here to compete, it is here to add something to the Buddhafield. A lot of new people have come now because of the Buddha Hall and are enriching it and since we opened our doors the other two centres have continued to prosper and grow. The Buddha Hall is one more flower, a different flower to enrich the garden.”

At the end of last year Corfu Buddha Hall became a non-profit trust. The trustees decided that the hall will be open 12 months a year as a community resource and that a third of its programme will be reserved for subsidised meditation-based workshops (that could usually not afford the fees of a big hall). It will be run by paid staff but will also be open to volunteers who wish to work with other meditators, and it is not too far from the beach!

If you want to read the history of the Corfu Buddhafield, please read my interview with Anadi and Pari of Alexis Zorbas and my interview with Vasanti about how she started the Corfu Buddha Hall.

Interview by Punya for Osho News

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