Leela writes about her experiences during her inquiry into self, and releasing the ego-dream of identity.
be a Lion.
I visited Osho’s ashram for the first time in September 1975. Although I had been a sannyasin for nearly two and a half years, this would be the first time I would meet him physically. I planned to be there for 5 weeks as I had left my family in London and this was my first pilgrimage alone. I fully participated in the 10-day meditation camps, morning discourses and evening darshans. I had never been in such a vibrant and alive community before. Being in the presence of Osho was so powerful and heart wrenching all at the same time. It was as if I was experiencing life through a vibrant energy in which I felt more at home within myself than ever before.
Just before I was due to leave, I had an evening darshan in which Osho asked me how much longer I would be staying. I said I would be leaving in three days. He recommended that I delay my departure and participate in ‘The Enlightenment Intensive’ group before heading home.
This was the first group to be held in the ashram and there were about twelve participants. For three days we asked and answered the question “Tell me who you are?” This experience was to be a major turning point in my life not only as a woman but more deeply as a human being. In the beginning I just asked and answered the question as the structure required. But then as we deepened into the process I became aware that every time I had to answer the question it required of me to take a somersault into my mind, into my past, my memory to answer who I ‘thought’ I was.
What hit me was
how alien it was
to speak positively
As time went on it became shockingly clear that I was a collection of labels – somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, somebody’s mother, wife, secretary, and so on. I was a collection of how I saw myself through the eyes of those who made up my so-called identity. By the afternoon of the second day I simply couldn’t listen to myself any more. I could hear how serious and negative I sounded. Almost everyone in the group was responding to the question in the same way. Frustrated beyond belief, I decided to lighten up and to say only positive things about myself and see where that took me. “I’m a lovely dancer, I love to sing, I am very playful and have a great sense of humour,” and so on. I dug up every positive thing I could think of about myself and exaggerated as much as I liked. I really went into it totally. What hit me was how alien it was to speak positively about myself.
What then became clear was the complete absurdity of who I thought I was and great laughter came to save me from myself. The alternative would have been very depressing indeed. I laughed so hard and so long that I could no longer take the whole process seriously. At one point I was lying on the floor laughing, completely overtaken by the ridiculousness of my life and how seriously I took myself. I experienced a huge inner shift taking place inside me. A disintegration of who I thought I was. The question then arose in me “If I am not just a collection of labels through which I function – then really, who am I?” I felt as if I had shifted into a kind of limbo of not knowing.
When I returned to London and my ‘regular’ life and family, the impact of what I had experienced really hit me. Everything felt completely different. It was as if I were looking out from deep within myself, observing the break between how I used to operate and how I was actually feeling now. I found myself reassessing my behaviour and beliefs. Everything was up for review. It was a kind of identity crisis, the first of many that I would have over the years as I moved from the automated Leela into a more playful, aware human being.
Western women are in such a critical transition at this time. On a huge scale women have been fighting for liberation from a male dominated society in which we have freed ourselves from the terrible burdens of the Middle Ages. From being a completely unrecognised part of humanity – unworthy of voting or having equal opportunity in the workplace, we have in fact attained some freedom and liberation; but it seems it has cost us dearly.
It seems that the more
we ‘identify with
the more trouble
we are in.
The whole foundation of ‘the family’, marriage and the contract of commitment is disintegrating. There are almost as many divorces as marriages. Women now struggle to become single mothers, taking on such an enormous responsibility on their own.
Many women now choose careers over having a family, which was unthinkable less than 70 years ago. To achieve certain goals in the market place, women have styled themselves after men in order to survive and thrive in the still very much male dominated society.
As women are coming into their own, it is taking so much more effort than was ever thought possible to maintain. What this freedom has cost in many cases is more and more work in order to survive and achieve goals against enormous odds. One of the outcomes of this turbulent transition for women is that men on the other hand have been largely ‘let off the hook’. In general relationships, men now have less commitment, less responsibility and so on. This is simply a by-product of the changes western society seems to be in at this time.
Women objectifying themselves as sexual objects is still such a priority. Check the movie and music industry just for starters. The neurosis of appearance – the cosmetic surgeons are rubbing their hands on the way to the bank – and the depth of lack of self-worth is like an epidemic.
But getting into the deeper significance of what all these changes meant for me, was realising that I was not the sum of all the parts I played in my outer life. Many were simply functions needed to survive in a physical world. To be in the world but not of it was always a reminder I kept close to my heart. Who I was, became clearer the deeper I explored my inner reality. Slowly over time, absorbing Osho’s vision and incorporating it into my daily life, my awareness and understanding grew.
It has been a profound journey, releasing the ego/dream of identity. It seems that the more we ‘identify with our identity’, the more trouble we are in. Identification being the key word here. I do not seek to know what kind of woman I am now because that too feels like another label. Just a person will do. As Osho often says we are both male and female within and this I feel very clearly. Yes, my body is female and I have many feminine qualities but often I also feel the maleness in me.
I think the more at home we are within ourselves, the outer manifestations of male and female merge and become simply how we perceive and respond to life. It is in the inner moments of clarity that true freedom is born, whether we are female or male in our physical form. As I am now much older and wiser, I see that life is definitely easier once we have our inner freedom and maturity.
I once asked Osho the question, “What is courage?” What I remember most from his answer is that we are not here to live by the expectation of others. Live each moment totally and be a Lion. So I do.
Prem Leela was born in South Africa and took sannyas in 1973; in Pune 1 she worked in the press office, while in Rajneeshpuram she was running the Welding Shop, part of RBG. It was in Pune 2 that Osho asked her to start conducting the Mystic Rose Group by giving her a few suggestions, which she then further developed into its present concept. When she is not abroad conducting workshops, she lives in Australia. mysticrosemeditation.com
German translation previously published in Osho Times, Germany