Amelia’s (Dhyan Ji) time in Rajneeshpuram as a child.
I remember when my mum asked me if I wanted to go and live in America. I was seven years old, my sister Laura was aged six and Rachel five. It was 1983. We left our beautiful home at Grange Fields in Biddulph, Staffordshire; my Dad quit his job at Tekdata, the company he had built up, and my mum her teaching position at one of the local schools.
Little did I know that this journey was really going to be the adventure of a lifetime and something I would never forget. We left the UK with the plan to live for three months in Osho’s commune, Rajneeshpuram, in the Oregon desert.
There was no hesitation in my mind about leaving. At school I didn’t fit in; I was naughty, uncontrollable, creative and suppressed. I was picked on by other kids for having curly, auburn hair and my teacher didn’t have a good word to say about me. Maybe where we were going they would accept me? Maybe I would fit in there?
We were given an A-frame at Walt Whitman (all the roads and buildings were named after spiritually significant figures). I loved it. The A-frames were tiny spaces, so comfortable and cosy. Some people lived in tents, but this wasn’t an option for us. There was still deep snow and my mother was worried we would be cold.
It is amazing how little space we actually need and what possessions we can manage without. It was so completely different to our luxurious house back in the UK where we had our own playroom full of toys. Except for our clothes we had nothing – no toys, no TV or books. But there was so much space outside to explore!
Every morning we girls walked to the Kids House where we washed in the communal showers. Then came the gachchhamis. Although it was a routine and something I didn’t understand it was quite magical. There was a feeling of connection with everybody and with myself, despite the fact that I always used to open my eyes and look around to see who else did not have theirs shut!
Then we got on a bus which took us to the school. I enjoyed school because it was so different from the one in the UK; it was much more creative. I remember we did a lot of drawings and wrote in big exercise books. At lunch time another bus took us to Zarathustra Cafeteria, the enormous communal dining area seating thousands of people. The queues were never-ending but the food was worth the wait! There was a huge selection of vegetarian food; it was amazing.
All the children were given small jobs for the afternoon, to help with the running of the ranch and maybe also to give them a sense of the big community. The big people, including my parents, worked hard the whole day. My mother was given a job at one of the laundries; it was a 12-hour shift so she would often sleep on the laundry room floor to catch up, usually during drive-by. And my father joined the team of electricians.
My sisters collected eggs at the chicken farm and tended to the animals. But I worked only when I felt like it, which wasn’t very often. I chose to help out in the boutique. Already at seven I was fascinated with fashion. I vividly remember the sea of colours surrounding me, all the different shades of reds, oranges, purples and pinks of the clothes. When people would come into the shop instead of me helping them choose what they needed I used to ask them for money, a bit sheepishly because I knew it was not OK, but there were so many beautiful things I wanted for myself: for instance wonderfully embroidered money-belts and those fascinating crystal wands.
Despite the beauty of the shop, the pull to the outdoors was stronger. I did everything I could to get out! I had discovered a way to the river and found a spot I liked and where I built small triangular huts out of wood, a bit like tipees. I spent hours and hours chilling out, listening to the sound of the water, being on my own, alone. It was full of magic, full of possibilities, nothing fazed me. I knew the earth had secrets to tell me, I knew the sky had depths to show me. I was at home. I felt safe, completely taken care of with a fire in my belly and a silent song that rested in my heart. I was at peace in nature. I was a rebel and I didn’t like to play by the rules or be told what to do. I would find as many ways as possible to do my own thing. Strangely nobody ever came looking for me, but I always felt safe.
At night I would gaze up at the sky and be consumed by the magnificence of the stars twinkling at me. It was a magical experience being so close to nature, especially the day I found a small oval stone. I knew there was something precious inside it. Sure enough it was full of the most beautiful crystals. There were crystals all around us, snakes in the grass and coyotes in the hills, and the powerful presence of a silent Enlightened Master. Silence is very powerful!
I remember, during the Summer Festival, sitting on the cool linoleum floor of the Mandir. I was impressed by the size of it and the tall pillars supporting the very high ceiling. I would often drift into sleep, into the deepest place inside of me, a place of peace. This sleep was so different from sleeping in my bed. I was filled with this intense feeling of love to which I naturally surrendered. I felt so comfortable, so cosy, so cocooned. I felt safe, held. I was very aware that these moments were precious. I also knew that it was important for my parents to be a part of this, in particular for my Dad. My relationship with Dad had been very difficult but since we arrived at the Ranch he had mellowed down and there were also less opportunities for him to take his anger out on me.
There were dramas, though. One day I wanted to retrieve my treasures from my locker; these were the crystal wand, a heart-shaped marble box and the crystal stone I had found near the river. They were all gone! Who took my treasures? I was really upset and angry. (I never recovered them, which is quite a nice metaphor that all treasures are inside…) I went to use the toilet, the door got stuck and I could not get out. In my anger I managed to get my foot trapped in the door and I tore off my toenail. I was rushed to the hospital, in quite some pain, bandaged up yet soon went off on my way again!
But worse was what happened with my sister Laura. One day whilst my sisters and I were out playing with a couple of other children in the middle of the afternoon, we found some large wooden planks and decided to jump up and down on them. Laura managed to step on a nail which went through her flip-flops. An older boy took her to the doctor. Her foot was cleaned, bandaged and she was sent home with a medicine to treat the wound. On her way home, she was carefully carrying the glass bottle with the medicine so as not to drop it. She must have been rushing though and when she tripped the bottle broke and cut through her main artery at the wrist. Somebody found her. (I still don’t know who that person was but whoever it was I am eternally grateful, because you have saved my sister’s life.) She was rushed to the medical centre – there was no time to take her to the hospital or air lift her out. Someone came to our A-frame to let us know that Laura was in a critical condition and that she was about to be operated upon.
We girls didn’t know, but my mum had planned to leave the Ranch that very night – with us three, leaving Dad behind. My parent’s marriage, unknown to us, had been falling apart and my mother might have thought that as Dad was happy there, this would be the best solution.
Due to Laura’s accident the plan went out the window and we stayed together as a family, at least for a few more months. Laura’s operation was a brilliant success; the doctors worked through the night while our Mum was by her side (Osho was there as well, probably). Considering that it was an emergency operation done in a ward it was a miracle just how well it was carried out. When we later checked at a hospital outside the Ranch to see if the wound was healing properly, the doctors were amazed and said that it could not have been done any better. For a while Laura had her arm in a sling and had to have regular physiotherapy to help heal muscles, bones and connective tissue. Eventually after many months she retained the full use of her hand again and now the scar from that day forms a question mark on her right wrist.
Prasada (aka Dhyan Ji, Amelia Campbell) was born in Staffordshire, UK in 1975 and took sannyas aged 7 in Rajneeshpuram, Oregon. In 2012 she completed a foundation degree in Complementary Therapies. She now uses her vast array of creative skills, life experience and insightful understanding to help others to heal themselves and connect to their true nature through a myriad of ways including: groups, retreats, readings and one to one sessions. www.awakeninglove.co.uk