Ganga talks to Punya about her passion.
An interview with my neighbour, Ganga, for an article about Satori for Osho News was well overdue. I finally manage to pin her down between travels to ask my questions about Satori, the inquiry technique which she has been facilitating for 40 years. Many know it also as Intensive Enlightenment, Awareness Intensive or Who is in?, a 3-day process, while Satori is 7 days and, occasionally, 14 days long.
What is Satori?
Satori works with koans, life koans. Life koans, such as: who am I? who is in? what is life? what is love? These are open-ended questions which cannot be answered in an intellectual way but need to be experienced directly. You keep inquiring till you are the answer, you become one with it, you are it. So it’s not about finding something out intellectually and once you have found an answer you are done with it. It’s an ongoing exploration into yourself, an exploration of life, of truth, as well as of all your beliefs. You get confronted with who and what you are which, of course, is changing moment to moment. They are called life koans because the exploration into yourself never stops; you never reach the end, because there is no end… Life is very generous. We go on evolving. It’s not a task to be solved but to be lived joyously.
The beauty, and the crux, of this inquiry is that the more you get to know yourself, the less you know. All these koans are very paradoxical. I just remember the saying from Shunryu Suzuki, If it’s not paradoxical it’s not true. And this you get to experience in the Satori work over and over again.
Some people like to participate in the workshop once a year or every few years to touch base inside, like going through a cleansing process.
For people new to Satori their priorities are different. Some discover for the first time that they are something else than their personality, that there is a being inside, something they are born with, call it me, call it life, godliness, your original face before you were born. It doesn’t matter which word you use but it’s that part which is always healthy, always whole, which is the very existence, the very base in each one of us. Many people have no clue about it; they are so involved in their feelings, in their thoughts, in the musts and must-nots, in growing and trying to improve themselves that they lose contact to this still fountain inside. This image which just came up – still fountain – is one of these paradoxes. How can a fountain be still? Fountain means movement but it is a still fountain. It’s not something solid, dead. It’s something which flows just like the river of life.
Like a fountain that doesn’t make a sound.
Yes, and the main aspect is that it flows. There is this ongoing nourishment we receive with each breath. We take life in and we expel what we don’t need. This refreshment happens also on a much deeper level, every moment. It is totally overwhelming for people when they touch this point for the first time. It’s bliss. If you see the light for the first time it’s totally overwhelming. And this is also why the process is called Satori because ‘satori’ in Japanese means ‘a glimpse of enlightenment’. It is like getting a taste or a scent of satori – and then you want more of it.
Do people get satoris?
Some do. When you keep doing the Satori technique and work with these different koans, by and by you learn how to access that still fountain inside. The work is like removing everything that is in the way. For me, it’s my resting place inside where I can just be myself. I don’t have to be in any way different, I don’t have to change, I don’t have to grow, I don’t have to do anything. I can just be. This is not only relaxing but also rejuvenating, very refreshing. It’s touching the eternal in me. Then it’s much easier to move into the requirements of life – which is not always easy – and face life in a different way.
I was just talking today to my Clowning-Satori partner, Mouji, that, if I had to put it in simple words, meditation has the effect on me that I feel less stressed, that I am more welcoming to whatever comes my way. It’s not that what comes my way is different but I don’t experience it as threatening, as disastrous, as overwhelming. What I would have called a ‘problematic situation’ in the past, now I say, “Oh, interesting, what do we have here? How can I handle this?” My ability to face life and stay connected with myself has grown. I am very happy about this because it makes life much easier, hence there are situations in my life but not problems.
How did your interest in Satori start?
When in Pune One, Osho asked me to take part in the Intensive Enlightenment group, as the Awareness Intensive process was called then. He mentioned that it would be especially good for me because it bridges the left side and right side of the brain. The intuitive, poetic, paradoxical part and the logical, linear thinking part do not operate separately but are linked with each other, creating a unity which opens the way to a richer and deeper participation in life.
So Satori creates a bridge between these two parts of the brain?
Yes, it does, because you need to use both sides in the technique. You sit there with your partner and inquire into who am I? You need to focus and be present (left side brain) yet you need to be open-minded as you go inside without a preconceived idea about what you will or should find. It’s a kind of free fall inside. That’s where the right side brain comes in. And the more you inquire the easier you can access deeper layers of the mind, the pictorial mind. Many people have vivid images, see colours, or hear music. It’s still mind but it’s a deeper layer of the mind. You also get more connected with the senses.
How is the set-up when you ask questions?
You work in pairs, in dyads. You sit opposite a partner who gives the instruction, “Tell me who you are.” You take the koan inside, with the intent to have a direct experience of the koan and yourself; you open up to that and communicate what you have found. After five minutes the roles change and you listen; you are passive, non-reactive, just there. This continues for 40 minutes. So you have a person in front of you; you are not sitting in front of a wall by yourself. It speeds up the process if you have to express to somebody else what you experience. You need to bring your experience to a different level of consciousness in your brain in order to express it. In front of a wall it is easier to space out.
You kind of externalize what you find?
Yes. After all, we are social beings and to have somebody to talk to who wants to know who I am is encouraging, under the premise that I am actually willing to show who I am. It supports the inquiry. Also there is the opportunity to listen to myself speak and find out if what I am saying is truthful, and corresponding to what I am experiencing inside. The set-up in fact serves as a truth-detector.
For example, if I see colours in me can I say: I am this colour red?
You express whatsoever you experience in that moment – if it makes sense to you or not. Whatever comes you welcome it. And there are no rules on how to do that, except that there is no physical contact and outside the inquiry sessions everybody is in silence.
Do people stay in silence during the whole workshop?
Yes, there is no socializing and no storytelling either. All meals are taken in silence. Most people appreciate that because usually we don’t give ourselves much quality time without entertainment. Of course it’s difficult also. For people who are used to check their emails every half hour, messages, Facebook, talks, movies, TV, it can be quite challenging, even scary, to have a few days where they just do the inquiry and the rest of the time they are by themselves in silence. For some people not having physical contact is a hurdle. Of course they can express, “I’m longing to touch somebody; I really want to have physical contact,” but they are not meant to actually act it out.
If people get distressed, can they talk to you?
Yes, participants can ask for an ‘interview’. The purpose of the interview is basically to see where the person is at, to clarify the technique so that they can do the inquiry more easily in case they are making it difficult for themselves. But it has very little to do with the content of what the person is saying, the story, the drama – that is everybody’s own business. It’s their choice how much time they want to spend on it. That’s also the beauty of this type of inquiry; it allows everybody to move in their own rhythm, deal with whatever is going on inside themselves in their unique way. If you get carried away and you become aware that you are being carried away, you have already returned to the present. You get to know your strategies, how you take part in or avoid life. The whole process is very much an empowerment of oneself.
So our lives can become more sincere?
Yes, there can be more sincerity and courage to experience life in a more creative way. If I am clearer of what I want and what I don’t want, what is healthy for me and what is hindering me, I can ‘go for it’ in a more direct and intelligent way.
What do you do if people get frustrated? Do you offer Dynamic Meditation in the morning?
Yes, every day there is Dynamic Meditation and other active meditations, also walks from time to time. If you feel angry during the session you can express it there too. Of course, you would not punch someone in the face but you can express your anger with words and body language. You take note of what pushes your buttons, what’s going on in your body, is it liberating? are you even enjoying this hot life energy? what is the content of the anger? what are you angry about?
It’s an awareness technique, it’s a meditation technique; it’s not an emotional release technique. You want to bring awareness to the facticity of the moment and to what the internal interpretations are: do I feel guilty? am I ashamed of being angry? am I making progress? In short, you say hello to the ‘inner judge’. I am taking anger as an example but it is the same with every other event (emotion, thought, feeling, bodily sensation).
But most important, who is experiencing it?
What do you mean by ‘who is experiencing it’?
‘Who is experiencing it’ refers to the subject of the experience. All happenings mentioned before have to do with the object of the experience, which most of us are quite easy with. But who is having the experience is overlooked by most people. You see these stunned, puzzled faces saying ‘What do you mean, who?’ It comes almost like a shock; it creates a distance to the story, the drama.
Often this shock is accompanied by the experience of I exist, which can be quite overwhelming for people when it happens to them consciously for the first time. In that moment the entire existence opens up, the identification with the clouds shakes lose and the whole sky comes into the foreground, always present no matter what weather is being displayed today. I am here, I exist, no matter what feelings pass through me at the time, if it’s stormy or calm. It’s a big empowerment. That’s actually the moment when the real search begins: who am I? who is in?
Thanks for this good introduction to Satori. My question is now: How do I bring this understanding into my daily life?
Yes, this is important; many asked me after Satori, “I wish I could find ways to bring this space into my daily life.” This is what inspired me to create the Academy of Awareness and Creative Expression. I found out that creative expression is a fantastic stepping stone. I have been experimenting with body oriented approaches like Gurdjieff Dances, Qi Gong, or more artistic methods such as painting, Chinese calligraphy and the one which surprised me most, Clowning.
During the Satori workshop you are in a protected situation; there are no interactions. By and by you warm up to yourself, you become more accepting of what is; you even welcome and enjoy the many facets of yourself. But when you are in a dialogue, there is not only you but the other as well. And that often creates trouble, as we all know. The question is how to make the bridge so that you can maintain, or access, this openness to yourself, this compassion and friendliness with yourself while being with others. How can you be you even when you are not in the structure? Because you cannot always be in the structure….
How is the set-up of Satori and the creative expression part?
First we do five or seven days of Satori structure (in silence and working with the koan) so that people become grounded, present within themselves, and then we go into the creative part for another five or seven days. There we start and finish the day with an inquiry session, and in between we practice the other technique, in which we are no longer in silence. We also have daily sharing sessions. There people can talk about the situations we have played with, which are very similar to day-to-day life experiences. The creative expression part bridges the meditative space of Satori to our everyday life.
In the first part you are carried by the structure; it’s a strong holding container in which you can let go, fall apart and come together again, rising like the phoenix out of the ashes. In the second part the responsibility is with yourself. You decide what to do while you have the support of the two daily inquiry sessions, as well as the love and wisdom of the other participants.
Interview by Punya
Ganga Cording (aka ‘Mrs Satori’) graduated in Psychology from the University in Heidelberg, Germany. She came to Pune in 1975 and became part of the group department the following year. In Rajneeshpuram she worked in Chuang Tzu, Hakim Sanai and RIMU and back in Pune she became part of the Multiversity. She also studied calligraphy with master Qui Zheng Ping. Ganga travels worldwide facilitating Satori. www.awareness-academy.com