An excerpt from the book by Mahabha (Maggie Richards), A Guide to Being a Better Being.
In March 2010 I ended the rental contract on my Victorian flat in southeast London and sailed into a promising new chapter. I didn’t know how long I’d be away or what would happen: I just knew I was leaving. I had total faith that I’d be guided to where I needed to go. First stop? Osho Risk.
My official status at the retreat was now as a worker. The excellent worker programme lets you stay there inexpensively for up to three months in return for helping with the running of the place for a minimum of three hours a day. Typically, this means helping prepare lunch or dinner for everyone, and cleaning one of the communal spaces.
I was to experience some of my most euphoric moments so far in the commune’s little kitchen; chopping, slicing, mixing, stirring, frying, cutting, pouring – all to uplifting music, peals of laughter, and – on the best days – dancing! There was something steadfastly soothing about cooking together, for each other, with joy. It taught me that, done with an open heart, any activity can be a pleasure.
It was only now, with my work, social and romantic life peacefully contained within two small, simple buildings under a cinematic sky, that I understood how much effort my old life had been demanding of me.
London living had been hard on my spirit – spending time with friends and even just enjoying a hug would necessitate booking a diary date weeks in advance. Living alone meant I was responsible for all the bills; while working from home meant my days ran into each other, and I’d often snack on sugary treats to give me energy.
Life at Osho Risk, however, was structured: meditation at 7.30am, 5pm and 7pm, lunch at 1pm, and supper at 6pm. All my meals were healthy and homemade. Other residents took care of the maintenance of the buildings. And, apart from my mobile phone tariff, I only had to pay the modest rent, which I managed by freelancing as a writer.
There was a wine cupboard upstairs for Saturday nights, a big sunny room to dance around whenever the mood struck, and verdant nature trails all around for long, silent walks communing with the great outdoors.
I came to realise that, paradoxically, it was the very strictness of the retreat’s routine that allowed me to surrender and just be. Structure and discipline provided the boundaries within which I could rest at what felt like a quite magical level.
The thought, ‘I fancy a tea, but don’t want to get up from the table,’ for example, might float across my spacious mind, and moments later a friend would offer to make me one. Ditto having a hug. Everything became an effortless flow. And for the first time as an adult, I felt carried by Life. For now, all I needed do in order to receive such blessings was relax and be receptive.
Twentieth-century literary giant Franz Kafka puts it beautifully: ‘You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.’
I ended up living at Osho Risk for nine months; the length of a human pregnancy – and the birth of a new me. Ta da! In an email to my friend Hazel l revealed: ‘I am loving my peaceful, joyful sojourn here. This is such a precious time; I am sensing more and more how rare a position I am in. To be totally without pressure to be, do or say anything, or go anywhere.
I have broken away completely from old structures and am attaching myself solely to those that uplift my spirit. I am utterly my own mistress, with all the time in the world to surrender to the sweet, fruitful flow of life. Few people get this chance, and I am cherishing it … My life is ripe with possibilities and happiness.’
Mahabha has been writing for the British national press since 1999 and is a former contributing wellbeing editor of AOL’s MyDaily.co.uk. She took sannyas in 2008 while participating in the Osho Therapist Training at Osho Risk and in 2010 qualified as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. Based in London, she gives therapy sessions and co-leads regular meditation and yoga workshops. maggierichards.co.uk – view all her published on Osho News