07 Aug A funny thing happened on the way to the ashram
My friends often compare me to that Eat Pray Love woman. I don’t refute it. I’ve been on a spiritual path for many years, seeking answers in my own unique way, and I’m totally committed to my growth and personal development. I also just happen to love India and Italy. So yes, in that way I’m similar to Elizabeth Gilbert in her memoir, Eat Pray Love.
But here’s the thing. I’m also that Bridget Jones woman from Bridget Jones’s Diary, which means I’m often not entirely sure what’s going on. It makes for some bloody great laughs afterwards but some really icky situations at the time. For example…
First Yoga class
Everybody knows if you’re ‘into spirituality’ then you’re supposed to do yoga. (My God, the pressure to do yoga). So, many many years ago I signed up for my very first class with a yoga teacher who said that she and her friends did it out of her garage. Cool, that would be less intimidating than a gym, I thought. I got to her house and the eight of us piled into her garage in our black tights. They were all in their late fifties and looked super fit, so I was by far the youngest and least experienced one there.
Being a complete newbie I was dismayed that, about three poses in, our instructor asked us to do a headstand against the wall. Bloody hell, are you serious? When she saw my startled face she said I could just do a Shoulder stand, so I thought I’d just give it a bash to avoid being humiliated, and was quite pleased with myself when I finally managed to get into position. But then it happened. In the silence of the pose known as Sarvangasana, I broke wind. Not that cutesy-wootsy little wind that only my ears were party to; no, the kind of wind that, in the confines of a small garage, actually reverberates against the walls.
My eyeballs widened – had they all heard? Of course they must have, but nobody said a word. And too much time had passed to laugh about it – there’s some kind of three-second rule when it comes to embarrassing moments. You either laugh about it immediately, or you cover up your shame with total denial. I chose the latter, and when it came to the end of the class and we were lying on the floor in the Corpse pose, I prayed for real death to come. When it didn’t, I decided I just wouldn’t go back. And I never did.
Fall from Grace
I joined a meditation group in my mid-thirties. It started out as weekly classes in a hall, then graduated to someone’s home where we’d meet and meditate for about two hours together. There were only about five of us in the group – three men and two women – and the guys who led the group were two brothers who were devoted to a particular Indian guru. I couldn’t really get my head around the fact that I had to stare at some dead guy’s photo that I’d never met, but I was really enjoying the meditations so I let it go.
Also, I was really starting to feel the benefits of meditation and looked forward to our weekly sessions. One evening, we moved into the meditation room, took our meditation stools – you could sit on the floor or use a stool – and took up our positions facing the altar (with said guru and lit candles). We closed our eyes and started to quiet our minds, and there we sat in blissful silence for about thirty minutes…until…my meditation stool snapped in half, and I fell awkwardly on to the carpet. I was only three inches from the ground so it wasn’t a fall so much as an embarrassing rearrangement of my body parts.
Now I don’t know if you know this, but a meditation stool is a sturdy little bugger. It is made of such thick wood that Bruce Lee couldn’t chop through it. But it managed to crack under my weight, which didn’t do much for my self-esteem I can tell you . The brothers were nice enough not to make a fuss, but I wanted to go home and kill myself. Instead, I decided to resign from the group and join Weight Watchers instead.
Living in the now
Exactly two years ago I was at home, and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. I woke up feeling bored and restless, so I decided then and there that I would use it as an opportunity to try and be in the present moment, and spend the day in a calm, meditative state, focusing on really living in the now. I meditated for a while, I read my spiritual books, I made lunch – I did really simple things trying to stay present. If you’ve ever tried it you’ll know how f’ing difficult it is – the mind either races to the future causing extreme heart palpitations or it lives in the past – but it’s not very happy in the present moment.
I’ll be honest, I thought I was doing a cracking job at it. I didn’t leave home all day; I just glided around the house in my blissed-out state. It felt fantastic as I focused on staying present to all of my thoughts, and all of the goings-on around me. Until…I decided I needed to do some food shopping and went outside to climb in my car only to discover that my car had been stolen. Which means, that at some point during the day, while I was seeking spiritual enlightenment, some f$$%#@rs were seeking a VW Polo.
Which is why, from that day forward, I vowed never to live in the present moment, and only to live in total fear and trepidation of what horrors lurk around the corner. Thanks a lot, Eckhart Tolle!!!
Meditation in India
When you go to the Osho Meditation Resort in India, you’re obliged to do a brief meditation orientation course on the day you arrive, to acquaint you with all the different meditation techniques. But my friend and I arrived in the evening and ours was only scheduled for the next day; we didn’t want to miss out so we jumped into the next available session. The reason I love Osho’s meditations is because they are so much fun – they’re all completely different – with some you are silent, with some you dance, with some you speak gibberish, and with some you laugh: it’s a hoot. But some are also really intense too.
Of course I didn’t know any of this because I hadn’t done the orientation class yet. And so my Bridget Jones moment came when I found myself in a hall with hundreds of people, blindfolded, gyrating wildly during the part when we had apparently switched to silence. I know this because an older man on duty came past and knocked me on the head with a stick and asked me what the hell I was doing. I removed my blindfold, looked around and realized that perhaps it would have been wise to acquaint myself with the meditations first since I was the only one flinging my pelvis around.
Sex fiend in India
At the very same ashram, I managed to attract a sex fiend. Now I know what you’re thinking – how come you have all the luck, Kelley?
One morning, I stepped out of my room and got into the lift to go to ground floor. A very attractive, twenty-something Indian guy stepped in with me, and we began to make conversation. He was extremely chatty and interesting, and we really hit it off. He asked me if I’d like to join him for a coffee but I told him I was off to my first meditation class. I said I’d join him afterwards because I was enjoying the conversation just as much. He agreed, and we met up about two hours later.
We spoke about all the usual stuff: why are you here, where are you from, what do you do etc…and then he asked me this:
‘Kelley, would you like to go and have sex now? Before my taxi comes in half an hour.’
Cut to the look on my face mid-coffee sip because he asked me with the same tone as you would casually remark on someone’s nail polish.
‘Yes, I would very much like to have sex with you, but my taxi’s coming in half an hour so we need to hurry.’
My God! The audacity!!! To think I could shower, shave and be ready for sexual intercourse so soon!!!
No really. This is the point in the conversation when any sane human being tells this pervert to FUCK OFF and runs for the hills. But no, not I. I need to do a Dr Phil and stay and try to work out why this guy is wired this way, and then try fix him – and I’ve only got half an hour.
‘Why are you asking me for sex? We’re here to meditate.’
‘Because I heard that western women are more aggressive in bed.’
You heard wrong. We just lie there and play dead most of the time.
Ok, I didn’t really say that but I should have.
‘I’m trying to understand why you would come to a meditation resort expecting sex.’
‘Because there are a lot of western women here.’
‘So, you think all western women are loose huh? Is that what you believe?’
I really meant well, I did. I wanted to try and show this guy that he was getting all worked up about something that was just a belief he was carrying around in his head, and it was causing him suffering. I wanted to help him end his self-imposed torture and confront his truth. Well, that was until he said this next:
‘I’ve got a really big one, would you like to see it?’
You’ll be pleased to hear that I finally sprinted out of there, and there was no happy ending to this story.
Is that a new age pillow?
I recently went on a five-day Buddhist silent retreat. It’s not that easy staying silent. I really love talking. But I managed to do it somehow. On the fourth day this really bizarre thing happened: I was walking to lunch and I was taking the long way round so I passed some grassy patches near the trees. My eye caught sight of colourful fabric lying on the grass so I went closer and saw that it was a sarong, and it was draped flat on the grass over what looked like a triangular-shaped pillow. I had the thought, is that some kind of new-age pillow (like something you’d use for yoga)?
It was orange and looked a bit spongy and I remember thinking that it was unusual but I quite fancied it. In fact, I imagined myself picking it up in the middle and squeezing it. Bear in mind all of these thoughts took place in my head in the space of about five seconds, because I was heading for lunch (and when there’s food ahead I don’t dilly dally). I decided it was best not to touch someone else’s pillow, and carried on walking. A few steps later something moved…it was the pillow!!!! Oh my God, I screamed silently inside – the pillow was a person, to be more specific the pillow was a woman’s crotch and she had been lying under the sarong – I just hadn’t been able to see her face, and her legs were orange tights that had formed a triangle, and the squeezy bit was….yes it was her lady parts, and yes I would have gone and grabbed her RIGHT THERE!!!!
Had I actually done what I was going to do I wouldn’t have been able to explain my mistake verbally because we were forbidden from speaking – I would have had to write it all down because that was the only way we were able to communicate, so basically I would have sprinted for paper and pen, and written the following apology note:
‘I am so so sorry – please forgive me, but I thought your vagina was some kind of new age pillow…I only squeezed it because I was curious…not bi-curious, just normal curious. I’m sorry, I’ll go pack my bags now.’
Let’s end on a lighter note, shall we? With a joke that I wrote for my inaugural five-minute stand-up comedy set at Parker’s that lasted three minutes and twenty seconds. It’s still my favourite joke to date, because it’s really silly. You have to say the punchline out loud to hear how ridiculous it sounds.
‘When I was learning to meditate, I signed up to do an online meditation course with Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra, but during the first class I kept having a recurring thought that was distracting me – what if Oprah Winfrey married Deepak Chopra? (pause) She’d be Oprah Chopra.’