Still points in the whirl    

Indian street dogs. Motion dominates any Indian street scene. My eyes are so easily drawn to bee-lining yellow rickshaws, speeding scooters and clumsy cars. Alongside, nonchalant pedestrians walk crumbling pavements which spill into the traffic. But if you allow your eyes to relax into the frame of this image you’ll notice the stillness of sleeping dogs, as though the whirl of motion has dizzied them to rest. Others stand stationary for hours, heads turned as though smelling the traffic that passes. And the lucky ones have found a partner in a security guard and sit loyally by the hands who feed them. All have a tender look of abandonment in their eyes and cower at the hands so often raised to them. In these scenes dogs are the hidden pillars of stillness along with the trees and the sky. So I laugh to myself, when I occasionally notice a sleeping dog rouse suddenly, and trot definitely down the road with a important pace that seems to say, ‘Damn, I’m almost late for the office,’ or sometimes with a proudly raised head suggesting, ‘I’m heading straight for my pedicure and groom.’ I laugh as I see no understandable reason for their uprooting and trotting-off into the unknown, into the distance at such a momentum and determination. And then I laugh at myself, for as far as I can see in this life, doing just the same.

Incredible India    

At my completion of ten joyful singing hours with the local music master he told me that this Sunday morning I was to visit the group class. Ah the next stage on the singing ladder, I assumed, after diligent practice I am to be a part of the choir. You may agree there lies somewhat of a gap in attainment between diligent beginner and she who leads the group before cameras of a local television channel. Only Indian craziness could plan for such events and not explain a thing until the microphone was pinned close to my voice, rusty from the ayurvedically induced sinusitis that only took leave that morning. I had arrived to a curious celebration of balloons bobbling along the ceiling under which I was promptly seated, at the forefront of class, where children gathered an inch from my nose offering flowers and repeating their names. It was then the assistant added that a television crew were coming to record me sing. ‘You mean us sing?’ ‘No Madam, you are singing’ ‘My gosh. What am I singing?’ ‘Some Indian songs and some songs in your good English language. In one half an hour precisely.’ An amused panic ensues. Firstly, I know only one Indian song with the help of my notes, and 20 scales with less proficiency than the very youngest 4 year old of the class. Do I know any English songs? I turn my playlists through my mind, Zoe Keating – no words, Jami Seiber, I’d have to hum? Radiohead, how frightfully depressing for them. But devotional Snatam Kaur is more like my language?! I plead. The idea to scroll through my iphone appears and I find Healing Room by Sinead O’Connor and start scribbling lyrics, yes I know, how ludicrous. The assistant now plays me Jennifer Lopez on her phone and suggests it may be appropriate. The reality is that the idea of being seen on one of the 50 local Indian television channels is more of a disappearance than an appearance but still I would rather not have this willing and expectant group of children and parents cringe with disappointment. The filming starts, and it is true, after my teacher leads us in a single scale, I am to firstly sing alone and then lead the whole group in ‘Geeta Govindam’, relying upon my notepad while a cameraman tries to find angles where I have some look of expertise. As the young singers joined, every so often I would find myself gazing in bemusement and then remember the microphone, spying like a bug on my silence, to be aired later. ‘And your good country’s song Madam?’ Flummoxed, the words appear from my mouth, ‘Dance, dance wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the dance says he………’ My favourite Christian Hymn from school. I sing it with quite some enjoyment in fact. ‘And your good profession?’ A horror shivers through me just before the word ‘dance’ nearly appears on my lips. Dance meditations are most certainly not for Indian television viewing, nor anyone’s. ‘Classroom teacher,’ I reply with confidence in a truth from ten years ago. They burst into applause and I am shaking hands and signing autographs for thirty young Indians and parents with strangely low expectations of talent. Incredible India.

Entering the Song    

As morning grew I felt the excitement of a conscientious schoolchild. Placing two seats, one candle, a voice recorder and reciting my Sa Ri Gha Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa of Indian Classical Karnatika music I was preparing for my music master. Years ago I began Hindustani studies in the Himalayas, albeit a whisper, and fell to a pause until today.
There is a ritual in Kerala to greet the new teacher, a mutual bowing and then into the master’s prayer-clasped hands a blessing of money is passed. On discovering that I knew my seven note scale the master led me into inconceivable combinations and speeds. It reminded me of my audition as a vaguely committed violinist to England’s National Youth Orchestra where I played a piece called, ‘Gallop’ and became speedily out of control to such a pace where I could not stop and yet somehow finished the piece hiccup-free. They unwittingly assigned me to first violins where I had to feign competency by lowering my bow to an inch above the strings and barely playing a sound the year-long. To my joy today, I saw such runaway-train nature as just how creativity is supposed to be. Were I to think about it, the notes at speed would never have been possible, but I discovered that something more direct than my mind was able to hear and repeat. I love song as much as dance. 
Until just now I have been the only guest in this beautiful house of Ayurveda, and just as I surface from my rich aloneness I find a new companion has arrived with a voracious curiosity equalling my own. Everything is appearing on the agenda. And morestill, as the music of the temple quietens I hear this same new one, a talented musician playing and singing on our very balcony. 
The pace has just increased.

Sitting practice    

I love train station platforms. The staccato flutter of pigeon wings, the deep churn of engines, anonymous informative voices from speaker phones, and the overheard conversations of individual realities. Life passes by; arriving, departing, waiting, moving through and on, moving through and on. The platform stays still and constant, and its bench is the most deeply grounding cushion a meditator could ask for. In truth I could satisfy my life’s longing to forever move on into the unknown adventure by simply sitting on a platform, or airport waiting lounge; there really is no need to go anywhere. The deeply treasured excitement of a 16 year old lives inside – memories of leaving alone to travel to french families, university, or around and around the world are stoked and a creative fire burns. And now age 35 this teenager gulps in wise awe that the excitement is here through the most simplest aspects of commuter life. I board the train this morning only traveling a short way home. The view from the window momentarily fools me – a ship at sea?! The driver announces that due to high tides we might experience some waves splashing through the windows! Smiles and laughter like a child who hopes we might get carried out to sea on a magical voyage.. I arrive to my home station and catch a sensed forecast of the mundane ahead. It needn’t be that way. I begin by sitting on the bench, I feel very at home here.

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