An Evening With the Devil

Well that’s a little harsh I think. I’m just being dramatic.

This is an update on my yoga experience last night.

The “Swami” was a little odd to say the least. I took a friend with me to the yoga class. I’m not one to do classes of anything. I like to exercise in solitude ordinarily. I like to just pop in my headphones and run.

I picked my friend up at 6.50pm for our 7.30pm class, as I notoriously run late to everything and I knew that I would get lost. A self fulfilling prophecy of sorts you can say.

The yoga class – actually it is a yoga retreat centre – was in a remote area of North Western Sydney, and as I had gone to high school in the area, I decided to take a back road. And in my typical fashion, I got lost.

The 20 minute journey turned into 40 minutes thanks to my excellent navigational skills.

My friend was a little anxious at our surroundings. I had grown up in the area, so to me I didn’t think anything of it but I guess being out in the middle of nowhere is usually associated with the set of a horror film. Dark unsealed roads, and bush as far as the eye could see, with only the occasional twinkling of a porch light to indicate one of the sprawling properties that are in the area.

The navigation lady informed us that the “destination is on your right”. I squinted, trying to make out the number on the letterbox. We turned into the driveway and began making our way down the long road to the retreat. The driveway was at least a kilometre long (and around 5 feet wide). Large trees and shrubs flanked us. It was pitch black. I started to laugh. Probably out of nervousness. Where had we come?

Once we finally arrived at the retreat, we walked up to the door.

“Please ring bell if reception unattended” read the sign at the door.

I rang the bell and we waited. And waited.

I decided to phone the number as it appeared nobody was there. A young man answered and said he’d call me back in a moment.

“Swami will be there in a moment” the man told me as he called back a few minutes later.

After a few moments we see a small Indian woman, with ass length black hair emerge from a door a little way up.

We wander up to her and she reprimands us firmly.

“You should have called. I sent other people away this evening because the class was too small”.

“I did call” I explained sheepishly. “I spoke to a man on Saturday morning”.

She seemed to ignore me.

She walks into the meditation room and we follow her in there silently. Our heads hung in a mixture of both shame and confusion.

She tells us to grab a cushion and sit down on the floor. She comes out and walks behind us and lights a fire.

My inner voice pipes up.

“It’s fucking 25 degrees”

My logic adds to the inner dialogue.

“It is what it is. Don’t judge.”

I turn around to scan the room. The room is very large. The floor is covered with several different rugs, and the walls are adorned with various Indian deities. Ganesh (the remover of obstacles) is ever present on the far right hand wall. Swami lights an incense stick.

“You see this?” Swami asks us, holding up a little dragon statue with an incense stick it it’s mouth.

“I’ve never seen this one. But I know Ganesh” I tell her, pointing to the Hindu God on the far wall.

“What?” She asks me. She’s a little hard of hearing.

She’s quite old. I don’t know how old she is. My friend estimates she’s around 80. She could be 140 for all I know.

She asks us if we brought our meditation beads. We tell her it’s our first time. Annoyed, She disappears into a room for a few minutes before returning with some beads.

And then the madness begins.

It’s starts with her telling us about how the mind is very powerful, but that Western people don’t know how to empty the mind anyway. And if you do manage to empty the mind, then there is nothing in there and what’s the point of that?

She talks and talks and talks.

She talks about how she has cows on her property. And horses. We smile politely at her. And that she has an elephant and a giraffe too. My facial expression now turns to one of confusion.

“Giraffes are good because they eat all the leaves so you don’t have to trim the trees” she tells us.

Is she a mental case? Does she honestly expect us to believe that she keeps zoo animals on her property?

“And I have cows too” she repeats herself.

She then makes us do a couple of stretches. More talking now.

About a woman who was so fat that she took up the whole rug in one meditation class (impossible), about the girl next door who isn’t right in the head because she was once caught wandering around the property naked with a towel as a cape, then her asking if we were with her on her recent trip to Melbourne.

It was plain as day that the Swami was suffering the advanced effects of dementure. The Swami now busts into song. My friend looks at me and mouths to me “I’m going to fucking kill you”. I put my head down to suppress my laughter.

“Are you coming to India with us?” Swami asks.

“Yes” answers my friend. Humouring her. I feel like I’m in high school again. Trying not to giggle.

Swami asks us 3 times how long it will take us to get home. Each time I answer her. And each time it’s as if she’s heard the answer for the first time.

“Do you know I have cows?” She asks us. Oh dear…

A man comes to the door now. He’s a guest at the retreat. He asks Swami a question, and Swami asks if he’d like to join the class. He declines. Swami asks us if we are related to him. It’s apparent that she is completely mad, and we take that as our cue to leave.

She gifts us the meditation beads, and we leave with her forgetting to collect the $14 fee. I didn’t expect her to charge us. I think in her mind she assumed we lived at the retreat with her. Particularly as she said she’d see us tomorrow.

So what did I learn from this? Not much. Aside from the fact that she was a total space cadet, I can only come to the conclusion that a life of seclusion, meditation, vegetarian meals, and cutting out all of the modern evils like caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes, makes you madder than a cut snake.

My experience with Ketut in Bali was uncanny, and she could have been the spit out of his mouth. Being too spiritual has the opposite effect it seems. I think what I did take away from it (taking away the fact that I was emotionally fatigued), was that in life, too much of anything is a bad thing. And that it’s time that the Swami hangs up her meditation beads and has a bit of a rest.

Balance is the key to life.

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