01.01 meditation with the masses

the first thing i do this year is meditate.

i have been invited to bring in the new year at the global meditation at the ashram - at 6 am. at a regular new years, i'd usually be in bed or just be getting to bed at this time. so i wake up super duper early and walk 15 blocks to the ashram, eager to see what the global meditation will be like.

this is not a strange concept, though, i must explain. i am ismaili. it's ritual to meditate from 4-5am each morning. i have to admit, i haven't been to the mosque in the morning since forever. when i used to go regularly, it was great. when you meditate in the morning you bring in your day with such peace. and your days seem to go by with little conflict and trauma. there is something about meditation that i haven't fully explored yet but i will.

the ashram is full up. tonnes of people cross the street to meditate inside the educational centre. i decide i don't want to remove my shoes so i install myself with the throngs meditating in the street between the two buildings.

quick note: it's quite a strange sight to see for the first time, but indians sit everywhere on the ground. you go to the train station or the airport even and there everyone is, en masse, sitting on the ground having a snack. same thing with the sidewalk. or the street, or just behind a parked truck, exhaust pipes overhead. this is my first time sitting like that. i gotta be honest. it's really a yucky feeling.

then, organ music floods the street from the ashram and i wonder - how can you mediate to this?! for as far back as i can remember, i have somehow associated organ music with horror movies and sinister moods. my attempt at embracing the ashram is not proceeding well!

latecomers are now relegated, due to the increasing lack of space, to the periphery of my visual and hearing boundaries, therefore my consciousness. i close my eyes and attempt to center myself. the organ music continues, and then a lady's voice starts talking. it's the mother! but she's dead! wait - she's talking in french. she's telling me to relax, clear my mind and feel calm. i suddenly wish i was in my bed, but ok.

after 10 minutes, i get over the amplified organ music, the voice, and the dude sitting next to me craning his head to look at me. i begin to feel very calm.

after a half hour the music stops and people start to come back to life. i feel jipped. half an hour!! i have to admit, i did feel good after the meditation. i am used to the full hour at the mosque. half an hour is not bad, but the organ music has to go! as people begin to get up and dust themselves, a feeling of warmth comes over the crowd. its my first smile of the year - all sorts of people are wishing me and each other a happy new year. i walk to the far end of the ville blanche and come back to the guest house via the beach.

it is a magical morning. i spend the first hours of 2007 watching the bright red sun come up over the bay of bengal. there are dozens of people on the beach welcoming the new year with me this way, but i am happy to be alone with my thoughts. as i walk over to park guest house to get a cup of tea and ginger cookies (!), i notice a few old men doing yoga in the park. they smile at me and wish me a happy new year.

today is going to be a beautiful day.

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