Sunday, February 14, 2010

5. Am I Falling... in Love?

It is still pitch-dark. I seem to be the only one at the beach. I hope I am at the right place. After ten minutes of standing around I start panicking it might be the wrong place. Perhaps people are busy gathering elsewhere. If I stay here I may miss out on seeing him. The thought is unbearable. I consider walking along the beachfront in search of the others. Then again, what if this is the right place and the others are just late? Going in search of them could also make me miss out. I stand around indecisively for a while longer.

Eventually I notice one person on the beach to my left and two persons near the ice cream shop to my right. The former looks like he’s a beach dweller and I’m also not sure if the other two are devotees or not. It starts getting light and I can’t bear the suspense any longer. I go enquire if they are here for the Art of Living meditation on the beach? Yes, they are and they think this is the right spot. I hope they are right. A few people start walking their dogs on the beach and a handful of surfers appear, but the rest of the devotees are slow in arriving. I only start relaxing once our numbers gradually pick up, reaching the twenty-odd mark.

It becomes much lighter and the crowd grows by leaps and bounds. I am definitely at the right place. Now where to position myself? Most people are gathered on the beach and some on the promenade pavement. Should I go wait for him in the middle of the parking area instead? That way I might get to see him privately, even if only for a minute or two. But what if he arrives from another direction, say, from a walk along the beach? In that case waiting in the parking area will mean forfeiting seeing him privately as well as forfeiting a good viewing spot on the beach. No, safest will be to reserve myself a good spot on the beach. What will be the best spot? That's going to depend on him – will he stand here on the promenade looking down at the crowd on the beach, or will he go down to the beach addressing us from way over there at the other end of the crowd? Hard to know. I decide for now it’s best to reserve myself a spot on the low promenade wall. I am not tall, but this way I can keep an eye on both the parking area and the beach crowd.

The crowd swells and I feel restless. My position doesn’t feel right. A restiveness suddenly manifests at one end of the crowd – he’s here! Those sitting on the beach get up. I have a strong feeling I must get to the front of the crowd on the beach. Quickly I make my way through the devotees on the right and somehow – I don’t know quite how – end up being in the very front row, a little to the right of the centre.

I’ve hardly positioned myself when swiftly he comes striding round the other end of the crowd to my left. Without looking at any of us, he positions himself with his back towards us, directly before the centre of the front row. People behind me have been pushing a little and I somehow find myself slightly in front of the front row, almost in line with him, but not quite. He’s some three metres to my left. He stands still, facing the sea, all of us facing him.

Then, slowly, ever so slowly, his head starts turning towards his right shoulder, towards my side of the crowd. Our eyes meet and the turning stops. It’s a loooong look. And it is not impersonal and disinterested. I can’t believe it is happening. I wonder, could it be, is it really me he’s giving such special attention to? Why me? What about the rest of the crowd? Perhaps I’m imagining it. Perhaps there’s someone else standing to my other side who’s also moved forward of the front row, and he’s looking at that person, not at me? Or at both of us? But it does feel as if he’s zooming in on me.

It’s a mischievous and boyish look. It’s expressing direct interest, unmistakeably. I can feel my entire body responding. My heart is fluttering. I’m aglow. All of this is quite unexpected. I know the sensation well and I’m confused, disconcerted. This is pretty much about attraction and falling in love. It is certainly not the kind of Guru-disciple look I had in mind. Am I just projecting this? But there is this definite physical effect I’m experiencing – not all of it is particularly subtle either. Surely as the Master he must know what effect he’s having on me? Is this deliberate? Is it because he’s a playful Guru and because he knows how to use the whole range of human emotions and drives to bring about evolution in a disciple? I assume so. I assume he has read my nature accurately, that he knows I am spiritually still unevolved, that in me there are still desires for physical intimacy. He is drawing these desires towards himself and will soon purify me and transform them into something higher.

Anyway, this is not an unpleasant sensation and I feel flattered by his attention. I’ve been under a lot of strain lately, stressing about various academic and financial obligations I’m neglecting for the sake of Yoga and also being austere with myself in terms of spiritual practice, renunciation, self-denial. I’m ready to fall in love. Of course, I’m not interested in falling in love with just anyone, but if it is with the Master Himself, then it’s ideal. No danger in that. He understands me and knows what he is doing.

I wonder if he thinks I’m just a regular boy, or if he is aware of my transgender history. I assume he knows. His interest serves as a validation of my unusual bodily identity. I am badly in need of such positive confirmation. I wonder if he truly feels attraction or if he’s just pretending. And does he give these kinds of looks mostly to men, or mostly to women, or to both equally? I hope he gives it to anyone as may be required and regardless of gender – whether male, female or otherwise.

Slowly he withdraws his gaze from mine and turns his head to the front again. He hasn’t looked at anyone besides me and I feel truly singled out. I feel enchanted and in awe. He’s a special kind of Master.

Only somewhere in the back of my mind a tiny voice keeps up the doubt, continuously whispering: “He doesn’t feel familiar. He’s like a complete stranger. I don’t recognise him at all. He’s not the Guru I expected. There doesn't seem to be anything very subtle or light in our interaction, nothing that is of a distinctively higher quality. There is enchantment, yes, but does it really feel different from what I’ve experienced in relation to other charismatic people in my life, or even from the times I checked out someone in a club? Something’s definitely missing. Perhaps he’s not my Master? Perhaps he’s got a friend who is my Master and he’s just waiting for the right moment to direct me to him?” But this voice is tiny and I’m doing my best to block it out. I need my Guru now.

Once facing the sea, he immediately starts leading us in some warm-up exercises like jogging in one place and shaking the arms. While doing this, he slightly turns his head from side to side, looking over his shoulders from the corners of his eyes to see if people are following. My eyes are fixed on him – I don’t want to miss out on a second of him. Being almost in line with him, I’m having to look at him over my left shoulder, and the constant twist in my neck makes doing some of the exercises a bit awkward, but I don’t really care, except that I’m somewhat embarrassed about what the people behind me may be thinking about my obsessive staring at their Guru.

He’s through with the stretches and exercises and starts walking towards the sea, all of us following behind him and at his sides. I’m slightly behind him. Close to the water he steps out of his slip-ons, leaving them behind on the sand. He walks barefoot into the shallow water, tiny waves surging around his feet. I hesitate a moment. I have a strong desire to tune in and imitate him exactly. But if I leave my flip-flops behind like he did, I’ll have difficulty quickly locating them again afterwards, and in the process I’ll lose my position close to him. He has many people around who’ll quickly hand him his shoes once he exits the water. I don’t. I could of course just carry my shoes in my hands while entering the water, but then that’s not an exact mimic, it will detract from the tune-in process. I step out of my flip-flops a couple of metres behind him to his right, hoping no one will notice I’m deliberately mimicking him. Like him I walk a little into the water. Some others also do the same, but they have their shoes with them or are barefoot anyway – having left their stuff at the meeting-point. When he steps out of the water I consider just leaving my flip-flops behind and staying close to him, shoes are not that important anyway. But then I consider that I might need them to follow him into certain areas. I play safe and retrieve them, predictably having trouble finding them in the crowd and to my dismay losing my position close to him.

Way ahead he strides briskly along the beach to my right, the people close to him half-running to keep up. A long column has formed behind him, snaking along the beach. Some people towards the middle and back of the column are walking slowly, chatting – clearly not everyone is desperate to keep up with him. I look at the people in the front who are running to keep up and remain close to him. I sense something extremely degrading about all this. I could also run there and position myself in the front group around him, all of them trying to outdo each other to be near him, but inside me there is strong resistance. What quality interaction can one anyway have with him in such a half-competitive race? Once in a while he briefly stops and exchanges a few words with some people, and then the race is on again. I keep walking at a fast, but reasonably dignified pace and end up somewhere in the first third of the column. A woman close to me remarks half-amused to her friend, “It’s like the piper!” I grin, picturing the Pied Piper of Hamelin playing his flute, enchanting the village rats and then the village children to follow him in long columns, leading them away from their village and their homes, never to return again. This beach scene does indeed give that kind of feel.

I see him pause at the start of a long jetty, people catching up and crowding around him. I assume he’s soon going to lead the walk onto the jetty, obviously desiring to get a view of the ocean from the jetty’s deepest end. It instantly gives me an idea. It’s not high tide, so it’s possible to take a shortcut through the shallow water to the middle of the jetty. I could climb up the side of the jetty wall and wait for him there. I break away from the column to pursue this idea, though feeling self-conscious about it, briefly noting to myself that clambering up walls to see him is not much more dignified than running after him. But at least this doesn’t involve the semi-competitive jostling that goes on near him. I just hope people are too busy with the Guru to notice my doings.

Once onto the jetty, I position myself some way towards its centre, but not too deep in – just in case he changes his mind and decides to drop the jetty walk. I stand hugging the right railing, holding it with my right hand to ground and steady myself emotionally. I am trying to look inconspicuous and disinterested, my back turned towards him and the crowd who are still occupied at the start of the jetty. I’m pretending to enjoy the sea view ahead of me, but am alertly waiting for the moment he’ll walk past my left.

One person passes ahead. Then it’s Him! It’s Him alone. He has outwalked the crowd. He passes hardly a metre from me. He does not look at me, but the expression on his face speaks volumes. He’s intimately aware of me, knowing full well that all my attention is fixed on him. His face is playful, half-blushing, half-teasing. He’s playing at being out of reach. I’m smitten. Head over heels in love. This time my body’s response is more pronounced than earlier. Involuntarily a “Hmmm” escapes my throat. It is audible enough for him to hear. It is desire, longing and pain all rolled into one. It is a very intense and intimate moment. Then he’s ahead and the crowd catches up, swallowing him from view.

I turn my entire body away from the crowd, towards the railing, holding it with both hands, pretending to look out over the sea. I feel like groaning with yearning and pain. Why is He playing this Game? Why is He keeping me at a distance?

I think of the “Hmmm” that escaped my throat just now. It was unexpected and involuntary and I was surprised at myself. I had clearly already internalised all his “Hmmm’s” of the previous two and a half days. It’s already a subconscious response. I know I have a tendency to quickly pull into myself the qualities of any person I admire, but usually I am more aware and in control of what I incorporate and to what degree I act it out. This was just a little too quick and involuntary to believe. Generally I’m not prone to that kind of verbal expression of emotion and desire. I wonder if he had not deliberately triggered it in me through some kind of mental transferral. Somehow it made me feel related to him and claimed by him.

The whole crowd has passed. I turn away from the railing, watching as they all throng around him at the other end of the jetty. He’s completely hidden from sight. I notice a bench situated on the jetty some way ahead of me. It’s not very near him or the crowd, but if I stand on it, I may be able to see him.

As I get onto the bench, I’m again terribly aware of the fact that I stand out like a sore thumb. Is there any way one can stand on a bench in a modest and invisible manner? I try my best nonetheless. Fortunately the others are far off and otherwise occupied. The biblical story of the short Zacchaeus flashes into my mind, how he climbed into a tree to see Jesus who was always surrounded by a crowd. It’s reassuring to know there were other short people in history too who did unconventional things to see their Guru. I feel a little less bothered about what people might think.

Only his head is visible to me. Sometimes tall persons block him from view. He’s too far off for me to hear his voice, but I can see he’s making jokes. He’s laughing and others are too. I feel deprived. At least I’m not the only deprived one. Most of the crowd are equally deprived. The jetty is not wide enough to allow the entire crowd to surround him and even if it were, there are so many devotees that most would still be unable to get close enough to see and hear him. I feel deeply unhappy at this situation. I don’t know what’s the solution, but I feel he should in some way be able to make himself more accessible to everyone. This inaccessibility is terribly cruel.

He’s returning with the crowd. They’re getting near and I’m torn between wanting to remain on the bench for a good view, and instinctively feeling that it’s somewhat disrespectful to look down on the Guru from up here. Besides, what will the others think? I nevertheless keep clinging to my bench position until he’s about two metres off and the embarrassment becomes too acute to bear. Slowly and in awe I step down from the bench. He passes quite close to the bench but doesn’t look at me. He’s occupied with the others.

Back on the beach he finds us a spot where we can sit watching the sunrise. Again I’m not sure where’s he going to position himself – in front of the crowd or behind. I sit down on the right edge of the crowd, equally far from the front and the back, keeping open the possibility of moving forward or backward as may be required. He ends up standing on the promenade behind us. Some of the white-clothed persons are standing around him. I am tempted to get up and move to the back, closer to him, but everyone is already seated and facing forward and I won’t escape being very obvious. By now I’ve reached my emotional limit of doing embarrassing things to get close to him. Frustrated I remain sitting where I am. The tip of the sun is beginning to break through the horizon. I can’t care less about the sun in front of me. All my awareness is fixed on the Sun behind me, but I can’t very well turn my head to look back at him without encountering the whole sea of eyes that are headed this direction. We have to close our eyes and meditate. His voice doesn’t carry above the breeze and the sea’s rumble. I can’t hear a thing he says. I’m feeling disconnected from him and unhappy. I definitely need the visual connection. I wonder why this is the case. Why doesn’t he make me feel his presence regardless of whether I see him or not?

The meditation ends and he leads the column of devotees along the promenade back to the parking area. I manage to be in the front bunch close to him. When we reach the parking area, I suddenly feel I can’t handle this anymore. All the people rushing to be close to him, desiring a last glimpse of him before he leaves, is just too much for me. I feel I’ve had my turn. He’s already given me two very special, close-up and intimate experiences this morning. I don’t feel entitled to more of his attention. I’ve already received more than most people and it’s their turn now. I slip away sideways in between two cars, watching him intently from a slight distance. I am in longing and despair.

Suddenly a boy darts out like a young antelope from somewhere in the middle of the column. I immediately recognise him as the boy who led the clapping during the Guru’s speech at the education function. He runs towards the Guru. I assume his mother told him to do so in the hope of a blessing or cure. Somehow the space to the left of the Guru clears completely, giving him a gap to enter. As the boy reaches him, the Guru instantly turns round towards him. He uses his fingers to press down the boy’s eyelids, closing them. His hands are covering the boy’s eyes and forehead. The boy is standing inert, not making a move. I assume the Guru is calming his mind, curing his restlessness or whatever it is he is ailing from. People start crowding around and the Guru and boy are lost from my view. For the sake of the boy and his mother, I hope the healing is complete.

The synchronicity of events strikes me – both with respect to the boy’s interaction with the Guru and also my own witnessing of the boy’s behaviour yesterday and this morning. I assume the Guru had deliberately positioned me in the right places at the right times to be able to chart his intervention with the boy. I’m reminded of Jesus performing miracles of healing at the Sea of Galilee. I also wonder when my turn will come – when will He calm my own tortured mind, cure my restlessness and heal me?

Shortly afterwards he gets into a vehicle. I’m standing on my own, somewhat away from the others, along the road his car must exit. I’m in love and in despair. He must be my Master, but the way forward is not clear. He is playing interesting and unexpected games with me, but he’s remaining somewhat distant. He’s not settling me down, not clarifying stuff for me, not allowing me to feel deeply connected to Him, not revealing my spiritual practice to me. As his car drives past me, I tell him urgently with all my mind, half-pleading, half-commanding him, “See You in Cape Town. You’ll connect to me in Cape Town, won’t You? Please don’t keep torturing me like this.”

He’s off to the airport now, catching a flight to the Eastern Cape where he’ll meet traditional leaders and politicians. I wish I had the means to follow him there, but that’s pretty much out of the question. Fortunately he’ll only be spending the morning there. I calculate that by late this afternoon he should arrive at Cape Town airport. Tonight he’s due to speak at the Oliver Tambo hall in Khayelitsha – for free, unlike his talk at St. George’s Cathedral tomorrow night, which will cost around 150 bucks. I intend waiting for him at the airport and attending both talks. There won’t be any course in Cape Town and I fear my best opportunity for interacting with him has been lost. Soon he’ll be leaving the country. Part of me is already in a panic that he might leave without resolving my issues or clarifying our relationship.

I quickly walk back to the backpackers to fetch my stuff and catch a taxi to the Durban airport. My own flight is only around lunchtime but I’m hoping I may still catch him at the airport before he departs on his flight.

At the airport he’s nowhere to be seen, but there are other devotees waiting for their flights. I don’t recognise them, but one of them strikes up a conversation with me, telling me she noticed me at the course. With the Guru gone and there being no possibility of concentrating on his presence, I soften up a little as far as social interaction is concerned. Perhaps it’s his wish that I interact with his devotees. Besides, I need to find out some stuff about him and his organisation, more specifically, how can one get close to him?

She’s a pleasant person, a gentle and devout Christian, twenty-something and studying. She’s also waiting for a flight to Cape Town. She explains to me that in Cape Town there are many people who come to the weekly breathing practice, but few who are devotees. There’s a difference between these two categories. The fact that he has few devotees in Cape Town gives me hope that it would be easier for me to get close to him there, and also that he may perhaps have some special role for me over there. After all, I have made a partial commitment to becoming one of his teachers and coordinators.

She says she is not a devotee of Guruji because she believes in Jesus. It is nonetheless clear to me that she has a special relationship with the Guru too and I find it positive that he is able to make himself accessible to people of other religions. I ask her one of my burning questions, namely whether she experiences the Guru’s presence in daily life? No, she doesn’t, except in meditation. But she writes all her questions to him in a diary and within a week or a few days the answer comes to her, for example by overhearing people’s conversation or by reading something. It’s interesting to me that she writes her questions to the Guru and not to Jesus, but I don’t ask her why this is the case. The fact that she experiences the Guru in meditation gives me some hope: I hope he’ll enable me to experience his presence too – and not only in meditation, but constantly, every second of the day and night. I don’t want to feel deprived for a single instant.

She tells me that the Health & Happiness course this weekend was not the real thing. I find it interesting that she’s so dismissive about the course even though the Guru himself presented some of the sessions. I myself also didn't feel I learned much in terms of techniques, but then, the Guru himself was my obsession.

She says the Basic Course is the real thing and I should do it soon. She has done it several times already and learns something new every time. I remember how people in my group had also recounted how many times they’ve done the Basic Course, how many times the Advanced Course, etc. It seemed like the number of times one had done a course was taken as an indication of how serious one’s commitment was. I wondered then, and now again, why on earth one would want to redo the same course, especially if it is with some teacher and not with the Guru himself. Done once with attention seems to me enough.

Her first course was in the Eastern Cape and it was good but tough, because the teacher had the ability to know what one had for breakfast. This is a touchy issue for me and I want to be sure I understand her correctly. “What do you mean, he had the ability to know what one had for breakfast?” She says, “He was psychic.” I feel irritated. I’m not interested in doing courses with ordinary teachers who are psychic. It will just be an invasion of my privacy. I’m interested in an intimate connection with the Guru only. No need to have things complicated through having teachers come in between and putting one through all kinds of ordeals through their psychic abilities. I feel downright rebellious at the mere thought of it. She continues, saying that she then did her second Basic Course in Cape Town with another teacher and this time it was a much more nurturing experience. This sounds a little more promising to me – perhaps I could deal with that.

I mention to her that I’m struggling to balance my studies with my Yoga practice. Getting my thesis written is an uphill battle. She again impresses on me that I simply must do the Basic Course, it will really help with the thesis: “You’ll see you’ll become so focused. You’ll write it so quickly, in no time you’ll finish it.” She’s raising my expectations sky-high, but I also remain cautiously sceptical – after all, seldom in my life have I written anything quickly, especially not when it comes to academia, it’s just not my nature. I think of a recent textbook chapter I wrote, how for months I repeatedly missed every conceivable deadline in the reviewing, editing and publishing schedule, how the chapter just continued growing and growing through new additions and constant reformulations. In the end they somehow managed to include the chapter in the publication last minute, but the stress nearly drove me nuts and in the process I also subjected other people to a lot of strain. If a single one-week course can help me focus and write my PhD quickly, it will truly be an unprecedented miracle in my life. I’m also deeply yearning to follow the Guru to India as soon as I can. If only he will speedily remove all the obstacles and obligations, clearing for me the way towards him...

She’ll need a lift from Cape Town airport to her home. My flight is a little later than hers, but I offer to drop her off if she’s prepared to wait for me at the other side. She gives me a tiny photo of the Guru. He looks very sweet in it, holding a red rose. Just a pity he’s looking down, so one can’t see his eyes. I need a connection to his eyes. During most of the flight I look at his tiny picture enclosed in my hand, unobtrusively of course, making sure the passenger next to me doesn't notice. I try to tune in to his presence, wondering what he’s doing in the Eastern Cape right now. I replay the two intense experiences I had with him this morning, hoping and praying that he’ll finally allow me close in Cape Town, that my desperately needed inner transformation is imminent. I think of his poem “The Promise”. Reading it lit the spark in my heart ten days ago, prompting me to come to his course. I have already claimed his promise for myself, but when is he planning to fulfil it?