I haven’t been to Newcastle for, like, ever. 20 years or so. My main memory is arriving on tour with my band, going to the local radio station for an interview, only to find that the interviewer was the Aussie rock legend, John Paul Young. Memories of a forgotten past; I guess we’re all yesterday’s heroes now…
As for new memories, we forged some bright ones. I’d been invited by the kindness of some friends, Sarawati and Richard, who I’d met thru the AABCAP course on Buddhism and psychotherapy. They do kirtan, a kind of Hindu devotional musical mantra, at a local yoga center, and they invited me to share some meditation.
When we arrived, Richard and Saraswati were doing a very beautiful, gentle chant based on the Heart Sutra mantra, ‘Gate gate parangate…’ Saraswati told me she wrote it after doing my metta retreat last year, which gave me a big happy.
We had a lovely afternoon doing some metta. They weren’t a regular meditation group, so of diverse backgrounds and levels of experience. There was that easy Australian sense of relaxed earnestness, and a lot of appreciation for the chance to learn and practice.
In the evening, Saraswati and Richard together with some friends did two kirtans. One was based on ‘Namo tassa..’, the other on
‘Nataraja…’ (Lord of the dance, an epithet of Shiva). I’d never experienced it before, and I found it very moving. It’s a slow, repetitive call-and-response, very gradually building in intensity. I found a surprising depth of stillness among the sound – which is, of course, the whole idea. It really was a great experience. I loved the way they managed to bring everybody together very simply and share an uplifting experience.
And what made it even better was that it was by donation, and the donations went to help orphans in India. Thanks to Saraswati and Richard, and to the Ashtanga Yoga Center, for putting on such a great event.