A short story about discovering the gift of presence on a desolate beach.
I am riding on the backseat of a motorcycle. I feel the wind against my face, the unevenness of the path beneath us. I feel safe, I have no control over the steering wheel and I just observe as the dense forest flashes before my eyes as we go faster and faster. I trust that the driver, Shrey, unlike me, knows exactly where we are heading.
Ishan, Golu, Abhi and Shrey.
My protectors, my companions, my tribe for what would then become one of the most beautifully spontaneous nights of my life.
Ishan is like a powerful grizzly bear.
Tattooed from the neck down to the ankles, he stands tall and appears serious at a first glance. Not someone to be messed with. Get to know him a little better and realize that his size is just because a big container is needed to fit a heart 10 times larger than average. He is steady, he trusts himself and rides his motorcycle in the same way. At ease, focused but without strain. He sheltered us through the night and gave us enough warmth to weather the cool breeze as nightfall came closer.
Golu, with a cheeky grin he could rarely contain and round spectacles that made his eyes appear double their normal size.
Mischievous. He had a talent for turning the most serious conversation into a laughing fit. After all, what is the sound of one hand clapping? Now we know, none other than a the sound of a cosmic tabraq (slap in hindi) as it hits you across the face, all the way to your ego. He lit up the night with laughter, constantly reminding us that any situation is just another opportunity to make a good joke.
Abhishek, silent and cautious upon meeting him.
Never said more than what was needed and would rather listen than draw too much attention to himself. Once he let his guard down though, he became a soul dancer, with a soft spot for free style and latin moves. He balanced his son cubano with a 1960’s groove that John Coltrane, Hendrix and Morrison lived by. He swayed between hedonistic acid rock, jazzy melancholy and latin hopeless romanticism. He kept us going with music that sounded like creation itself. The perfect soundtrack for when we find ourselves suddenly on the dark side of the moon, looking down at the world.
Shrey, stands tall and confident.
A strange mix of introspection and assertiveness seeps through piercing brown eyes. Never afraid to hold a gaze, and come out victorious from a staring contest. Our very own revolutionary. Has single handedly proclaimed a coup d’état against all things doctrinal and dogmatic. Instead, providing a space for spontaneity, boundlessness, allowing the creative process to unfold exactly how it should. Perfectly chaotic. He summoned all of us to join the tribe and play the game he had discovered. To become alchemists of our own world, to play with the cosmos and design a playground to our own liking. This time, transforming a desolate beach into a dance floor, spaceship, a planet far in the distance, and then back to reflect the space of our minds themselves.
We were all ready.
Player One. Go.
I feel my body like I never have before.
Sensations on my skin. The light breeze, the sand beneath my feet as I make my way along the sea shore. I feel the movement of my light violet dress against my body, and the patterns on my tunic shifting as it sways with the wind. I hear the sound of the waves as they come and they go. Eternally undecided, emerging and then recoiling back into the navy blue ocean. I see the sun rays playfully shimmering and illuminating everything in my eye’s range, I observe how out of light, creation begins.
I begin to understand the meaning of the word enlightenment.
To observe how light changes and re-arranges itself to give rise to forms and movement. What we perceive as separate objects, are in fact just a momentary manifestation of light intertwining with matter. But none of this is permanent. For the nature of light is to go back to darkness, so matter goes back to emptiness in a constant cycle of destruction and creation.
In other words, Shiva’s masterpiece.
I Am Swimming In The Ocean.
I feel the coolness of the water on my skin. I rhythmically propel my body forward. I see the ocean mirroring the sky and the sun shimmering against the waves. I want to go as far as I can, realizing that like waves settle back into the ocean, so can thoughts be distilled into silence.
I see now, how my mind is vast like the sea. Ripe with potential. How my world is a reflection of the very nature of my mind. And therefor, I am free to paint beauty unto it like I would paint a landscape on a blank canvas.
Anything and everything is possible.
Darkness Has Now Covered Our World Like A Blanket.
There are less and less people until only the five of us remain. The orange tinted clouds of dusk have been replaced by a melon coloured moon. Smiling at us from afar and mirroring its image on the ocean in front of us. Stars are splashed unto the pitch dark sky, as if someone had poked holes into a dark room to let light seep in. I hold on to Ishan, both hands held in mine we start spinning in circles. Letting my world and his spin and spin as if we were rockets preparing for takeoff.
Three, two, one.
Launched into outer-space, taken out of our fish bowls. We are way up high observing our incredibly small and immensely large lives as they unfold moment by moment.
We all gather around the faint music coming from Abhi’s phone.
Golu had forgotten to charge the speakers so we had to settle for second best. In the end the joke really was on us and the phone’s mediocre speakers only added to the irony of the situation. What the hell, we are here to have fun at the end of the day and lose our umbrellas. Chaatha harana. Take our hats off and finally let the universe and all its sense of humour rain down on us— Just like a monsoon until we are left with no other choice but laugh with it.
And so we danced like no one was watching. Taking the opportunity to make fools out of ourselves simply because we can. We twisted our knees to funky soul music, popped our hips, we jammed like John Travolta and Uma Thurman jammed in pulp fiction. We danced with our shadows, watching them mimic our movements, then mimicking the movements of our shadows until they seemed to gain a personality of their own. As it turns out, my own shadow hates it when I try too hard. It keeps trying to remind me to relax, laugh at myself a little.
I just hadn’t noticed until that night.
I danced with Ishan and Shrey, holding both of their hands. Letting each other wind and unwind into our arms, under our arms, out the other side and back through again. Just like that until we were so tied up in a knot we no longer know how to get out again. Just like this, happily twisted with each other. I let myself share one silly dance with Shrey. Expressing gratitude in one light hearted slow dance.
I jokingly criticized his dance moves and said to him: “it’s okay you’re not the best dancer but I accept that. Look at me, I am flawed too, aren’t my flaws beautiful?”
To this he simply replied “I see no flaws.”
And That’s Just It.
I had spent so much time focusing on details I disliked about myself that I could no longer see me through fresh, non-judgemental eyes. But with a switch in perspectives I could see myself as I was seen by those around me — A whimsical small framed woman with light steps and a big love for life. Happy to share a moment of deep introspection into the nature of reality, willing to laugh out loud if given a good reason to, curious to the limits and expressive with every inch of my body.
Both guilty of being romantics at heart, I danced to harvest moon by Neil Young with Abhi. He effortlessly guided my steps, encouraged my spins and shared a dream of slow dancing under an orange tinted moon. I was happy to be a part of the dream, and contributed my own creative insight to the oeuvre d’art. Composers of moments, dreaming up life itself one step at a time.
Depleted, fully blissed out, we lay down on the sand to look up at the galaxies above us. Travelling to the sound of Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd we watched the stars in wonder. We observed them as they moved above our heads, bursting with energy. A constant reminder of the explosive nature of creation, the scale of the Universe and our place in it. Simultaneously insignificant, yet so important.
We are nature’s eyes — We perceive the process of death and birth with each passing thought, with each life that comes and goes, with each shooting star that flies across the sky.
Finally, We Made Our Way Back To Get Dinner
It felt like a split second and an eternity of crossing the deserted beach to get to the nearest restaurant. As we sat there, waiting for our food I watched in silence. I would have never expected to realize emptiness whole waiting for mushroom pasta to arrive and listening to German babble in the background.
That’s why I think the cosmos has a pretty good sense of humour— the most important messages come from the oddest messengers.
In this case, four goofy larger than life brothers in a dim lit beach shack. I observed light as it would spontaneously arise to create new images and events, creating the illusion of continuity. I observed how my intentions are transformed into action (either through speech or gestures) and how this would inevitably produce a reaction. Unavoidable, completely spontaneous.
How do we live in life without falling into the prison of Samsara? Intention, action and reaction? If everything we do sets off a chain of events, how can we be just passive observers?
Shrey dipped into my mental monologue to hand me a life line before I sank in too deep. ‘You simply live’, he said. Meaning we will do our best with what we have been given. We ended the night with a spectacle of stars dancing above our heads before making our ways back.
Now, I Am Riding In The Backseat Of Ishan’s Motorbike.
Feeling the wind shuffle my hair, making sure I perceive warmth instead of focusing on the cold air. I hold on tight and let myself ease into the purring of the motorbike, observing the vehicle’s dim light shine on the path in front of us. I understand consciousness. The mere act of paying attention to creation and movement as it unfolds. Perceiving it through my vision taking in the changing landscapes, the sound of the wind against my ears, the coolness on my skin.
I understand that anything that has the ability to feel, in whatever dimension possible (sensation, sound, vision) is another manifestation of consciousness. So the trees perceive us passing through the road through the slight change of the speed of the wind around them. Shuffling their leaves to let them know they are no longer alone.
And how grateful I am to be able to reflect awareness back unto itself. To perceive creation as it disappears only to reappear endlessly. Utterly perfect in all of its creative mastery. Life’s very first artist handing each and everyone of us a paintbrush with which to contribute to the masterpiece. But like a drop falls into the ocean, none of our actions will have any lasting effect. We are consciousness itself, mere manifestations of its creative process.
And as we have lived and picked up the canvas, so we will die and go back to where it all began.