Culture Articles

The search for enlightenment

Weekend editor Anna-Marie Crowhurst is attempting to meditate


A guru called Paul is trying to get me to open my third eye.

“You will know when it happens,” he intones. “Because there will be a brilliant white light and all knowledge will be available to you.”

Laying on my back in an outdoor yoga pavilion in the middle of a beautiful small farm in Kerala, I point my eyeballs upwards behind my closed eyelids and think about the knowledge I would like to be available to me. How to make my late mother-in-law’s house – which is costing us a lot of money – sell, so we can breathe again, free of the constant vice-like press of looming debt. How to get all the extra work I have taken on to pay for said house done without having some sort of nervous episode. How to travel more. How to see friends more. How to relax more. And smaller things. How to stop the cat yowling in the middle of the night. How to organise my life better. How I really should start doing regular online shops because it would save a lot of ti…

I have forgotten I am supposed to be meditating. I am meditating, here in India, for the same reason I have been doing yoga. Because if not here then where? I am in a homestay surrounded by lush plantations and bordered by a river that yesterday I swam in. It is the middle of the second monsoon and it has been raining – the heavy tropical rain that comes every afternoon for an hour or so – and the river is high; the water cold, clear and fast-moving. We let the current carry us downstream like leaves before climbing out and starting the circuit all over again. I have not done any work or answered any emails for a whole week. And I am not wearing any shoes (or socks). If I am ever going to meditate, it is now.

I try to concentrate on breathing deeply in time with the “om” chants that Paul is playing on loop.


I wonder if there are snakes in the river. Yesterday our excellent, and impossibly informative driver, Ajay, told us that there are three…


… kinds of snakes in Kerala. The cobra, the viper, and the naja. The naja will kill you in eight seconds flat.


Eight seconds is not long to say goodbye. Maybe you’d squeeze in one sentence. What would you say? I love you? I’m sorry?


Ajay also says that if you get snakes in your house you simply call for the village snake man who will come and tell the snake to leave.


If the snake will not leave, he will give it a bowl of milk spiced with turmeric and the snake will drink it and THEN it will leave…


Maybe I can do that with all my worries and then maybe my third eye will open. Oh.

I realise I have forgotten to point my eyeballs upwards. It’s weird being still; other senses coming into play. I can feel the air heating up, though it’s still early morning. The buzzing song of insects. I try to focus on relaxing my body. I can feel all of it, every bone in my back. My shoulder blades are tender. This is because before we started the “oms” Paul taught us body rolling.

“Regular rolling will keep you young, slim and beautiful,” he had said, and I had thought, this is mildly offensive, while simultaneously rolling to and fro across the hard wooden floor of the pavilion with a level of vigour and determination hitherto unknown to me. The following day I will crane my head to look at the bruises that have formed, one on each shoulder blade, and think, if it works, it is worth it.

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