Today I met an extraordinarily ordinary man. And I mean that in the truest essence of these words. So ordinary, that if I did not know him, or of him, if I passed him on the street, I would miss him. I would pass him by without a glance, busy with my phone or some thoughts in my head, rushing to or from somewhere.
Wandering in the new city that I now call home, I was exploring some undiscovered streets when I happened upon a simple A4 sheet of paper announcing – ‘Satsang with Satyananda’. I could not believe my eyes.
I had met Satyananda, an unassuming man from Uruguay, quite a long time ago. He used to come to a meditation centre with a group of people on a silent retreat. We, an Osho meditation community, ran Croydon Hall as a holistic venue where we would host a variety of different holistic workshops and meditation retreats.
I was drawn to this ‘enlightened’ man and we would chat over cups of tea, as one does. We lost touch however as he stopped using the venue for a variety of reasons. Though a few friends of mine still go on his silent retreats that he offers around the country.
And now this poster. A pull, a gut decision where the mind had no say. And the heart singing, a huge smile on my face. The satsang was being held not five minutes from where I now live! Is that a coincidence or synchronicity. I live by the maxim – Never walk by an open door. So why would I do that now?
In the morning of the satsang, I sat in silence, eyes closed on my yoga mat waiting for Satyananda. This was my very first satsang with him so I was blank, not knowing quite what to expect. A beginner’s mind – so beautiful, empty, just being.
He walks in and sits in a chair provided for him. My heart sinks, the mind begins to compare to my earlier memory of him – how he was, how he now holds his body, how he sits, comparing him to Osho or to Krishnamurti. Where is the beauty, the aesthetics, the grace that I associate with enlightenment?
The judging mind
He looks like just an ordinary, very tanned man. He has put on weight since I last saw him and initially I could not connect with his being. A stocky, pot-bellied man in jeans and a T-shirt with a woolly hat? And as he was going to be teaching us Primal Yoga, I thought to myself, “Is this man going to be doing Yoga with us? Can he even bend?”
As he began to speak and told us about the aim of Primal yoga – a way of movement using the spine, the mind melted away. I experienced in the body what he was saying. The tingling in the spine, the sensations in the body, the letting go of long-held tensions, the allowing or the being in the asanas rather than the ‘doing’.
Magic! In the true sense.
As I had signed up for the whole day, I stayed on after the Primal Yoga session for the satsang. We must have been a dozen for the yoga class in the morning but more people joined in in the afternoon – around 25 or so. It was a very special, intimate setting. He explained what would happen. Which was basically anybody could ask him questions and he would have a dialogue with them, an exploration.
A Socratic Dialogue
A very Socratic or a Krishnamurti-esque way of questioning and exploration. Somebody would get up and go up to him and ask a question and he would listen. I felt it. A total presence of listening. He was pure listening. Once the questioner has finished, Satyananda would create a space for the dialogue to happen. The best part was that he would not answer the question. Rather he created a platform, a space for the questioner to realise the answer by themselves. Or the dissolution of the question. He would take the person by the finger, gently guide them along, one step at a time where an opening would happen, a realisation would descend and suddenly there was a light.
It felt like we were in a dark, densely wooded forest, blindfolded, trying to find the way. Along came Satyananda, took our hand gently, nudged us this way and that, brought us to a glen where a stream was bubbling, the green grass beckoned us and sunlight so bright that it blinded us with its intensity as our eyes opened.
Throughout this Q+A session, all I felt was his gentle presence, his commitment to the truth, his passion for sharing what he experiences, his humour and his ordinariness. The last is extremely difficult to describe.
Just an ordinary man
So ordinary that this tale might well illustrate it. Jeremy*, from Nottingham, narrated it to us as we waited for the doors to open. “I have done only one satsang with Satyananda,” he said, “a couple of years back. And in the city centre when I was wandering about yesterday, I saw this man on his guitar busking. Drawn to his music, I stopped as I recognised who he was. So I went up to him and said, ‘Aren’t you that spiritual teacher?’
To which he replied, ‘Yes!’
And what are you doing here? I asked him.
‘I am playing music!’ he replied and gave me a leaflet for this weekend. Which is why I am here.”
On hearing that story, I realised just how ordinary Satyananda is. No pretensions, no airs or graces. Just doing whatever feels natural in the moment. Be it giving satsangs to an intimate group of people or busking in a busy city centre!
I feel extraordinarily blessed to have been part of this small gathering today. His energy is not like a blast of energy one receives from Osho or Krishnamurti. Rather it is like a cool breeze off the Mediterranean sea on a hot summer’s day. Or the warm dappled rays of sunshine through the dense maple and oak trees in a forest. Or the fragrance of a rosebush laden with abundant pink rose blossom.
Have you met Satyananda? Or someone just like him? I am sure there are many more such men inhabiting the planet. Do write in the comments below.
An ordinary meeting with an extraordinary man.
*Not his real name.