Sofa Enlightenment (2013)
Sofa Enlightenment – How I Traveled the Spiritual Circus and Ended Up Finding Peace
Robert Broughton (1948–)
This edition published on
20 March 2013 (first edition)
Protected by copyright
#5 – The Maharishi, My Mother and I
Landing at London Heathrow, I was met by two people, Jim and Celie, who explained that Rob had been called in to work and was sorry he couldn’t be there. Even though it was March and the English winter was over, I was shocked at how cold it was. As I shivered, I noticed Rob’s friends were dressed in light summery clothes. This was my first taste of English weather and my blood was too thin. As soon as I had collected my bags, I pulled out a heavy jacket. As we headed back to Jim’s house, I took in my first glimpses of London, which didn’t actually seem to be "swinging" quite like it was in the Sixties. In winter the city can be quite dreary and, as I was to discover after three years of living there, somewhat depressing.
Somehow, I was hoping to see evidence of "flower power" with beautiful ladies walking the streets clad in bell bottom jeans, arm in arm with John Lennon look-alikes with long hair, beards and the kind of small round sunglasses he was famous for. Alas, this was nineteen seventy-four and punk and disco music were beginning to dominate the airwaves and the culture. The suburban streets of London displayed a mixture of serious, business-suited men, seemingly hurrying to their next meeting, housewives bent over in shop windows looking for the next bargain, and many disaffected looking young people who were obviously "on the dole." Thrown into this soup were groups of people of varying colors: black Jamaicans and brown Pakistanis predominated, along with lesser numbers of Middle Easterners and Chinese.
I settled in for my first night in Jim's and Celie’s house and arose the next morning to take my first stroll around the streets of East Finchley, a north London suburb. I received a pleasant surprise when I turned a corner and came face to face with Ray Davies, one of my musical heroes and the leader of The Kinks, a band famous for their brand of music that blended rock, folk and the dance-hall melodies of the nineteen thirties. Obviously accustomed to people gaping at him in awe, Ray smiled, said hello and kept walking. I’d been told by musician friends in Sydney that occurrences like this were quite common in London, but I still hadn't expected it to happen. My spirits were lifted a little, and I felt that maybe London still had some "swing" left.
It was great to see Rob again, and he told me how he’d begun meditating. Going to work one day, he’d noticed a poster in an Underground subway advertising a talk on Transcendental Meditation, a movement founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He’d gone along not knowing what to expect and had decided to take the initial instruction course. Shortly after, he had had an epiphany. Apparently this was common amongst new initiates. He explained the whole thing over breakfast one morning. We later referred to that conversation as "Breakfast at Epiphanies."
I was initially resistant to his proselytizing and merely listened politely. Sometimes Rob’s Indian friend Farouk, an avid meditation practitioner, would come around to our house and I’d have the two of them working on me. As these efforts produced no results, they decided to trick me into attending a lecture. Farouk invited us to his apartment one evening for a delicious Indian meal he had specially prepared for the occasion. After we’d eaten he suggested we take a stroll in the evening air. After about fifteen minutes of walking, we came to a local library and Rob said, "Let’s go in and have a listen to this talk tonight." I sat in a chair and along with about a dozen other people was introduced to the wonders of Transcendental Meditation, dubbed "TM" by Maharishi’s Western marketing experts. At the end of the talk it was suggested that anyone interested in actually learning the practice come along to the TM center the following Friday.
I was at a very low point in my life. I thought that meditation might provide me with a life raft to get me away from the lifestyle of rock music and drugs that I’d embraced in Sydney, so I signed up for initiation that weekend. I felt that I didn’t have much of a choice. It seemed strange that I was asked to bring flowers, fruit and handkerchiefs, but I was primed and ready.
I showed up at the North London TM center and was introduced to my teacher, Susannah, an American with a big sunny smile. She led the way into a small upstairs room thick with incense and asked me to stand next to her while she conducted a Hindu ceremony called a Puja.
This lasted about five minutes and then she began to softly intone a single syllable I’d never heard before and motioned for me to join in. As I began to do this I immediately began to experience a trance-like state with no other thoughts aside from this mantra going over and over, clearing my mind. Then it too seemed to disappear and I felt myself to be in a state of mental suspension and my body began to relax deeply. About fifteen minutes went by and suddenly a thought bounced in, "Ah, now I’ve got it!" The instant I had this thought, my meditative state receded.
Within a few weeks I was counting myself a freshly minted disciple of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I’d seen him before, in newspapers, when the Beatles went with him to India. Some sort of cosmic psychotherapist, I had guessed. I went with Rob to see him speak at the Royal Albert Hall and sadly the place was only about a third full.
After all, this was the middle of the seventies; the Beatles were long gone and Maharishi was no longer the curry of the month, although he still possessed a sense of humor and giggled like a small child. "Twenty minutes twice a day, and all your worldly problems will vanish," he exclaimed.
A drowning man will clutch at a flower and I had indeed been drowning in a sea of confusion, misinformation, lack of direction and downright despair. Shortly after starting my twenty minutes twice a day, I got my first karmic payoff. I met Linda, a beautiful English rose with a quirky sense of humor, who dropped in to see Jim and Celie one day. Somehow, I knew the minute we met we were destined to make wonderful music together. "Linda, can you sing?" I asked her one day. "Yes darling, but not in tune."
Maharishi was going to be my savior but he wasn’t personally available, so I was hoping Linda could fill the gap. My fertile imagination now fastened onto hopes of a new relationship, but Linda already had a boyfriend. Jim and Celie quickly saw my interest and told me to forget it. Maybe they had a point. It might be tricky, having a girlfriend and being a devout practitioner of meditation. What would I do if she called up when I was meditating? Simple, really. Put myself on hold and accept the call. I had to face it, I was hooked. This girl was everything I’d ever dreamed of, everything I’d ever wanted. I began to eagerly anticipate Linda’s every visit to our house and we slowly built a friendship. I was mercilessly teased by Rob and Farouk, and certainly it seemed at this point that my love was destined for the unrequited basket. Then one day, out of the blue, Celie took me aside for some juicy gossip. "Guess what? Look, don’t say anything to anyone, but Linda and Tim are breaking up."
It seemed the wheels of karma were spinning in my direction after all. A few weeks later, Tim moved out and Linda was left to carry the rent of their two-bedroom apartment. One day, she called to ask would I like to move into her spare room. Jim, Celie, and indeed the whole gang, had been working on my behalf. We began living together, just as roommates, but the die had been cast. It was quite a challenge to live in close proximity to someone I had a huge crush on and be privy to the comings and goings of the various suitors she now inevitably attracted.
Some nights we took long walks through the leafy suburbs of North London – Belsize Park, St. John’s Wood and Primrose Hill. One fateful night, as we sat on a grassy knoll overlooking the city, I put my arm around her and we kissed, at first softly, then with growing passion. She pulled away, looked at me quizzically, and after a quick rumination asked, "Your place or mine?" We fell back on the grass laughing, and it seemed I’d won the object of my desire. I had to fight the urge to run, hand in hand, back to our apartment, but I held this in check and did my best to appear nonchalant and easy-going about it all.
As soon as we got home she said, "Let’s take a shower." I felt clumsy and awkward as I hadn’t done this with a woman for years. She was very understanding and patiently led me through the ritual. We then retired to her bed and began to make love. To finally hold, caress and kiss her was a wonderful thing, but too wonderful it seemed. Moments after entering her I reached my peak and lay back spent and humiliated on the bed. I had not made love to a woman for some time, and then to have a creature as beautiful and sensual as Linda was too much. She told me it was okay and not to worry, but I sensed her disappointment. We both fell asleep and in the morning, when I awoke, she was already up and dressed and told me, "You can sleep in as long as you like, but I have things to do today." A few moments later she was gone and I lay in bed pondering the previous evening. I was disappointed that the sex hadn’t been great but elated because I now felt that we were together, a couple at last. We were with each other. I got up, showered, had breakfast and then went over to see Rob.
The first thing I said to him was, "Guess what happened?" He shot back instantly, "You made it with Linda." I guess he could tell from the ear-to-ear grin I was sporting. We had a pleasant afternoon wandering around the city markets, and then I caught the tube home to find Linda in the kitchen preparing dinner for herself.
I had fully expected she would come over to me, throw herself into my arms and we would resume making love again. However, this was not about to happen. She began chatting and made no reference to the previous night. I soon realized that my preconceived ideas of how a woman would behave after she’d been seduced were shattered forever.
It had been years since I’d had any meaningful connection with a woman, and I was at sea emotionally. The reality was that one night of passion did not guarantee falling in love. I now knew that in order to make this relationship work I had to start using more of the consciousness that Maharishi was talking about. Until now, I had known the theory of Maharishi's teaching; now I needed to put it into practice.
I was curious as to what would happen next and decided to retract and play the waiting game. For a whole week there seemed to be nothing more between us than the friendship we’d had before we’d made love and I found myself drinking from love’s bittersweet cup.
One Friday night Linda asked me to go with her to a party some friends of hers were having and I clung to the hope that her flame for me was not entirely extinguished. That evening after we came home from partying we made love passionately once again and fell asleep in each other’s arms. The next morning our lovemaking deepened.
We moved effortlessly from aggressive, unbridled passion to tenderness to lying back in each other’s arms and laughing. For the first time we began to talk openly about our feelings. I had desperately wanted Linda and now I had her. She made it clear, however, that she liked me very much but didn’t love me. I was disappointed to hear this but continued on in the hope that love would bloom.
As all our circle of friends were now doing TM, Linda soon joined the fold and like me derived great benefit from it. Meditating was very therapeutic and tremendously helpful in keeping our emotions more balanced than they would have been otherwise.
Gradually I began to realize something quite extraordinary. I’d expected that at each stage of our courtship something would miraculously click into place that would make my life okay. Still, at every turn, the inner peace I sought eluded me. Every level of deepening involvement came with its own particular high, but once these highs wore off I was drawn to seeking more, like a junkie. After a few more weeks of going out together to parties, friends’ houses, movies, TM gatherings and having sex, Linda confessed she was falling in love with me. I had finally gotten what I had craved, and yet, even as rich as my life now was, something was still missing and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Even our sex life took strange turns. One night while we were making love, Linda told me she occasionally had fantasies of being raped. This both shocked and excited me and we began to playfully toy with the idea. I pinned her down on the bed, laughing and said, "Now I’m going to force you to have sex with me."
She attempted to break free and I suddenly realized I was enjoying this play a little to much. We’d discovered unnerving levels of aggression within us and decided then and there that this was not something to be toyed with. Still searching for inner peace, I plunged more deeply into my involvement with Maharishi’s vision of a better world through TM. Like most "Children of the Sixties" I wanted the world to be a better place, and Maharishi’s grand vision became a very exciting prospect. Before I encountered him, I had all but given up on a brighter future for mankind. His plan was to spread the word by training twenty-five thousand teachers, who would spread across the globe to bring about an age of enlightenment.
This kind of idealism was hard to resist, so I signed on for the crusade and soon began the first phase of teacher training. This involved a lot of field work, mainly giving introductory lectures and helping out at my local center. All this, of course, was a huge shift from the lifestyle that I’d only recently left behind. In the space of one year I’d gone from a denim clad, dope-dealing rock musician to a squeaky clean, suit-wearing purveyor of world peace. In the classical Hindu tradition Maharishi came from, a change like this would take many years and begin at an early age.
World peace was an urgent matter and so teachers were being rolled out like Model T Fords. Having done my preparatory work, I was ready to take the final phase of my training. This was to be an intensive three-month residential course in Avoriaz, a ski village in the French Alps.
Linda and I were now well into our relationship, and the topics of marriage, children, mortgages and careers began to come up. Whenever she would broach these, I would realize I had a large question mark hanging over them. Now that I had Linda, the woman of my dreams, the future did not miraculously fall into place as easily as I’d thought it would.
A dark, unpalatable question was bubbling just below the surface: What if Maharishi’s grand vision failed? Where would I go from there? I had decided to take the "road less traveled" and not get a career, wife, mortgage and three kids. For my father, inner peace meant sitting at home at night, reading the newspaper and sipping a beer. If it had only been one or two beers a night he might have achieved some peace. But on some nights many beers were consumed, and if my mother complained she was likely to find herself lying on the floor with a bloody nose. In this way, the common suburban notion of a peaceful life became something I had begun to hate. Stories like mine were everywhere in the working-class jungle I grew up in.
So I firmly set my sights on completing teacher training, and relegated this question to the "too hard" basket. As the time grew nearer for me to leave for the French Alps, I began looking forward to the three-month break Linda and I would have from each other. A couple of weeks before my departure I moved into a spare room at a friend’s house. Linda’s insistence on wanting to map out a future that I couldn’t see sometimes had me bursting into fits of anger for which I would be deeply remorseful afterwards. I needed to be as calm and collected as possible before I undertook teacher training and so decided that this separation would be worthwhile for both of us. The day came for my flight to Geneva, and we parted good friends, though unsure of where we would be when I came back. The course was a large one with several hundred participants from all over the world. The TM movement had rented almost all the hotels in town. As it was summer they had gotten a package deal and so for the next three months the town morphed into TM City.
By now I was beginning to feel a lot of love and devotion for Maharishi and this assuaged some of my "what if" thinking. It was to be much later in my life before I’d clearly see through these old patterns. The heart connection with my new Indian master was real but, try as I may, the notion of surrendering all individuality did not sit easily. This kind of surrender was not advertised when one initially learned TM. At first, all you needed to do was to learn a meditation technique and practice it; later on, some advanced courses were offered. But the concept of Maharishi as a guru was something that one had to pick up on gradually. Surrendering to a guru had always been an acceptable part of Indian spiritual life, but for the baby boomers of the West, bent on self-fulfillment and pursuing an individualistic lifestyle, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
My difficulty in mastering the art of surrender became exacerbated as I tried to get a handle on the inner workings of the TM movement, an organization that seemed tinged with fascism. All teachers were expected to adhere to a certain code of dress, speech and behavior that made many of us want to simply get this course over and done with so that we could go back and "do our own thing" in our own countries. The course leaders acted at times like "thought police," making sure everyone toed the party line. One such leader was a certain John Gray, a Texan who became very much interested in psychology and who after years of being the celibate right hand man to Maharishi finally succumbed to the pleasures of the flesh and gave the world the book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
As in any fascist society worth it’s salt, news of my "radical" views, which I’d only voiced to a trusted few, reached the ears of Mr. Gray and I was summoned to a private meeting with him. This was a chilling experience as he would not get to the point, but simply asked me a series of mundane questions such as "How are things going for you here?" while his laser-like gaze sized me up. I was tempted to inquire whether he had a background in the CIA, but I was learning to play the game and kept my mouth shut.
John Gray was a slightly built young man of around thirty, but his quiet manner belied the power Maharishi had bestowed upon him. Wherever Maharishi was, John was, at his side or nearby. He was not a very noticeable man until he was given the task of determining people’s loyalty. I saw many people's eyes light up with fear when they were told, "John Gray wants to talk to you." John, despite his looks and age, was a master politician.
There was an exhilarating camaraderie amongst most of the participants on the course, with many mirthful moments. Some of the names brought gales of laughter, such as one Italian American from Brooklyn called Ernest Sica.
I was not the only one who had become a blue-suited mystic via Woodstock. As Maharishi’s star had risen, he had come under the sway of public relations experts who had convinced him to shed the flower power, hippie image of TM and replace it with something more "suited" to the mainstream. The movement had suddenly gained a uniform: a dark blue suit with white shirt and red tie. This was not to be strictly adhered to and some variations were allowed, unless of course you desired to be one of the "inner circle", in which case it was "suggested" that you follow the strict dress code.
Climbing from the wreckage of the Sixties it was wonderful to feel a sense of higher purpose and hope again and to have something positive to channel our lives into. Our daily routine consisted mainly of "rounding," which was a series of twenty-minute meditation periods, interspersed with sets of yoga postures. As we got deeper into the course, the number of "rounds" increased. The term "rounds" of course fit perfectly with the somewhat military atmosphere.
We were also taught the basics of Maharishi’s philosophy and how to present TM lectures to people. Learning the initiation ceremony, with its string of Sanskrit words, was the final hurdle. This was no easy task as it had to be done word perfect. When the final days of the course approached, tensions ran high as everyone filed in and out of the testing rooms. Jubilation would erupt each time someone came out beaming with a thumbs up.
Even the steps of checking people’s meditation after initiation, which clearly had come from Maharishi due to the idiosyncratic English, were to be learned word for word. Therefore, when somebody came out of their first meditation we did not ask them, "Was it good?", but were instructed to ask, "It was good?" At first these quirks concerned me, but eventually I decided to let go and surrender to the whole process. At the end of the three months, the big day came when we would officially be pronounced teachers by none other than Maharishi himself, in person.
He flew in by helicopter and gave us our set of mantras we were to use for initiations. His presence certainly was uplifting after three months of hard work and intense meditation. Now I was one of his teachers, appointed to help him carry out his world plan. His ideals were lofty, but nevertheless they gave me the sense of purpose that had been lacking in my life. During these three months I had been corresponding with Linda, and our letters were warm and affectionate. She was the only woman I’d ever lived with, and although difficulties lay ahead I was still invested in making this important relationship work.
On the day I got back to London I flew into Gatwick Airport, took the tube to Archway and a taxi to Linda’s house, as we’d decided to try living together once more. When I rang the doorbell, she opened the door and we threw our arms around each other, embracing long and hard. We went upstairs, immediately undressed and began making love. Our passion was wild and so intense that it was obvious that our relationship was far from finished. The next few days were a "love in," spent mostly in bed.
By the end of the week, it was time to get back to work saving the world and I reported for duty at the TM headquarters in central London. I was told that there were no openings for teachers at my local center in Northwest London, but there was the possibility of a posting in the south of England in the coastal city of Plymouth.
Teaching TM full-time was a dream most of us aspired to, yet few were able to achieve. The days of people lining up outside the centers for initiation were gone after the Beatles had bid adieu to Maharishi. He was no longer the flavor of the month for the world media and his message was a tough sell. The idealism of new teachers was quickly tempered by the fact that they would have to summon great reserves of faith in order to continue in a day job that many had previously looked to TM to escape. For anyone who was not independently wealthy, teaching TM would be a labor of love. Half the initiation fee went to support the international movement, and as each center was trying to support a number of teachers there was little left to go around.
As people faced this dilemma, a new caste emerged: the Enlightenment Beggar. Occasionally well-to-do people would embrace TM, and if one was lucky enough to have been the person who initiated and guided them on their first steps on the spiritual path, the initiator might become the beneficiary of a kind of "patronage." TM teachers generally had little money because a large part of their initiation fees had to be given to the movement. Wealthy new initiates sometimes offered to assist their teachers financially, and if the teacher was skillful this resource could be counted on for many years.
Enlightenment beggars had to possess good social skills and great faith, of course. I viewed such people as gifted con artists, but could not help admiring their tenacity. I counted myself among the majority whose faith could not overcome the inherent insecurity of such a life.
After some weeks, the initial euphoria Linda and I were experiencing was beginning to fade. Inexorably, our lives were going in different directions. Within a few months the gulf became too wide to bridge. Had it not been for TM we may well have saddled ourselves with marriage, mortgage and children before our awakening, and eventually plunged into the nightmare of divorce. We parted on friendly terms, and I’ve never seen her since; a very different ending from my previous two relationships. More kudos for meditation, which left no doubt as to the radical shift taking place in my inner landscape.
Now that our relationship was over there was nothing stopping me accepting the posting to Plymouth. It seemed a group of meditators down there were ready to offer incentives, including the use of an apartment, to attract a teacher. I would be able to use this to live in and to run some of my teaching activities from. My hopes of being a full-time teacher reignited and I was ready to throw myself into the fire. A Canadian teacher named Ben had been running this center for some time before my appearance and had taught TM to many of the locals. He was trying to support a wife as well as himself but finally left after receiving a lucrative offer from IBM to repair computers.
On arriving in Plymouth, I encountered my first test. The apartment was underneath a large house owned by Ken and Mary, a middle-aged couple. They had been initiated into TM, but Ken had quickly become disinterested. He was a well-to-do businessman and had been running a car dealership for some years. However, just prior to my arrival he’d suffered a severe nervous breakdown and was in a terrible condition, needing Mary’s constant attention.
He was not at all enthused by Mary’s idea to have a male TM teacher living in their downstairs apartment. Nevertheless, he reluctantly went along, and I had to deal with his antagonism toward me on a daily basis. Despite this I plunged into the task of keeping the center going, which meant organizing public lectures, newspaper articles, radio talks, weekend meetings and, on two occasions, weekend residence courses.
After an initial slow response people began coming for initiation, and I became friendly with many of the meditators. Among this group of loyal locals were a number of attractive women, and being single and not unavailable I was getting set to face my next test. This was dealing with sexuality responsibly within the spiritual milieu, and, having had little training in this regard, I was soon at sea. As Maharishi’s representative I was there to bring his teachings to these people, but it was soon obvious that a number of women were attracted to me.
Some of them would hang around talking long after the evening session had finished, and one afternoon one woman dropped by, offering to take me for a drive to see some of the local sights. Eager to show me some of the beautiful countryside outside Plymouth, she drove to a remote area. She stopped the car by the side of the road and we sat talking for some time.
She was a married woman and it was not entirely appropriate for us to be in this situation. As we sat quietly talking I suddenly noticed it was becoming difficult for her to look at me and her face was quite flushed. I laid my hand lightly on her shoulder and a great shudder went through her body. She then turned, threw her arms around me and surrendered to her passion. We did not actually make love that day but the next week she came to the center and we consummated our lust. This was not the best way to introduce myself to this community, and immediately she left I was consumed with guilt. It was not long before she declared her undying love and I was faced with the prospect of bringing her down to earth. The next time she came round I suggested we take a long walk, and I explained that this was as far as the situation would go. This wasn’t love, it was little more than a rather large crush, exacerbated by an unfulfilling marriage, a fact she had earlier disclosed.
She obviously wanted to feel alive again, lusted after again, and have the rush of being in love again. I was the handy object for all these feelings. It was no surprise she had turned to meditation, and now the floodgates were opening. After learning TM she’d become an avid proselytizer and brought many of her female friends along.
When her crush remained unrequited, her passion cooled and she stopped coming to meetings. When I phoned her to find out what the problem was, she was very curt and said she was simply too busy to come anymore. After a couple of more affairs, my support began to dwindle. Being sexually promiscuous was touted as a virtue in the macho culture I had grown up in, but with my journey into conscious living well under way this was a dysfunctional habit that needed serious attention.
Rumors were rife as to my extracurricular activities and Ken seized the opportunity to pressure Mary into revoking the use of the apartment. In his delicate condition the coming and going of all these people was also a nuisance to him. With great reluctance I realized that the situation was not working out and made plans to leave. My existence in Plymouth had depended on having the group's support and the living quarters that came with it. Once I had alienated part of the group, life in the city suddenly felt very lonely. I decided that my time was up.
I called all the people together, thanked them for their support and participation, and revealed that I had decided to take a sabbatical. Some were disappointed, others obviously relieved, and I repaired to London to work out a new plan of action. It was now late autumn and the prospect of another bitterly cold English winter did not appeal to me.
Some of my colleagues from the teacher training course in France were now back in Australia and were writing to me about the various teaching opportunities at the Sydney TM center. After considerable thought I realized it was time to go home.
The long plane flight gave me plenty of time for reflection and I was grateful to be coming back in far better condition than when I left. I’d been away five years and a powerful inner change had been wrought, allowing me to view my culture in a much different light. Occasionally I would run into someone from my checkered past and hear stories of the demise of those who had not heeded the call for change. I began living with my mother in the new condo she’d bought after my father’s death, made contact with the people at the Sydney TM headquarters and arranged to begin working there.
It was now nineteen seventy-eight and Maharishi had inaugurated a new plan to have teachers congregate in various cities around the world and attempt to get one percent of the population initiated. This was another of Maharishi’s bold visions, the concept being that with one percent of the city meditating, a phase transition would occur. Such a change would raise the consciousness of everyone in the city, and the quality of life would increase dramatically. Crime would drop, people’s health would improve, and they would become generally happier. We decided to run this program in the city of Adelaide, and so a large group of teachers congregated there and began working out a strategy.
We divided the city into various sectors, allocating a number of teachers to each area. My friend Rob, who was now also back in Australia, myself and a couple of others were given the area of Elizabeth, a new suburb to the north of the city. We found a house to rent and began giving lectures.
And then one day the whole experience of meditation changed dramatically. After five years of practice I was familiar with a certain calm and inner stillness, but now the process seemed to come alive inside me. and it seemed I was no longer doing it, it was doing me. I began to experience a completely different awareness of my body. Long held knots of tension in my face, neck and scalp began to loosen. Simultaneously I began to have an extraordinary amount of sexual energy stirring in my body.
This was not a welcome development as I was already grappling with this area of my life. My hope had been that sexuality would diminish as I became more conscious, but no, it was getting stronger. Despite the clean-cut image of the teachers in the TM movement, many of them were quite promiscuous. Many were, like me, only a few short years out of hippiedom. Free love, though not openly on the agenda, was certainly a strong undercurrent. One teacher who was particularly masterful in this arena eventually became a leading voice in the Australian porn industry.
I did my best to "play the game" with the ladies who were around, but I found I could not relax in doing so. Unlike some other teachers I did not see that my sexual exploits were giving me any happiness. As a result I found myself masturbating sometimes five or six times a day to let off steam, a huge jump from my normal rate. My knowledge about all things sexual was just not deep enough at the time. Some years later, in the Osho Ashram in India, I would find the key to this.
Despite our best efforts, the money coming in was not enough to support us and I was facing the specter of getting a regular job once again. But working in a boring job in order to make enough money to work was a concept that held no great appeal to me. I arranged an appointment with the woman who was head of the TM movement in Australia and attempted to explain my strange sexual experiences and to seek her counsel regarding my financial situation. She asked if there was anything she could do to help, but I sensed a mixed message. She appeared distinctly uncomfortable and shifted awkwardly in her chair.
Her words were saying she was willing to help, yet her body language plainly stated that she wanted as little to do with this situation as possible. Any experience involving even the remotest possibility of mental instability sent shock waves through the organization. The generic term for it was "unstressing," which I believe had originated around the time the Beatles were with Maharishi in India. Although this may sound like someone relaxing after a tight schedule, "unstressing" actually referred to the startling psychological effects sometimes generated by intense periods of meditation. This usually happened during TM retreats. Deep meditation had the effect of opening up the subconscious mind rapidly, and many hitherto unseen demons would surface and bring about very emotional and sometimes disturbing behavior in people.
There were many second-hand stories floating around concerning people who, having been told to meditate as much as they could, locked themselves in their room and became virtual recluses. This was something that monks usually did only after years of preparation. Rumor had it that it was not uncommon for people who did this to become completely unglued and wind up in mental hospitals. During their stay with Maharishi, the Beatles wrote a song about this. "Dear Prudence" urges Mia Farrow’s sister Prudence, who was meditating so hard at the time she hardly left her cottage, to "come out and play", to "open up" her eyes and to "see the sunny skies." In how far there was truth in these rumors was hard to say, but the fact that we were instructed to limit people to two twenty-minute periods a day seemed to suddenly make sense.
Feeling that our leader was not entirely fearless in these matters, I told her there was nothing she could do and left the room. At that moment I knew I was finished with TM. My quest for enlightenment had entered a realm these people were not familiar with, and I was ready to explore other avenues. I reluctantly told my friends I would be leaving Adelaide and embarking on a quest to find the true meaning of my experiences.
I returned to Sydney to be greeted with the news that my mother was dying of cancer. This was not a total surprise as she’d had a mastectomy some five years before. Her five year remission period had all but passed, when unfortunately the disease had sprung up again. My sisters and I got word through the doctor that our mother had only a short time to live. I remained in Sydney to comfort her as much as I could. It was to be only a few weeks before she’d enter the hospital.
One day she took me aside and confided, "You know, when I go into the hospital I will not be coming out." I sadly nodded in assent. It was no use giving her false hope, we both knew what the situation was. She began to grow ill very quickly and day by day lost a lot of weight.
She’d been a good woman who had lived her life, sometimes fraught with difficulty, with dignity and grace. I was greatly saddened to realize that soon she would no longer be around. Between myself and my sisters, a vigil was kept at her bedside around the clock.
Within weeks she was so weak and thin we all knew the end was very near. One afternoon while I was alone with her in the room I sat there holding her hand and suddenly seeing her so helpless I began to sob uncontrollably. It was never more clear to me how much she had loved me, but also how much love I had withheld from her. I had been born when my mother was forty and had thus given my mother a new lease on life. Her other children were in the last stages of growing up and were moving away. I had always been a prince in her eyes and yet I found her love smothering, so much so that I would pull away. She’d then rein in her overprotective tendencies and I’d start to be myself again. Before long she’d switch back into overkill, and I’d have to withdraw once more.
We’d been playing this strange game for as long as I could remember. Now the time for games was over, and the pain of it hit me full force. I wanted desperately to bridge the gap with her, but it was too late. I would even put up with being smothered to have her love again.
She was now almost completely incoherent and quickly slipping into her final coma. A few days later my brother-in-law rang me early one morning and said, "It’s all over. She’s gone." Some of me went with her that day.
I volunteered to handle the funeral arrangements, and on a balmy afternoon we all gathered at the crematorium and said our final goodbyes. This was a turning point in my life. I had simultaneously said goodbye to my mother and to Maharishi and had no idea what lay ahead.
My mother’s estate was divided up between me and my sisters. She had little money but owned the condo, so I knew I would be receiving about eighteen thousand dollars, a not inconsiderable sum in nineteen seventy-nine. When the money came through I decided to take a trip to America. I felt I needed some guidance to understand the powerful spiritual experiences I was having, and somewhere I’d read, "If you want to find a guru these days, you don’t go to India, you go to California."