Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Radical Ideas for a Radically Different World

'I slept and dreamt that life was joy
I awoke and saw that life was service
I acted and behold, that service was joy'

There was never a guarantee I would even find standing room at The Great Hall let alone get a seat for the Deepak Chopra event. I confess I am not a trend or guru follower – something about the rebel in me. But I am always open to new ideas and possibilities. I was given Deepak's best selling book, 'Synchro Destiny' and found it hard to get into, so I came to the event as a curious journalist not a follower.

I found a seat with a mix of other journalists. There was yet another issue with sound in The Great Hall space, Deepak's tie mic didn't work so his honeyed voice had to be forced through the main PA. I spent the entire event straining to concentrate on his treatise on the relevance of Tagore today whilst wincing at the piercing sibilance hitting the audience every time his words required an 's'. I heard moments of clarity and brilliance from his delivery, but ended up feeling frustrated that I'd missed out on something special. Despite my gripe, the audience clearly revelled in his presence, words and indisputable charisma. He could've sat up front for 45 minutes and meditated and he would still have received a very warm reception.

There was a short break, then Deepak moved into his next event discussing the power of healing. I hovered on leaving but my gut said stay. It was in this next gathering that I was to discover what the fuss and legend attached to Chopra was all about.

His tie mic was fixed, the knife-like 'S's' were softened and he hit his stride from the first word. I was captivated throughout. He talked passionately about his time as a young doctor in training in Calcutta and how he encountered so much death accompanied by the painful stages of dying – from denial, to apathy to panic. Death is not a subject spoken nearly enough in our culture – in the UK. Deepak brought a sharp reality and a tangible sense of hope for all our paths as we journey inevitably into the metaphysical stages beyond life.

He connected his understanding of death to lives half lived in jobs that 80 per cent of the population of the world are dissatisfied with. I was shocked that only 20 per cent of the population of the planet love what they do for a living. He went on to drop the statistical bomb that more people die at 9am on a Monday morning than at any other time. I suddenly felt very blessed to be doing what I love and making what I believe is a difference in the world. His point was that we must use our lives and the time we have to follow our deepest dreams for change within ourselves and for the world as a whole. It was a call to arms delivered with passion, clarity and empowerment.

I left the Great Hall converted (still defiantly independent!), connected to the masses of readers of Chopra's work and followers of his philosophy; feeling reassured, empowered and determined to carry on with my chosen path to help others find their unique paths into lives of service and joy.

That evening, legendary Sarod player, Wajahat Khan played a mesmerising Gitanjli inspired set accompanied by a fantastic tabla player and Wajahat's two sons on sitar. The music was interspersed with stories of Wajaht's father (composer of the Gitanjli musical work), Ustad Imrat and the early days of Indian music played at Dartington; a period inspired and directly linked to Tagore's time on the estate. Wajahat made the bold but entirely believable statement that the seed of UK World Music was sown on the Dartington Estate. Peter Gabriel's Womad is a direct descendant of the early musical heritage of Dartington. I now have fresh eyes on the estate's link to World music and feel that much more proud to be living just down the road.

The 'Poem's on the Move' dance group was yet another first for me. Contemporary dance, as a writer craving literary, coherent narrative, is not a form I'm drawn to, but I couldn't deny the beauty of their Tagore poetry inspired dance to a powerful, moving soundtrack. It was clear their heart was in their work and this transmitted directly to the audience. I want the music they played in my car!

There is a theme in the events I saw on this day. It's all about being open and willing to engage with new ideas, to let go of the attachments to what I'm comfortable and familiar with and deepen my understanding of and connection to the wider world. My eyes, mind and heart have been nourished and opened just a little bit more and my work and writing has been inspired and energised.

Caspar Walsh is the film editor for Resurgence. He is an author, journalist and wilderness teacher. His new novel Blood Road is available in paperback.

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