I already wrote one post here about Canajoharie few years ago, but that was in Ukrainian. Now that my blog is transitioning into the English mode, and also Canajoharie showed itself this time in quite a different light, a new post about it is definitely due.
Heidegger is quoting Hölderlin sharing his experience and insight in a letter to a friend that “all the holy places of the earth are gathered around one place”. This phrase resonates with me very much, I like to think of the common essence or fabric of both the actual physical places that have spiritual significance to me, and also of the places of the inner world. It is in the spiritual dimension that the outer and the inner places become interfused, the battle-fields, the temples, and the resting places, the places homely and dearly familiar, as well those wondrously alien and thus fascinating… Maybe one day I will write something about the inner musical places too, the places created by this or that raga, wouldn’t that be interesting?
Back to Canajoharie, one of my holy places. A week-end of the international meditation seminar was preceded by two weeks of the summer arts academy, and this was the first time that I was at the Canajoharie arts camp not as a volunteer, or just a visitor, but as a student. Perhaps this is why Canajoharie felt different, or maybe not, maybe it actually was different this time, no matter whether and how one was involved.
The type of meditation we do, Sahaja yoga, or Sahaja meditation, is simple, and it works quite well with even small commitment, provided it is consistent. And yet, it is really felt and enjoyed, when it becomes a worldview and a lifestyle, when it permeates the totality of our experiences, when it becomes an atmosphere, a sort of fragrance, which we breathe all the time. So we have this notion of sahaj culture – the aspects and ways of life that define the living within the atmosphere of this meditative state and make it easier for us to be in touch with, or, rather, to be immersed in, the ocean of Energy, and to feel at home within it.
Art is, and from the beginning has been, one of the key aspects of sahaj culture. Shri Mataji, the founder of our meditation technique, has promoted arts within our meditative community, especially, but not exclusively, Indian classical music. She created opportunities for us not only to be exposed to music and art with good energy, but also to study it and to become good at it. Somehow, the arts give us special access to meditation, as if they create the shortcuts to get there in the first place, and then also to explore the subtleties and depths of this meditative state once we are there.
And so these arts academies were established in India, where mainly us, the Westerners, could come and learn Indian music, dance and art within a meditative environment. The first one (?) was for a while in Nagpur, I’ve heard lot’s of good stories about it, but it was well before my time. Then it was in Vaitarna, and I was lucky to have stayed there for four months, quite early in my “sahaj life”, learning singing from Arun Apte.
When I was leaving Vaitarna, I was sure that I would come back, in a few years, and more than once, I even had a few ideas about what I could maybe do for Vaitarna. But then Arun Apte died suddenly, and Vaitarna went through a few cycles of closing down, then opening for some time, then closing again. I did go back to visit and stayed there for about ten days in 2013. I guess, I wanted to feel out and also to face, what this actual Vaitarna as well as my inner “Vaitarna” could be like without Arun Apte, and it was quite an intense experience.
In the meantime, the music doesn’t stop, we have all kinds of music (and art) workshops, shorter or longer, in different places, and in the last years we’ve had maybe three or four arts camps in Canajoharie, New York state, about 6 or 7 hours drive South East from Toronto. The last one was two years ago, right after my short Vaitarna visit, and I considered taking classes, but I just did not “feel it”. So I hung out there for about a week, caught the first big public concert, which the teachers gave in Albany, enjoyed very much and went home. This summer I decided it was time to come and take classes, no matter what. I was looking through the list of classes, considering the possibility of trying out something “new”, but ended up taking two vocal classes and harmonium class, all from the same teacher, and never regretted it, because the experience was so joyful, so elevating, and at the same time grounding, that it felt incredible, both satisfying and humbling, and also inspiring.
One of Vaitarna’s gifts was the amazing capacity to absorb music. You sit in class, and try to repeat these difficult musical phrases, and you know you are not getting it, and you feel like you will not be able to get it for a long time. And so in the evening you go through the class recording again, sleep on it and next morning find out that you actually got it. You just have it now, it’s in you, and you barely even cooperated. Something similar was experienced by many of us in Canajoharie this time, both the teachers and the students were commenting on how fast we all were learning, and how much we were achieving in such a short time. It would be an oversimplification, and the unfortunate one, to reduce this special quality to the efficiency of learning, to make it about goals and results. Rather, as Alan once mentioned, it is about the subtleties of this music or art, once you start getting it, you can appreciate and enjoy. What was important to me in these classes was not the result of learning this much, that fast and that well. It was the enjoyment of the process, the tasting of the art, and the atmosphere that was extremely friendly, becoming in tune, and not only musically, immersing into this exploration and feeling so good, that you would want to linger in it, and wished that it never ended… The classes, of course, were the best, but also outside of the classes each of is took or gave, the atmosphere felt very nourishing and inspiring. It was great to spend time with other teachers and students of all ages, to chat and to listen, to eat, and occasionally to cook, to laugh (and we did laugh a lot), and to meditate.
I think it was around the third or the forth day, that I started noticing Vaitarna’s presence in Canajoharie. It wasn’t just the classes and what was happening there, rather, the place itself was sounding different. Sitting at the pond with the feet in the water, enjoying an afternoon break, the barking of the dogs and the noise or tractors somewhere in the fields, and the light, and the wind, and the serene mood, all of it in totality felt so intensely similar to sitting on a roof in Vaitarna and waiting for the sunrise! I heard the bird calls so elaborate and unusual, which I have never heard in Canajoharie before. Of course, it wasn’t the koyal, it was probably some owl that was late enough in it’s nightly pursuits for me to still catch it when I woke up around 4 in morning. And yes, waking up between 4 and 5 without any alarms, and feeling completely awake – that was just like Vaitarna also. I have a feeling, those who have been to Nagpur academy, and there were quite a few people this year in Canajoharie, who spend some good times there, were also feeling the presence of Nagpur. I could feel a slight hint of Nagpur, even though I have never been there. Cabella was also somehow present, with its river, and the castle, and the simple rustic way of life. So all these holy musical places of our sahaj world became gathered around Canajoharie, fused with it, made this Canajoharie very different from the place I have known and also loved before. Different, but also the same. I felt the presence and continuity of this sahaj musical tradition, that somehow was connecting us to its beginnings in this era and the different forms it took relatively recently, as well as to the previous manifestations centuries ago – we sang Kabira, you know.
It is not that there is one single physical location, to which all holy places can be traced and from which they originate. It is rather a place in the spiritual realm, where meditation is painted by the beautiful colours or the art, where it explodes with the cooling fountains and where the rainbows are born in the meeting of sunshine and the water. When this place somehow starts manifesting locally, be in in Canajoharie, or somewhere else, it brings together all these other places, the holy places of art, where art is inspired by the Divine, and where we become attuned to the Divine through art, if we cooperate, even barely, and then it becomes global – magnificent and breathtaking.
When the arts academy was over after two weeks, I though it could not get any better, and it did not, but something else, equally beautiful and inspiring, though in a different way, kept me blissed out for another two weeks: some of our teachers joined by two other musicians went on a concert tour. I will definitely write more about that later, for now, here is the the video of the last concert of the tour in Dallas, enjoy!
You can see more videos and photos here: Festival of Inner Peace