The thirteenth of October had arrived, the new moon darkness, the official start of the gathering, the persistent rain. Normally the sacred fire, a continuous wood burning flame marking a central meeting, meal sharing and talking space would have been lit today, however the ground was wet and new arrivals were few, the decision to put off the fire lighting until the sun came out was made.
Among the miniscule influx of souls was Anandan – just like Ananda but suffixed an ‘n’ – my doppelganger – we shared similar head, facial hair and body type. We stared awkwardly at one another, making basic small talk amidst jokes of universal collapse upon our meet, I wanted to speak further but no words found me and I let the desire go for now, things would take their course. Some others arrived such as my dear friend Jean-Eric who I stayed with at Mullumbimby a few weeks prior.
With the ground still wet I was happy to have an early night in the hammock, these last few nights have been the first time I have slept in one and I find it comfortable and supportive – it takes little space in my pack so it is now my preferred warm weather camping set up. Next to the hammock I constructed a tripod raising my bags off the ground and also serving me with something to push off thus giving my cradle a gentle swing. Rocking back and forth I slept easily and unprepared for the day to come.
I awoke the next morning in fear, anxiety and a feeling of separation, I felt lost and completely isolated from those around me, whence I overheard conversation in the distance the mind automatically assumed the worst and conjured thoughts of emotional and social exclusion. I tried to work at this, to be present but upon attempt sadness and confusion overflowed and I lost control. I took a walk along the river, desperately, silently suffering and seeking. My feet led me to Jean-Eric’s camp, under the tarp sat Jean-Eric, his lady friend Corinne and Gemma, the beautiful young lady who was the focus of my adoration during this gathering. I sat and we all exchanged pleasantries, mine through a chaotic and emotional mind – it wasn’t long before I blurted my lack of peace and tried to explain what I was going through this day. Gemma and Jean-Eric imparted their sage like advice and through understanding I felt, comforted – still injured, but at rest, at peace. I paraphrase their words – “Be the fool, play the game, nothing is in control”. I walked off with this wisdom reciting it over and over like a mantra.
I found myself lighter and wandered from camp to camp, those who I stopped to talk to had incredible wisdom of their own to give me and was given without cry for help – as if the words poured from mouth naturally and automatically for my benefit. I am reminded of the mirror effect experienced at the recent medicine ceremony and how by open dialogue we magically find our answers. My feet arrived at a newcomer’s camp, she was busy creating rice paper rolls as an addition to tonight’s meal. We spoke for a while, I noticed that she almost never made eye contact and if ever only for a split second, this young girl seemed so shy and yet there was a wonderful verbal exchange, without fear of judgement we spoke of depression and anxiety and how destructive the mind can be – in a continuation of the topic I expressed my desire and effort to be always in the present and my aversion to internal mental chatter. It was then that she spoke these words that made my jaw drop: “It does not matter if you are in the mind or not, you are still existing, you are still here”. This may or may not mean much to you dear reader but they were perfectly timed to mean the world to me. I recovered from this slap to the face, this slap of wisdom that sent me reeling with understanding and found no more words, I expressed gratitude and wandered out of the teacher’s camp eager to return to my hammock for contemplation.