Shaking with Ratu

What follows is an extract from the opening of The Philosophy of a Mad Man by Steven Colborne…

On my hands and knees, leaning over a small plastic bucket, I am vomiting violently.  The blare of fast-paced music and the wailing and yelping of those shaking their bodies behind me provide the soundtrack to my convulsions.  I am desperate that the double dose of liquid tobacco solution that I have just squirted up my nostrils will provide a sufficient dose of ‘light energy’ to allow me to access a place of mental oblivion, and that finally this agonising mess of furious and desperate thoughts will dissolve into an eruption of tears and give way to the peace of mind I so desperately crave.

Just two days ago in this large, carpeted tent in the Devonshire countryside, I had experienced something incredible.  As I stood shaking with perhaps 40 other people, music booming at full blast towards us, a sudden wave of blackness passed through my body/mind in a way that was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  As this happened, I found myself letting out a primal scream, before bursting into tears and falling to the floor, and crying my eyes out uninhibitedly for around five minutes.  As soon as the crying subsided, I found myself laughing hysterically for a further ten minutes.  It all happened quite spontaneously.  When the laughing subsided, the room and everyone’s faces were brighter and clearer.  It was an amazing, joyous feeling, and an experience like no other I had ever had.

Presently, things are not going so well.  I vomit several more times, and then stand up and resume shaking my arms and legs and whole body violently.  My eyes are closed and my head faces upwards.  A feeling of sickness still pervades my being, and I feel that I may need to vomit again shortly.  I am whispering the chant over and over again at high speed, “Om Swastiastu Ratu Bagus, Om Swastiastu Ratu Bagus…” and my body is desperately weak and aching.  I collapse onto the floor at frequent intervals, but am ushered to my feet by Ratu and his wife who smile and gesture for me to carry on shaking.

I am engaged in the final stages of an intensive five-day “Shaking Meditation” retreat with Indian guru and powerhouse Ratu Bagus, and the very foundations of my humanity are being, quite literally, shaken.  The routine for the last five days has been thus: wake up at 5am, shake for two hours, breakfast, shake for two hours, lunch, shake for two hours, dinner, shake for two hours, group meditation, sleep (or not, in my case).  It has been possibly the most gruelling five days of my life, and on this last day, in this penultimate shaking session, I am really struggling.

The shaking continues.  I feel like I can’t go on, but force myself to stand up one last time.  I begin shaking, and decide to really push myself to ‘let go’ and force a way through this mental frenzy, somehow.  I am now making a wailing sound as saliva dribbles from my mouth, and am screaming more and more loudly in a desperate attempt to trigger some kind of healing process in my body/mind.  Something really has to happen soon, I think to myself; I can’t take much more than this.

As I find myself collapsing over the vomit bucket once again, trembling with weakness, I am praying desperately for a similar emotional release to the one that had lifted my spirits several days ago.  I simply cannot leave this retreat with my mind in this state.  My thoughts are in a total frenzy and my brain aches, such is the mental effort for something to give, for some kind of experience that will bring my mind into peace.

My T-shirt is heavy with sweat as I clamber to my feet one last time and begin shaking, although now it is barely a shake, more of a dazed wobble.  I have all but given up.

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