Nowhere To Go But In

This time last year, I started to write “Tales From The Karmic Edge” about some of the adventures from my life. The first blog was about Cannes Film Festival. I wasn’t going myself but described my experiences there over the previous decade. What I could remember anyway; there was a lot of Rosé…

Ironically, this year I was intending to go back to Cannes for the first time in ages. I’d organised my professional accreditation and started looking for a place to stay. I was even thinking about what dresses to pack for the red carpet!

Not anymore, of course. Now there’s just a virtual market for the industry to meet and the selected films will be streamed at other festivals later in the year. The show must go online!

What’s that old saying about life happening when you’re busy making plans? From March, you could practically hear the collective dumping of everyone’s diaries. Boom; there goes that holiday, that wedding, even that funeral, sad to say…

Wave after wave of organisations emailed me to announce they were closing shop. Strangely, my hot yoga studio held on the longest; trying to stay safe by removing another few mats from class every day like a cosmic count-down. Even they admitted defeat in the end.

With all gigs cancelled, comedians had to use Zoom, like everyone else. All social interaction has been turned into a giant episode of Celebrity Squares.

“Surely nothing changes for you as a writer though,” my friend said, and she was sort of right.

Yes, scribes have been socially isolating from before it was trendy, and these should be the perfect conditions to get that story finished with no distractions. Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine from the plague. Thomas Nashe penned a play too. The Scream painter Edvard Munch actually caught the Spanish Flu but it didn’t stop him creating great art, including the ingeniously titled Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu.

Like festivals, parties, and casual sex, FOMO is a thing of the past. I’ve been a terrible victim of Fear Of Missing Out all my life. At least Corona virus has cured me of that.

But when the lockdown started and I sat down to work, nothing came. Writing felt pointless. Why bother? Nothing I could come up with would ever be as weird as what’s going on in the world. Can God hire new scriptwriters please?

So, what to do then, with these endless days stretching before me? I soon grew tired of non-stop news and mindless entertainment. It seemed absurd watching presenters faking smiles and the adverts between shows for travels that were never going to happen or other now-trivial luxuries. It became clear that the only place to go was within.

I’ve always found meditation a struggle. When I try to sit in silence, my monkey mind goes crazy. Overthinking is a bit of an occupational hazard for writers, after all.

So, I returned to the practise of chanting mantras, which I first studied with Namadeva Acharya aka Thomas Ashley-Farrand and his wife Satyabhama, who continues their extraordinary work now he has passed.

Namadeva Acharya was one of the Western world’s foremost authorities on the application of Sanskrit mantra to life’s problems. In the Vedic tradition, if you repeat certain words, including the seed sounds that created the universe, you can change your vibrations and thus your reality.

As Paramahansa Yogananda described it in the classic Autobiography of a Yogi,

“The ancient rishis discovered these laws of sound alliance between nature and man. Because nature is an objectification of Aum, the Primal Sound or Vibratory Word, man can obtain control over all natural manifestations through the use of certain mantras or chants.”

Satyabhama, Namadeva & Sadguru Rama Mata

Like Yogananda, Indian Sadgurus Sant Keshavadas and Rama Mata came to the West to teach Hindu philosophy and practices. Their American students Namadeva Acharya and Satyabhama were chosen to carry on their gurus’ lineage to teach mantras and pujas, traditional worship ceremonies.

It is so much easier to sit in silence after chanting, as explained by the divine mantra singer Deva Premal, who consulted Namadeva Acharya about mantras.

“The silence that follows the music is like the climax of a good story. It is there because it already exists within the music… and ironically, it is that silence which contains a potent healing power.”

Interestingly, the first wave of Britain’s lockdown was just over 40 days, an important number in many spiritual traditions, and the length of time Namadeva Acharya taught us to chant a specific mantra to achieve the desired results. Different mantras are prescribed depending on the issue you want to work on. I chose one to Ganesha, the beloved elephant-headed God who removes obstacles, praying to heal myself, all beings and the planet herself. OM GAM GANAPATI‘YE NAMAHA!

Some days, meditating was effortless; I sat on the floor cross-legged, long after the chanting ended, full of energy and bliss. Other days it was a struggle; I got pins and needles in my calves and each minute dragged on forever. A bit like life itself. But then, at the end of the forty-day cycle, something unexpected happened. I started to write again.

Which brings me to the conclusion of this, my tenth and final blog for Acacia Tree Books. The world has completely changed from last year and we all live in a state of uncertainty. Who knows what the future holds? The comfort and security of our previous reality have gone, and we’re thrust into the unknown. Of course, this is always actually the case. We never really know if our plans will pan out but we usually blind ourselves to the fact. Now it’s in our big, fat, post-quarantine face!

So how do we find any stability? To whom do we attach our rudders? The politicians’ boats don’t seem very stable. Nor do the media’s…

As Yogananda explained, “The deeper the self-realization of a man, the more he influences the whole universe by his subtle spiritual vibrations, and the less he himself is affected by the phenomenal flux.”

We can no longer escape the fact that the only thing we can really control is ourselves and the only time we can live in is the present. This makes meditation more important than ever. We’re all living on the karmic edge now.

For more information about Namadeva Acharya and Satyabhama, please go to

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