Of Mind, Body and Spirit
'Let your mind become a kaleidoscope of colours'
New age ramblings
When I was young and impressionable; sometime in the late 70s or early 80s if my memory doesn’t deceive me, I would attend ‘The Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit’ each year at Earl’s Court with my 'new age' uncle in London. Actually, ' nearly-new age' would have been a more appropriate description for him since virtually all his possessions came from a charity shop.
Attending the festival (which was held over three days) was a fascinating experience. The sheer diversity of the stalls and the size of the event were nothing short of spectacular. It struck me as being a venue for people who had more money than sense but was an eye-opener nonetheless. It was a learning process for me to absorb different sets of ideas and beliefs that I 'd never encountered before although there is no-one more sceptical than me.
Uncle however was totally convinced of the therapeutic values of such things as flotation tanks, light therapy and healing crystals in all colours of the rainbow.. I thought he was just gullible and was searching for something to compensate for the fact that he'd not been in a proper relationship in all his fifty years.
I too was eager to meet new people and form meaningful relationships and London was indeed a great place to get to know some very interesting folk, but most of the friends my uncle hung around with were just a little too quirky.
We attended a Hare Krishna vegetarian meal because it was free in those penniless, hippy-ish days before I had any pressing financial commitments and I remember going to a Japanese tea ceremony where we learned how to make a cup of tea in the space of two hours; it was somewhat enlightening but not exactly thirst quenching - give me the quick fix of a Tetley tea bag any day of the week.
We were both invited back to someone’s prestigious pad in Highgate or Muswell Hill or somewhere more salubrious than Sudbury Hill where we lived at the time, for a 'new age' get together.
I didn't meet anyone special and neither did uncle. All I can recall is that somebody reprimanded me for trying to pick out the opening notes to Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ on their posh Steinway piano. They slammed the lid down nearly crushing my fingers in the process - it was an abrupt end to my musical career.
And later we sat down on the floor in a circle holding hands and chanting ‘Oms’. I wasn’t sure what an ‘Om’ actually was. I hadn’t even had the other thing beginning with ‘O’ yet – not with someone else anyway. An ‘Om,’ I later discovered, is supposed to be the perfect chant because of its circular nature.
'Let your mind become a kaleidoscope of colours,' said our hostess as she wafted round the room in her long, flowing dress, positioning scented candles on just about every flat surface. It hadn't been that long since the power cuts of the mid 1970s, so nothing out of the ordinary there.
During the chant we were instructed to 'vacate our bodies' which was a trifle disconcerting for a person like me just emerging from my teenage years - I was only just getting accustomed to being in mine.
The other people in the circle were working themselves into a trance-like state ‘Om Mani Padme Hum... Om Mani Padme Hum ... Om Mani Padme Hum’
‘What does all that lot mean?’ I whispered to uncle.
‘Nobody really knows – it’s far too sacred to be translated into English,’ he replied.
After a few minutes a soft, soothing female voice broke the chant and gave further instructions: ‘It’s okay - you can all drift slowly back into your bodies now.’
To which I blurted out: ‘But I haven’t bloody been anywhere yet!’
There then came a sharp dig in the ribs from my uncle accompanied by a: ‘Shut up will you!’
Well, it was a case of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes,’ I think because I was just like the small child in the story who'd seen through the deception.
Needless to say we were never invited to any new age gatherings ever again.
The festival is still going strong!
Tubular Bells - a timeless classic
© 2015 Stella Kaye