A New Chapter Opens…

 A New Chapter Opens…

Photo of Tofino Beach, Vancouver Island by Robert Nathan Garlington (Pixabay)

In 1993 my physical horizons expanded as I left London for Vancouver, Canada. I think it was around September time, because soon after reaching Canada the maple leaves were turning different shades of golden and burgundy.  It was a time of exploration and adventure.  Although I had travelled to several countries in Europe and I had also stayed in America for a few months, still Canada was a new territory for me.  Upon landing at the Vancouver International Airport I could see the majestic mountains and the sea which are a perfect backdrop for any cosmopolitan city.  They say there is a magnificent view at the end of every street in Vancouver.

There, “I truly found myself”. The sheer beauty and purity of Nature was so conducive for some deep soul searching. I hung out alone in places such as Stanley Park, English Bay, Lighthouse Park, Lynne Canyon, visiting Whistler often and Prince Rupert.  Luckily I had the time to visit many of the famous beauty spots in this land.  However, my most favourite place on Earth still is Tofino on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  It used to be a small quaint village in those days.  Later it got “discovered” and then “conquered” by the commercialists and the marketeers.  It has now become a noisy town filled with tourists all year round and many companies offer whale watching, surfing and kayaking and a host of other fun activities. Long Beach on the Island is as its name suggests… well it is very long and there I loved collecting driftwood and taking long walks.  Whoever I was with I suggested that we each walk in opposite directions, that way we could truly be embraced by Mother Nature undistracted.

Vancouver taught me to take responsibility for my own life, my feelings and my finances.  I learnt cooking and baking there and can say that I am now a confident baker! Can you imagine, I never cooked until I was 27! Hard to believe what I missed out on. But there was never a need; at home I was spoilt!

Photo by Ben Kerckx of The Maiden’s Tower on The Bosphorous (Pixabay)

After Vancouver I was asked to go to Istanbul, Turkey. Initially it was not easy. Now I can move around like a local!  In the beginning I tried picking up the Turkish language but it was not without effort.  Therefore, I decided to go for lessons, and after a few classes and a lot of practice, I can speak the language about 60-70%. The Turks can vouch for this I think.  This now made Istanbul more enjoyable and interesting as there was no struggle moving around whilst going to bazaars, haggling with the merchants or taking those ‘dolmush’s’ – shared taxi rides.

Turkish people are warm, kind and polite. They have ‘bhavna’, that is loving devotional feelings, and they are warm hearted.  I have experienced that in the beginning, when I really looked like a foreigner, that people would go out of their way to help.  They would walk half a kilometre to show me directions or even take me to my destination. Sometimes they even bought me the transport ticket!

I remember my first month of being there.  Dadi Janki had sent me to have a look and to see if I could settle down there and run the centre. Honestly speaking, when I heard her say Istanbul, I remembered the movie Midnight Express which I had watched in my teens! I got the goose bumps! But I can gladly say my whole experience to date has been overwhelmingly positive, rich and quite wonderful.

At first it was a lonely experience for I was the only one in the centre.  I had never lived on my own or been alone in a house in my life. I grew up in a big family with 6 siblings.  In the London Centre, I was living in a big community.  In Vancouver we were a medium sized group and four of us living in a huge house.  In Turkey I was alone.  The few students who came in the morning for meditation left by 8:00 am.  After that I was with me and myself!  To manage, I remember going for three walks a day!  We were living a block away from the sea and so after breakfast, before lunch and sometimes in the evening, I took myself out for walks. I was about 30 at the time; still discovering myself and my emotions.  Turkey helped me to enjoy my own company.

This was a good time of study for me, and it developed my confidence to teach courses and seminars.  We had a seminar every Saturday at 5:00 pm.  To prepare for it, I would sit down from after breakfast and read up on the subject.  I love to study and so it was a joy to be learning before passing that knowledge onto others.  After the session was over most of them went onto Bagdat Caddesi, the street perpendicular to us, to hand over their cash to the various bistros and restaurants there.

Everything needed translating. So at first that was a test of my patience. But very soon the wonderful and mature translators were in synch with my delivery and everything flowed smoothly. I still need more patience for other things!  I accept that I am still a work in progress…

Bahraini Door by Andromachos (Pixabay)

Early one morning I got a phone call asking me to go to the Kingdom of Bahrain for a week.  I agreed. And ended up staying three months. Service had just started and the other person who was supposed to go was not getting visas. She had an Indian passport. Thanks to my father, my British passport helped my travel and entry into many countries become easy. So I went and continued the service at the request of Dadi Janki.

By then there were others who were able to manage Turkey and so I continued visiting Bahrain for long stretches. Until finally a decision had to be made. I decided it was best I stayed in Bahrain and leave Turkey.  It was a hard decision, perhaps that’s why I left it for so long.  Bahrain was hot but not as ‘warm’ as Turkey.  The culture is just very different.  However despite that, I did make some good Arab friends who are still in touch today and help the centre in their own capacity.

Bahrain taught me a greater understanding of Islam. To maintain my self-respect despite judgements and beliefs from others. It taught me to write, because I first began then with a series called “This Week”. In it I encouraged those on our mailing list to practice a theme for the week.

Photo of Kuwait Towers by Nelson D’Souza (Pixabay)

Whilst I was in Bahrain, Dadi Janki asked me to keep in touch with an interesting soul in Kuwait. Her name was Ms Wajeeha Al Habib. She owned and ran the American School in Salmiya. I visited her several times in Kuwait and she likewise visited us in Bahrain. Later, she established many centres in the Middle East. She passed away very young in 2012 leaving a legacy and many wonderful memories.

As you can imagine, Wajeeha’s early passing was a shock. Initially I thought it was a test of my positive thinking. I believed she was a study case and we could collectively make her cancer go away, to prove to the world how meditation works and how powerful the mind can be. Sadly that would not be the case. Sometimes, we just cannot conquer death! Each one of us has our own journey to take with our own timing.  It was a wake-up call as to how temporal things are and how we need to be focused on earning blessings in our life.

After settling Bahrain, and visiting Vancouver in between, I settled in Kuwait in 2008.  Wajeeha and I continued going to Bahrain for meetings for the board. This resulted in some amazing and successful international conferences in Bahrain involving the Deputy Prime Minister, other ministers and delegates.

Kuwait is a quiet place, comfortable in all ways.  People are generous and loving.  Not a country that offers much to see or get distracted by.  This encouraged me to go deeper within and write more.  This is where I initiated the It’s Time…blog in 2009, which is still running.  Kuwait taught me patience and tolerance and this is where I would say that I became more spiritually mature.  It continued being my base from where I travelled to various countries.  I have stayed the longest in Kuwait… and that has been for around fourteen years.  Kuwait has been a place filled with lasting relationships and many blessings.

The Pyramids by Pixabay

Wajeeha had begun the centre in Cairo way back in the early 2000’s.  Recently it was disrupted because of Covid.  So I have just spent the last four months with the company of one student renovating the centre.  The centre is in Merryland, Masr Gadida and it’s up and running and ready to welcome people.  Various Arabic speaking teachers will be conducting the classes.  Please do contact me if you live in Cairo and are interested in finding out more about the meditation course.

Cairo was hard work.  It taught me endurance and perseverance, together with a generous helping of patience, especially with the late and no show workmen!  But in the end we finally managed to get the work done to our desired standard.  The City of Cairo provided a wonderful learning experience of the country’s history and how enduring they are… one more experience to add to my many… and many more to come…

London, Celebrating The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year – Photo by Jhoan Cordoba

When I came to London a month ago, I had had an interesting conversation with a spiritual friend and sister.  This developed with a snowball effect and I today find myself in the UK again. I will be based at the Global Retreat Centre in the heart of the beautiful Oxford countryside.  I will continue to visit Egypt and the Middle East but for now it’s a new chapter for me.

Everywhere I have visited and every country that I have lived in has been a place of special learning and growth.  I have enjoyed every minute of my life and wouldn’t want it any different.  I am looking forward to filling the following pages of my life with more beautiful experiences and memories.  Thank you to all of you who have enhanced this journey with your divine companionship.

It’s Time… to now start a new chapter… and embrace that newness with an open mind and an open heart.




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