Finally Coming Home
I write this in the dry heat of South India, permeated by the smells, sounds and colours of rural life. How did I get to be here? The only way I can make sense of my relationship with Auroville is by the belief that there is something far beyond the red soil we walk on and cycle over, something higher that called and calls us here, a shared impulse to take part in this grand experiment. From that stiller place, the buildings and forests of Auroville emerge from the vision and force of the Mother, that she articulated so poetically in ‘The Dream’, ‘The Charter’ and ‘To be a True Aurovilian’.
But to start at the beginning. I was born and raised in Hong Kong. At sixteen I became fascinated by India, reading all I could about it and by eighteen was visiting Delhi on my way to school in the UK.
I was fortunate that my teenage travel bug coincided with Tibet opening to backpackers and I would spend my summer holidays journeying to India via Tibet. I was deeply touched by the spirit of the Tibetan people and the other-worldly beauty of the plateau, and then descending to the plains I savoured the colour and vibrancy of Indian life. Something in me changed irrevocably on those journeys, a desire for ‘something else’ which I could not name but could sense when on the road, and a conventional life fell away.
Living in Hong Kong, India was not that far away, but once I was here in India it felt as if it were another world with few shared references. Phone calls were by collect call, often comically crackly, there were few products I recognised and travel was mainly on day(s)-long train journeys. Upon graduation I took a one-way ticket to India which ended up being a two-year stint in Asia. The longer I was in India, the more my spiritual interests grew till they became my focus.
In of all places, Ladakh, I was first exposed to the Findhorn community, discovering books and meeting people from there. I felt guided to visit, and then returned to live in Scotland from 1990 onwards for seven years. These were spiritually rich years and I was blessed and inspired by the community and by the faith of the founders, Peter and Eileen Caddy. In Findhorn, Auroville felt very present, somewhat like a sister community, with occasional exchangees coming to stay, many visitors going back and forth and a few who had lived in both places.
Whilst living in Scotland my links to Asia continued. I was involved in setting up a charity in Nepal and I also organised Findhorn pilgrimages to Mount Kailas in Tibet which ran in 1994 and 1995. I finally managed to visit Auroville in 1996, and will always remember driving in from Tindivanum and suddenly seeing the then-concrete Matrimandir rise out of the lower forest canopy. It reminded me of Mount Kailas with the shock of blessing when it finally appears.
In 1999 my wife, infant son and I returned to Auroville for 3 months which connected me deeper with the community and I felt called to live here. Unbeknownst to me though, I was on the verge of a difficult and painful divorce which turned my life upside down and made returning here problematic.
I had been based in Hong Kong and worked as an editor of a print magazine called ‘Positive News’ and an online spiritual journal called ‘Holistic Hong Kong’. In 2006 I tried to move here, but whilst accepted by the Entry Board, a minor obstacle nudged me to realise that it was not quite the right time to move here for family reasons. Instead I started the Hong Kong AVI Liaison Office with Remi Boutinet, and this deepened my connection with Auroville. Some years later I set up a charitable trust to connect Auroville and Findhorn with Hong Kong.
During this time I stayed in touch with Auroville in different ways. I started reading Mother’s Agenda first thing in the morning, one entry a day, and in fact I have just completed the final Agenda after all these years.
Almost by accident, I started selling various Aurovilian products, mainly spirulina and it felt good to support the community in this manner. Auroville-inspired stories were frequently a subject for ‘Positive News’, and the most popular and remembered issue was about Tsunamika, which had a doll attached.
In 2006, I decided that if I could not live in Auroville I could at least learn some good skills to eventually bring back and to improve my life. So I took part in a two-year training to become an interfaith minister, and I found the work of being a celebrant rewarding.
That training led me to want to learn more about therapy so I looked around for a transpersonal training. I found Process Work, an off-shoot of Jung’s with applications notably in group work, focusing on awareness and the ‘dreaming’. I studied it for 9 years and appreciated the understanding that my dream life has given me, the ‘real life’ as Jung conceived it.
In 2016 I left Hong Kong and returned to Findhorn for three years to study psychotherapy full time. I felt my time in the world of cities and capitalism was over. By the end I was struggling a bit, and for some reason I had to re-learn the lesson that my inner and outer life flourish in a spiritual community.
It was a relief to return to the tangible shared values and inner orientations of intentional communal life.
It was difficult not to live in Auroville, and when the issues of Auroville Today arrived in my post box, I would get what I called ‘Auroville fever’ and just want to be there. Then three years ago I had a sense of being pulled here with some synchronicities and dreams. Cautiously I came again for three months and this time the doors opened for me.
When I arrived here in August 2019 I started working with Auroville Today, which will always have a place in my heart as a lifeline during those years of feeling in exile. Two years on, I frequently pinch myself that I am actually living here.
I tried to work as a therapist as well, but it didn’t flow. I focussed on growing the Trust in Hong Kong, before my mentors nudged me to work in a team. This was a good call by them and just what I needed. I started working on Terra Soul farm and its varied mix of vegetables and forests appealed to my horticultural generalism, and I felt like a blooming flower in new soil as I enjoy working with the soil.
In February, soon after starting the Newcomer process, I had had a bicycle fall – my wheel flew off when it hit a root – with a bad landing that needed surgery. A lot of older Aurovilians smiled in knowing sympathy at this initiation into Auroville, and whilst painful, later including a frozen shoulder. My arm healed as I worked with the soil (and a fabulous physio – Rebeca) and a probable second surgery was not needed a few gardening months later.
Corona felt like an unexpected blessing and gave me a rare opportunity to stop. My broken arm also told me to slow down even more. This time of reflection opened a new perspective to me. It allowed me to take steps to clean up some pasts that needed attention, making peace with them. Being stable and not travelling for over a year and half has been a good foundation to start my Auroville life, letting the seasons and place deepen in my body. I have been lucky to fall in love in the post-lockdown time too.
I finally became an Aurovilian in April 2021.
I thought I knew Auroville but living here is different and richer than I had hoped. One of the many delights, is the emphasis on a cashless economy, where money is ‘no longer the sovereign lord’ and the generosity of Aurovilian culture. As an example, this week – still in the semi- lockdown time with only a few gatherings – I am consuming minerals that are offered to help our health in this Covid time, once a week I start the morning in an ATB (awareness through the body) session, I’ve been part of weekly zoom learning group studying spiral dynamics, I will be participating in a healing course and I’ve been able to dance with friends. Community life has an uncommon richness to it.
I am beginning to perceive Auroville as a place of change, ‘of constant progress’, an opportunity to deepen into my truer self. There are challenges too but this sense of the freedom to find your way, a part of the ‘divine anarchy’ I find quietly inspiring.
I see some remarkable individuals evolving into their truer selves and offering through their work a reflection of their inner journeys. I sometimes perceive Auroville as a verb as well as a noun, a place of shedding, transforming and emerging.
So it’s been a pilgrimage, an in-breath in my life, but the call of Mother India and Auroville has been heard, and to finally settle here comes with a feeling of contentment and even occasional waves of joy.