IT IS a spiritual experience for many, an annual pilgrimage: so why exactly was the woman’s head in the groin of the bearded man?
It was my first time at the Mind Body Spirit (MBS) festival, in London, where I was doing a workshop. What did I expect? I don’t know; but probably not the sight of a woman upright but upside down, with her head in the groin of a man lying on his back.
I look away, but the squeamishness is all mine. This is inversion therapy, apparently, as practised by the Modern Mystery School, which offers “advanced spiritual training”.
My next encounter is with a woman lying on her side, with a candle in her ear. This is not any candle, but a holistic ear-candle, also called a “harmony cone”, which supports the body’s natural defences. It is at this point that I begin to wonder how my workshop is going to go down. It is a rather earthy exploration of our rocky interior, without a harmony cone in sight.
And I am not reassured by the Church of Shambhala, which is busy putting what looks like triangular lampshades on people’s heads. It’s all for charity, we are told, but the charity is the Church of Shambhala, and everything is very expensive.
This particular form of healing is based around pyramid meditation, and committed students can continue with this practice at night, using a large pyramid that goes over their bed. “Save £1656!” says the billboard; for here at the festival these pyramids are retailing at £6826.
It isn’t dull at the Mind Body Spirit festival, and it smells great. But is it healing? There are clearly many who think it is. To my right, there is interactive belly-dancing by Samsara; to my left, a writer who has made an entire business — successful books and a world tour — out of the spiritual value of saying “F— it”.
It is not often I can say this, but it is with some relief that I bump into a Christian who asks me if I have a personal relationship with Jesus. On being invited inside, I discover from my new friend that the stand is run by the CMJ, and that MBS festivals such as this are tremendously popular in Israel. “Israel is an increasingly secular state once you leave Jerusalem,” she says. “There’s such a vacuum of meaning in people’s lives, they’ll try anything. We’re here to say the meaning is Jesus.”
The MBS scene may be an enticing pot-pourri of external therapy; but significant change occurs inside us, not outside us. I remember the man who sat quietly with a burning candle. It was a beautiful candle, and the flame was strong and still. He then got up, seized it, and threw it across the room. He was angry, and the serenity of the candle was getting on his nerves.
I would probably start with the anger; MBS starts with the candle, scented.