“Weak latte (no sugar). Hot chocolate,” yelled the Waldmeer barista.
Merlyn grabbed her coffee and headed for the door. They put sugar in my coffee, she thought as she sipped it. Hang on, that’s not sweet coffee. It’s hot chocolate. The orders have been muddled. Oh, well, it tastes delicious. She then turned her thoughts to the recipient of her latte who would be missing their own order of hot chocolate. Looking around for a likely suspect, she easily spotted a woman, about her age, staring at her drink. Merlyn wondered what her reaction would be. The woman seemed to be weighing up the benefits of caffeine versus sugar and, like Merlyn, decided to go with the flow. Merlyn then realised that the mixed-drink-recipient was Esther, the psychologist.
“Hello, Esther,” said Merlyn. “What a surprise to see you in Waldmeer.”
Hi,” said Esther. Mentally running through a checklist of her clients’ names, Esther added, “Merlyn.”
“Do you have clients in town?” asked Merlyn already feeling that the question might be overstepping a professional line.
Esther was adept at such things. “You are very lucky to live here,” she said as she pointed to the brilliant ocean.
“Yes, it’s beautiful,” said Merlyn. “I moved here not long ago.” She was going to say something about Ben but, somehow, it felt like it would be speaking out of school.
After a moment of quiet, Esther said, “I’m on my way to Prana Community in the Leleks. I often go there. It’s about an hour and a half from here, through the forest, and then winding back to the coast.” She nodded in the direction of the faraway coastline.
“Really?” said Merlyn. “I have never heard of Prana Community.”
“It’s a spiritual group,” said Esther, “formed a few decades ago by Bob Owens. I’ve only been involved for the past few years; after Bob’s time. I’m Jewish. Prana Community is Yoga. Bob adopted Yoga after being healed of an illness but he never minded what people came from or what they went back to.”
“Who runs Prana Community now?” asked Merlyn.
“Some of his loyal students and friends,” said Esther. “The main intake person is a woman named Verloren. She once told me that she had a holiday house in Waldmeer, years ago, but that she rarely comes here nowadays. I always drive through Waldmeer because I love the ocean views. She drives through the back hills because it’s quicker. Apparently, if it wasn’t for her, the place would have gone into bankruptcy after Bob died. She stepped in, sorted it out, and has been doing so ever since.”
“Can I visit Prana Community?” asked Merlyn.
“You can come with me,” said Esther. “There is one problem.”
“Yes?” asked Merlyn.
“It would mean that you cannot come to me as a counselling client again,” said Esther.
“Could Ben still see you on his own?” asked Merlyn.
“Sure,” said Esther.
“So long as he can still see you. Anyway,” said Merlyn with a smile, “I’d much prefer gurus to psychologists, and yoga communities to counselling offices.”
The wooden sign at the entrance of Prana Community read,
This land is our mother.
Its water, our blood.
Its dirt, our bones.
The sunrise, our hope.
The sunset, our peace.
Come to learn.
Leave to practise.
Esther scanned the virgin forest of giant gums and luscious ferns and said, “It was important to Bob that people learned to live without harming the land. The community, even now, has no town water, sewerage, or electricity. In the early days, they relied on generators and oil lamps for lighting and power. However, the generators were noisy and caused pollution. So, Bob invented a mini hydro power plant on the river nearby. It’s simple but it works and makes enough clean, quiet electricity to keep the community out of the dark.”
“Who lives here?” asked Merlyn.
“There’s a small team who have made their lives here,” said Esther. “Everyone else travels back and forth from wherever home is. Bob always intended people to go back into the world and take their spiritual practices with them.”
“Welcome,” said a woman walking up to the car. She looked in her early seventies and was well dressed; particularly so for a forest. “I’m Verloren,” she said warmly. “We are happy to have you here. Let me run you through some of our community rules. Day visitors are given more freedom than those who stay but we still request that you hand your phone into the office and, of course, no alcohol or drugs are permitted. Other than that, visitors are free to experience this special place in whatever way feels most comfortable to them. We trust the process, itself. We are all here to create a healthy body, a clear mind, balanced emotions, and an aligned energy field. As our teacher said, If you have mastery over your physical body, you have 20% mastery over your life. If you have mastery over your mind, you have 50 to 60% mastery over your life. And if you have mastery over your whole energetic being, you have total mastery over your life.
She paused as the cockatoos and kookaburras squawked and laughed and competed to see who could make the most noise. “We do not always have control over what happens in the outside world,” continued Verloren, “but we can learn to control what happens on the inside.”
After meandering through the array of buildings, Esther and Merlyn wandered along a narrow path towards the ocean. They came to a clearing and Esther stopped talking to let the view speak. On the edge of a steep cliff was a breath-taking temple.
“It’s Ajna Temple,” said Esther, “our pride and joy, although, we’re not big fans of pride here. We’re only big fans of joy.”
She looked with wondrous, appreciative eyes both at the temple and the sea. This was an entirely different Esther to the one Merlyn had seen at E.G. Psychology. In her professional setting, Esther was intelligent, alert, polite. However, she was also reserved, impartial, not really a real person. Here, with the ocean roaring, the wind blasting, the forest calling, and the temple drawing its prey into its sacred centre, Esther was a different creature. More alive, relaxed, and beautiful. A very real person. Perched on the cliff but not looking, in the least, vulnerable, Ajna Temple was awe-inspiring. It radiated a tangible and pulsing energy field which was, at the same time, irresistible and a touch frightening. Merlyn wanted to immerse herself in the temple’s other-worldly power but Esther said it was time to go back to the community hall for Satsang.
Later that day, when the two women reluctantly got ready to leave, Verloren reappeared and said to Merlyn, “Esther told me that you live in Waldmeer.”
“Yes,” said Merlyn. She told Verloren her address.
“The house I once owned was a few streets from you,” said Verloren. “I originally bought it off my friend, Farkas, and then, after five years, he bought it back off me again.”
“I know him,” said Merlyn. “He runs the dance-aerobic classes at the Waldmeer Warriors. I haven’t spoken to him much but I often speak to Ide, his ex-partner and mother of their child Lan-Lan.”
Verloren smiled but did not want to be drawn into that conversation. “Old friends of mine, Lucy and Lenny,” said Verloren, “lived directly across the road from you. I knew Lucy when she managed the Waldmeer Corner Store and Cafe.”
“I haven’t heard of that cafe,” said Merlyn.
“No,” said Verloren, “it has long since gone, along with dear Lucy. I also knew Lucy’s daughter, Maria. Once, I visited her in Eraldus when she had a spiritual healing practice there.”
Verloren momentarily frowned at the memory but seemed to be telling herself something (or someone was telling her something) and she shook the feeling off.
You may remember, back in Waldmeer (Book 1), after Verlorens’s disastrous visit with Maria, in Eraldus, we were told:
In time, Verloren would return. Time is not necessary for healing but it is inevitable. We find many friends when we are down and out. People swarm around with proclamations of, ‘Oh, how dreadful. How terrible.’ They may as well be saying, ‘Thank you so much for making me feel better about myself and my life. You have more problems than me and are more pathetic.’ Yet, when we enter the path of healing, there will be few standing there to wish us well, in case, we find it.
Indeed, in time, Verloren did return. She returned to herself. She entered the path of healing and, by doing so, the right ones, the ones meant for her, were standing there beside her. She entered and, every day, found more of who she truly was.
Back to Prana Community:
“When Maria moved back to Waldmeer from Eraldus,” said Verloren, “she seemed much older and had changed her name to Amira. At the time, I thought it was a result of her parent’s sudden deaths and the strange illness that came over her. Much later, when I started to understand the energetic world, I wondered if something spiritual might have happened to her.”
Both Merlyn and Esther sensed that, for Verloren, this was a story that needed to be voiced. They listened attentively. Besides, it was interesting. The difference between gossip and a good story is that the latter has no ill-will.
“I saw Amira, from time to time, but we never spoke much,” said Verloren. “I remember helping her, at one stage, by seconding a motion she wanted to get passed for the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Convent. She was trying to get a minority group, the Clinkers from the back hills, represented in the decision-making process.” Verloren smiled and recalled, “It still makes me laugh when I think of the look on her face when she realised that I was the only one in the whole room who was willing to support her.”
“A few years after that,” said Verloren, “when I put my Waldmeer house on the market, I vividly remember Amira stopping outside my house. I can even remember that it was a brilliant, blue day. I told her I had been having a recurring dream in which a man kept telling me, ‘Don’t change your location. Change your approach.’” Verloren stopped talking and then added quietly, mostly to herself, “Maybe, it was Bob.”
“Amira’s son, Malik, lives in Amira’s old house with his family,” said Merlyn who was rather pleased to be able to fill in some missing information. “At least, I assume it’s the same Amira,” she continued. “They call her Faith-Amira but it would surely be the same person.” On remembering the children’s names, she added, “The youngest daughter is even called Maria, apparently, after her grandmother.”
“That’s strange,” said Verloren. “I heard that Amira’s cousin, Faith, took over that house and that her son and grandchildren live there now. Anyway, Amira would not be old enough to have grandchildren that age. And I’ve never heard a single word about an elusive man being around long enough to father three children to Amira. No, no, she just disappeared.”