Avian and Other Experiences

I live in a small annex of our rented Centre building in Auckland – above me a tin roof with a window through which I can see the passing clouds and sky.

Auckland SkyRecently, a noisy and garrulous band of seagulls have been landing every morning around 6am on my roof and creating a tremendous uproar – squabbling, screeching, pecking, clattering. Meditating in close proximity to a bunch of ill-tempered sea birds is not an easy task, but I have been smiling to myself as I remember quite a few other amusing incidents where our powers of concentration have been sorely tested.

Once I booked a room at a gymnasium for a workshop on meditation – an eight hour round trip drive from Auckland to a small North Island town. Shortly after my course began the local basketball team invaded the gym – I was yelling "now breathe in peace" while whistles blew, basketballs slammed against the wall and the thunder of large running feet filled the room. As though that wasn't enough, shortly afterwards a Polynesian drumming troupe arrived next door and a cacophony of drums, relentless and overwhelming, assailed our senses. There we were, twenty adults in a meditation class from hell, while the entire gymnasium vibrated and shook to the sound of Pacific Island drummers and the Taupo Titans basketball game raged all around us.

On another occasion in Wellington, mid way through a guided meditation at a public course the tranquility of our room was suddenly disturbed by what sounded suspiciously like groans and moaning noises from the floor below us. Slowly the groans grew in intensity and volume – a dreadful wailing noise now filled the room. Was a murder taking place? The awful sounds rose in crescendo and now we could hear many voices screaming in unison; like something from the Great Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Abandoning any pretense at meditation, several of us sprang from our chairs and rushed downstairs to help – but there in the offending room we came across the cause of all the noise. It was a Primal Scream therapy workshop.

Shardul once narrated a funny experience of his. In a small New Zealand town he was setting up a hired room prior to an introductory morning workshop. There was a large inconveniently placed piano in one part of the room and he began pushing it to the back of the room. The carpet began to bunch under the wheels and prevent it's further movement so he braced himself then gave a mighty heave. The great colossus slowly tilted over and crashed on it's back onto the ground, with one thunderous and massive chord reverberating around the room. There it lay huge and immovable in the very centre of the small classroom, the sound of that large great discordance still ringing in Shardul's ears.

Unable to move the stricken monster, Shardul placed the chairs around this interesting centrepiece and later gave his class, the overturned piano a bizarre and mesmerising distraction as it lay on it's back amongst the seekers – incongruous as a dead cow. Later with the help of a local rugby team it was reinstated to it's rightful place and the incident was quietly forgotten.

As I remember these things, the gulls are back again, squabbling among themselves and clumsy as puppies up there on my roof.

I feel a poem coming on...


GullsThey came again this dawn
an avian rabble, beaked brutes
clambering over my tin roof like a break–in,
clumsy intruders poised
to storm through my skylight window,
banging open seashells
in a fusillade of clatter,
shrieking in querulous dispute
over scraps hauled from the city tip,
plumage soiled by the grime of plunder.
No longer sea–birds, you lot,
but city slickers, glutted on garbage,
forsaking the tedium of oceans
for the bedlam of the county dump
motherlode of scraps,
easy pickings for a street smart gull
idling away the afternoons on my roof,
feathers afluff and dozing in the sun –
lazy as sin,
visiting the coasts only on weekends
shamed by your dumb cousins
the albatross and petrel,
exiles traveling the lonely places
drifting across those endless, empty spaces,
wandering alone the deserts of the seas
on calm, unmoving wings.

– Jogyata.