Volunteer Nichola Johnson, also known as Nirmala Ma, shares her experience of taking a journey alongside Sadhguru during his recent tour of 17 cities in North America. Take a glimpse behind the scenes with Sadhguru!
What does it mean to take a journey? A trip, an excursion, a trek, junket, jaunt, crossing, passage, odyssey… a pilgrimage. I recently had the blessing of experiencing all of these states of “journey” with Sadhguru. I accompanied him on his Fall 2016 US Book Tour to launch his new book, Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy. This was Sadhguru’s first US-published book and there was great anticipation for his introduction to the mainstream US market. I had heard of the rigors of a “Book Tour”, however, I honestly did not dream of the possibilities held with a schedule of 17 cities, and 21 events in 28 days! He called it conscious chaos - the place where unrestricted creation meets awareness and consciousness.
A Highly Developed Sense of Timing
I am sure you must know this already; Sadhguru has a highly developed sense of timing. This became the blessing through which we all moved in order to accomplish the task at hand. Over 26,000 individuals attended the volunteer-organized, sold-out events across the US. From New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, California, Washington, Vancouver, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Illinois, there was a laughter-filled ease. That is not to say there were not moments… of doubt, frustration and uncertainty. There certainly were for me!
The book tour was a constant journey of refinement, responding to the challenges of venue, timing, audio visual obstacles and human vulnerabilities. Beautifully, it resonated as a team effort. No one person receiving the accolades or attention. It was an organic process requiring full awareness and focus-sadhana in every moment. Sadhguru’s professionalism never wavered. He was always on time… and stayed until the last participant had left the venue. This made for very late nights and very early mornings of transit. He was never rushed, even in the face of time constraints. In some way, time bends for him.
His Stories were One of the Blessings of the Tour
One of the blessings of the hours traveling from city to city was the storytelling. As you know, Sadhguru is an extraordinary storyteller. He shared personal life stories… some tender, many hilarious. A large number of his stories revolved around bikes – simple pedestrian bikes and motorbikes. I came to understand his sense of freedom associated with bikes, the joy of being one with the bike and the road under you. Not the destination, but the journey. Just for the fun of it, he would bike to a neighboring town, a usual trip of five hours one way, there and back in an evening. Head down, feeling his body as an extension of the bike, leaning into the road, he drove like a maniac.
Sadhguru told us that when he was traveling the expanse of India, he usually slept on his bike. When I queried how that might be, he responded, “I simply put my bag across the handlebars and leaned over; I was my bike. It felt more natural on my bike than off.” As a mother, I was particularly amused when he shared that as a youngster he never walked into his house. Always he was on his bike. Even to get upstairs to his second story bedroom – he rode the bike straight up the stairs without stopping. Sadhguru has big visions and ideas. In order to keep new tires on his bikes, which seemed to be an endless necessity given the conditions of the roads and his staircase antics, he created small businesses to make money. In this way he did not have to explain to his parents why he was wearing out the tires with such regularity. It seems he had a rather active life on the roads exploring the world. His free spirit could not be contained.
Every City had its Own Flavor
In Seattle, mid-talk, a young man enthusiastically jumped onto the stage and approached Sadhguru. It happened in an instant. There was a pause… in the split second that felt like an eternity – Sadhguru reached towards the young man who was prostrate in “Pranam” and gently placed his hand on his back. And we wondered in hindsight, were we protecting him enough? Nightly he walked off of the stage and into the crowd, unfazed by the throngs who surrounded him. It was extraordinary to see the crowds linger in the auditoriums even after the events had concluded… just wanting to drink in more of the experience. Some dancing, others simply standing in witness of the possibility for their lives which Sadhguru had spoken of, reluctant to leave.
Who knew that one spontaneous on-stage book signing would lead to 700 books being sold in one evening? The crowd surged towards the stage waving books held high in the air. He patiently signed every last book. Over the course of events, he extinguished twelve book signing pens. And always, no matter how late the “Meet and Greet” ran, Sadhguru stayed on to visit with the volunteers who had patiently waited to see him. Each night felt like a family reunion.
Living a Nomadic Life!
Eating took on a new challenge with the demands of the schedule, which required us moving from one city to another almost daily. We traveled with the essential kitchen items for preparing food on the go. We had a nomadic life for those 28 days. Pack and unpack became the mantra of the day. Again, the blessing of the local volunteers, as they provided fresh and hot food upon our arrival whenever possible. The hotel staffs must have thought we were running some sort of diner out of our hotel rooms, but in reality they had become first-rate restaurants.
There were infrequent breaks but when one did arise, Sadhguru jumped to fill it with a commonplace activity. One such evening he suggested we go out to the movies and so we did, taking in the latest documentary film on Wikileaks. He is voraciously interested in all topics. In brief moments of respite, you will most certainly find him reading a newspaper or a book. I was aware on this journey that Sadhguru is rarely alone. He is working constantly on your behalf and mine. Meetings continued in-person or on the telephone in one time zone or another, 24/7, throughout the book tour.
On occasion he removed his reading glasses and rubbed his eyes… pausing and looking up with his ever present twinkle. As though his respect for the journey wiped away the fatigue. You are his community and you will know where his following statement intersects with your journey: “If you do not do that which you can not do, that is ok. If you do not do that which you can do, that is a disaster.” With all that he does, it is impossible to imagine not making an effort to rise to one's fullest capability.
What to say about the 1000+ volunteers who responded to the call and rose to their fullest capability? The mobilization, organization and commitment that was required to fill 17 different venues across the country; all seating 1,000 plus, and to reach over 70% new attendees, not current meditators, was extraordinary. They contacted influential locals and cultivated valuable relationships on behalf of Sadhguru. He met with Congressmen, Senators, Mayors, a Supreme Court Justice from India, Deans from Harvard and Yale Business and Medical Schools, as well as representatives from TV, Radio, Print and Online media. It is simply true to acknowledge that Sadhguru attracts intelligent, innovative, disciplined and hard-working volunteers. The book tour would not have come together without their willingness to respond to the call.
In the end his book reached both the Washington Times and New York Times Best Seller book lists. Seventeen different audio visual coordinators, miles of video footage, thousands of photographs, 1000 plus volunteers, a few well deserved rounds of break of dawn golf, at least 500 idlis, rice steamers and pressure cookers, countless missed meals to match the absent hours of sleep… and the Blessing and Grace of the Guru.