Porto Alegre - How Matt Became Maheshvar

Trip Start Aug 10, 2006
Trip End Feb 2007

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

This is the story about how Matt became Maheshvar.

After days of wandering the streets in search of the perfect lanchonette (cafe-diner), we finally received a tip from a friendly local named Ana -- We would attend a meditation session and free vegetarian lunch at the local Ananda Marga chapter in Porto Alegre. Our ears perked up upon learning about another self-sustaining community outside of the mainstream.

Ananda Marga is a relatively young spirtual organization that practices yoga, meditation and self-awareness. They also implement non-profit social programs for the larger community. They have branches throughout the world and the main guiding principle behind their philosophy is simple and without irony: "Love is all you need."

The meditation room sat on the second floor of a narrow brick building, and at the head of the room was the Ananda Marga symbol and a small shrine to the original guru, called Dada. Men and women sat on opposite sides of the room. The guitar repeated a few strums for about 15 minutes as the group sang a musical mantra. Everyone stood and side-stepped back and forth, raising their arms when they felt connected.

After the music stopped, one could feel the repetition of the words and music running like a rhythmic current through the room. Afterwards, everyone sat in lotus position and meditated for about 15 minutes. We later learned that this was a short session, and individuals will chant and often sit in meditation for many hours.

We met a very friendly, open couple - Ravindra, originally from Germany, and Krsna from Argentina. Both had been living in the Ananda Marga community in the countryside of Porto Alegre, about 30-45 minutes outside of the city. They invited us to spend a few days with them, so off we went.

On their land sits a forest, a garden, rolling fields, and hand-built homes in which the five residents live. The air is clean and the land so tranquil that it is impossible to NOT sleep deeply each night. Every year they have a retreat, in which visitors come to practice meditation and learn from one another.

It turned out that SusanŽs body caved in to the nasty cold cum fever sheŽd been trying to ward off. Being sick while on the road is another one of those perspective-inducing moments -- being on a bus with your bags is a drag. Ananda Marga was a good place to sleep deep and sweat it out. Travelnodders, hang yer hat and get the germs out before you head for the hills again. Natural oils of eucalyptus and mint help.

During our stay, Matt awoke early one morning. The sun rose with a wink over the horizon, a bird perched on his finger, and he had a private tutoring session with the community guru, Baba. In this way, he was initiated as a new member, and he was annointed with his new name, Mahesvhar -- aka Shiva, who is an impressive, powerful figure. (Baba, a sincere and kind man, apologetically explained that he wasnŽt able to initiate Susan, but that she should connect with a female guru who would gladly do so.)

Overall - a very positive experience with new friends. The organization was open to us and our pursuits. We have more questions that may get answered as we learn more about their philosophies - for example, the Dada is a deeply respected figure who apparently did not want his image used. As such, weŽre curious about the use of his photograph in shrines at the front of rooms. Also, we would like to know about the decision separate men and women, for example, during meditation.
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