Thursday, March 05, 2015

Tribute to Ani: a wise and beautiful woman

It was Ani's funeral today.

Ani was the founder of the Wild Goose Sangha in Edinburgh: a very beautiful community of people following the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.

I loved Ani: earthy and mischievous, she had such twinkly eyes and such wisdom to her.

But somehow I couldn't feel sorrow for her death. I had the sense from her that she was ready to go, had indeed been ready and waiting to go for a while, and I found myself feeling happy for her.

Dying is difficult and I felt glad that for her it was over.

And it was lovely to be back in St. Mark's church, where I performed JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN. Lovely to see the old familiar faces and take part in a walking meditation again.

In general it was a very beautiful ceremony: a blessing to take part in'

And a blessing to have been part of this wonderful woman's life.

At one stage I would see her once a week and she would tell me episodes of her extraordinary life.
The plan was to make them into a performance piece: but somehow the time or the circumstances never quite came together the way we intended.

One day the form will emerge, and so will these accounts. In the meantime, here is her account of


The nightmare or  My First Lama

I seem to recollect that this nightmare may have began around the time when we had the very strong experience of our company’s team mate’s suicide. That could have sparked it. And it was somewhere around 1956 or 57 shortly before I left Buenos Aires. 

The nightmare came up every now and then and it was all about having to be in a performance and not being able to get to the theatre on time. In several chapters of it, which lasted for some 20 odd years, I found myself so far from the theatre that the anxiety born from the idea that I might not be able to “make it “, woke me up every time.

The scenery changed: I could be too far away, or delayed by heavy traffic, or not realizing the time had gone by. The scenery was different but the essence was the anxiety of “not being able to make it”. NOT BEING THERE. I was not going to where I needed to be because there were obstacles on my path. 

But, somehow, along the years, the circumstances changed and I was each time getting closer to the performance place, to the theatre. At a certain point I had arrived at the theatre but I was muddled up, lost in the corridors on the audience sector, searching for a way into the back stage. At times I got there but the obstacle or impediment for me to be in the performance was that I either did not have the proper dress, or the make up or realizing that I could not remember my lines.

Not knowing the text and feeling guilty for it was probably the strongest feeling that came several times once I was on the right side of the theatre: the performer’s side.

At some point I found myself so close to the stage that I was able to hear the dialogue being delivered there, but it was dark, very dark, so I could not see the actors or anyone else.

Around this time in my life I had recently settled in a Dharma Centre in Barcelona.  It was probably 1979. The news was that a Lama would be coming shortly. It would be my first experience of being in the presence of one. When the opportunity was offered to go and pick him up at the train station I was not eager to go and preferred to stay home and have things ready on time for his arrival at the Centre. I had seen his photo and he did not seem very attractive, his face full of smallpox scars.

So when the doorbell rang I went to open it without any real expectations.

 There he was, a bit plump, his belly firmly in front of the rest of his body and with the most warm, joyous, friendly smile he exclaimed rotundly:  “Amma la!!”. 

I didn’t really know what he meant. Later I was told that Amma translated as Mother and La was an honorific particle. But it didn’t matter. 

He completely won me over. 

That night my dream came back to me, But it was completely different.
I was on stage and had no guilty feeling, nothing seemed amiss. The stage was brightly lit, full of colours and filled with actors happily performing their parts. If I forgot my lines someone would discreetly whisper the words I needed to say. So any feeling of guilt or awkwardness had no place to manifest. I was happy and at ease, and so was everyone else. 

So at the end of the play the audience called for the Director, we looked to the side of the stage and…….who other than the Lama was coming to the center of the stage! 

And the shock was so intense that it woke me up only to hear the Lama’s steps in the corridor, he was going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

My heart was beating fast, so I got up and when he came out I went after him and cuddled down outside his door for the rest of the night!

And that was the end of the nightmare  for ever.  



Ani Mavericka. As told to Jo Clifford.

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