Ealing Times – webpost 02-03-2018
Ealing adventurer hopes to inspire others.
Yet not for Martin Worthy, for whom the loss of an eye during his travels in Mexico was the catalyst that led to a journey of self-discovery.
In his new book, Finding what was never lost: and then just giving it away, he talks about the importance of not robbing ourselves of our curiosity, the value of time, and not defining people by what they do rather than who they really are.
Mr Worthy’s life is certainly one lived unconventionally.
He refuses for example to call any place his home, believing that to do so would be a betrayal of what the essence of life is.
Mr Worthy said: “Passing through life, I’m living out of suitcases.
“Don’t think of things as permanent, live in the moment, be your best self in the moment.”
He has travelled to India, Denmark and France, held various jobs from taxi driver to farmer, all the while embodying his philosophy that life is about constant movement and living in the moment.
It is this desire of continuing to listen to one’s heart that has led Mr Worthy to believe that amongst the key qualities of life are humility, persistence, tolerance, unity and love.
Mr Worthy’s years of travels and meditation have led him to believe that the key to people leading happier and more fulfilled lives isn’t about telling them what to do, but more about individuals having faith in themselves.
He said: “Have faith in yourself, moments for quiet reflection and introspection and listen to the sound of your heart”.
He describes the five days in hospital following the removal of his eye as amongst the weirdest and yet also the most beautiful.
Mr Worthy said: “I made a decision in hospital to eat as little as possible, so that I had more time, so that I could be totally focused on the moment”.
It is these interesting insights and unconventional modes of thinking, during moments of adversity that Mr Worthy believes will leads people to ask the important questions which will ultimately leads to inner peace and joy.
Mr Worthy’s travels have led to him having a keener awareness about that which many lack living in the West.
He said: “People in the East live from their hearts rather their heads. They make time for one another”.
Living in the West means people are constantly overloaded with information and pulled in different directions, preventing them relating who it is that they are really are.
Mr Worthy also believes that people have been robbed of their curiosity, with no doubts as to what has led to this predicament.
He said: “Letting go of the effects of the media, popular culture, these things are pushing away people’s awareness all the time”.
He wants people to be constantly asking themselves whether what they are doing in the present is best for them, with a fixation on the present moment.
For Mr Worthy this came in the form of meditation, and now he wishes to help others on their journeys too.
Chennai is a commercial town and travel gateway, and though a resourceful tourist will find many interesting destinations in the travel books, if you scratch below the surface you will fine experiences that can set it apart from other cities.
- Shopping: Take Parry’s (sounds like Paris when they say it!) corner for example, but don’t expect any fine patisseries or wooded boulevards here. It is the starting point of exploring Georgetown, or Old Madras; now it is synonymous with the wholesale market, and each product type keeps its own concentration of streets. Take a little local advice and make a plan as, although most streets connect up to Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Road, browsing the markets which range over more than a square kilometre can be challenging.
With a medical bent, for Homeopathic remedies – all potencies, made while you wait – or Ayurvedic, Bach remedies and many proprietary brands, you need Stringer Street. For more regular Allopathic medicines, imported products and ancient utensils on the other hand, you need Nainiappan Street. And, for spectacle frames of all shapes and sizes it is Prakasam Salai (though everyone knows it as Broadway) – if you have a day or two, you can have the most complex prescriptions made up, tested and trialled.
The cloth market, saris and ready-mades too, are very central in Godown Street, but this is not a high street scenario here. Cut into a gulley, or up a winding staircase to specialist wholesalers. There are always ‘agents’ walking about, offering their local knowledge – but don’t worry, the wholesalers look after their tips; all you will need to pay is whatever is agreed with the dealer. Remember, almost everything you can see in the shopping malls or high street stores has passed through this little street.
- Classical Culture: Tamil Nadu is on the Coramandal coast and is the home to Carnatic music and dance. This is a classical tradition, furthered by the Kalakshetra Foundation’s in South Chennai. Set up by Rukhmini Devi just eighty years ago, this is an academy of excellence in Carnatic culture that seldom is heard or seen in the West. They have monthly programmes and special seasonal performances of quite incredible dexterity and finesse. The dance form of Bharatyanatram was forefront in the establishment of the centre, but as Carnatic music is an integral aspect both can be studied here. Performances are always advertised in the local papers, and whether here or at the Music Academy, they offer an evening of expertise and style.
- Streetlife: No visit to Chennai is complete without a visit to Thyagaraya Nagar (always shortened to T. Nagar) – the shopping heart of Chennai. OK, there are shopping malls a plenty, just like in any city, but in T.Nagar this is where the Chennaites come to shop. In Ranganathan Street it is everyday clothing, household items etc, but a short walk down South Usman Road brings you to some of the biggest jewellery dealerships and silk stores. Here, around Panagal Park, It is hard to describe these five storey sari emporiums – it has to be seen to be believed: the variety! For gold and silver jewellery it is hard to find anything better, and often sold by weight without making charges. Up the road on Pondy Bazaar, it is the street traders that take the fore. Part of the fun of shopping in India is knowing when to haggle and when not, so go it and engage!
- Modern Culture: Tamil Nadu has an impressive movie industry, colloquially called Kollywood (a mix of Kodambakkam and Hollywood) and is a major producer of films and TV productions in a number of languages. Visit one of the 1500 movie halls and have a truly Indian experience. Indian audiences get involved in their movies, they engage with the characters and ‘live’ them to an extent which often shocks visitors. If that is too daunting, why not try the art scene? India has lost its blinkered view of two-dimensional art. Abstract art has taken off and Colleges like the Lalit Kala Academy on Greams Road have 3 or 4 inhouse exhibition halls, where their artists exhibit and, occasionally, their work can be snapped up for a ‘song’.
- Food and Drink: Chennai is the true home of the infamous masala dosa and is the most distinct of its culinary repertoire. Whether you mix it with the locals in Saravana Bhavan (a franchise with many outlets) or you seek out a traditional, quality restaurant like the one in the New Woodlands Hotel on R.K. Radhakrishnan Salai, it is a must. Authentic fare is one of the treats of any journey, so take it further and try an idiyappam, an onion rava dosa or the equivalent of the northern thali, often simply called ‘meals’. Finish it off with a typical South Indian coffee (do not mind the milk and sugar – it is all part of the experience!) or some fresh fruit. We are in the tropics, and fruit of all shapes and sizes are available, or have them juiced and savour their freshness.
Martin J. Worthy, author of “Finding what was never Lost, and then just giving it away”, and twenty years a Chennai resident.
Ten things the Author would like you to know – online magazine.
It is never easy being the second son, you see it in so many families. Always having to play ‘catch up’. Around the time that every one of his friends was choosing where to fit into society, author Martin Worthy, a second son growing up in Hillingdon, was actively trying to find his way OUT. Thirty countries and thirty-five years abroad, he certainly did some of that.
So, ten things .. ..
Although I still have this British passport, was blue but now is red, I do not feel British. I am at home here, just as I am in Chennai, just as I was under a bush next to a highway . . . I FEEL this planet as a whole is more my home, and as we look up at the sky, don’t you just want to send a prayer up to all those other beings who perhaps know nothing of our existence. We are all one.
I have always felt it quite fitting that I was born a Gemini – my inner twin has been a charming and inspiring fellow traveller throughout this life; I sometimes think I couldn’t have done it without him. No, seriously, without having an ear open to that inner voice, we are all just flapping around, at the mercy of the winds of life.
I am a fiddler – not the violin type, but a fiddler with a curious mind and even more curious fingers. I could never just throw things away, once they are broken. No, I would keep them safe for months, pull them apart and keep them handy for a few months more – only then, to throw them away through lack of interest rather than an inability to fix them.
I started writing on an old friend’s throw away, nearly forty years ago now; you could not even call it a computer . . . I had to load the operating system from a 5¼” floppy every time I switched it on, and then another floppy for the writing program. I tap tap tapped away on that for a couple of years, wrote my own “teach yourself 10 finger typing” program in BASIC, before I finally invested in a ‘new’ computer.
I was in Denmark at the time I first became acquainted with Word and Windows. My poor 386 processor and 4Mb RAM struggled to keep up – ‘twas a good job I had an enormous 80Mb hard disk on which to save all my work(sic!) You know, back in the days when we had not heard of gigabytes.
It sounds strange, but I have no friends. That is, I feel that everyone of us is related, connected; which means, no one is any longer a friend as such. Thousands and thousands of brothers and sisters but no friends – the realisation shocked me as much as it might do you.
Which leads perfectly into the next one, that also shocked me as it became real for me. That is that, though alone, I never feel lonely; and in fact I have over the years begun to like my own company more than ever before.
I have never felt that these things folk consume (that I do no longer) are forbidden to me – meat, alcohol, tabacco, eggs and all those funny drugs I used to find so much fun in the seventies. I am often asked why, and the answer that I don’t like or want them anymore, doesn’t seem to satisfy. What is freedom if it is not to eat, drink, smoke or do what you choose?
There is a change in how I experience time now. We are gregariously seizing upon each new taste, new experience, trying to save time to get there. I have time to give, I am going nowhere, nothing pressing to do before a certain time – discovering the joy within seems means that in an obscure way, time itself is no longer mine to give, take or lose.
Lastly, a secret I didn’t put in my memoir . . . tricky, as I have been so honest, but try this: I cry often. I cry for the state of the world, for the way people treat each other, for the truth that often people create their own suffering and I cannot peel it away from them. Even now, a tear comes, when I feel how little I have given back, how insignificant it is to write this book, to offer my time and energies to those wishing to start meditation. I do not see it as a weakness, though few would know it, it is my private secret!
Yes, I would like to know you, just as much as I would like you to know me. There is no hierarchy in the world but the one we self-impose. How we all live our lives is for each one to work out, but with association we can get support and inspiration, we can share our trials, our successes, our moments of insight and delicacy. Finding what was never Lost . . . is my way of sharing some of those moments of mine with the world. xx
Magazine insert – Scotland.
It was in the hospital when I first got wind of it. Doesn’t seem much when I put it down on paper, but there was now more to ME than I had assumed. It started with some simple maths: ‘If they cut this bit of me out, am I any less ME?’ ‘What is it that I am and what was I about to lose?’ My mind was a blur. My eye, the bit that does the seeing, when it is gone – who or what does the seeing? The conundrum was nearly enough to make me forget the pain I was going through, but only just. Obviously ‘I’ would still be there, I would still have one eye to do some seeing, but if it is not the eye that sees, then what does?
What with my upbringing and all, a protestant home in the suburbs of London, C of E. secondary school education, I should have guessed it. The ‘me’ that was behind the eye, and would thus still be there after the amputation, was what they others called the Soul. It is real, I began to ponder this new insight. I had been ignoring it all these days, blindly assuming that the Martin other folk related to was adequately defined. A body, a name, a weak sense of humour and a history you could write on one page AND now a soul. I loved it. In all its simplicity, I nurtured it, like you would a bird with a broken wing.
I was in Mexico at the time, a free Government hospital, alone and with barely a smattering of Spanish rattling around in my head. It was only a few months before, I had been crofting in Aberdeenshire. Picking tatties and lifting neeps on the neighbouring farms. Cutting peat on the Laird’s bog for winter heat; when we’d huddle round the smoking Rayburn, remembering better, warmer days. It felt like the distant past as I lay there. Everyone I knew seemed to be getting on with life, without a care for their innermost selves, fixing to get a hold of whatever pleasures in life they could get their hands on.
Sure, pleasures of the body I had tried my share. I was pushing 30 by this time, and pretty rebellious years they were. We’re talking the seventies and the end of flower power. Open air concerts and steamy auditoriums. I knew well the joys of a 12-year-old single malt, or the softer pleasures of a warm woman at night. I had savoured the ageless silence of forests and shorelines, sought out stone circles, strolled the Grampian heights to pick bilberries and gaze over distant sceneries. I had even done the overland trip to India by then, which was a kind of puberty rite in those times. Sheltering in Manikaran, in the low Himalayas, I had cooked food in its boiling water springs. I had greeted the Dalai Llama and conversed with the monks of Athos in Greece and, true to my identity, breeched legality with some sheep herders in rural Afghanistan. No, I had spread myself out quite wide by then already.
By the time of my Central American adventure, I could have written a fun packed travelogue, but I had not even started upon the journey that now defines me, a journey that is now sneaking into print. This journey we would have to call the inner journey. A journey that owes its origin to the discovery made in that Mexican hospital. A journey, soon to be published as “Finding what was never lost”. Of course, one’s life is a continuum; with a barely conscious start and its so un-predictable end. But, when I tell others about this inner journey, it always starts with the hospital thing. Then we meander across northern India, where I found a guide ready to take me on, and instruct me in the meditative practice that opened the way. It might sound a bit loopy to one who has not considered the whole field of meditation and spirituality. Especially over here, in the West, where we are all too quick to wrap it together with religion. What a fallacy that is!.
It brings a sense of awe to mind, recalling a line in a poem written by the founding teacher of this path. Way back, before 1914, he wrote that meditation was . . . “to dance in the palace of nothingness”. Silent meditation on the divine light he deemed was a dance. A man who bore the pain of stomach ulcers, without medication, who lived in poverty and died in 1931 spoke of dancing as his life’s work. Intriguing.
After getting started with this meditation practice, I decided to stay in India, and by default started in on my other of life’s passions: farming. It was totally alien to my suburban heritage of course. To learn how to plough, sow and harvest came to be just as challenging as learning how to meditate. Happily, they both bore fruit. Aye, I could tell you some tales from those farming years. Like the time, while ploughing, I and tractor found ourselves sinking into a mammoth hole, which took two days to dig ourselves out of, or the intricacies of rice farming or the cheery interactions with the locals. Many things. And, they complemented the inner journey in the most incongruous, yet beneficial ways.
But then it is so easy to get side-tracked. Years of married life in Denmark, and not so married life in France, altogether over twenty years in India – there are many tales this man could tell (and does in “Finding . . .”!). Bringing it all back to something very tangible and accessible; I recall a conversation I had with my original teacher’s successor. He was already in his mid-eighties and had led a lifetime of serving others. His sight by then was poor, his mobility very restricted and breathing quite laboured, I tried to console him, to express the sadness I felt for his physical condition. He looked at me, with his eyes shedding the hint of a tear, lovingly he said, “Be assured Martin, not a single day goes by that I do not experience Infinite Joy.” As did we in his presence.
If my book does anything to inspire or encourage the reader to embark on a similar, Inner journey, then the writing and the private moments bared will have been worth it. The outer journeys, for all their exotic or humorous content, I realised some years ago, are not at all required to reach that Inner goal. It doesn’t mean we should not travel though!
Recently, when I had finally tracked down my dear old friend from those Aberdeenshire days, I stood caressing a recumbent, moss-covered, standing stone, 20 tons of granite, lying as if for ever next to Midmar Kirk, pondering on all it had ‘lived’ through. Its strength and presence were majestic, unflappable, calming and not shying away from being itself. As a human our potential is greater, but in its way it embodies qualities that are noble and achievable, by any of us. We only need to start on that journey . . .
For the travel section of Scottish newspaper.
For a travel section of Scottish newspaper.Mountains and monuments, India has them in abundance . . . but the true richness of India lies in its culture, its philosophy and its people. Yes, try the beaches of Goa, the jungle retreats or tea gardens of Darjeeling, walk trails in the Himalayas or seek out the colonial riches of the past . . . but there’s nothing to take you further away from your daily grind as the glory of silent meditation. India is littered with the possibilities of the Ashram experience. To find the inner YOU.
SRCM retreat centre, Kerala.
Away from the bustle of its cities, or even right inside them, there are pockets of peace; refreshments for the soul. After 25 years in India, I have my favourites of course, but it would be wrong to limit you in your choices. Like Swami Vivenkenanda did a hundred years ago, one could walk from Colombo to Almora, a cool 3,000 kms, and find oh-so-many Temples and Ashrams along the way. Way more than you will find in the travel brochures – so why stick to the tourist trail.
OK, we can meditate anywhere – and there is no need to make it any harder by choosing downtown Delhi or an overrun tourist trap. Sitting on a bench, overlooking the Kumoan Range of snow-capped peaks, with only the sounds of birdsong and the occasional clunk clunk of a cowbell. Its as if the mountains are meditating with you, revelling in its awareness of the whole of existence. Reaching out, as it does, higher than anywhere on the planet, towards the skies and the Universe beyond the known.
In amongst cotton fields and the poor end of Telengana State, one Ashram is coming up a pace. On its 600-acre site, they have planted over 100,000 trees, built lakes and rock gardens, accommodation for thousands – transforming a neglected corner of the country into a majestic example of welcome and functionality. Juxtaposed such grandeur, we witness the people of villages – with so little, they harbour a joy and a sense of family, a perspective and insight into truths so dearly missed in the manic life of the cities. Where time has no measure and laughter abounds with childlike innocence.
The heart of India is alive and well, explore it and you might just find the nugget that sees you good for the rest of your lives.
Martin J. Worthy, author of “Finding what was never Lost, and then just giving it away”.