John Lennon was sixty (and a half) years ago at the place where I am now: Rishikesh. Now the yoga capital of the world, thanks to the Beatles who then came here to an ashram for meditation and yoga.
There is a link between travelling and being creative. I have met many people during my travels who write, sing, dance, play the guitar. For fun. They want to make money with it, but they don’t yet. For me it doesn’t matter that they don’t earn anything with what they do: they are creative and beyond the people who like to sing, dance, write a book, but never do that. Who never start.
The artists are the people of the glass half full and the people who never start the people of the glass half empty. I myself was the type ‘glass half empty’, but I am now ‘glass half full’. This blog helps. This allows me to show that I can write. I can put my creativity into it and I like to share it. For me, this is a beginning. I want to get better and make it my work: writing is a part of my life and I want to keep doing that.
I became half full of the type of glass because of Elisabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic. She writes about how she wrote countless books that were often not published, but how she went on. Until the book Eat, Pray, Love became a bestseller and now everything she touches turns into gold. Big Magic is her encouragement to everyone who was like her – it’s not just about writing, but about creativity in general – and like many people I meet on the road and myself.
Everyone is creative, go back to what you liked (as a child) and do that, make it part of your life, you will enjoy it. It doesn’t matter what others think. Do it for yourself and you will benefit from it. That is her message. Maybe easy said if you have written a bestseller, but have fun in what you do. The rest is secondary.
How creative you are, where you get inspiration from and how others do it, that’s what I find interesting. Creativity: what is it? How do you get it? Is everyone it? For me, the last one is simple: yes. Everyone is creative, but you can be more creative if you want to and how do you do it?
The ashram – a kind of temple where you can meditate – where the Beatles wrote more than forty songs sixty years ago therefore attracted me enormously. The ashram has now been abandoned, because it is located in a nature reserve, but the government has decided to reopen it in 2015 and have created a museum and small exhibition space in it. Everything else is still there, the buildings, but the buildings are slowly being swallowed up by nature.
When I walked outside, a boy asked if you should pay for the ashram. Yes, six hundred rupees (6 euros),” I said, “and then you only see the graffiti,” he asked. Yes,’ I said. He turned around and walked away. I doubted if I would tell him I thought it was worth it, but I thought he already knew I thought it was worth it, because I just came out.
The idea that they walked there and took inspiration for so many songs is fascinating to me. And I’m not the only one. There were a number of more young people walking around with guitars, a man from New Zealand, a spiritual woman from America and four students from Delhi. With the man from New Zealand I talked for an hour about the Beatles, about inspiration and creativity. With the students and the woman about meaning in life and meditation.
History of the Beatles in India
Back in the hostel I looked up the story of the ashram and it makes the place even more special for me. You can read the piece on Wikipedia, someone has taken the trouble to write a very good piece about the few months that the Beatles in India, Rishikesh, were with more than two hundred sources, but since many won’t, I have the short version.
It starts that the guru Maharishi Mahesh is in Wales for a lecture wherever they are. They have to leave earlier, because their manager is found dead in his London apartment, but for some of the Beatles the seed is planted and they decide to go to his ashram in Rishikesh in February 1968.
Famous people never travel alone – everyone wants to be in their neighbourhood and at some point they can’t live without them. The Beatles also arrive with their wives, managers, trainees and friends. Journalists also travel with them, but the guru – called ‘the big M’ by the Beatles – keeps them out. Only a Canadian journalist who sleeps in a tent for days in front of the entrance is let in after a few days. He now has the exhibition in the museum and in other museums around the world. Endurance is rewarded.
An actress, Mia Farrow, also travels with her, who decides to separate from her husband Frank Sinatra when she returns.
Her sister is with her: Prudence. The Beatles are not all very strict in the meditation schedule, but Prudence is. Lennon came for ‘the answer’ in life and joked that she wanted to be first with God, faster than the others. From this follows a song.
Let It Be
If you think about it, Let It Be is also a song that stands for meditation: accept things as they are. Let It Be. And so more songs follow, in total they write 48 songs (some say there are 30), but at least there are many. Especially since some have been going to a month or two months. The goal was not to write songs while they were: they would meditate, but in the end the time in Rishikesh was the most productive time of the Beatles ever.
The stay where they slept was much more luxurious than where I slept during my meditation. The ashram was very basic, but when the Beatles arrived English furniture was bought, special clothing was made that they could wear, not only the Beatles themselves, but their entire entourage.
The Big M
Big M got a lot out of it. He took care of a helicopter flight, rafting on the river Ganges – still popular to do here – and that there was a good picture with the Beatles. He spent hours preparing the photo. Moreover, he did speak to the media himself, to spare the Beatles, but he later reaped the rewards.
Big M does an eight countries tour after the Beatles have been, Rishikesh is never the same again – from a quiet place to a place in the hippie trail, the tourist route with where the hippies want to go.
The Beatles have trouble with his commercial story and he would have harassed the actress as well, so their story is after they left India: they believe in meditation, but not in ‘the Big M’. When he died – nothing but good about the dead – they say that they had no proof for his loose hands and that he did much good for the world by introducing people to meditation.
Taxi on the way back
I think the story of the flat tyre from the taxi to the airport is one of the most beautiful stories when Lennon and Harrison want to return to London. The taxi driver doesn’t see or leave them again. After a few hours they go hitchhiking and there must be someone in India who picked up Lennon and Harrisson with their two wives and brought them to the airport. Someone still has to tell this story on birthdays, although no one probably believes it.
The Beatles don’t stop long after that
The Beatles don’t fall apart much later, but the fact that they were able to produce songs so fast with so much fun in such a short time is admirable. Of course it was their work and profession, but the pressure was great – they were already known – and yet a lot of good songs came out of it.
I’ve been listening to some of them that they came up with in Rishikesh. Of which I like Blackbird the most. A song that was new to me, but beautiful and well written. Moreover timeless: it is a song that doesn’t look out of place now.
Bungalow of the Beatles
One hour before the bungalow of the Beatles, I talked to the New Zealander about creativity and the Beatles. Creativity. What is it? How do you get it? I don’t know ‘the answer’, but Lennon didn’t get it either. There is an answer to these questions. You can do your best to get and get inspiration, but you can’t say where it is and isn’t.
Basically it’s everywhere – I mean creativity, but it’s more accessible in your head in certain places. By this I don’t necessarily mean India, you don’t have to travel to be creative, but rather in a place where you don’t have to do anything, there is no pressure and something is released in your head.
Creativity at work
I think that is the reason why I meet so many artists on a journey. They have space in their heads because they are not stuck in a pattern of work. The question is whether we should arrange our work as schematically as if we were still working in the factory. Maybe an environment with less pattern is better for our creativity, but other people are allowed to look at these questions. I don’t feel like that. Let me write.