Life is fragile. My lovely godson will regain his powers of speech and whatever else the radical surgery took from him. He's the paragon of courage and strength. But life is fragile.
I of course find myself thinking only of myself. How blessed I am with a loving wife and two children who are immensely creative, respectful, and loving, how with a puff of a breeze any of what I've been blessed with could be...not.
I was thinking about what I could gift my godson, and there will surely be some of that to come, but in thinking about it--all the material things I could, and like will, send him in an effort to make up for my physical absence from his life--a unique gift came to mind this morning.
No less than 30 years ago, before I met your father, Seamus, the Beatles were in India learning Transcendental Meditation. Of course the media got ahold of that and shook it like a momma dog might shake a bad wet puppy. I, a 19 year-old about to be college dropout, was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon when a representative of the Maharishi Maheesh Yogi, the king of this new, Westernized meditation method, came to town. The town was Knoxville, Tennessee, and the teacher of meditation came there because Knoxville boasted a huge population of college age kids at the University of Tennessee.
I was involved with a beautiful young woman then--Avanelle was her name--4 years my elder, and we went down together to the premier town hotel, each bringing the prescribed handkerchief and piece of fruit along with a check for (I believe) 25 dollars. That was alot more money in 1969 than it is now, by the way, Seamus, especially to a college student who was unemployed.
In the small old hotel suite, I waited patiently in the sitting room as my girlfriend entered the bedroom and sat with the teacher. As also prescribed, we had both weaned ourselves off of any alcohol or drugs, even aspirin, for two weeks prior to this eventful day. After around 15 minutes, she came out of the room with a beatific smile, without her handkerchief and orange. It was my turn.
I was greeted pleasantly by a small, handsome, bearded, darkskinned man with a mellifluous Indian accent and told to sit comfortably in the chair before him. We talked for a minute or two and he received my gift of handkerchief and my orange, then he told me that he was going to gift me in turn. My gift was to be a mantra. I must never tell my mantra to anyone, ever, because essential to its power was its secrecy. We would begin repeating the mantra together, over and over, and repeat it until it was embedded in my soul, where it would forever be a touchstone for me. He said my mantra was unique to me, that no one else in the world had this mantra, and that it had no meaning, that it simply...was.
He spoke it. We spoke it together, and again, and many more times, ever more quietly until its speaking moved into the realm of silence and I was repeating it to myself and I knew that he was speaking it with me and that it was mine and no one else's and for maybe 20 more minutes I repeated it to myself, following as best I could the teacher's instructions to deny thoughts, to simply acknowledge them as thoughts and pay them no heed, to focus on my mantra and the peace surrounding it. At some point the teacher very quietly instructed me to begin resurfacing to the moment, to very very slowly begin to reopen my eyes and again receive the light and the world and to return to everyday consciousness. I did so, and when I could I stood up, bowed to him, rejoined my friend and left the teacher, never to see him again.
I meditated that way daily for nearly a year.
It was useful for me, Transcendental Meditation. It helped me in many ways. Eventually I fell back into day to day distractions and fell out of the habit of meditating. But I still meditate at irregular intervals, especially when I can't sleep or I know I need to settle down from being upset. I'm certain it doesn't work as well as it might because these days I do like my beer and pureness of one's physical system is a required element of successful meditation, but it does help.
That girlfriend became my first wife, and we moved through days and years together, and eventually she fell in love with another man and I left her. During what was our last conversation as man and wife, on the occasion of my returning to our little cottage to get my four kittens and a few last belongings, we confessed to one another our mantras.
They were the same. Though I don't really believe it can be spelled, it sounds something like "aeennnnngh," with a little breath finishing it off after the last sound has sounded. Now you know it, too.
Does that mean that we were lied to? No. It means that what we believe is our own is our own, even if someone else believes that they own it uniquely to themselves. That mantra still has value to me, even though now I have shared it openly with you. Now, instead of being about the secrecy, it's about the sharing. Use that mantra as you can and will, and deny the thoughts, simply recognizing them as thoughts, and facing once again the moment of your peace and the sweet essence of your life, and at the point where it feels right, come slowly but surely back to the world, to what is around you, to the people who care for you so very much. You are loved.
I will add another mantra, this one made up of a set of words that I have found very helpful to me in many stages of my life. I made it up years ago when I was spending most of my days helping my father in the last days of his life. Quietly and confidently, I would lull myself to sleep or into wakefulness repeating, over and over, in the manner of meditation, the following words:
I am good
I am well
I am healthy
I am happy
I am whole.
Try that one too.