Thursday, February 22, 2007

Blogger knows my mantra!

In Blogger you have to enter a "Word Verification" code comprised of squiggled-up letters to post any entry. The theory is this stops spammers because the letters aren't machine readable.

Well, interestingly (to me, anyway), the one I had to enter to post this post was my old Transcendental Meditation mantra.

It was weird to see it crop up there, but, ah, the memories.

I discovered TM when I was about 13/14. I'd read that people who did TM could levitate. On top of that, the Beatles had done it.

Wow, what more could a teenage boy want than to be all serene and hip while levitating with the Beatles? The chicks would dig it! (Though I doubted the levitation part.)

Well, I knew enough about religions back then to be cautious about cults and pickpockets (not that that saved me from my Mormon experience later), and so sought out my Pastor to see if he thought there'd be any problem with TM. He looked into it and told me it seemed Ok, but told me to look out for ritualistic stuff like placing things on an alter, or what have you.

We had one instructor in my little home town and so I paid her a visit at her trailer. She seemed a little surprised that a freshly teenage boy was at her door, but told me I'd have to get my mom to fill out a parental consent form, pay the fee, and then bring a white handkerchief, a flower and an orange (or other fruit) to my first lesson. I thought that was odd, but surmised maybe she was poor and this was how she padded the nest.

She was a plain hippy chick in her mid-twenties with a slight acne problem and a complexion so monochromatic that the difference in the pale pink shade of her lips compared to the pale blue of her eyes wouldn't be that far apart on the Pantone scale. She favored home-knit sweaters made from earth-toned multi-color yarn (through which you could see her bra), jeans that had rhinestones or embroidery, and bare feet. She also avoided hygiene products, apparently. To this day, the particular florid sour smell she exuded, even over the incense she used, comes back to me. Her voice was quiet, airy, and strangely singsongy, which was vaguely creepy during the lessons, a lot of which are done with your eyes closed.

So, there I sat, nervously eyeing the quasi-alter that held a picture of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi grinning from a recent bong hit, some burning incense cones, and my orange, flower, and hanky; wafting in her milk-on-the-edge-of-turning odor mixed with pungent Jasmine blueberry something smoke. I immediately just had to ask if we were offering my objects up on an alter to the Maharishi, because, uh, I wasn't supposed to make offerings to other deities and stuff. She said not to worry, that it's not an offering, that Maharishi was still alive and most defiantly not a deity, and that is was just a ritual of thanks meant to symbolize my commitment to the practice of TM - as was the nominal fee. They had the view that if you brough a gift and parted with a little cash, that would indicate you weren't a dilettante (and fund the group, of course).

Let me digress from the narrative here and point out that these lessons were accompanied by the constant electrical power line hum of sexual tension. At the time I just wrote it off to my being your average teenage horndog with a rich fantasy life that had to be kept in check and strictly to myself - and hidden behind those thankfully large science texts we carted around at school. However, I now realize for something to be sustained and pervasive as that was, (cue the Motown song) it takes two, babeh. I could tell she was a lonely soul, too (for probably the myriad reasons I've given). But, hell, I hadn't even kissed a girl yet, and had I even arrived at the idea of making a pass, I would've had no idea on how to do it. In retrospect, though, I bet had I been careless enough to get within two feet of her and met her eye, she would've taken care of the rest. If you think this is preposterous, think of all the recent cases where a female school teacher has given some teenage boy a lesson or two they'll never forget.

The first lesson was your basic "how to," but in the second lesson I was to receive - pause for effect - my MANTRA. When the moment arrived, I was given a mantra that was chosen specifically for me, she said, based on what she the instructor had intuited about me thus far.

She handed it to me ceremoniously. It was a single two-syllable word, phonetically close to the name of a type of large flightless bird native to Australia, written in pencil on the corner torn from a larger piece of paper. More than a little anticlimactic, you could say. I mean, for the money I'd paid and the ceremony around, you'd think she'd pop for a whole piece of paper.

So she had me TM a bit. You sit with your back straight, legs crossed, eyes closed, hands relaxed in your lap in a quiet room, and repeat the mantra over and over in your head. You're supposed to feel refreshed, relaxed, and sharper afterwards. I usually felt like I did after a math test, vaguely dizzy with a desire for some fresh air.

I was also slightly relieved that I hadn't gotten a boner. Teenage boys get them at so little provocation that I was always somewhat amazed the slightly altered state brought about by TM didn't disturb the little monster from one of its brief slumber, as a good night's sleep always seems to do.

Anyway, she said as I got better at it, it would feel more like it was supposed to feel. After a few more lessons where she "checked" that I doing things incorrectly, I was on my own. My first near-miss at an older woman tryst had passed.

I TM'd for a year (much to the bemusement of my mom when I'd request quiet so I could meditate), got none of the benefits they claim it gives you, and even somewhat regularly got a light headache for my efforts. So I abandoned it like the rock you kick for a couple blocks during a walk, and instead use the time regained to read.

I think I go into a better meditative state when I'm reading a book than when I sit there and think the name of a bird over and over.

For the record, film director David Lynch is a vocal and financial advocate of TM. Though given the kinds of surrealistic, nightmarish films (which I like, btw) that sprout from his meditation enhanced noggin, I'm not sure that's a ringing endorsement.

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