I wrote this almost seven years ago. Don't know about you, but sometimes I learn something by reading old words I'd almost forgotten I wrote. It's like recovering a little piece of self I'd almost lost:
Hey, this meditation thing works!
I mean I’m getting flowers once a week from a husband who hasn’t given me flowers in fifteen years of marriage. Oh, there were the two times I gave birth. But even the velvety red blossoms of long-stemmed roses pale in the aftermath of that kind of excruciation. I’ve always longed for posies outside of a hospital room, and on an ordinary day, a day on which my cervix hasn’t just taken a quantum leap in the possibilities of expansion. A surprise bunch of daffodils arriving at my desk on, say, a Tuesday afternoon in late September, would be heartening. Maybe, on a lackluster winter morning, a single iris appearing atop the breakfast bar, along with a double espresso. Such flowery gestures didn’t happen once in fifteen years. Not so much as one lousy carnation. Not even on my birthday. That is, not until a few months ago, when I began a meditation practice.
No, I haven’t been praying to the Powers-That-Be for bouquets of hot pink dendrobium, purple snapdragons, morning-glories, and birds-of-paradise. It’s the peace of mind I’ve been after. I’ve gotten a measure of that, and, at this point, I’d say the blossoms are more of a perk. You see, last fall I climbed unscathed out of a totaled Buick. I did have a touch of what they call “cervical strain,” and while waiting for the emergency room physician to prescribe muscle relaxers, I learned my blood pressure was topping off in the red zone. Like an overinflated truck tire, I was on the verge of blowing. They call high blood pressure the Silent Killer, and although I know that sooner or later my own killer will arrive, whether silently, like a cat burglar, or preceded by a fanfare and drum roll, I’m in no hurry whatsoever to meet him.
And I remembered reading a book about those Tibetan monks who, by simply retreating into the vast expanses of Oneness, can modulate their vital signs with the finesse of John Coltrane on saxophone. Such things have been measured scientifically by Harvard medical professors, who huffed and puffed their way up a steep Himalayan trail, hauling stethoscopes, spygnomanometers, and rectal thermometers. The monks actually allowed themselves to be hooked up to such instruments before, during, and after their taking that quiet, interior leap into Oneness known as deep meditation. What the docs learned is that when it comes to such internal variables as blood pressure, body temperature, and pulse rate, those Himalayan monks have got their chops down. They are to diastolic readings what Sarah Vaughan was to vocal chords.
What’s their secret? A kind of temporary amnesia when it comes to “the smalls.” Not only do they not “sweat the smalls,” they don’t allow them to enter their mind at all. At least not during the meditative state. And just like the pop psych book says, when it comes to thoughts, they’re all “smalls.”
SO at 7 a.m. I’ve been getting the kids off to school, then climbing our little spiral staircase to the landing. There’s a window facing east up there and that’s where I sit, not in any lotus position, but simply in a chair, my palms opened upwards, in the direction of the smoke detector and the heavens beyond. I start by clearing my mind with om chanting. The cool thing is this often sets the metal stair rail to vibrating. Sometimes it sounds like a pipe organ, sometimes like a small set of wind chimes set tinkling by a soft afternoon breeze. All I know is that, from time to time, my mind does empty, in tiny but deep lapses. For a moment I forget that my husband, who prides himself on his unerring sense of direction, wouldn’t know his way into a florist’s shop if my life depended on it. I forget about florists altogether. I release any expectations I have of showy blossoms appearing out of the blue. There’s just the blue and whatever it brings. My opened palms tingle. The stair rail rumbles a deep, satisfying chord. Peace. Emptiness. Good vibes.
Later, when I’ve had my fill of this calm emptying, this Love Supreme, I like to hold my tingling palms out in the direction of others I care about. My spouse, for example. The palms are little energy centers, and after mine have soaked up all those good vibes, I turn them outwards, towards the garage, where Bennie is busy packaging art we sold at our gallery, paintings and pots which will be picked up by UPS. I turn my palms in the direction of my husband's hands, which so deftly wield a tape gun and bubble wrap. I send my love in wave after wave to my husband. I send my gratitude for his finesse with packing tape and corrugated cardboard, his ability to send five oversize terracotta pots packing, safely, over three thousand miles of land and sea, to a customer in Thailand. I gather all my love and likewise send it packing, in a sure trajectory, across the roof, across the tops of the junipers, over the winding stone path and into the garage, towards the wrapping table, where my husband wraps Kraft paper around a work on canvas. I aim for his heart.
Later, I am in the kitchen, brewing espresso. The back door opens, my husband walks in, takes me in his arms, and, out of the blue, kisses me. The lips too are energy centers. A Love Supreme. Ask Coltrane.
Post Script, 2008: A couple of days after that out-of-the-blue kiss, Bennie brought me the first of countless bouquets. And I am happy to report they are still arriving. Go ahead. Give meditation a whirl. How could it hurt?