Deming, New Mexico. It was warm and beautiful day to start with a meditation. Outside was a motel pool. I had parked the trailer overnight in the parking lot of the motel. The next day, I casually walked through the motel and out to the pool. Just use a bit of quiet confidence and no one cares. It was simple and quiet, at least at this time of the morning. The sun was already hitting my shoulders hard, but I like it hot. A whisper of a breeze was swirling around my head. I closed my eyes. With legs crossed in yoga style, I sat on a cheap plastic lounge chair facing the water and pretending it was a deep blue ocean. Ten minutes had passed. In that next instant, I faded into the vastness of the water and spread out. My body began to dissolve molecule by molecule dissipating and yet re-becoming. I was not, but I was, and without a head or brain or body, I was aware and safe and happy and fully assimilated into the deep blue.
I started deep meditations and visualizations in mid-1993 during a traumatic romantic breakup. It was a way of reprogramming my mind. I didn’t want to want him anymore. He was a thief, a coward and the worst kind of liar. To turn off I had to turn down. In my head, I was screaming. There was noise and chaos everywhere inside and out. I had begun to have anxiety attacks. The noise in my head was so loud I went to bed with headphones on listening to Elton John’s The One or Don Henley’s End of the Innocence or Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum. I couldn’t go to movies and sit in a dark loud theater. Any loud noise would send my heart racing. I would sweat and feel faint. I managed to go to work most days by confiding in my boss the basics of the situation and telling him I needed to keep my door closed for awhile. Several times a day I sat in my car and meditated to drive the sound away so that I could work a few more hours. At night, I would make my son dinner and allow him to eat in his room in front of his computer. Bad precedents were being set so that I could cope.
In the meditations I always went to the same place—a Hawaiian beach where the water was warm and the air sweet with plumeria. I was alone but the beach was not empty. A few strangers were around—just enough so that I did not feel alone. Within a few months the meditations worked. There was a day that came when I could no longer go to that warm safe beach and that day is when I stopped hurting minute-by-minute. He was not out of my mind but the thoughts no longer had control. It was as if the ocean was holding them just out of my reach.
Those days are past and there I was now, poolside and relaxed more than 15 years later. For a while I was alone and then a woman, a dog and her two young children appeared. The kids, a girl about 9 and her younger brother, were delighted to have a pool and jumped in with the vigor of young bones and few concerns. We struck up a conversation … all the usual small talk. She and her new fiance were from Charleston, North Carolina visiting relatives.
The dog was a hyperbouncing small tan and white ankle-licker. Their mother was divorced and newly engaged. We sat at the pool kid-watching, talking and drinking iced tea from a can. She talked of her new man with a decided softness. She was a young looking 29 and in love for the second time in her life. Some quick math—child of 9 means she was married in her very early twenties, at the latest—like me. We had a lot in common as we talked of past relationships and our mutual interest in men-with-history—men who have done something, anything really, just something of interest even if it’s a bit edgy and certainly if it’s non-traditional. Like what? Like driving across country on a motorcycle, spending a month in a Zen monastery in India, climbing Everest (or at least attempting), or maybe something as mundane as a reader/arm-chair philosopher of science, a collector of bee species pinned to a board in the spare bedroom, an aquaponics enthusiast, a wood carver—a man with purpose, reasons, projects, goals. Where are those men? In nearly a lifetime I have known only a handful. One is my son.
She had started to pray a couple of years ago to help her extricate herself from a bad relationship and to find her way to a good man. She says it worked. Not long after, she ran into an old friend who slowly fell into her life. I suspect she would have run into the old friend anyway and god got undue credit but, I have to admit, I have not tried praying for a man. I don’t think any of the gods of man (and there are many-hence the lower-case “g”, for those of you concerned about this) gives two cents about my problems with men. It’s about free will, right? If we are all to praise god for a good relationship or the winning of a football game or his preference for the purveyors of Coke over Pepsi due to some political endorsement, what are we saying about this god? These are his trivial pursuits? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry, sick kids to save, innocent people to protect? If we pray, should we not be praying for the big stuff—widows, orphans, the abused, two year olds with cancer, war veterans without legs, missing children. Oh god! The list of things to pray about is long, too long to waste precious breath on personal failings that should be the domain of our own fortitude. Who is not aware of the size of the universe by now? Earth and its inhabitants are just a dust smudge on the window of time.
But those thoughts swirled only in my head for a brief few seconds and it seemed to be they only thing we disagreed on. I liked her and her charming children and I was happy she found love again and I hoped I would get to meet this nice young man. She was a beauty with dark wavy hair, creamy southern skin, a slim curvy figure, and a North Carolina voice that was as sweet, gentle and as calming as pansies on the porch.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
—- William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream
I looked up to see a man standing at the pool edge addressing her kids. He was older than I expected, balding, belly paunch, about five foot six and mid-forties. I knew from his tone who he was—the fiancé. He seemed abrupt toward children that were not his and he’d known for such a short time. “Time to get out. We’re going to lunch. Let’s go. Let’s go!” He was clapping his hands together to get their attention.
These days, I am a love-skeptic but I kept my negativity in check. All my heros turned into ghosts but hers might not. I am frequently wrong and certainly can’t be trusted to provide relationship advice—and, she did remind me that love happens when you least expect it and when your guard is all the way down and when you meditate on it, or perhaps, pray on it. But, who can tell?
So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell,
Blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
—- Pink Floyd