In the Moment | Patricia Cronin
The Meditation Guy is tall and thin and very vegan. He's talking on the phone to someone—his daughter, or maybe his wife is out of town. He's saying “Honey” and “Sweetie” a lot and I think that's en vogue, part of the rulebook for Sensitive Husbands and Dads.
It's 7:45 and we were supposed to start our session fifteen minutes ago. I'm trying not to eavesdrop, but he told me to sit quietly in the living room and ready myself. He's chewing something garlicky and asking the Honey what the weather is like. I occasionally take a quick look over my shoulder and watch him drawing or writing on a piece of paper in front of him. He nods a few well-spaced “uh huh's” and says how great or cool something is.
He pretends to know – or actually can tell – when I'm not concentrating, not in the moment. Knows when my mind drifts. After every session he wants to teach me something. Last week, he once again told me how important it is to become more disciplined. He said I have to regain control of my mind, reel it in like a big fish. I think of a fighting, flashing muskie. He thinks he's being creative. My brain is a lot of things, but not a fish. He has a bumper sticker on his SUV: “I don't eat anything with a face.” The bumper sticker plastered in my head reads: “My brain has no face.” I'd tell him this if I felt like making him not laugh.
Already I know that the lesson to follow tonight's session will be long and arduous. I know because already I can't concentrate. Today, I'm too busy with “the thought.” The wind swept it back into my head and I haven't been able to shake it all day. Very few people believe this, but the elements hold memory and universal knowledge. That's why people meditate or sit quietly. Some stare at aquariums, others a lighted candle. I'm an air person. My element is wind. That's why I'm more susceptible to these things—the wind, the air, you can't escape it. Today the wind smelled of ancient leaves and rich, black earth.
It's called open-eye meditation. Basically we sit in ass-numbing chairs facing each other, not thinking. His son runs in and out of the house, slams the screen door. His dog Lucky sniffs at my legs and licks my hand. The Meditation Guy gets his focus to a near-glower and breathes deeply, with purpose. This breathing puts him in a trance and he buckles and jerks, grunts, already off in some other realm. I sit still, a soundless inhale-exhale, my eyes tearing up. Supposedly by doing this we are giving each other energy and the quality of that energy is dependent upon the non-attachment to thoughts.
The thought is this: My parents are old and one day will die. The late night phone call will come. Or the weeks-months-years sitting bedside watching a non-life become even more so. This thought requires rehearsing. It needs preparation, a readiness for the point of impact where that particular thought sears and stings, burns, fries, and is anything but nothing. So to prepare, I hold the thought in my mind, try it on for size, like clothing. Over the years I've done this and here is what I've learned about that thought: It neither fits nor doesn't. It has no color. But I feel something like weight and a particular texture of the thought as it rests on my shoulders and down along my arms like sleeves. But so far, that's all I feel. There is no sensation around my breasts, back, waist or hips. I think that comes with time. I even feel something when I finally can let go of the thought; as though with one hand I grab at my sternum and pull upward over my head, the neck-opening of the thought brushing against my face and pulling softly through my hair. A subtle cold surrounds my body. Naked. Free.
I try on the thought every few months or so.
He says thoughts are nothing.
Emotions don't exist in the spiritual realm.
He is telling the Sweetie on the other end of the phone that he's getting more students, a sure sign, he says, that his own energy is deepening, becoming more powerful. I'm embarrassed to have to hear this, as if he is saying he wants to be either a fireman or a guru when he grows up. Finally, I'm curious to know how a Sweetie responds to such a statement coming from a husband or father.
If my mother were here, I know she'd raise her left eyebrow just a bit and would want to say, “Pride cometh before a fall.” My Dad? He'd shake his head and say “Sheesh” under his breath, or just act like he hadn't heard anything.
I'm not liking any part of this waiting but am particularly pained by his most recent revelation to the unknown Honey because after tonight I'm breaking up with the Meditation Guy.
He doesn't know it yet, but I will call him in two days and tell him. I will leave it as a message if I have to.
I fast-forward my brain while sitting in the quiet of his living room to Thursday morning at ten or ten-thirty. I glance at his meditation altar – a card table really – some candles and incense and a few crystals. There's a black and white photograph of an elderly couple. The picture is too small and far away for me to see if the couple resemble him in any way. I wonder if he's ever thought the thought. Even if he were to say it's nothing.
I think how light and relieved I will feel having told him I've decided to stop coming. I will have told him and I'll have hung up the phone. My hand will feel cool and no longer sweaty. This will free me from sitting in stiff wooden chairs, smelling remnants of curried dinners, listening to the dishwasher gurgle and chug.
I'll be free to think the thoughts the wind gives me on days when rain has spilled buckets into sewer drains and the mild odor of sludge gets carried for blocks. I will think the thought until I feel it drag around my feet, gown-like. Until I have to stare down the rest of my life as some endless road: heavy with grief and oppressive in its flatness.