“Today is celebrated as Guru Purnimah, Full Moon of the Guru. One honors one’s spiritual lineage.”
My meditation teacher, Paul Brown AKA Paul Edward Blackburn, posted this on Facebook today along with a story from one of his associates upon meeting his teacher, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
This is my story of meeting my teacher.
I am standing at the bar at a swanky anniversary party. I order a glass of champagne. Paul looks at me, smiles, and says, “We’re going to be friends.”
He says this as if nothing could be more obvious. And nothing can be more obvious.
He is tall, with a shock of white-blonde hair and blue eyes that I want to swim in – elementary backstroke, gentle, looking up at the sun. I don’t know if he is gay or if I am in love or both.
Over dinner he tells me about Transcendental Meditation. (Now commonly called Vedic Meditation.) He tells me about meeting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – John, Paul, George and Ringo’s teacher – in Spain. He tells me he would like to teach me to meditate.
On the ride home I inform my husband that I will be learning to meditate. It is one of our first and few disagreements about money. We don’t have much as I have recently left a job in public relations and am answering phones at a massage school for $12/hour while I build my budding bodywork practice.
Meditation seems an unnecessary extravagance, but he relents.
I arrive at Paul’s home – a bungalow that he shares with his roommate Mikey, who runs an old-school soda fountain in Berkeley, California – carrying pears and oranges and a mess of star-gazer lilies, offerings for my initiation.
We place the fruit and flowers on a silver tray, next to a photograph of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, on an altar Paul has created. And he lights a stick of incense.
The rest is a blur.
I receive a mantra which Paul had chosen for me. He says it. I repeat it. He says it again. I repeat it again. And so we continue for 20 minutes. Saying the words to one another, and then eventually to ourselves.
I feel dizzy. And then like I am flying. I notice every sensation of my body. I feel like I have experienced this before, as a young girl…but I did not have words for it then. Or I did, but they sounded strange and silly. The feeling and the imagery is exactly the same – I am a cube of ice suspended from dental floss tied to a toothpick. Both heavy and light at the same time. And nothing more.
We finish the meditation with the words, “Jai Guru Dev. Thank you, Beloved Teacher.” And then count backwards from 100 to zero, allowing ourselves to settle back into this time and space.
When we are done, Paul makes me a martini – heavy on the vermouth, and we sit at the dining table with Mikey while he eats his dinner, sans shirt. And when he is done, he plays the guitar for us.
A few weeks later Paul teaches my husband to meditate – gratis. It is his gift to us. He thinks it is important that we be able to meditate together.
We meditate in the sun in our pajamas, camping in a field up in wine country. And on a rock face in Lake Tahoe, where we back-packed in for several days. My husband suggests we take off our watches while we are here. I agree but ask, “How will we know when we are done?” (This form of meditation is traditionally done for 20 minutes – once in the morning, once in the evening.) He laughs and replies, “We will be done when we are done.”
It seems like a radical notion.
We do this together for many years. And then we don’t. Our schedules change. He falls away from the practice. And then, we are no longer a we.
My practice changes and morphs too, and probably can no longer be classified as true Transcendental or Vedic Meditation. I add different prayers and “count” them towards my 20 minutes. At the request of a sick friend, I repeat a Durga (Hindu Goddess) mantra 108 times, at the time of her morning meditation. I let my evening practice fall away and lean exclusively into my morning sitting.
What remains true, 12 years since my initiation, is what Paul promised me early on – when I ask him how his life is different since learning to meditate. He thinks about it and replies, “I just think I have a really good and sweet and beautiful life, Honey Bunny.”
Yes. Me too.
Jai Guru Dev. Thank you Beloved Teacher.