So I went to Majorca, Spain, in February 1971 for more meditation. A bunch of us meditators jumped on a charter plane from Los Angeles that stopped in Greenland, then at an airport north of London at about 4 in the morning. We waited several hours for a customs officer to show up, and then after showing our passports, we got on a bus to ride through the fog and darkness to Heathrow, where I had an excellent English beer at 9 in the morning. It really hit the spot. We got on another plane for somewhere in Spain, probably Barcelona. There we were treated to a brief glimpse of Fascist Spain in all its glory. The airport was full of military-looking guards whose main job seemed to be to swagger around and look handsome, military, and imposing. They were like characters in a Mexican TV show – their sole purpose was to add a sexual charge to the atmosphere, in case there were any blonde women around who had S & M fantasies. They looked with scorn at any of the men with long hair, and with lust at the pretty young things in our group.
Majorca (in the middle)
There was a beach some miles away from Palma, with a row of four or five hotels. The TM organization had made them an incredible offer: "Let us rent your hotels IN WINTER." The locals said, "But this is not traditional! We are closed in Winter and open only in Spring, Summer and early Fall." I remember Jerry telling this story with great amusement. The TM people kept upping the offer until they had to say yes. That had to be quite an offer – let us rent a thousand hotel rooms for five months or so.
This is Mallorca, but we were somewhere with sandy beaches. Our hotels were close to the ocean like this.
For me, it was an incredible deal. I had saved up the money I made grooming the greens at Irvine Coast Country Club before dawn, then forgotten about it. I had about $1200 left over after paying for the Poland Springs and Estes Park courses. That money, because of the deals TM worked out, bought me round-trip airfare to Majorca, and three months of advanced meditation teacher training. Maybe it was a bit more or less, but it worked out to where for several hundred dollars a month I was staying in a hotel on the beach in Majorca. I was already a teacher, so I had no classes to go to, no one looking after me, nothing to do but make up my own schedule.
So there we were, in these really nice hotels right on the beach, looking East over the Mediterranean. I had never spent any time on a beach facing East. All my beach time, which has been extensive, has been on coastlines that face West. I have this image in my head, of the angels showing me Earth, before I was born, pointing out Southern California to me, and saying, "It's a lot like Greece in 300 BC." Anyway, I am usually right at home on a beach as long as the ocean is clean and swimmable.
Again Blessed by Darkness
After years of meditating and therapy, and months of rounding, I had gone through much of the horror of my earlier life, reliving and releasing the fear, grief, pain, rage, and annihilation. Here in Majorca I plunged in again to see what was there to be dealt with. I quickly became involved in something that had the feel of editing a movie – miles and miles of film, going back and forth through the story. In meditation, I felt my awareness rapidly moving through every event of my life, especially the stuck places, going backward and forward, stopping at any place in which I was stuck, working it over, then moving on. My attention seemed set on facing every pain, every bit of anguish, and releasing it, down to the tiniest molecule.
Some force in me was determined to face down my inner demons or die trying. It quickly became apparent that there was a lot more to be dealt with, split-off fragments of my own vitality that were running amok in my psyche. From Jungian Analysis I had learned, "Turn and face whatever is chasing you." And Jung had used an interesting metaphor once: "If you find yourself being sucked into a vortex, turn toward it and dive in." I was in the process of letting myself be drawn right into the center of the spinning circle of power. This went on for several weeks, and I started to get the sense of something – that there was perhaps a possibility I could be healed, but I needed time, lots of time.
There was a tension of opposites. On one hand the nature of the attention manifesting in me seemed determined to break down the structures and histories ruling me, limiting me, by reducing them to molecules, then atoms, then pure energy. On the other hand, there was a shortage of time. I was two weeks into a three-month meditation retreat of my own making. I had already completed my official meditation teacher training, this was an advanced course I had chosen or been called to.
And I didn't feel quite done – I really wanted to stay there in the room until I was. One afternoon, after being there a couple of weeks, I was meditating and thought, "If I could stay here for three more years, I would be enlightened."
So I went looking for Maharishi to have a conversation with him. In those days, 1970, early 1971, if you were on a course with him, especially if you were one of the teachers he had trained, you could just go wait outside his door and maybe get in to have a private talk. I walked down the beach to the hotel he was in. and went up to his rooms. He and his staff had the entire floor. Maharishi wasn't there, but one of his friends was, a man by the name of Sattyanand was there and he waved me in. Sattyanand and I had seen each other before, he was at the Estes Park course and I had enjoyed his wit and directness.
I stood in the doorway, uncertain. He gestured me in with his typical impatience.
"Come in, come in, but take off your shoes," Sattyanand said.
We sat and talked for awhile, and he asked me about my experiences, and then he said something that turns out to have really changed my life. "Do you have a friend who can bring you food?" he asked.
"Yes, I have a girlfriend in the same hotel, just down the hall."
"Ask her if she will bring you food to eat each day, and then stay in your room, a week, two weeks, maybe more. Whenever you have the impulse to go out the door, just put your attention on your body. Feel your body, and stay in the room. Then come see me again." (Feel de body. Hmm? Stay in de room.)
Joyce was a couple of years older than me, and we had been living together and having a wonderful affair the previous year. She had gotten me into Jungian analysis and I had gotten her into TM. We stopped having sex about 6 months previous to being there in Majorca, but we were still friends and she was a wonderful person to have down the hall. It was actually a total coincidence that she was on that exact course, in the same hotel, on the same floor. She was the kind of person who could bring you a plate of food and leave it outside the door without leaving one trace of mental noise. She had incredible grace and a quiet wisdom. She readily agreed to bring me food each day. Bless you Joyce, wherever you are.
I put a note on the door: FEEL DE BODY. Then I pulled the blackout curtains, closing out my view of the ocean, and making the room completely cave-like. It was pitch black – not a spot of light anywhere. The door onto the hallway was a double door, for some reason. If you were going out from in the room, there was a door, then a tiny hallway, then an outer door. This meant you felt completely isolated from the hallway, and soundproofed. Joyce brought me lots of Majorca oranges, which were incredible; bottled water, and lunch and dinner plates. I would leave her notes if I needed anything more.
My only problem then was that it was cold – we were on the beach in the Mediterranean in winter, and a cold ocean breeze was blowing all the time, and the hotel, to save money, did not have the heat turned on. I had two wool blankets, which was not enough to keep me from waking up shivering in the middle of the night. But I knew I could handle the cold – I was a California surfer, used to chilly ocean temperatures ranging from 59 to the low 60's most of the year. I knew that if you sleep in the cold, after a week or so your metabolism will kick in and start burning calories while you sleep, just to keep warm. I had read a research report on this years before. So I shivered for a week until my body got used to sleeping and meditating in the cold.
I had a watch that glowed in the dark. A faint uranium glow, just barely visible. I would make myself stay in bed until 4 in the morning, and then I would roll out of bed, toss one of the blankets on the floor, and glide through a full set of asanas. This is actually a great way to wake up in the morning. Then I'd do a couple minutes of pranayama and meditate for 40 minutes. Then go take a shower, and resume rounding. By 11 in the morning, I had been at it quite awhile, and would enter a kind of timeless rhythm. Some days I would do 14 rounds, each one lasting about an hour to an hour and a half. I would stop meditating usually by 7 or 8 p.m., in order to have some transitional time so that I could sleep. I had candles, and would light a candle each evening, and even striking the match was startling. My pupils must have been dialated all the way. Sometimes I would light a stick of incense – the TM movement at the time had access to a light sandalwood incense that was sublime – and I could see the walls just by the glow of the incense.
My entire life was there in that room. It was as if the story of my life came to a full stop and was paused, watching and waiting. You have to face this, or die. I took to the total darkness right away, doing my rounding, the asanas, pranayama, meditation, pranayama, asanas, pranayama, meditation.
TM is an ususual and sublime practice in that if you get it, you get the elegance of the technique, you pretty much cease to struggle with peripherals. The technique becomes like an old pair of jeans or shoes that are totally comfortable and durable. You don't worry about preserving them. You have great traction, and you just look where you are going. You forget the technique entirely, and are just left to deal with the contents of your mind and muscle memory. The downside of this, if you can call it a downside, is that you just zoom right to what is bothering you. There was a lot bothering me, memories of abuse, beatings, betrayals, and emotional torture. I was now 20, and the previous two years, 18-20 had been wonderful, but my teenage years had been shattering and soul-destroying. The call I was sensing was to go inside, face the intolerable and dissemble it.
How do you describe such a day? Once you truly wake up inside a meditation, each second counts. Tick, tick. Thump thump of the heart. You can feel the space between each heartbeat. Ka-thump. Ka-thump. Ok, now I am settling into the experience of being an individual entity, here I am on Earth. Whew. A breath. Another breath. Only 22,000 breaths to go today. Only 100,000 more heartbeats. An eternity starts to blossom in each moment, but it is not a happy eternity. And the experience is not boredom – anything but. I think the accurate clinical description would be something like holy terror. If you really go in there undefended, with undefended attention, you will die. But there is nothing else to do.
The great thing about TM, which the great insight, is that you don't make unnecessary effort. No wrong effort. Only the right effort, which is not effort at all. Right effort is to BE THERE. Meditation is being there witnessing everything and you don't run away. And the word effort does not describe what is called for. Courage is called for. The willingness to feel everything. Effort, or trying, is only a distraction and will only be effort toward the wrong thing. This is an astounding insight, because skill IS called for. It is very difficult to sit there and face everything, in total darkness and total silence, second after second, minute after minute, day after day, on and on and on. One of the brilliant gifts of TM is knowing how to make darkness and silence interesting. In TM, they are not afraid to let things be simple.
So there I was in the totally blacked-out room, and for several weeks I felt as if I were in a horror movie. In-between doing asanas, I sat in a chair most of the day, with my feet on the ground. I liked the feeling of having my feet on the ground, and I liked the altitude the chair gave me. I put the chair right in the middle of my room, I felt like I needed the space all around me. Because each meditation, when I would close my eyes, I felt as if I were coming face-to-face with a monster – a dragon, or an insane killer with a chain saw, slowly grinding through my flesh. So I visualized that I was chained to the chair. I actually did this – I imagined that I was chained to the chair so that I would not go running out of the room.
Ordinarily, even a few seconds of this feeling would make a person run screaming out of the room. But I had nowhere to go. There was nothing waiting for me back home. I had no money, I had spent every penny on the meditation teacher training. My plane wasn't for months, to take me from Majorca back to California. Many times I would get up out of the chair and go to the door, which I knew had the sign on it, FEEL DE BODY. I would almost put my hand on the doorknob, saying to myself, "I will just go out, go for a walk, maybe say hello to some friends." But then I would think, no, I am not ready. This is not authentic. And I would just sit down and pay attention to the restlessness, the urge in my muscles and nerves to flee this place, get away, run! I would just sit and breathe and track that sensation right into its essence in the life force, until instead of a driving restless urge to move, it became a vibration of life and an awareness of being.
At times when the sensation was too much to endure, a mental image of one of my teachers would come to me, or appear to my awareness. I would see their eyes. Many times I would be looking into the eyes of Ed Maupin, the psychologist and body therapist who did the Structural Integration treatments on me. Structural Integration is commonly called Rolfing, and is a kind of profound deep tissue work. By deep tissue, I mean that the Rolfer will put his elbow into your leg muscles, then use his skill to shift through the layers of tissue until he is in contact with the deeper layers, and then glide along, really putting his weight and strength into it. The idea is to break up the "holding," the static stuff that keeps the layers of muscle and tissue from really gliding.
I don't know if you have ever worked with a therapist or bodyworker, someone doing deep work with you, but there is a faraway look they sometimes get, when they are holding your soul in their hands, and they have to access their deepest resources to be there with you. They are wondering, hmm, if I was that person, how would I handle it? Sitting there in the darkness, I would see Ed, or one of my therapists, or my Tai Chi teacher Marshall Ho, looking at me. And I would GET IT. I would see myself through their awareness, and then their way of paying attention would combine with mine. I would see the universe through their eyes for a moment. Doing this would give me an added bit of strength of attention, a broader spectrum of attention, with which to attend to my present moment.
Dogs look at us with utter love. Anyone who has had a dog knows this. And there are times when a healer looks at you like a dog does – just pure love and soulfulness. The soul is looking at you. I had many such moments to draw upon, and they all came to me in my hours of need. These eyes looking at me were not generic attention – it was very specific, very personal, intimate and individualized. During the times when I could not bear to be in my own body, their awareness would come to me and help me make it though to the next moment.
It was a path inward – in to the space between the cells of my body. In to the space between the molecules and atoms my body is made up out of. In to the space of the heart. In to the space the mind thinks in.
Gradually, my sense of being expanded, and I was able to face the feeling of the monster with the chain saw. Really, for about two weeks the sensation was like having your teeth drilled – endurable for a few minutes maybe, but all day, day after day, enough to make you go insane. But I did not have the choice to go insane. I had to stay there. And as I stayed there, my deepest pain came to the surface, the feeling that I myself am a monster, so full of impurities that I should do the world a favor and go kill myself. I have seen too much evil, seen too much pain, seen too much abuse, and it has contaminated me.
There is a rhythm to meditation, and it matches the rhythm of a story or a movie. There is a call to adventure, then obstacles, maybe a refusal of the call, and then some kind of undeniable call saying, you will come. Then eventually allies or mentors show up, helpful spirits, and with them you get started on a long adventure. After many trials, you descend or penetrate to an inner cave where you have to obtain something valuable, which will restore your world to balance. And then there is the Return, the struggle to return to your everyday world with the gift, the boon, the elixir that restores life. And then the whole cycle starts over again.
In meditation, the call is the sense of a need. Something is lacking in your ability to pay attention to life. Becoming aware that something is lacking is the first, daring step. Admitting you have to go find the elixir, that you have to go on an adventure, is the second step. Finding allies is the next step. The process of meditating matches the rhythm of the hero quest exactly. The call to adventure can be as simple as noticing that you are craving contact with essence, craving to be in touch with that inner silence. The initial obstacles are many – I don't have time, this isn't the right time, I will just go for a walk, I will read a magazine, i will do something else, I am not ready. The allies are your technique, your inner knowing, the helpful feelings that show up and say, "You can do it. Come on. Let's go."
In movies, the tension builds and is often released in a mini-climax, which then just adds to the greater building of tension. In meditation, if you get really relaxed and at ease, then there is nothing to distract you from the ultimate pain you are in, which is being the weird you that you are, an individual, unlike anyone else and therefore unable to really take refuge in anyone else's path. You have to make your own way. And when you are sitting there in a dark room, you really are on your own. It's you and the blackness, baby.
With me, the tension built and built and built until after about two weeks in the darkness, every heartbeat was a screaming intensity of something unendurable. It wasn't pain anymore. It was just a fear of facing existence. It was just that sensation that makes you move on, change the channel, change the topic, move away from the conversation, turn your eyes away from looking at that person.
I started to witness the pain I was in, the sense of being fundamentally damaged, damaged beyond repair. It was as if I were the Soul, and I was examining this body I was in, and I was thinking or considering, "You know, this whole incarnation may be a loss. The human being is too damaged to continue. I'll have to pull the plug on this experiment."
Then I started to think, "If I WERE going to live, how would I get healing?" I had already been through intense, magnificent healing experiences with brilliant healers, therapists and teachers, who labored over me and gave me their best. And they trained me well, but most of them had not been through experiences as terrible as what I experienced as a teenager, the kind of torture and soul destruction I had undergone, year after year after year.
There was nothing else to do, sitting there in the darkness. So my awareness expanded. Some kind of energy field which was ME, permeating and encompassing my body and the space around me for several feet, reached out into space.
At first I felt, OK, here is the pain I am in. My physical sensation was that of being crushed, that the container I was in was too small. The space of my awareness is too small. I am here on a spot on the island of Majorca. And I drank in the comfort that came from existing there. Then it seemed that Majorca was not large enough to contain the pain – it was still annihilating, not enough to give me breath. Then my attention expanded to include the space for a thousand miles around, the whole Mediterranean. I breathed that air for a day or two, drawing in the comfort of that beautiful, stunning, magnificent sea and all the countries bordering on it, and all the courageous people who have ever sailed its waves. But then that was not enough space to disburse the pain. I would still die if that was all there was, I would do the world the favor of disappearing. Then my attention expanded to include all the oceans of the world, and that brought some real relief, AH. But still, the pain, the sense of being tortured beyond my capacity to endure was there, and I stayed there, feeling this tension, and feeling the planet, for a few days, with a mixture or sorrow and gladness. Glad to feel the whole planet. Sad that it was not enough, I was too damaged, too polluted, too broken.
Then at some point, I don't know whether it was ten days in to the total blackness, or twelve days, or fourteen. Something happened one day, and I started to sense the space within which our planet makes its rounds around the Sun. There is something there in space. I began to be aware of the space that embraces planet Earth. This space is somewhat larger than the orbit of the planet, and somehow it embraces the Earth, and loves the Earth with an undying love. I used to think that space was empty, and cold. But sitting there in the chair, with no one to help me, nowhere to go, and nothing to pay attention to but space, and also in absolute, desperate need of healing, I became aware of space as something almost like love, intelligent love. I made friends with something vast.
From then on, for weeks and months, it was as if I were looking at the Earth from out in space, looking in over the Earth toward the Sun, and that my awareness field was that whole area, the circle described by the Earth in its orbit.
I found that in this expanded awareness, I could rest. There, in the sphere of space that encompasses the Earth and the Sun, I could tolerate existing and not want to kill myself. This was a natural home for me. And with this as a place to rest in, I could face the petty terrors of my little life on Earth. This vastness loves planet Earth, and loves anyone who is foolish enough or courageous enough to go down there and take on a human body and become totally trapped in the human condition.
The sense of being at one with the space embracing Earth became my usual mode, and I would come and go from it casually. I started to have flashes of memories that were not of my lifetime, and having had lots of Gestalt Therapy and Jungian dream work, I just treated them as dreams, symbolic. Then I realized, "These are not dreams. These are memories." The therapy models I had been trained in had been incredibly useful, I think indispensable in helping me to face what I needed to face. But now that I was through at least one phase of facing my demons, it seemed that there was more to the story than therapy knows about. The awareness that lives in a human being outlasts the body. There is an awareness that selects bodies, lives through them, and then goes on to other realms, following some plan of its own. I started to see that I, and others, have been incarnating on Earth for a very long time.
And then I forgot about it, let the sense of reincarnation dissolve into the luminosity of the infinite now I was beginning to be in.
At this point, I had the sense that Sattyanand glanced at me. For a second. It was as if he could see me, through the walls and through the half a mile of space between us. I saw him smiling, as if to say, "Welcome to the world I live in. Weird but wonderful, eh?" From that point on, I felt I had friends in him and Maharishi, really intimate friends. I also felt extremely intimate with their teacher, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. Then I really started to feel the lineage – that Swami Brahmananda had a teacher, who sent him to a cave. I felt a body-to-body transmission of something, just a silent expansion, of a heart facing the universe alone, then realizing that others have faced that.
At the same time that this was a great experience, it did not feel like it came from outside, and that Sattyanand bestowed something on me. Quite the opposite, really. I felt that Sattyanand had actually always been there, Maharishi had been there, Swami Brahmananda and his teacher, Krishnananda, had always been there. I just woke up. I just stopped being so stupid, is all. The only thing that changed was, I stopped being so fucking trapped in my dinky little world, and had let myself expand to live large, live in the Real World.
It was as if I were now inhabiting something true. I was now somewhat at home in a vast spaciousness of awareness, and that awareness also had a local incarnation – Lorin's body.
At the same time, I realized this was not actually infinity. I wasn't cosmically conscious. I was aware of part of the solar system. I was now living my life as a denizen of the solar system, in which I was aware at all times of the sun, and a couple of planets orbiting the sun, and very aware of the space within which all this orbiting was taking place. But this was still dinky compared to the universe. This was still local. I wasn't complaining – it was plenty vast enough for me to breathe freely, but it was also snug. I was in a house, a large house but still a house. I wanted to spend a lot of time exploring everything there was to see.
Swami Brahmananda Saraswati
Swami Krishananda Saraswati
From then on, and this was somewhere around day fourteen, my experience was of permeating a vast space, being someone whose natural home was the space surrounding the Sun, out to the zone between the Earth and Mars. And this being was contemplating its incarnation as Lorin. The jury was not in yet, but at least there was a sense that someone was at home. If I had died then, it would have been OK.
I'd roll out of bed before dawn (I knew, because of my radium watch) and start my rounding, and then hour after hour pay attention to the unendurable, now supported by something vast.
Oddly enough, the tension actually increased somewhat, because I was now more fully capable of tolerating the pain. It was like those moments in the dentist's chair, when he says, "It won't be long now, just let me get this last bit" and the really digs in and the what you thought was pain before you now realize was just the warming up. At the same time, I knew that this was not new pain – this is the pain I have always been in, what I have to break through in order to live.
There seems to be some kind of principle – the more aware you become, the more capable you are of experiencing pain as well as pleasure. And the pain and hideousness kept on increasing and increasing and increasing and I wouldn't blink or turn away, because I was more able to face it than ever. This went on for ten or more days, where I was in total ecstasy on the deepest level – where I WAS one with the vastness of space – and I was in total anguish on the human level – I am not worthy, I am too wounded, I am fundamentally flawed. This was a pure feeling, like an underground river.
Then, after one really long night in which I went to sleep around 10 at night, and woke up at 2 in the morning to start rounding, there was a kind of crescendo. I did not know it, but it had been a month in the room since I pulled the blackout drapes. At this point, it had been crescendo after crescendo after crescendo after crescendo. It was as if an orchestra playing a symphony seemed to end the piece, then after a pause built up to another, then another. Or as if a band came out for encore after encore. All morning, from 2 am onward, was a kind of gushing breakthrough. Something fundamental had shifted, not just in my cellular structure, but in the whole agreement between me and life itself. I was no longer the same person, with the same fate and the same karma. I had died, again and again and again and again. I had stayed there, conscious, as the chain saw cut through my face and my brain, and not gone insane and not flinched. I was breathing freely in the solar system. What I had thought of myself had died. Not just died – been killed and then the structure destroyed to the level of atoms, and then the atoms destroyed to being subatomic particles. And yet somehow I remained.
On this day, I really did not know how many days it had been. I had stopped counting at about twelve. I felt completely done with the cycle, and went to open the drapes, both the inner blackout drapes and the regular drapes. I stepped out onto the balcony overlooking the ocean, and found that it was a full moon. The ocean was glorious, with waves sparkling in the moonlight. Stars were visible, and a brilliant moon was behind me, getting near the mountains. I just stood there breathing on the balcony, the greatest breaths I had ever breathed. After awhile, there started to be a glow on the horizon as dawn neared. And I realized that I had been in the room from full moon to full moon. The feeling permeated my body, "Now I can live." This was the first time I had ever felt, I have the right and the fullness of feeling to truly live. I watched the moon set over the mountains, then awhile later the sun rose over the Mediterranean, and I looked forward to the coming day. I remember thinking, "Now I can live."
Back into the Sunlight and Moonlight
A brilliant thing about TM training is that they know how to protect such an experience. In TM-think, I was like a diver who had just spent a month at depth. You don't just come to the surface – you'll get the bends. You have to spend time at each level on the way up, letting your body and your blood adjust.
So I knew that I had to start gradually shifting from about twelve rounds a day, to eleven, then ten, then nine, and stabilize at nine for awhile – check it out, make sure your body is adjusting, then shift to eight, then seven, then six, then stabilize at six rounds a day, then five then four, then check – can you handle doing only four rounds? Do you need to go back to four or five in order to be fully integrated? Then shift to four, then cautiously shift to three. This is brilliant – the kind of thing athletic trainers know about, but no one in the meditation world has ever even had the thought, except for Maharishi and the bright people around him. And, this is the strange part, totally counterintuitive until you think it through – you have to have a sufficient number of days where you just meditate one round in the morning and one in the evening – a usual schedule. Because I had been so deep for so long, that meant that the entire last few weeks I was on the course I would be meditating just twice a day!
In the midst of this downshifting, I went to talk to Sattyanand, but he wasn't around, instead I found Maharishi, and I said, "I really feel if I could stay in the room for three more years, I would be enlightened." He looked at me – this totally impersonal look he has, and said, "No. Go and teach." That was it. I was dismissed. When Maharishi is done with you, that's it - just go. So I went out onto the beach and walked along, Maharishi already forgotten.
I started walking and walking, many hours a day. There was stuff going on in the hotels, some training of teachers, but I had no interest in it. I had almost no interest in being inside any walls. I would just take off in the morning and walk up the coast, and come back in the afternoon. I wandered for many miles each day, coming back to my room in time to do a set of asanas, meditate, shower and go to dinner.
Image by Mario Werner - link to his site
Surprisingly, my endurance was good. I could run for half a mile along the beach before even breathing hard, and I did not tire at all. After half a mile I would start to feel a bit warmed up, and I'd continue. I was at some level of exhilaration that I think dogs live in – where you can just run and run and run. I went for miles each way along the coast, just cruising along, not seeing anyone most of the time, going over sand and rocks, then rocky promontories.
For that last month, I had so much time that I would go to Maharishi's evening lectures 90 minutes early, two hours early. And it was there, sitting in a huge, nearly empty lecture hall, that I met the only other person in the room, who I will call Amanda. She become a teacher of mine – I would learn things just by glancing at her for a moment. Over the weeks I met other TM teachers and teachers in training from all over Europe and the US, and had fascinating conversations in the leisurely hour before the evening talk began. Actually, I would just listen and occasionally nod and say, "And then what happened?" My mind was quite empty so I listened with total attention, and if you have ever been in that state, you know it really gets people talking to you. They will just talk and talk and keep going, telling their story. What I had gone through made me totally uninterested in my own story – I had relived it so many times that I'd erased it. This was where I met the guy who told me about having hot sex in Asian monasteries.
The meditators I was sitting with in the lecture hall were the only people I'd had conversations with for many months, except for a couple of really short talks with Sattyanand and Maharishi, so I was happy to listen to them tell me their stories. A woman I will call Amanda, for example, was having incredible devotional experiences with Maharishi. She came to the lecture hall more than an hour early every night, and made a seat right in the middle of the front row. She spread out a silk shawl or something, a sweater and a coat, so that she was at home and able to stay warm. Several times she invited me to sit next to her, and she was luminous – I could see her shining with a pure white light, a creamy glow permeating her and surrounding her. When Maharishi would come in, Amanda would be quietly crying, tears running down her face in adoration. She knew somehow that Love is a Mighty Force. She seemed to completely endorse herself for being in love with this short, dark man from India, and she knew instinctively how to nurture this love and also contain it. She sat completely still, letting the love flow up from the earth itself through her body, percolating at its own speed, gently rising through her pelvis, to her heart, and out the crown of hear head. That's the way she looked, anyway, as I saw her in my peripheral vision.
I didn't know much about personal love, so it was educational to behold Amanda adoring Maharishi with a combination of tones. On the one hand, it looked to me as if she could see the radiance coming off of Maharishi's body. I don't remember if I ever asked her if she had that kind of vision. Some people don't see energies or hear them, but they feel them. And feeling is actually more informative than seeing. I could see luminosity and hear mantras, but so what? What does it mean? Seeing is in fact completely overrated.
What Amanda was doing was feeling. She was in the midst of a symphony of feelings, made up of a dozen instruments playing together. There was human lust – she was hot for Maharishi. There was a girl adoring a rock band. There was an absolutely wanton octave of feelings, "Take me, ravish me, make me your your bride, I am yours forever!" And this was sublimely contained in a meditative exterior. There was recognition, of a girl from the United States welcoming a man from India who had come to give us something we needed. There was service – I could see her making a determination that she was going to be of use to Maharishi's mission on Earth. She was going to be a supporter, someone to spread the word. And at the same time this intensity of feeling was rising in her body and heart, she was meditating on it, letting it carry her into an experience of God. I did not understand all this, but I could see it, and feel it a little by osmosis.
Getting used to this intensity of seeing has always been a challenge for me. It can be a great curse as well as a blessing if I do not choose well what to pay attention to. For me the danger is not inside, I found. It's been useful to look at everything inside – but being around the wrong people, suppressing my dislike for someone and seeing them with compassion is very dangerous to me. For others, the danger might be different, losing their inner balance. Looking around the lecture hall in those evenings, watching people come in, I had the sense that there are a million ways of dealing with your inner energies. Everyone just tries to figure out how to get through a day, how to get through a meditation, how to not be totally overwhelmed by it all. I could see that the people who were putting out their inner fires felt that what they were doing was scripturally authentic. They were inventing meditation and yoga to be like Christian repression.
Yoga and the Fluctuations of Mindstuff
By the way, what Amanda was doing with her passion is a central meaning of the yoga term nirodha, in my observation. She was carefully nurturing and cherishing her inner fire, keeping the flame burning clean and bright and at the same time keeping it in proper bounds. If you think of this as a craft, an almost physical skill, you can see that it is related to tending a fire.
In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, one of the first aphorishms is Yoga chitta vritti nirodhah. This is usually translated as something like, "Yoga is the suppression of the fluctuations of mindstuff." In practice, everyone thinks this means that yoga is blanking out your mind. You flatten the waves. Yoga = union, chitta vritti = modifications or fluctuations, chittam = mindstuff; nirodhah = restriction or suppression. You can read hundreds of translations of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and they almost all use some variation on arrest, cessation, stoppage, inhibition, restriction, and control. You are supposed to still the mind, they say. And I think they are all wrong. Sorry, boys. You don't understand your own tradition.
The best spin I could put on this sutra is "When you pay attention to the fluctuations of mindstuff, an underlying sense of stillness emerges." That is perhaps a fair meaning of this very unfortunate aphorism, which seems to have caused millions of people to fail miserably at meditation over thousands of years. Just think about this for a minute. What does suppression result in? More suppression. I get the feeling that what has been going on for centuries is that people have been failing at meditation. The ability to transcend is so delicate that if you even hint at resisting thought, you wind up with the feeling of sand in your gears. Instead of being able to slide up and down the levels, you wind up stuck.
Actually, this is an empirical question. Train one group to try to suppress thought, restrict flutuations. Train another group to welcome fluctuations as they meditate. Measure the ability to meditate in both groups over time. You can even explore this in yourself. Explore the nuances of gently, appreciatively holding your experience. Notice how that works. Then set out to restrict your thinking as a way of silencing your mind. What works better? One problem with taking a "scriptural" approach to truth is that you are always favoring tradition over what works.
If you look up the etymology of the word, some experts say, nirodhah (or nirodha) means containment. Rodha is an old Indo-European word pertaining to keeping a fire. Back in the day, everyone knew what it was to make and maintain a fire. You were always pushing ashes and rocks around, banking the fire, then fanning the flames. This was an everyday skill and the word rodha referred to this process of containing a fire. Usually you did not want to put the fire out.
So nirodha is misunderstood as the act of putting out a fire. A better sense of it would be to think of it as referring to the circle of earth you put around a fire. The embankment. David Brazier writes in The Feeling Buddha
Rodha originally meant an earth bank. Ni means "down." the image is being down behind a sheltering bank of earth, or putting a bank of earth around something so as to both confine and protect it. Here again we are talking about a fire. I find justification for this interpretation in Monier-Williams' A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, page 884, column 2, where "dam, bank, shore" are given as the etymology of "rodha." Secondary meanings include "stopping, confining, surrounding," which still are a stretch from the conventional interpretation of "extinguishing, exterminating, destroying.
More research needs to be done with this, but I don't see anything wrong with saying, Patanjali was wrong. Or we could say that in Patanjali's time, yoga was practiced by people whose lives were so routinized that they really did not need their brains to be active at all, and they could afford to stop their thinking process and just drift through life. Of course, just saying this is scandalous, because Yoga and meditation are secretly dominated by Fundamentalist thinking, which is where you retroactively interpret some old words as being the ultimate in truth.
What Amanda was involved in was having intense fluctuations of mind stuff and every other stuff a human being is made of, and sublimely witnessing it. She was embracing the passion. Holding it with an attitude of cherishing.
Think about that for a minute – the difference between "suppressing" the fluctuations and cherishing them, embracing them. There is a universe of difference there, and there are really innumerable separate distinct types of yoga in each degree of cherishing . . . . holding . . . . banking . . . . . containing. . . . . suppression . . . . restriction . . . .stoppage.
The the word, Yug, which is the root of yoga, is similarly polyvalent. It can mean the harness, like when you harness a water buffalo to the plow. It can mean union, linking together. So the word yoga can mean either enslavement, entrapment, or integration. Or everywhere inbetween. Yoga just means linking, and the word could just as well refer to tying someone up to keep them prisoner.
Of the thousand-something people in that room, they were probably practicing the entire spectrum of understanding and misunderstanding of yoga and nirodhah. Even though TM cherishes spontaneity and naturalness, I think that the terms completely sailed over the heads of about half the people there. They could get – sorta – that you don't resist thought. But actively embracing your individual experience? That was just too much, too off the map, unheard of. Too daring. Many of the people seemed to be pouring water on their fire.
Another process Amanda was involved in was attachment. Usually the word detachment is associated with meditative awareness, which I think is another mistake. She was bonding with him on several levels; woman to man, devotee to master. When she was focusing on Maharishi, there were ribbons of energy between her heart and the light surrounding his body. I couldn't see if her energy actually touched his body. There in the lecture hall, I don't think he was that personal. There was a brilliantly luminious ball of energy surrounding Maharishi, going out about 6 feet in all directions, and that surface was his inner energy skin. That was what you touched when you directed your attention at him. And he was very responsive on that level – I heard again and again and again from people that if they had something bothering them, a question or topic, that he would talk about that topic that night and then look right at the person and say, "Hmmmm? Is alright?"
Amanda told me that she went to his room almost every night, and sometimes got in to see him alone. She also mentioned that they did not have sex, although she would have jumped at the opportunity. By the way, I have never believed the rumors spread by some Beatles that Maharishi put the make on Mia Farrow. It just never rang true. I do not feel any need to defend Maharishi because I think sex is a good thing, and if he was having sex, good for him! But I was there watching him handle hot females, and I think it was more likely that Mia was freaking out and Maharishi invited her to come to his room to help her through a bad time. Mia seems exactly like the kind of whiny person who would hallucinate sexuality, who would fantasize that a man was sexually attracted to her, and then run away in shock. Shock! I don't blame Mia – she had polio as a child, which must really interfere with normal sexual development and with being able to track your own sensations.
Amanda's luscious vitality and enthuasiasm was in stark contrast to the pale, sappy passivity of so many of the people around Maharishi. Even sitting quietly, Amanda was totally dynamic – a female actively loving a man. Some of the people in the audience – maybe less than half – were lively, funny, and wild in their own way, but the mentality of the other half was sort of like iron filings attracted to a magnet. "I have no life of my own, fill me, charge me with your purpose and magnetism." These Hollow People eventually declared war on the individualists, a war they won years later and drove out everyone else, and turned TM into a sort of boring bureaucracy of the most tedious kind imaginable.
At the time, just glancing at Amanda was a great teaching about the illuminating quality of desire. At the time, I had no such desire for another person. That flame was not shining in me at that time. But I could see it shining in her. So it was quietly astounding to see someone going with that kind of flow, and letting it be spiritual. She was following a craving, a passion, and fusing it with lust, and going into the subtle realms with it.
I only had that kind of desire for a sunny day at the beach with clear ocean water and 5 foot high, well-shaped waves. (Five foot was about all I wanted to deal with in wave height). For me, that was entering bodily into the Kingdom of Heaven. I really did crave that kind of ocean conditions, and lived my life around being there for them, but it had never occurred to me to desire another person in the way she was. In my month in blackness, I met Maharishi and the lineage of teachers on inner levels almost casually, as witnesses of space. I was intimate in a very abstract way, on the level of the solar system and very quiet vibrations. I really did not know a thing about personal intimacy. It was many years before I even became capable of it, because I was sort of drunk on vastness.
During the month, I saw Maharishi a couple of times for private meetings, but it was all OK. We just discussed some details about my going to teach TM in Orange County. I told him a little about being in the room for a month but he brushed it aside impatiently, as if he already knew. Maharishi was strange that way – he was totally personal when you were in a group with him, but face-to-face, he was often impersonal. Looking in his eyes was like looking at vast space. I had a cat once who was like that – he would come in from being out hunting all night, and look at me, and looking into his eyes was like looking at the night sky.
I went to the evening lectures every night that month, and sometimes I would be thinking a question, and Maharishi would look right at me, his eyes would twinkle somehow, and he would say, "Hmm? Hmmm?" Then he would pause and chuckle, then move on. There were hundreds of people in the room, and it happened time and again that he would look right at me and say, "Does that answer your question?" Later, a few weeks later, I realized that I had sort of asked him those questions in our private meetings, and that he had deferred answering until we were in public and his answers could be shared with everyone.
Return to The World
One day I took a bus to the airport in Palma, and I remember sitting and waiting for the plane. I was in a large room, with a hundred or so people, and I put my dark glasses on, wrapped my trenchcoat around me, and pretended to be a businessman taking a nap. I closed my eyes and meditated, and all the noise of the airport became a gentle background hum, a pleasant song of life, people greeting each other and saying goodbye, getting ready to travel by plane or return home by car, coming and going with affection and anxiety. I welcomed it all, and was totally delighted to be there.
We flew all day and all night, and I landed at Los Angeles International Airport in the middle of the morning. No one knew I was there. No one had much of an idea what I had been up to. On impulse, I just walked from the airport to my father's house, about 6 miles away. He wasn't home, but the German Shepard in the back yard recognized me, so I went around back and let myself in and put my luggage down, then started walking again, down Lincoln Boulevard toward Santa Monica.
. . . this takes us to 1970. I am hoping someday to write about the teachers I studied with in 1975 through 1980!