Living in my new home here in Santa Monica has numerous perks. My favorite so far is the front porch and yard! Yes, YARD. To everyone back home, this means very little, but I warn you; do not take your large backyards for granted! The next time you curse outloud because it’s time to mow the lawn just remember that some people who live in overpopulated and polluted areas of this country are dying to have some grass to cut. But back to perks…
I share my beautiful hardwood floor crafstman home with Lola del Fresno (perk). Who? Only an amazing artist from Madrid who keeps my Spanglish in check and fills my I miss Spain void. Besides taking me to amazing gallery openings and introducing me to new worldly friends she has also offered me opportunities to participate in things I would have previously ran from such as the topic for today, meditation.
Lola attends a Siddha yoga spiritual center regularly to participate in some good old fashioned chanting and meditation. I wouldn’t ever dare to scoff at spiritual gatherings (my karma is dodgy enough as it is) but I do admit to being somewhat apprehensive. I had already learned long ago that organized religion of sorts was not for me, sorry church of latter day saints, but nevertheless I have always believed in freer relaxed forms of spirituality. It was only a few days before discussing mediation with Lola that I had heard a program on NPR on my way home from work that was a report on the difference in brains from those who meditate and those who didn’t. They scanned brains (brain xrays?) of monks, casual meditators and regular unspiritual joes like myself. The results were crazy! These meditators had developed a completely different part of their brains! Granted, I assumed I wasn’t necessarily using all of my brain, but now I was a little bit jealous. I wanted an enlarged left frontal lobe too!
Sooooo Lola tells me that the chanting and meditation derives from Hindu tradition and that I was welcome to come with on a Tuesday and give it a try. I was super excited and said, “Si”! I announced to my co-workers that Tuesday that they should expect a better person to come in on Wednesday. I called my Nana who had lived a short while in an Ashram and announced proudly that I was going to sit cross legged in a Siddha center.
We arrived that evening a little late and as I entered the center I could already hear singing from the temple area. The “center” was beautiful with Indian (?) decorations and incense smells. We took off our shoes and put them in a cubby. We entered the temple, I followed Lola’s lead and grabbed some pillows and headed down to the front. There was a speaker who described her first time following the old yogi guru Babbaa(sp?). A choir of chanters sat cross legged in front of microphones and a band (cello, flute, bongos and guitar) sat to the right. A large photo of guruMai was hanging from the center ceiling. Lola had already explained the guru story of how after Babba died then Mai became the next guru and teacher.
We started chanting/singing and since it was the same phrase over and over again I caught on quickly. Om Namah Shivaya… I sat cross legged and repeated the chant, the lights were dimmed and I closed my eyes. I kept chanting and the instruments were so beautiful, especially the cello. The chanting went on for what seemed like forever and my legs were officially asleep. I was starting to get angry because I wanted to get to the meditation already, but I was desperately trying not to be angry because I didn’t want GuruMai to sense my negative energy, besides I had high hopes of reaching enlightenment during mediation.
Finally the chanting was over and it was time to mediate. We were instructed to repeat the mantra in our heads with our breathing, om namah shivaya, in, om namah shivayah, out. I did this and tried to ignore my now numb legs. I felt good, in fact I felt great. No intruding thoughts, just breath and mantra. My spine tall, I took deep breaths and really felt my body as I meditated. Then suddenly it was over. Wait, what? Why was it so short? Why did we waste so much time chanting? I’m not exactly sure how long we did meditate for (they tell me sometimes you lose track of time, however I doubt my skills are up to that level of elapsing time). I stretched my legs, the best feeling in the world after sitting indian style for what seemed like hours. We exited the temple and Lola asked me how it was. Good? I didn’t get a jolt of enlightenment but I didn’t dislike it either, I was now legitimately intrigued.
That night I slept well. The next day I wasn’t a better person but I definitely felt like I had done something new and exciting. I am going again. I am determined to enlarge my brain part that apparently is non existent in my current non spiritual state.