Thursday, January 24, 2008

Awakening

After near hot tub electrocution, I was all business. No more sitting around with my eyes closed. I actually had to learn to meditate. Unfortunately, though, none of the many books I'd read about yoga actually explained how to meditate.

By that time, I knew that Charlie's older brother Dave meditated by staring at an austere looking black and white photograph of his guru, Sri Chinmoy. So, despite my misgivings about yoga masters living in America, I found the same photograph -- referred to by Sri Chinmoy's disciples as the "transcendental" -- printed in one of Sri Chinmoy's books and I cut it out. I placed it on the shrine in my room leaning against a small stained glass piece inscribed with the Prayer of St. Francis. Behind the stained glass, I had placed a single deer antler (photo credit Terry Richard) that Prahlad had given me a few months earlier. He'd found it on one of his walks at Ananda and said it was a mystical object.

Then I lit some sandalwood incense and sat down on my meditation rug -- a bath mat -- and looked at the picture.

As I recall, Sri Chinmoy's book said that the student should focus his or her attention on the forehead of the photo and then mentally burrow in deeper and deeper. At first, however, I let my eyes rest on his whole face, which looked other worldly. As I continued to stare, my eyes came to rest on his forehead, and something strange started to happen: Sri Chinmoy's face appeared to change in my peripheral vision. I remember seeing a man with a beard, for example, but as I took my attention away from the photo's forehead to look at the whole face again, the man with the beard disappeared.

It occurred to me that this experience was simply an effect of the eyes, something that would happen to anyone who stared at any photograph for too long. And even if it were a "vision" of some kind, it struck me as a sideshow, so I focused again just on the forehead area of the picture, and while the face of the photograph continued to change, I paid no direct attention to it. After about 15 minutes, I got up and sat on my bed.

As I sat down on my bed, I felt pure joy, a joy that seemed to be emanating out of myself. It was something I'd never experienced in my life. I was blown away. I laid back in my bed and asked myself: "If I feel this way after just 15 minutes of meditation, what kind of sea of bliss is this guy [Sri Chinmoy] living in every day?"

I had crossed the Rubicon.

Here's a great blog post by a former disciple describing the history of Guru's transcendental photograph. November 9, 2009.

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