Mister, you haven't lived 'til you've tried sitting in a Burmese half lotus, summoning inner tranquility, while a five-year-old plays hopscotch on your knees, tugs on your limbs, and whispers, "Open your eyes. I have a big surprise."
Now the uninitiated in meditation have counseled me to cool it when my daughter is around. I, on the other hand, instead of willfully severing the thread, by which my sanity hangs, have deemed it far better to expose her yogic practice. So when a meditation class for children came to my attention―imagine my joy.
The session was to commence at a quarter past 12 on a peaceful Sunday afternoon in West Hollywood. My daughter, Galaxia and I were held up in traffic, so it was 12:20 by the time we had parked. "My God, we're late," I shrieked as I gathered the orchids and cumquats to be offered to the guru.
"Hurry up," I said to Gala, herding her up the leafy hill between Fountain and Sunset as I broke her of her annoying habit of pausing to smell the roses.
"Dammit," I told her. "You're going to get to this freaking children's meditation if it's the last thing you do."
We reached our destination at 12:25. A Moorish wrought iron gate and an artifact from the 1930's stood between us and bliss. A sign was hung, "meditation has begun," which was a nice way of saying "Do Not Disturb." After being in a serene state, induced by Sunday morning, not to mention yogic practice, I was thrust into a state of panic.
I fervently hoped for a telepathic solution to our dilemma. They say visualize. I visualized somebody coming outside the apartment, into the patio, seeing us, waving hello and tripping on a banana peel.
Now it was time to place faith in electronics. There was the intercom with the list of apartments. The number to the apartment of the event got only a recording. I tried the next apartment, 03, and got a voice, a live presence. I explained how we were late for a meditating event, which had already started without us. I didn't even get halfway through my explanation and the staccato-voiced person said, "Wrong apartment…" and hung up.
I then pressed all the apartment buttons pell-mell in the chances of getting a sign of life. The seconds ticked by, and there was unanimous silence, broken only by the soothing sound of the fountain inside the courtyard.
This was the latest doomed attempt at entry inspired thoughts of giving up, going home and having a non-vegetarian barbecue. But the weeks of planning and foresight had gone into this moment bid me to stay and the voice within said, "Tally ho!" Yet I was again emboldened to again contact the neighbor in apartment 03.
"Could you please let us in?" I managed to get out. "This is the Buddhist ad agency," he replied. Then his voice was replaced by a dull hum.
There we were, outside, with a bag of wilting orchids and cumquats.
Then it happened. A van pulled into the driveway, which ran alongside the apartment where the children's meditation was taking place. The security gate started grinding open. I went into action and slipped through the gate before it shut back again. It all seemed more James Bond than transcendent. Then came the moment of truth; the moment of naked foolishness when I bellowed, "I'm outside the gate with my daughter. For God's sake, please let us in!"
A lady from within scurried out the back as if her hair was on fire. She ushered us in.
We took off the shoes and padded on the hardwood floor of incense-filled rooms. I faced smoldering looks on the faces of some of the parents and wanted to shrivel up in a corner alongside the ashes of incense, but found confidence in my daughter's open calmness as she surveyed the room.
Averting their gazes, I felt shame at having interrupted the deepest, most reflective silence. Worst, I dreaded seeing the guru break character as he began calling me meshuga, in a Brooklyn accent, when I let loose a string of profanity. As I apologized, he was totally cool. "It got you in," he surmised with a sage twinkle in his eye. "But why didn't you try the doorknob to the gate? We left it open."
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