I'll Give You Something to Meditate About

I read in yesterday’s paper that the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died. He was 91. Maybe it was the beard, or maybe it was the comfy, old-guy clothes, but I thought he was about 107-years-old in the 1960s when he was chillin’ with the Beatles.

He must be the Wilford Brimley of spiritual oneness. Did he come out of the womb with a comb-over and a sweater vest?

I can never really figure out the connection or lack thereof of the Maharishi, transcendental meditation, yoga, Buddhism, the bald guys handing out flowers in the airports, George Harrison, The Chiffons, “He’s So Fine,” Hinduism, and belly dancing. They all kind of run together in my head like an acid trip gone awry.

I do know that ‘Rish is widely remembered for introducing transcendental meditation to white Americans who otherwise wouldn’t be caught dead sitting cross-legged on the floor. Because the Beatles told us to do it, we did it. 

It took more than a British invasion with cool haircuts to introduce me to TM. When I was in college, my advisor told me I should sign up for ROTC my senior year because it was a fun elective credit. I needed a weirdly low number of credits and was looking for something easy.

“You don’t have to join the Army,” she assured me. Maybe not, but I did learn some cool stuff. Transcendental Meditation was one of the mini-courses within my class. The other choices were Target Shooting M16s, Camo Makeup, and Getting Into the Officers-Only Bar, but they were all filled, so it was TM for me. I was told that the Army uses transcendental meditation in drug rehab of soldiers who are abusers. Oh, goody.

My only experience with TM before college was when I was in high school and was asked to come an hour early to babysit for a family so I could watch the kids while the mom and dad went upstairs to “meditate.”  Yeah, right.

Our TM instructor was an Army officer. No long, flowing robe, no hippy hair, no glazed over eyes. She ordered us to relax and, damn it, we relaxed. We received our super secret mantras and practiced meditating on the floor of Room 113 of White Hall. 

After a week or so, I figured I was doing pretty well. While practicing in my dorm room, I was meditating while sitting on the floor leaning against my bed, with a mattress spring sticking into my back. After a few repetitions of my super secret mantra nonsense word, I couldn’t feel the steel spike in my back any longer, and the bleeding did slow down considerably.

So the next day in class, when our instructor asked for volunteers, my hand shot up. She wanted to demonstrate how our brain waves change when we’re in a meditative state. I sat in a chair in front of the class while Major Whatshername hooked electrodes up to my brain. (If I had seen half the movies then that I’ve seen now . . . just think James Bond, Lethal Weapon and secret CIA tapes.) She turned on a big machine with dials and told me to start mantra-ing. 

I was silently meditating for a few minutes when I heard her say, “Uh, Diane? Are you awake?”

Heck yeah, I was awake. I was in a higher state of consciousness, what do you think?

Apparently when I’m meditating, my brain waves drop down to below sleep levels. I think the dial was pointing at “Brain Dead” or “Drug Induced Stupor.” We fooled around with trying to get my brain in the right mode for a while (“Okay, stop chanting . . . move around a little bit . . . do some jumping jacks . . . Okay, not that much! Slower . . . slower, a little faster . . .”) before she got all flustered, yanked out the electrodes from my head and told everyone to drop and give her 20. I was never called on to volunteer for anything in ROTC class again. 

I think I was just too laid back for TM. For meditation to work, you have to be a little bit stressed to begin with – over-scheduled, working two jobs, cramming for finals or hiding from groupies. 

Unless I’m dead set on leaning up against spiky mattresses, who needs it?