I began a fledgling meditation practice with very little background or training except for some research online. One evening, I decide to go meditate in a group setting. I chose a Tibetan Buddhist meditation called Chenrezig because the time and location are convenient. I have no idea what this type of meditation is, so I google it. Google explains ‘Chenrezig’ as a meditation devoted to the Lord of Compassion. I think I can really use an injection of compassion and perhaps get out of my own head by generating some concern for others. I have been so absorbed in my own pain. I want to change this and feed myself something good. I am hungry for any kind of relief or comfort. Pain still vibrates in my heart. N’s meat hooks are still so far into me; I feel like I am stuck hanging by my chest locked in a butcher freezer.
The meditation takes place in a lovely old craftsman house covered in prayer flags, the obvious Tibetan house on the block. I walk up the rickety stairs. Take off my shoes at the entrance. When I walk in there are cushions set up in rows with small tables and a tablet on top of each table. There are already several people sitting on cushions with perfectly straight backs silently mouthing something to themselves. I could only hear slight whispering.
I notice right away that I am the only person in the group without gray hair and am nervous about standing out as the inexperienced meditator.
Luckily, I had read the Chenrezig meditation instructions online.
‘The essence of the mind of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas is the bodhichitta, the awakened mind. When this bodhichitta assumes a form, it appears as Chenrezig, Avalokiteshvara.
Whenever we practice Avalokiteshvara, the most important aspect of the practice is the generation and development of the bodhicitta, which is the compassion that Avalokiteshvara experiences for all sentient beings. So, if we also generate this same compassion, this same awakened mind, it will be very easy for us to accomplish Avalokiteshvara because the essence of Avalokiteshvara is the bodhichitta. Thus, the blessings and the results will be very swift.’
One of the women wrapped in a deep maroon robe shows me where to sit and points out the tablet on top of the small table. She explains that we will be reciting each syllable. The syllables make up blessings in the Tibetan language and when recited out loud have powerful effects on those receiving the blessings. I am confused. Why do we recite a blessing in a language we do not understand? And if we don’t understand what we are saying then how can it have any effect on anything?
I sit down on the cushion and cross my legs. Trying to listen to the man’s prayers next to me, so I know what I am supposed to do. At least, I think he is praying. There is an altar in front of the room with three large gold Buddhas and incense burning in between the statues. I stare at one of the buddhas for a moment and then close my eyes and try to focus on my breathing.
“Hey Marin in the back. You need to behave yourself tonight ok.” The woman in the maroon robe says. She is standing to the side of the altar. I turn around and there is a long haired older man who looks like he has just fallen down and is having difficulty getting up. “Look I am here to meditate.” he shouts with his back still on the floor. “Where is my cushion?” he shouts even louder. His words are kind of slurry. The man sitting next to him tries to help him up onto a cushion, but instead has to walk him outside eventually.
The robed woman calls the meeting to order.“Ok” she says. “Welcome everyone. Let’s start the blessing by asking for names of beings.” People in the group shout out first names. Then instead of names of individual people they wish to bless, they also mention groups of people stuck in the middle of wars and natural disasters, refugees in Africa. I merely ask to bless my husband N.
N, N, N his name is my current mantra. I repeat it to myself as regularly as my heart beat. I tell the group he is struggling with mental illness and truly needs to be blessed.
We are then told by the woman in the maroon robe to read each syllable out loud and do our best to keep up with the rhythm of the group. I hope at least for the next hour these syllables would replace N’s name giving my mind something else to ponder.
I find the focus of reciting foreign syllables even more difficult than meditation. The reading and pronunciation of unintelligible syllables forces my mouth and tongue into unfamiliar positions. I try so hard to make familiar each syllable, it does the trick though because my mind is not able to wander. As we keep reciting, I do notice thoughts creep in around the syllables sneaking through the little rests begging for attention. I smile because mostly it is thoughts of boredom and not N.
A bell dings and the chanting stops abruptly. I breathe in and out and then open my eyes to look around. The room is silent and people are sitting on their cushions with their eyes closed.
I go back to my breath. It seems easier now. A bright light is slowly filling up my head, like I had lived in a dark tunnel all of my life and my insides are lighting up for the first time.
OK meditation time. I close my eyes and feel the warmth of a light and see it getting brighter.
It is strange because it looks like the light is inside my head, but there is so much space. Just then Anne my previous therapist whom I deeply respect and love blows in my head like a powerful wind. Her blonde hair disheveled, her piercing blue eyes boring into me, her powerful presence fills my mind.
First, she tries to write something to me on a dry erase board that just happens to be available in the space of my head, but for some reason I can’t quite decipher it and try to tell her so. This frustrates her greatly. She seems to have something so vital to tell me like my life or maybe her life depends on it. I believe she is about to write in her own blood to get the point across.
She grabs my face hard and looks at me deep in the eyes. I can see her perfectly sculpted lips and big white teeth coming in closer mouthing one word over and over. Finally, I get it. “FOCUS, FOCUS FOCUS” she enunciates slowly. She pulls my chin closer to her mouth and then forms the next three words carefully with her lips“ I love you!” With the emphasis on the You. She says this several times and will not allow me to look away even for a moment, snapping her fingers at me if I dare.
“FOCUS” she says again this time as she walks away. She gestures for me to follow her. Suddenly, N appears behind her. He is speaking but his words cannot be heard. I can see his face contorted with expressions of rage. She walks right up to him definitely a woman used to taming beasts and nonchalantly hits him with a stick. Not really hard just a bit of a firm tap. He collapses in a puddle of tears like a terrified child. She points at him and in a harsh matter of fact tone says while turning around and looking at me “See he is useless. This is who he is and there is nothing more.”
I begin to cry with relief. My head still full of the bright light envelops Anne. Her image disappears, but I sense her near. Then I look to my side. There is a long tunnel with more light coming out of it and a big strapping man coming toward me. I cannot see his face.
Anne whispers soothingly in my ear. I can hear her even though I can no longer see her. “Don’t worry you will meet your Tom. He is waiting for you, but for now you need to FOCUS.” (Tom is her husband and a man I adore and admire. He was also my therapist.) I cry some more “But I don’t want to be alone.” She whispers in my ear again. “You are never alone. I am always here.”
The group is reciting the syllables again. I join in after a bit because I lost track of where we are in the tablet.
This is the vision I keep close to my heart. It came at a perfect time, keeps me going and encourages me to continue meditating. I have never had another vision since and am aware that this is not the norm. I feel very grateful to have had this experience early on and to be able to use meditation as a vehicle to help transform myself. Even if one never receives a vision like this, helpful supportive information can come in many different forms to keep us going.
I divorced the N, chose a more empowering life; one based on freedom rather than fear. It was only after this vision that I knew I had the strength to create a different life. Like someone in a really bad car wreck that has to go through extensive rehabilitation to get their body back. I had to rescue myself once and for all and move on. I look at the long road ahead and have a little less resistance and something to hold onto when times get rough.