After a while, strange things begin to happen
At dawn each day we were up eating oatmeal in the cafeteria, then off to the great hall for hours of uninterrupted meditation. After noon we were given breaks for "recreation time" -- which mostly involved wandering around the surrounding Blue Mountains.
And that was the first time I started to realize this whole meditation thing might actually be working. I was picking up rocks and hitting them with sticks, just screwing around, when I realized I was really connecting -- like, hitting the shit out of these rocks. As I watched them sail far out over the cliffs towards the mountains, I thought to myself, "What the fuck? I sucked at baseball as a kid." Then I realized my mind, finally uncluttered, was so focused that I was able to perform this simple task as never before.
There I was, reveling in my newfound superpowers, just jacking these rocks, when I accidentally broke my "noble silence." I thwacked a rock way up in a tree and noticed a dude from our retreat perched waaaaaay up on a branch, just chillin'. "Shit," I said, chuckling. "Sorry, dude." Luckily no gurus were around to see this blatant (yet inadvertent and entirely reflexive) speaking transgression.
On the third day of meditation, I finally did it. I reached the glorious moment we had all been striving for: For a moment, my mind went truly blank. The bliss lasted only a few seconds before the monkey burst in and I thought to myself, triumphantly, "I have no thoughts in my head!" which, of course, is a thought, so I had to start all over again. But for that instant I grazed that transcendental state these yogis speak of, I have to admit, it was bad. Ass.
I did make one memorable phone call
When the retreat ended and we were able to break our silence, I realized it was my dad's birthday and I figured I'd give him a call back in Chicago to tell him what I'd been up to. You know, freak him out a little. My dad's an old-school Italian who prefers hard work to wasting time meditating in Australia with hippies. I knew he'd get a kick out of this.
I asked the guru if I could call my dad. "Hmm, your father," he said. "You are close with your father?" I said it just happened to be his birthday and I wanted to call him for kicks. The guru just stared at me blankly, stroking his long-bearded chin. Finally he agreed to allow the phone call -- as if we'd just reached some epic, peace accord-level decision.
I rang him. "Dad," I said. "I've been meditating in the mountains for three days!" My dad’s reply came back: "Holy shit! Did you see Tyson bit Holyfield's ear off?" (This was right around the time of the epic 1997 Mike Tyson/Evander Holyfield "Bite Fight.") I knew then that we were existing at that moment on two totally different planes, and no one who didn't experience this firsthand would ever know what it was like.
I met up with Sarah again on the way out and, back in Sydney, we again tried to relate the experience with our friends, but as with my dad, it was like we were on this higher level of consciousness and we could no longer relate. This feeling of superiority didn't last long, however. We all got schnockered that night, and by the next day, my smug glow had dimmed.
I haven't been able to replicate the experience in the nearly 20 years since. But I never forgot it, and I suspect that if you get the chance to try it -- really, actually shut your brain up for a few days -- you'll find it trips you out, too.
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