On Love and Filling the Empty

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“Hello Mary.” She welcomed me as I entered a small building that smelled of fresh paint and carpet.  It was a Monday.  Big life events rarely happen on Mondays, but I had the distinct feeling that this could be very important.
And I wasn’t allowed to wear shoes.
Nothing good ever happens with shoes on anyway.

I met Lita* the day before when I wandered into an “open house” session after seeing a sign for a suburban “ashram”.
“There’s no way,” I had thought,  “Ashrams are only in self help books and fairytales about chocolate princesses.”  When I walked in, I was handed piles of pamphlets and sent stumbling back out into the sun with the strict instruction, “Return tomorrow. Don’t be forgetting.”

“Come. Come. Wrap in a blanket.” Lita hummed.  She is a tiny woman with a shiny little nose ring and scarves draped over every part of her body.  She speaks fast, repeats herself frequently, and wears exclusively Christmas sweaters. “It’s cold. We like to be comfortable,” she added, explaining the cocoon she had created around me with a wave of her slender fingers.  She told me she was glad I had come and that I needed to sit with her three times before I could sit with others.  I wasn’t exactly sure why I had come, nor was I sure if I had time to “sit with her” three times.  Whatever that meant.

I listened intently as she spoke, catching only every other word.  “We need to cast away the this and that,” she told me, being appropriately vague, “and then we will fill the empty.”

After she had tucked me in tightly, she crossed her legs under herself, nodded her head and stated, “Now we meditate.”

I blinked at her. “We just start?”

“We just start.” She smiled.

“What do I do?”

“You close your eyes and you listen in here,” she said patting her chest, her eyes already closed.

“Okay.” I had thought there would be mantras and chants and all sorts of instructions on how to sit and when to breathe and how to think. Where was I supposed to put my hands? What if I sneezed?

“You can move around a bit if you need to. We don’t have rules. We just sit and listen. And we think in here.” She answered my non verbal questions, her hand still placed firmly on her chest. Her eyes were lightly closed, eyelashes fluttering.

“Okay.” I repeated, and closed my eyes too.

“Please start meditation.” She whispered, a phrase that in text seems demanding but is actually quite simple and polite.

And so we started “meditation”.  Lita calm and sure, me clueless as to how I ended up 2 feet from a woman who was cleaning my aura.  And that’s how we sat, facing each other, for thirty minutes. “You can’t do an hour. Not yet, not until we sit three times together,” she had told me the day before.

I clasped my hands together, trying to think from my heart but it was much harder than you would imagine.  “Maybe I don’t have a heart.” I joked internally.  I could feel my lungs. “Breathe in the good. Breathe out the bad.” Hadn’t I read that somewhere, in my lifeguard training manual or something?

My stomach growled.  I figured the only way I was going to feel from my heart, was to first feel my heart.  Maybe if I could feel it, in the same way you feel hunger, then I could actually listen to it.  I filled my brain with love.  Juliet, Marley, my grandpa dancing in the kitchen with holes in his socks, the faces of my friends, mountains… all frustratingly interspersed with memories of people I would rather lived on the moon and things I would rather be stored under rocks, than in my brain.

I thought about what Lita had said. “When things come into your brain that aren’t the things that need to be there, you just say ‘no’.  Say ‘no’ and…” she had waved her hands as though forgetting were a dance, and perhaps forgetting is a dance when you’re an adorable little Indian woman with a Santa Claus cross-stitch hanging from your rearview mirror in April.

My hands lifted from my lap a little as I tried to push away the things I didn’t want to think about.  A mental image of Juliet pushing everything out of my mind in her stroller made me smirk. “Bye bye bad.” I heard Julie say.

With all the free space, I went back to trying to meditate. I thought of crushes, and spaghetti, and strangely…daffodils. I thought of work, and school, my house and my car. I thought of my favorite park, my bike, whiskey… “There’s so much room for activities!”  I thought of all the movies quotes that would make amazing mantras.  I thought of mowing the lawn, digging up potatoes, zipping tents, jumping in pools.  I thought of singing in the car, hugging my sister, lying in my kayak, laughing on porches, burning my lip on pizza.

“The end.” Lita whispered.

I opened my eyes immediately.  She was still sitting silently with her hands clasped and her eyes shut. Had I imagined her saying we were done?

And then she opened her eyes with a pop.

“How do you feel.” She stated. She didn’t ask, I assume because she already knew.

“It was hard…I feel like I didn’t do any feeling or thinking or really anything that I was supposed to,” I fumbled.

“Ahhhhh. But you are here,” Lita smiled. “You are here and I am here and we are here.” She patted her chest again. “And we will fill the empty.”

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*Duh that’s not her real name.

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