'May all living beings be at peace, may all living beings be happy, may all living beings...be liberated.' The voice of S.N. Goenke came across from some tannoy speakers carefully placed about the hall.
I kept my eyes shut, I spoke no words, no thoughts came into my mind. I was to all intents and purposes, just light. I didn't exist in material form. I had stopped. But my body still functioned, my subconscious mind kept it ticking over without my involvement just fine. I heard the chanting that marked the end of the 1 hour session. 10 days ago it had annoyed me beyond belief, now, well now it brought a smile to me. I didn't understand it, I didn't get it, I didn't much like to hear it at all in fact, but when you have become silent light, these things don't seem to matter quite so much anymore. Then, a little while after the chanting finally stopped, I opened my eyes.
'I thought you were too cynical to do meditation and stuff like that' said a friend on my return to society.
'There ain't no atheists in a foxhole.' I replied.
'Are you in a foxhole?' He asked me looking bemused or amused, I couldn't be sure.
I looked into his eyes, I guess his life was easy, or maybe he just hid the pain away so deep that he could convince himself that he didn't feel it, at least when in the company of others. Nothing was hunting him, at least nothing he was aware of.
'No, not really I guess' I said, realising I was being overly dramatic.
'You in the bar for the football tonight?' he asked me looking interested in something for the first time since our conversation began. I sighed, people were hard work.
'I doubt it, maybe for one before kick off.' I said. I loved drinking, but football did little for me.
I'd found something on the 10 day meditation course, but when I got back to society, my world, whatever I had found quickly dwindled. I kept at the meditation daily but you cant beat reality at it's own game. The stage is too big, the players too drugged up on living, the force that binds you into the tapestry is just too strong. Meditation one hour a day just wont break it. 10 hours a day with no talking or human contact, yea eventually you just might break out, at least for a while. Until reality comes knocking. Reality has already been created, is being sustained by billions of minds, and it is copyrighted, has the patent, owns the world. Reality owns you. You do not own reality, you just plug in. This is what I had learnt. Actually, I already knew it, I had just learnt the method to unplug myself. I was a conscientious objector.
I was expecting some kind of fanfare, some kind of life changing shock to the system. It was surprisingly dull. Nothing changed as such, you just kind of stopped and hung there in space, aware of the eternity around you, aware you were just energy, light, hovering in nothing. No thoughts disturbed you, no anxiety clawed at your insides, no pain seemed relevant. There was a sense of wholeness. But what struck me was how it all seemed like no big deal. It was like clawing your way through blizzards, up precarious cliff faces, and everything nature could throw at you to reach the mountain top only to find yourself at its calm summit with no real explanation for why you had bothered, and nowhere left to go but back down to where you came from. At least hell was exciting.
'...may all living beings be liberated'
It kept echoing round my mind in the days that followed the whole experience. Freedom was something I thought I longed for. I was in a cage, I was aware I was dying slowly I just didn't yet know what from, or how long I had left. I was disturbed, restless, confused, cynical, and frustration would give way to outbursts of tense uncontrollable anger. That was my day, that was my life, that was my habit.
'So, whats this meditation thing all about then?' My friend asked me as we hovered in the top bar and people waited for the kick off. Two football experts were talking on a big screen that hung above a small stage, about 30 chairs had been placed facing the screen. The bar was full of men in their 30's, a few women, there was a hushed excitement, it was a big match.
I tried to find the best answer with the fewest words. It wasn't easy. How could I tell him I became silent light and felt for a brief moment, free of the anxiety, the push, the pressure of being alive.
'Kind of like winning a game of football, but knowing there are going to be other matches before you can hope to win the league.' I said, and wondered what in god's name I was going on about.
'Right' he said, clearly none the wiser.
I decided to try a bit harder, I had nothing to lose but his attention which at that moment was on a girl's behind wiggling its way through the crowd, away from the bar.
'You silence your mind, from there you learn to stop reacting to everything the world throws at you, this in turn undoes your conditioned responses that have built up throughout your life and ...well the idea is that over time and through practice you become liberated, you become free of suffering.'
'Right' he said again in reflex, he hadn't been listening 'did you see the ass on that?' he added.
'Yea' I said, 'it needed liberating'
'Eh?' he said
'Nothing' I replied.
We sipped our beers, the game began, I spent ten minutes uncertain whether to stay or go, the alcohol dulled my thinking, the dim lights, the heat, and scent of testosterone began to subtly effect the mood and bring some kind of vibrancy to the evening. I saw that fantastic ass move again back towards the bar, this time my eyes followed it, it felt good to watch, to let sex play its fire up through my body, I considered going to talk to the woman attached to it, but then remembered; I wouldn't find liberation there only exasperation.
The night wore on, the game ended well and music took its place. In the excitement we seemed to forget it was Wednesday and that work awaited us the next time light shone in the sky. Beers gave way to shots of tequila. Talk gave way to drunken delirium. My memory and awareness shut down and sometime after that, maybe running on autopilot, I found a place to pass out.
I kept my eyes shut, I spoke no words, no thoughts came into my mind. I was to all intents and purposes, just light. I didn't exist in material form. I had stopped. But my body still functioned, my subconscious mind kept it ticking over without my involvement just fine. But I knew at the end of this was not the coveted sense of liberation, but rather the hang over from hell and it was a place I knew all too well, and had visited so often my name was scratched on its monument walls, just another soldier who fell in battle. Part of a war he didn't choose, and was drafted into without consent, even so he did his duty and like so many others before him, paid the ultimate price for the dream of liberation, of freedom, of the prize.
I looked over from the sofa I was asleep on and saw my friend asleep in a chair. I was in his flat, the idiot had a bed here but clearly had passed out before reaching it. His puffed up face stirred to wakefulness as I coughed and sat up.
'Doesnt look like that meditation did you much good now' he said smugly but I knew he was beating me to the first insult of the day. I didnt much feel like playing.
'Fuck meditation' I said 'right now I need medication, what you got?'
and he proceeded to list the contents of his medicine cabinet until I stopped him and said, 'yea that last one you mentioned, get me a couple of those and a beer.'
I figured the day had to begin someplace, and often times you had to do some damage to yourself just to ensure your own survival.
'May all living beings find peace, may all living beings be happy, may all living beings be liberated' - Buddha 500 b.c.