Archive for November, 2008
Cracking Open, June 1993:
I first heard ‘the voice’ as my body shook uncontrollably. “Everything is OK. Breathe. Breathe. We will help you.” The voice spoke directly to me as my head, shoulders, arms and legs lifted off the ground. I wanted to cry, laugh, scream, but I could not open my mouth. My eyes were sealed shut. I could only rely upon my listening as the voice guided and surrounded me. “We will help you.”
Help me. Yes, help me. For months, years, my life seemed to be held together by a series of lies that I told myself. Yes, I am truly happy. Yes, I am straight. Yes, I can handle it. The rage, sorrow, and worry had been building and I was often at a loss on how to express those feelings. I was in pain and in search of a cure. So there I was, lying on the ground in a cement-covered yard under a full moon in Jersey City, New Jersey and a disembodied voice was offering to help me. Sure, I could use some assistance. There didn’t seem to be many other choices, so I surrendered.
I wanted to meditate and I wanted to do it well. For months I had been studying and practicing various techniques. I went to lectures and read books about quieting the mind, learned to count breaths, sat upright, my spine straight and tall, legs folded in my version of lotus position, listening to New Age flute music. I often fell asleep, my body stiff when I awoke. Inspired by the full moon meditations I took part in at the New York Open Center, I invited my friend Sheila to share her knowlegde and combine our practices in the back yard of my little ground-floor apartment. I grabbed something to lie on and we walked outside. We created a comfortable place for ourselves. Sheila was on my right. To my left was the small garden I tended. Behind us, at our heads, was the row of three-story townhouses along Grand Street. Our feet faced a round picnic table and four benches with a white-fringed, aquamarine colored umbrella protuding from the center, a barbeque grill and a large shed. Beyond that was another row of yards and houses. The evening was warm and clear. We said a short prayer and then we were quiet. I waited, staring at the heavens and looking from side to side. My next door neighbors chatted in their kitchen, clanging pots and dishes. A dog barked and I listened for the sound of my own dogs pacing or whining, but heard nothing. A dim light shined down on us and I knew that Bill, the elderly man who lived above me, was home. Other lights went on and off as people moved about their apartments. My attention turned to my breathing and I did what I learned in one of the many classes – a slow breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. My belly and chest rose and fell as I began to relax a bit more. Sheila was still and her eyes were closed. When the moon rose round, white and bright above the rooftops I closed my eyes and took in more air. I hoped I wouldn’t fall asleep.
A warm shiver ran through my body. That’s my body relaxing, I thought. I twitched and my breath sharpened. I listened for familiar sounds, but silence seemed louder than anything else. My heart rate quickened. The top of my head began to tingle. Another dog barked. I took a slow breath in and let it go out the same way. The shivers turned to tremors and increased in their intensity and duration. My heart beat, beat, beat. A little sweat formed on my belly and down my spine. My fingers were cold, then warm. I lost track of the cycles of breath as my whole body shook. Panic. Curiosity. Panic. Curiosity. I could not open my eyes or stop shaking. My head, neck and shoulders lifted themselves, followed by my legs and arms. The only part of me that I was aware of touching the ground was my lower back. My sense of hearing became heightened and I began to focus on a loud rustling sound in the bushes to my left. The noise terrified me and I was convinced that whatever was in those bushes was coming for me. I wanted to turn my head, open my eyes and scream, but I could do nothing but shake even harder as the rustling became louder and more terrifying. Then the voice came. It was a very calm, soothing voice. It was avoice that was inside me, but also outside of me, standing above me, in front of me, behind me. It was an everywhere voice and I liked the feeling of it. It spoke directly to me. “Everything is OK. Breathe. Breathe. We will help you.” The voice guided my breathing. “Slower. Slower.” It assured me that the experience was coming to an end. I did as advised and my body touched the blankets once again. My eyes remained closed as the voice filled me, touching all parts of my body like a warm caress. It seemed to be saying many things to me but I was not cleat as to what the messages were. Then the voice said, “Open your eyes.” I looked around and turned my head to see Sheila staring at me. The voice was gone and I was left with my thoughts and many, many questions.