Setting : 1969 small town Southern California. My father is a military engineer. This is next of a series about growing up in the early days of the Transcendental Meditation Movement. My parents ran a TM Center out of our home
It’s Tuesday, weekly meditation evening. I clear the table and wash dinner dishes, while Mom, Dad and Gunnar arrange chairs in a circle in the living room. Mom and Dad talk about keeping our home vibrations pure to support group meditation. “We must enliven silence within each of us, without disruption.”
My mother carefully lights incense and Dad dims lights before other meditators arrive. I remove the pink telephone handset from the wall receiver, wrapping it firmly in a kitchen towel and stuffing it behind the blender to muffle the noisy dial tone. The home must be silent for Tuesday’s mediation meetings.
Mom explains, “This evening’s tape is about the seven stages of consciousness, Gina. This is important, you should stay and listen. You will integrate Maharishi’s knowledge and reach Cosmic Consciousness while young. You are spared the stress and problems that others experience before earning initiation. You must have been very special in a past life to earn this opportunity!”
Our parents often invite us to join their meetings, as they want Maharishi’s knowledge to uplift our impressionable minds. “This is more important than your school homework,” they explain.
I arrange flowers, fruit, and glasses on the table with a pitcher of distilled water while Mom and Dad go change and prepare for the meeting. I don’t where Gunnar is. Herb Tea is ready to simmer later. Sometimes our parents allow me to thread the delicate reel-to-reel audio tape sent weekly from Maharishi’s regional offices in Los Angeles or New York.
Gunnar and I dutifully greet arriving guests, “Welcome” we smile with breathy voices as we’d been taught. “Please remove your shoes and leave them here.” we point to the mixed shoe collection in our entryway. Padding in stocking feet, we escort guests to the encircled chairs in the living room. “Please sit and enjoy the silence until everyone has arrived. Refreshments will be served later.”
Like a silent actor, I try to feel special and enlightened with my brother, but I just want to leave.
When the living room circle is complete, our parents lead group mediation. The adults sit straight with closed eyes. Upturned palms rest lightly in their laps, feet flat on the floor, or gently crossed at the ankle. Incense infused stone silence with uniform seating is a normal weekly event. Suppressing a sneeze from incense, Gunnar and I signal one another, pointing to the front door. We nod and tiptoe out of the house during adult meditation.
I breathe deeply of spring’s evening air, away from suffocating silence indoors. Mom and Dad do not call us back. Our parents are the local group leaders; they must maintain spiritual calm. They expect us to be perfect enlightened children. We peddle our banana-seat bicycles to friends’ homes to watch television or do homework.
A few hours later, Elaine’s parents send me home because it’s bedtime. My brother and I arrive home as guests leave, ritually saluting “Jai Guru Dev” they shake hands and depart. “Jai Guru Dev” means “Praises to Guru Dev”, honoring Maharishi’s deceased spiritual Master for this path to enlightenment.
Mom and Dad come to my bedroom, calm and relaxed from meditating, “Good night Gina. Thank you for leaving us alone with our group.” They hug and kiss me quickly good night. They leave and I hear them down the hall doing the same with Gunnar. They never reprimand us, nor inquire about our unaccounted departures during meditation. I wonder if they care.
On day at dinner, Mom announces :
“Charlie Lutes arrives tomorrow to lead meditation. Gina, Charlie will sleep in your bedroom tomorrow, so this evening, move into Gunnar’s room. Bring everything you’ll need for two days and nights, so you won’t disturb Charlie tomorrow while he is our guest.”
Before I could respond to my mandatory relocation, Mom continues :
“Charlie was Maharishi’s first initiate in the USA. He is a retired business man, using business skills to build Maharishi’s following. He is pure and spiritually evolved. We are honored to have him visit.”
“Remember when I told you that Roland Olson had been a pharaoh? Well, Charlie is a true Kshatriya, of India’s warrior caste. Maharishi is also a Kshatriya. They are both spiritual warriors who battle the world’s dark forces and ignorance. Charlie used to be a great military general. Now Charlie uses his part warrior experiences to battle spiritual darkness.”
Mom sits up taller and smiles, “Maharishi says we are all kshatriyas’ battling darkness by bringing light to the battle the world’s darkness.”
Gunnar and I stop playing footsie beneath the dining table, while we listen. I had seen television footage of the Vietnam War. I envision a military commando arriving from Southeast Asia to teach meditation.
“In past lives, Charlie was Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun and Alexander the Great. He is one of history’s greatest Kshatriyas, coming to teach meditation for a few days.”
I’ heard of Attila the Hun and Alexander the Great. I imagine a gladiator visitor. Surprised that they are the same person and coming to our house, I look across the table to wide-eyed Gunnar. Confused, we simultaneously turn questioningly toward Dad. Dad nods in agreement with Mom, and goes on,
“Maharishi says we are all Kshatriyas, the warrior caste, battling evil forces by enlivening humanity’s pure consciousness. In his past lives, Charlie was many of history’s greatest conquerors, when he was less spiritually evolved. Each lifetime he evolved as an improvement upon his past. Charlie used his innate leadership to become a successful businessman. Now retired, Charlie leads our spiritual army in Maharishi’s service.”
Gunnar looks excited and asks “Will he bring guns or swords like a G.I. Joe?” He imagines hosting the living embodiment of his war doll.
I freeze while contemplating how to tell my friends that Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun will be sleeping in my bedroom. I decide it’s better to say nothing.
“What does he wear?” I ask, wondering how I will explain a living gladiator to the neighbors.
Dad laughs, “He wears normal business clothes in this lifetime.” Gunnar looks disappointed. I sigh with relief that I don’t have to explain gladiator in our driveway.