This is not me. I do not sit crossed legged, hands gently posed in “gyan mudra” listening to myself breathe. I don’t just struggle to meditate, I writhe, kick – internally judging myself and every thought I have until I forget what I was doing and give up exasperated.
I decided to turn to meditation as a way of quieting the movie that went off most nights as soon as my head hit the pillow. It was a short film that began with me taking Gus to emergency a day after his last chemo and concluded with us watching him take his last breath and slip away from us. Sometimes I was watching from up above, looking for alternate paths I might have taken. Other times I was just reliving the entire day.
A few months after meeting with AJ Barrera (find out about our reading in Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Parts One-Four) I received an email from his office announcing a workshop to “meet your spirit guides” and develop “communication with other side”. While I did not believe that I had the “gift” of mediumship (if that is a word), I was hoping to meet my “guides” to lead me to what I was supposed to do now that I was no longer required to shepherd my last child through high school. So, I signed up, paid my fee and showed up on a sunny day in November to a hotel in West Covina.
I arrived early finding a few women already sprinkled around the room. I sat away from them in the center of a long empty table. I doodled on a small yellow pad that had been left at each seat to avoid eye contact and any mutual judgement. Within a short time, the room filled and as it did I could overhear people swapping tales of communicating with the other side. I scoffed and then felt ill and panicky. All these women couldn’t have “abilities” could they?
At ten on the dot, AJ Barrera introduced himself and urged us to allow the “spirit” to connect with our inner beings. The spirit he explained is always ready for us to be open to it. “OK” I thought “I’m ready – communicate with me”.
AJ began the session with a guided meditation.
“You are walking down a staircase….” (Interesting, my staircase looks like the escalator at the Grove. Wait! I am supposed to be on a stair case. Well just stop the escalator. Ok that is better).
“The staircase has lead you to a tunnel at the end of which you see light.” (You are doing good Cec, just keep following the tunnel. I know what kind of tunnel this is, the kind that opens up to a….)
“Beautiful valley” (football stadium! What? Did he say valley? Great I am in the wrong place. Valley, valley, valley, what does a valley look like – Oh I know like Journey to the Center of the Earth. Ok. I am back in.)
“You see an animal there. It is your personal animal spirit. What is it?” (Oh this is exciting, what is my animal? Tiger? Lion? Bear? Is that a rabbit? Are you kidding me? My spirit’s animal is a brown rabbit? Ugh… that’s disappointing. No! Don’t judge! So its a rabbit – follow the rabbit.)
“You follow your animal through the valley, getting calmer and calmer, breathing deeply letting him lead you where?” (I can’t be calm, the rabbit is hopping along. It is annoying. Ok Cec just breathe. Let it go! Go with it! Am I at the football stadium again? What is it with me and football stadiums. Forget it – this is stupid.) I kept my eyes closed but I was out – meditating was just too hard.
When the meditation was over (5 excruciatingly long minutes later) the exercises to increase our “spirit” communication commenced.
Exercise #1 – Cold reading. In this exercise we were supposed to sit with another person and tell them whatever came into our minds. Like the worst athlete on a school playground I was the last to find a mate. Fortunately for me, my partner also did not believe she had any powers and was only there to accompany her two children who she was sure did. Still we sat across from each other and while my mind was blank, she asked if the number 10 meant anything to me. I said no but it did. (Gus was 10 when he died and his birthday was August 10th.)
Exercise #2 – Reading what was inside a sealed envelope. We were instructed to gather in a circle with our table mates and pass around an envelope that contained a picture of a person that we were told had passed on. The women around me wrote furiously on their pads for one minute and then when directed shared the results. I again had nothing but the women around me had consistently written, “male”, “older”, “curly hair”, “mustache”, “heavy set”. I initially thought they had all lost their minds until the envelope was opened and not only did their description match but other tables matched the contents of their envelopes with even more specificity. The table that blew my mind had accurately described an image of Michael Jackson down to his profession. The “spirit” had even had the presence of mind to cause the envelope to find its way to the one girl who had an image of MJ tattooed on her arm that no one saw until the big reveal. (Ok – maybe something IS going on here).
Exercise #3 – Blindfolded reading. AJ and his assistant removed a few volunteers from the room and asked the remaining people in the room to switch seats. Everyone was then blindfolded and his volunteers lead back in the room. We were asked to raise our hands if anything that was said resonated with us. A woman I could not see mentioned a child who’d passed over recently. I raised my hand and AJ told the woman who was blindfolded to continue. She had nothing else. (Getting kind of close).
Exercise #5 – Volunteer readings. What happened to exercise #4 you ask? Well it was supposed to be a musical chair type of reading where two lines of chairs faced each other and we would move over a space after a two minutes of exchanging quick readings (like speed dating) but that exercise was quickly abandoned when it became obvious that the young lady with a broken ankle and currently sitting a wheel chair would not be able to move in any direction. (A huge relief to me knowing I had nothing to say) Instead AJ decided to have a few volunteers attempt to communicate with whomever made their presence known. The first volunteer talked about a farm, a male, passing over from a heart attack. It seemed to make sense to a woman in the audience although it seemed kind of vague to me. The second volunteer I seem to remember was better but what she specifically said has now escaped my memory because it was the third volunteer that touched me deeply.
A tall woman with a splash of pink in her hair was the final volunteer of the day. She had been quiet all day but the pink in her hair or just her manner had caught my eye since early morning. Whereas the rest of the volunteers had been coaxed and prodded to speak, she strode to the front of the room like a woman on a mission. She turned before AJ could say anything and asked the room (looking straight at me) if anyone had lost a child to cancer. It is boy she said, about eight or ten. I nearly fainted. Raising my hand, she looked at me and said that he had been with me the entire day. She said she had “seen” him next to me first with a bouquet of balloons during the chair exercise and then with only two balloons one pink and one blue that he was offering to her for me. He is “fine” she said, using the word that I most closely associate with him as he always told me, “Mom, don’t cry I am fine”. “He just wants you to know he is always with you” she said as I burst into tears.
I went home shaken but moved, somewhat less skeptical and more open to finding the “magic”. It is in life’s “magic” that Gus dwells, making himself known to me (us), through song, by his name or even his image (I will talk about this one next time). I am still not very good at meditating, but I’ve been trying nightly ever since. I recently purchased a guided meditation that promised to introduce me to my guardian angel. The woman who speaks…in,,,a,,,halting…and…annoying…manner promised that when I was ready my guardian angel would identify him/herself. The other night I clearly heard “Tommy”. (Tommy? Really? First a rabbit now a Tommy?) I highly doubt that my guardian angel’s name is Tommy but what was curious is that I have always been told that I do have a male guardian angel – so why not. I am also not sure that I am closer to finding an answer to “what now” but I can tell you that the movie plays less frequently now. Sometimes it is even replaced with the physical sense that Gus has slipped into my bed and is resting comfortably in my arms.