Sunday, February 10, 2008

Goodbye to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Okay, I admit it. Back in about 1975, three or four years into my so-called adult life as a kid reporter in Southern California, I took lessons in transcendental meditation, and at the end of it, I showed up with a bouquet of fresh flowers and some fruit for my one-to-one meeting with a TM leader, passed along a handful of cash, and received a mantra. I can't remember exactly how much I paid. For a while, telling my story, I used to say it cost me $75, but now it seems like it might have been $125. I don't know why I say that -- as time goes by I'm less and less sure about certain specifics -- even finding myself asking "so what?"

Well, I've made fun of myself through the years for "buying a mantra," as I've sometimes disparagingly put it. But when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died this week, apparently in his 90s, I felt a wave of affection for him, for his beautiful face and disarming giggle -- he is a memorable image of a time in the life of my Baby Boomer brothers and sisters and me when we still were having youthful fun, exploring, believing in peace, in some cases still toying with the notion of "free love" and generally still thinking that anything we dreamed of could come true. Other things I remember from that time are listening obsessively to Tom Waits' album Heart of Saturday Night, and hearing about Bruce Springsteen for the first time. One night a bunch of friends and I drank a couple of bottles of Cold Duck -- yes, that was a kind of wine, icky but effective -- and proceeded, half tipsy, to see All the President's Men. I was working the early shift as a copy editor at the Orange Coast Daily Pilot, going in at 5:45 a.m., and I used to shoot out to the track at a local high school to jog three miles on my lunch hour, which was at 10 a.m. As I recall it, I never experienced the slightest insomnia, but I lived my life on a lot of 20-something adrenaline, and I was fitful, always restless. I faithfully meditated, twice a day, for about, well...let's say, three or four months.

But, I confess, I still remember my mantra, and occasionally, in the middle of the night when I can't sleep and the scary realities along with the spectres of old age and death pursue me and interfere with my serenity, sometimes I lie in bed quietly and calm myself by murmuring my mantra, over and over again. It seems to help, and I'm grateful for it.

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