How We Met and Why It Works

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage

Bertrand’s story…
“We first met at a weekly meditation class. On this particular evening, the teacher had facilitated a discussion about the practice of mettā in meditation. How the creation of benevolent thoughts, wishing peace, openness of the heart, healing and love were beneficial. During the talk, several people had contributed with questions, while others shared their own interpretations. Me? I knew little about the subject. Yet, as I sat there listening, an internal visualisation played through my mind showing a virtuoso musician in full flow with their instrument. I did my best to convey to the assembled, how this felt to me like an expression of mettā. The teacher received my comment well, which left me feeling encouraged. After the session had finished, Mary approached me and said how she’d enjoyed and related to my comment. We left the class together and walked around town. After an hour and a half of conversation, the clarity of her uncomplicated intellectualism had made a big impression on me. So much so, that the idea to ask for her hand in marriage came to me on that very first evening. I resisted, and when we parted, I felt genuinely satisfied with the idea of seeing her again, the following week.”

Mary’s story…
“The usual comment I get is about the age difference between us. There’s a thirty year gap. The next question usually alludes to the possibility that I am only with him for his money. Go on, kill me. I admit that financial security has been a factor – but you know what? Bertrand understands this too. Broadly speaking, I believe that successful relationships are based on considered trade-offs, or perhaps more accurately ‘trades-between’. This, and naked honesty – a trait I see as seriously lacking in most relationships I know. For sure, this comes with challenges. I find these challenges help nurture a mutual sense of engagement and responsibility within the relationship.
Married to an older man, I find I am appreciated for far more than just my body and good looks. I don’t feel a pressure to try to look beautiful. Bertrand has no hidden agenda. With past boyfriends, “sex” has usually topped the list – and as often as possible. Yes, he has a healthy libido; he’s also open-minded. But he is not obsessed with sex – I don’t wake in the morning to find him dry-humping my leg! Bertrand is interested in every aspect of my ‘self’ and I find this deeply gratifying. I count myself lucky to have met such a wonderful and caring husband.”

Meditation Yawns

So, I’m sat in a group, meditating,
The guy next to me yawns.
He squeaks around in his wooden chair,
Pulls his sleeves up,
Rubs his arm,
Yawns again.
More chair squeaks.

And again, a yawn –
Wide, quiet,
But clearly audible,
To me,
Like through headphones,
Air rushing into those two lungs.

His stomach rumbles.
Then, another yawn.
I’m serious,
These yawns are coming,
With mere seconds elapsed in between.
Not minutes.

I’m serious,
It’s serial.

More yawns.
More yawns.
More yawns.

“Karlos,” I think out loudly, “you’re body is telling you something.
If you placed a pen in your hand and gave it free range,
It would write ‘Hey – Karlos! Go home, fall into our over-sized settee,
Or go all the way,
Straight up to bed,
And slee-eep.

Listen to yourself,
Don’t yawn,

I’m lacking in compassion,
And joy.
My bad.

Extortionist Contortionist

Well, not a contortionist as such, more a yoga teacher. Technically-speaking, I’m not altogether sure if extortion is quite the right word, but along with her American gentleman friend, she robbed clients blind. However, the real scandal is I let them go. I did not report them to the police or to the Yogi High Commission, Instead, I left the sessions and blocked her text alerts. I still receive invoices for expensive weekend retreats I have never been on, found resting in my junk folder. The most bare-faced liberty occurred towards the end of a yoga session, the part where we are all ‘warming down’. Everybody lies on their yoga mats, some people place a blanket over themselves and tuck a cushion under their heads. When everyone is settled, Josephine initiates a guided mindfulness-based meditation, with focus on our own breathing for the first ten minutes.
Her voice is soft and kind, soothing and sensual. She asks us to create a state of awareness around the big toe of our left foot, suggesting we concentrate and process the sensation.
“It might be,” she tells us, “we feel nothing. Perhaps our toe is numb, or maybe we can feel it tingling. What temperature is it, cold or warm? Can we feel the air around it or the material of our socks touching our skin?”
And so she goes on, from big toe to little toe, the soles and top surface of our feet, the ankles, lower legs, knees and onwards. By the time she’s reached the hips and pelvis, many people have zonked-out, are fast asleep, dead to the world. Those people left, including myself, have reached a deep meditative state, not too far behind the sleepers.

Until on one day, due to the ingestion of three sugary cups of espresso earlier in the morning, I found myself unable to settle during the latter stage of the session. Instead, I wrote a long to-do list in my head, with many of the items mentally noted of little significance and quickly forgotten. Just as I had tried to picture the lawn mower in my thoughts and how to change the blunted blade on the confounded contraption, my caffeine infused senses picked up a slight movement to the left of me, coming from a direction I knew no yogi had chosen to settle down in.
Slowly letting my head fall to one side, I utilised the muscles around my eyes to form a tiny slot through which I could see, without giving away my wakefulness. What I saw, gave me an unpleasant surprise. From my position, I could make out a leopard print patterned leotard stretched across a backside belonging to Michael, Josephine’s assistant friend. Allowing my focus to adjust, the image cleared and I came to see Michael’s figure crouched over where everyone had left their clothes folded. He was going through pockets, removing some coins from purses and taking a few bank notes from people’s wallets. Jewelled brooches were unhooked from the outside of coats and I am certain I could see him sorting through various mobile telephones. There were also moments when he paused for a while, appearing to read people’s private correspondence, letters and prescriptions they carried with them in their handbags.
Due to its age, my phone remained safe and I only ever brought in money enough to pay for the class, which I kept hidden in a sock. Despite continuing with the sessions for several more weeks, I  suffered no personal loss. However, I continued to watch him each week. I kept myself buoyed and alert with the habitual consumption of three or more cups of espresso before each class, to remain awake during his shenanigans, while the others drifted off.
Nimble had to be his second name, his ability to move about quietly and with speed impressed me greatly. Occasionally, when a yogi stirred during the meditation period, Michael would spring into a ‘down dog’ pose until he was sure it was safe to continue with his pilfering. Shockingly, when a client discovered they hadn’t brought enough money with them to pay, Josephine played the injured party. These people were left to think it was their own, embarrassing mistake. She would lay it on thick, saying she’d have to go and ‘shake the magic money tree’ to make her rent. Frequently, other clients would help to settle any outstanding sums in response to her hard luck stories. Incredulous as it seems, this wouldn’t stop Josephine unashamedly pursuing the robbed client for the money they ‘owed’, the following week.
In the end, I wanted nothing more to do with it. I cut off all communications and circulated a rumour I’d emigrated to Canada. The experience had been damaging, denting my belief and trust in yoga teachers and facilitators of meditation groups.
“A wake-up call, perhaps.” Suggested one fair-weather friend. “Believe me, they’re all at it.”


The Mindfulness Garden Walk (and the Chairs)

the mindfulness walk (and the chairs)

After an hour’s meditation, the group begin their usual slow walk, around the garden.
I am there, bringing up the rear, one foot placed in front of the other.
Green plastic patio chairs occupy a space near the middle, positioned without pattern.
My preference is for rows, what’s with this randomness?

The irrepressible urge to swear in church, now manifests as a different temptation.
I want to pick up a chair,
Hurl it into the borders, decapitating flower-heads, causing damage to shrubs.
And then another chair, followed by them all.

Instead, I imagine an aftermath of shocked faces turning towards me in slow motion.
Wailing, hands clasped to ears.
Catching a sudden breath in my chest, I am back.
Repressing the thoughts, which replay the sequence several times over,
A sense of relief settles.