I am somewhat dedicated to trying new things. Meditation is highly advertised on the beaches in Goa, along with yoga and Aruveda. I’ve never been meditative, I’ve always been far too contemplative and find it difficult to “quiet my mind” in that serene, peaceful way. To join yoga is a given, I will definitely do that. As for Aruveda, I don’t want to dedicate the time to explore it properly and I already have had warm oil poured over my head for 90 minutes while receiving massage so that introductory experience does not need repeating. I don’t really like gentle massage, it seems without benefit to me.
I follow the direction of a large, professionally-made beachside sign that promises all the services I dream of. I walk up to a service hut, just a double table surrounded by palm fronds to make a semi-enclosed kitchen space, and express my interest. “Sit there.” I am pointed towards a wooden office desk well sunk into the sand surrounded by interior padded office chairs with wheels not really made for beach use. There is a circle of middle-aged men and one woman sitting beside in the shade of a canopy. The oldest among them, wearing flowing peachy religious attire, eventually stirs and lazily makes his way over to the desk, addressing me only after he has made himself comfortable.
I will need to prepay 500 Rs ($10) for a yoga session that will take place at 10AM tomorrow. “I am curious about meditation as well,” I suggest. “What kind, there many kind of medication,” he explains, continuing his heir of importance as a master spiritual guru. “Something introductory, whatever you suggest.” “I can show you best one,” he informs, “it take 20 minute and we can do right now.” “How much?” “200 rupee” ($4) “Can you make change?” “Yes, of course.” He takes another 500 Rs note from me and then he causes much confusion. He’s barking orders around the table, people are handing notes back and forth, people are standing-up to reach into their pockets, it’s too much confusion to get 300 Rs change. Already I know I’m being duped. “Let’s go,” he leads and takes me to a barely tolerable hot spot of sand sheltered from the wind yet in the direct sun.
He proceeds to talk at me at a very uncomfortable distance, standing with his face right in my face. (To do this so closely, he has positioned himself on higher ground, we’re on a bit of a dune.) I sneak backwards and he keeps with me, the lack of inches between us apparently essential for the relay of information. His skin is definitely not his temple, I think, it is so sun damaged. His teeth are narrow brown stumps and I can’t help but wonder how they don’t fall out. He babbles on and on, with his illiterate accent I cannot understand enough of his oddly-chosen words to actually follow along. “Medication,” I understand to be “meditation” but too many other words are not repeated enough for me to create my own translations. I am standing in the hot afternoon sun paying a raving lunatic to teach me meditation with his dirty face inches from mine. Which one of us is the crazy one, at least he’s getting paid.
He teaches me the “surrender” pose so we can do our first chant. I was not expecting chants to be a part of learning to quiet my mind. As for the pose, it’s the basic palms-together in-front-of-chest pose common as a greeting pose in many Asian cultures.
In this position, directly facing the sun but with eyes closed, we chant, “oooommmmm. . . . .namo nana ha,” over and over again, the oooommmm part getting longer and longer over time. This chant we do too many times, perhaps twenty, before moving on.
“Ooooommmmm . . . . . . gama ganapata namaha,” is our next meditative secret. An English girl saunters past, “I like your t-shirt!” she quips. I’m wearing a silly t-shirt from NYC, the entire front is a realistic enlarged face of a guinnea pig.
This chant is followed by the equally futile-feeling, “oooommmm . . . .shyra naraya namaha,” which we again do far too many times.
Finally, I am treated to the very special phrases he has especially coined for his foreign clients, perhaps because when I ask him what we are chanting, he can’t or won’t tell me.
“You must be louder!” he informs me as we bellow, “I am the part of the universe!” I autocorrect to, “a part of the universe” but he corrects me back to his perfect word creation.
My voice now tired, I am thinking that this very long twenty minutes must surely be coming to their end. “All the sun’s powerful living energy comes to my body! Welcome, welcome, welcome!” This chant we do with eyes closed, still facing the hot sun, but this time with arms open to the sky, palms facing the sun. “The energy enters your palms,” he tells me. By this point I feel like a complete idiot having entrusted this man to teach me meditation and instead he shares his practice of sun worship. No wonder his skin is such a wrinkled, blotchy mess.
“I go back, you stay, more chanting, come back when you finished.” I’d rather have a cuddle with the big ugly rats that live under my beach shack, I think as I decline that suggestion. Is he hoping that if he gives the foreigner heat stroke using this very strategically-hot space, that they will be deluded into thinking they’ve had some type of deep experience? That they’ll attribute the feeling of weakness and light-headedness as coming from his profound instruction? “No, I’m finished, thanks.”
Back at reception I ask about my change. He looks confused and wags his head, what change? He took $10 for his 20 minutes rather than the $4 he quoted.
At least I learned how to meditate.