On Fire (Part III, conclusion)

I’m in my savasana and David, one of the instructors asks me where I go when I’m "inside that head of mine." I tell him that “I generally go to hell my friend.”

            He laughs and tells me that “he had a feeling,” and then he takes a hippy-dippy-cross- legged seat and asks me to join him.  I sit next to him and think about how I don’t have an extra five minutes in my day for this garbage.  He begins, “A teacher once told me this story of the Buddha…”

            Oh Jesus here we go, I think.

            The Buddha, walking one day, felt thirsty and asked one of his disciples to go to the lake nearby and fetch him a drink of water.  The disciple did as he was told and made his way to the lake, but, as he was about to dip his cup into the lake, he noticed that a boat was crossing and churning up the lake, making the water undrinkable. The disciple returned to the Buddha and told him he could not get clean water.  The Buddha instructed him to check back in an hour.  The disciple, doing as he was told returned to the lake to find it still muddy and then returned again with the same news for the Buddha.  After a while the Buddha instructed him to go back again.  Doing as he was told the disciple found the lake to be perfectly clear and proudly filled his cup to bring back to the Buddha.  ‘See what you did?  You made the water clear.”  Confused the disciple said, ‘but Buddha I didn’t do anything.’  ‘Yes you did.  You left the water alone.’”  David waited for a reaction.

            “Ahh,” I faked.  “You just leave it alone then, eh?”  I was trying not to be sarcastic.

            He laughed and slinked up.  “Just try it sometime.”

            I left the hospital later that night, and in the morning the cat was out of the bag as they say.  Everyone knew.  I had no options.  It was out on my butt, a rehab, or A.A. again.  My father had flown out, and I could imagine the pilot saying “We are now flying at an altitude of twelve hundred feet, and our destination is just about an hour and a half away so sit back, relax, and you in the back - your son is an alcoholic.  Beverage service should be starting up momentarily, your son is a failure, and our inflight movie is Leaving Las Vegas.”

            We’re in my apartment sitting silently across from each other.  He asks “Well, what should we do pardner?  Wanna try one of these meetings?”   It’s silent.  I’m looking down.

            “Sure.” I say. I am my father’s disappointment, I thought.  Then I walked into my first basement.  It was damp.  It smelled of water-cheap-truck-stop-coffee (which I wouldn’t touch. who knows what these people may have done to it, I think).  The people looked about as rough and tumble as I thought I’d ever seen.  I walked closer.  They smiled.  Their eyes were smiling.  My knees went.  I slumped down in a metal folding chair, put my hands to my face, and cried.  My father put his arm around my shoulders and squeezed.  I cried.

            I’m lying in my “final savasana,” “corpse pose,” and I’m trying to think of nothing.  My mind goes white, like the world folding in on itself into one micro-dot of black and disappears.  Then the whiteness turns to pine trees, big towering pines, like the ones I’d imagine in the Black Forests of Bavaria.  I’m trying to clear my way through the trees, but I just find more darkness.  The pines are cold, damp, and prickling my forearms.  I see a light breaking through the tree line, and I come to my lake.  My lake.  It’s muddy and whirling, and my problems are stuck and churning in the thick brown muck.  I see my bank account slopping around, my broken bicycle spinning out spraying mud out onto my feet.  There are booze-bottles piling up, falling, breaking, and then piling up again.  There’s a whirring of mosquitoes so loud I have to hold my hands over my ears.  Then it all stops, and a large child (a giant) bends into my frame of vision.  It’s me!  It’s me, only abstracted and large.  He has watery-sweet forgiving eyes, a round cherubic face, and a smile that I can only describe as peaceful.  He’s so at peace that it fills me over with joy.  He’s looking at me.  He’s inviting me over.  I’m hesitant.  He gestures to my lake (our lake, I suppose).  I run over to it, preparing myself to jump in, grab the objects, and calm the situation.  I feel his big soft hand encompass my entire chest and hold me back.  He leads me to a campfire tranquilly burning by the side of my lake.  I see our reflections in the flames.  I watch as it slowly burns down to ash.  He takes my hand in his and leads me back to my lake.  It’s clear and calm.  I see my reflection, and I drip joyous tears that ripple and distort my image.  I feel that strong hand squeeze my shoulder again.  I’m safe.  I open my eyes, and I’m back in the room with the others, listening to the instructor.

            “Start to come back into yourself.  Slowly start to move your fingers and toes.  Remember your intention.  Remember what brought you to your mats today.  Namaste.” 

            “Namaste,” we all respond, and I wonder if I’m unique.  Am I the only one who has had this experience?  No, not possible I think to myself; there are two billion and one of us.  It’s not me alone.

            I related this experience to my father recently.  I told him the whole shebang.  The Buddha, the lake, the fire, giant baby me, everything.

            “I was so at peace, dad.  I don’t know how else to describe it.”  There was a pause between us.  It felt like forever.  I felt nervous.  Did that just sound crazy?  Was I going crazy?  I was about to interject when he spoke up.

            “Well that’s great kiddo.  A bit on the nose, though don’t cha think?”  He laughed, and then we laughed together. 

            We always had the same sense of humor, my father and I.

            I am the son of Prometheus.  I have a healthy fear of fire.  I try not to burn up.  Just for today.