MINDBENDING

Marsha Warren Mittman

Marsha Warren Mittman


        Greek/Armenian philosopher, mystic, and spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff asked, in Meetings With Remarkable Men, “What is true? What is written in books and taught by my teachers, or the facts I am always running up against?”
     After numerous experiences both in childhood and as an adult that couldn’t be explained by third dimensional western logical reasoning, I found accepted norms – like Gurdjieff – no longer sufficed to define my existence. Perhaps, I considered, eastern spirituality might offer a clue? I began meditating seriously, and immersed myself in spiritual texts.
      After a while I located a spiritual mentor, and began meditating each week with a group of people – mostly Hindu, from India – who were devotees of an Indian guru. I loved the joyous energy engendered by the group’s meditations, and especially the bagans and kirtans they sang. Their devotion to the guru was amazing – I felt like the lone skeptic in the group. But when I was invited to spend a long holiday weekend with them – consisting of prayer, songs, meditation, and stories – I jumped at the opportunity. I was reaching for something – didn’t know what – and hoped the immersion would lead me further along a path of discovery.
     The group was planning to stay in communal dorms on the premises of a summer camp that had closed for the season. The indoor gymnasium would be cleansed, purified, and transformed into a “temple” for our activities. Since I didn’t know anyone particularly well, I chose to stay at a local motel and commute to the camp each of the four days of the retreat.
     I arrived late the night before the retreat was to begin. The plan had been to locate the camp that first evening for easier maneuvering in the morning, but it had taken me longer than expected to arrive at my destination. My motel was on a secondary road, but the camp itself was a further fifteen miles into the wilderness. And wilderness it was – no street signs, no houses, no lights. I didn’t dare venture out, alone, into that pitch blackness. All I had for directions was a rudimentary hand-drawn map, based on visuals. Prudently, I decided to wait for daylight.
     Prayers started at 5:30am the following morning; breakfast was an hour later. I set my clock for 4:30am to allow time to dress and find my way. But when I awoke I was dismayed to find that 4:30am was just as pitch black as the previous night at nine. I reset the clock’s alarm, figuring I’d skip prayers and breakfast, and make it to the camp in time for the first program of the day at 7:30am.
     I crawled back into bed.
     Fifteen minutes later, at 4:45am just as I was starting to doze, the TV in my room went on – by itself. There I was – alone, in bed, in the dark, in the woods, in the middle of nowhere – and suddenly my TV started blaring. My heart began to pound. There was no one with me; there was no remote control I could have left in bed and rolled over onto; there was no alarm clock built into the TV. What had activated it? 
     I immediately flicked the switch on the bedside lamp, light flooded the room, and thankfully no uninvited human or animal visitors were hiding anywhere.
     My curiosity piqued, I opened the motel door two inches – leaving the safety chain engaged – to see if perhaps someone was leaving. Did they use a garage door opener whose frequency just might have tripped my TV set? Or an automatic car door opener? But all was dark and silent outside. My TV, meanwhile, was blasting an old John Wayne western. 
     Very strange…
     I shut the TV. Went back to sleep. Awoke, Plan B, at 6:30am, and eventually found my way to the camp. At lunch I casually mentioned the TV incident to someone I was acquainted with. “Oh,” she laughed. “Weird things always happen at these gatherings.” I let the comment slide – there was no logical response to what she’d said.
     That evening I again set my clock for 6:30am the following morning, choosing once more to drive to the camp in daylight even though I’d miss prayers and breakfast. 
     Day two, and damn, my television wakes me a second time at the exact same moment as the day before, at 4:45am… What in the world? There was no going back to sleep after such weirdness, so I dressed and left for the camp in absolute darkness. Took me over an hour to find the place. I related the story to others at lunch, and again was told that bizarre things sometimes happened at these annual gatherings…   
     That night when I returned to the motel I questioned the owners. “No,” they said, “no one else had mentioned anything strange. No, there weren’t any remote devices in use.”
     Other than the two odd TV wakeups the weekend was wonderful. It was my first total immersion in a completely spiritual atmosphere. The music, chants, stories, readings, meditations – even the food – were all planned to help foster self-inquiry and expand consciousness.
     Before leaving for the retreat I’d had concerns about sitting for so long between the meditation sessions, programs, and chanting. But the only actual discomfort I did experience over the four days was cold feet. It was autumn and a chill had settled early in the season.  The summer facility had no heating apparatus, and all the programs and meditation sessions were held in the gymnasium “temple” which had a cement floor. We were required to leave our shoes at the entranceway, and I found that sitting for four, five hours each morning and afternoon left me, in my thin cotton socks, with frozen toes. By the second day I started doubling-up on my socks in order to try and keep my feet warm.
     The last morning of my stay, as I was about to start packing before our final meeting, I paused in front of my suitcase. It was lying on a chair in my motel room, its top unzipped and open about ten inches due to some just purchased books randomly stacked inside. I stood there casually thinking, “I wonder if I have a last extra pair of socks so I can double-up today?”  And suddenly, as the thought manifested, a clean pair of rolled-up black socks – totally on their own – slowly and deliberately exited my valise. They came floating out of the ten inch opening between the top and bottom halves of the suitcase, moved horizontally about three feet to the right, and then – when my brain recovered from its shock and actually registered and acknowledged what I was seeing – the socks abruptly dropped to the floor. I stood there transfixed, completely unbelieving, but there was no mistaking what I had just witnessed.
     When I finally composed myself – and gingerly retrieved the socks – I sat on my bed deep in thought. If my socks could materialize and float when I wondered if another pair was available, I realized the strange TV wakeups had not been accidental. They, too, had occurred both mornings when I’d thought about leaving for the camp. Apparently – somehow, unbelievably – in the heightened anticipation and energy of the four day spiritual retreat my thoughts had actually begun to visibly manifest and activate in this material dimension.
     I slowly finished packing. I didn’t return to the camp for closing ceremonies. My quest, I realized, had been answered. I’d been reaching for something, for some deeper understanding, some underlying truth, not knowing what. Something to explain personal events that didn’t adhere to accepted third dimensional teachings. My spiritual mentor had declared a year before, “There is more, much more…” And I gratefully realized I’d just been shown – without a doubt – that his statement was true. We currently use nine to ten percent of our brain’s capacity – deeper, expanded levels of comprehension, functionality, and connection to higher dimensions are accessible simply via intent, training, and commitment.
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     Fast forward a few years. I’m visiting southeast Iowa, and make a stop in Fairfield, home of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Vedic University, the only facility of its kind in the United States. When I arrived at the school’s visitor center, I was told to hurry so as to join a walking tour that had just left. The group was headed for the University’s gold-domed main hall where two students had consented to exhibit “yogic flying” that day – evidently not a regularly scheduled event. I hadn’t read much about the University before leaving for my trip: I’d stopped by simply to see if I might be interested in taking a few courses sometime in the future. So I was completely unaware of the meaning of “yogic flying.”
     In an anteroom the tour’s guide explained we were about to see some students practicing levitation, aka yogic flying. The skill is possible to achieve under deep meditation. We were cautioned to be very still so as not to break the students’ concentration. The guide then led us into a massive meeting-hall that had double foam mattresses formatted in an exceptionally large square a foot or so from the room’s perimeter. Two men, one in his twenties and the other noticeably older, sat meditating in traditional yogic lotus position on the mattresses while we quietly settled on blankets on the floor directly in front of them. I was in the first row of visitors – the two meditators were directly in front of me, about eighteen inches distant. 
     Silence. Absolute silence. Holding our collective breaths. After a short time the older man suddenly rose about two feet above the mattress, hovering in the air. While still in lotus position, airborne, meditating with eyes closed, he moved forward three feet and then slowly, gently, lowered himself back onto the mattress.
     The younger man’s initial “flight” wasn’t as graceful. He bobbled along a bit, showing us the need for all those foam mattresses, but eventually was able to lift off. He also rose about two feet high, and though wobbly, managed to “fly” about two feet before thumping down. 
     We saw a half dozen more examples of flight before our guide motioned it was time to leave. The two men kept practicing as we walked away, never once breaking their concentration and meditations. They consistently used nothing to propel their bodies other than their focused minds: they leaned on nothing; their legs remained folded beneath them; their arms, constantly visible, hadn’t been used for leverage.
     As soon as we exited the building everyone exploded with questions. Especially after our guide informed us that an elderly man, a regular visitor, was actually able to achieve heights of five to six feet, and was capable of circumnavigating the large hall a number of revolutions.
     One very loud, bellicose man in the group insisted what we’d witnessed was impossible: it was a trick; we were being hoaxed; some kind of catapulting mechanism had been hidden in the mattresses. He kept interrupting, arguing, and disturbing everyone. It was difficult to enjoy the rest of the tour.
     Totally exasperated, I finally touched his arm and motioned him aside. Very quietly I said, “Let me tell you about my socks…”  
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     Albert Einstein: “I think ninety-nine times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in the silence, and the truth comes to me.”

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