The first mantra I recognized as 'not prayer' was given to me at 18. A budding Buddhist playing with the feminized witchcrafts of Starhawk, Ffiona Morgan, Zsusanna Budapest, and even Scott Cunningham; all I had read were warm fuzzies of magick and meditations. My teacher/mentor/father-figure 'A' challenged me to meditate with him after a meeting with our journalism department. I had no clue he was a meditation teacher and master of invocation, but thought the strange little German man was putting me on at first. So I tread carefully forward. We went for a walk in the woods behind the junior college campus. The jogging trails were full of the late summer's poison oak and the large oaks were just starting to turn brown. My cynical, youthful mind thought it was boring, but might be a good place for a meditation teaching he promised. I look back and think how young, naïve and stupid it was to go into the woods with a man in his 50's I barely knew except as an editor of the college paper I wrote for. Being very good at investigative reporting, I had checked with our professor at first to make sure A was legit... and I was assured, even encouraged, to learn what I could from the man.
As we walked along the trail, A and I came to what at first appeared to be a man-made pond, but turned out to be a cesspool. The early, clean morning air immediately was swallowed by the stench of excrement and urine and whatever else was floating around out there. I suggested we turn around and go another way, but A insisted we go forward. I was so grossed out... I was going to vomit, but needed to be confident more. In his thick German accent, A asked me “What are these theengs there? Flouting in the vater?” I looked closer at what he was talking about. “They are tampons A. Used, nasty tampons floating on ponds of shit. Can't you see?” He turned to me and asked “So, how do you meditate?” I was stunned... no clue what to say. We went from talking about the toxic sludge that surrounded us to sitting on the ground and staring out at the ponds.
“Show me what you do”. So I sat... and he stopped me. “No, no... not here. Over there!” and A's finger pointed to a 'deck' of sorts built off from a narrow pier, jutted out into the middle of the pond. I looked at him and asked “Are you serious? You want me to go sit out there, in the middle of all this shit, and meditate?” I really thought the red, hairy, almost Santa looking man was joking... A always had laughter in his eyes, a smile on his lips, and a loud booming voice to match the belly. At this moment, he was not smiling. He was not laughing as he looked me seriously in the eye and told me “Go show me how you meditate”.
I humored the old man and walked out there. . The planks leading to the deck did not feel sturdy and all I could imagine was slipping, falling into the pools of waste. The poo smell was stronger out there... the sun was shining on my back and glistening off the melting frost. I sat with my legs crossed in full lotus on the cold concrete slab. I took a few deep breaths and thought vomiting might be better; an acidic burp mixed with my morning chai was all I could muster. I closed my eyes only the find my sense of smell more heightened. I tried breathing through my mouth and could taste the acrid air. “What are you trying to prove here old man?” I asked aloud, with my fingers still numbing and breath hanging in the mists of dung. I tried to concentrate but no matter what I did the place was toxic and invading my every thought.
Frustrated and nauseated, I stood up, walked back to the bank and sat next to A. He was in meditation and just gazing at the black waters with the strange fuzzy fish. We sat there in silence for what seemed like hours. After fighting the smells, the boredom, and finally the cold...it became suddenly still. I didn't notice the smell, or my breath, or the damp grasses under my behind making my corduroy jeans wet. Nothing was heard within or without, except my breath. And in that silence was the peace I never thought possible: my mind went completely empty. I didn't have to try, just be.
Some time had passed before A roused me, asked how I felt and if I could see the difference between trying to meditate and actually doing it. I told him yes, but didn't understand the purpose of meditating in front of a pit of bio-hazardous waste. He asked me to contemplate and meditate on it... which I did. I understood the purpose of this first lesson: Meditation is mutually exclusive of everything else. It doesn't matter where you are, what kind of conditions you are in, the state of your physicality...there is no limit to what the spirit is capable of experiencing.
It was this answer my mentor wanted from me... and also the focus. I made the pilgrimage up to the mountain Shasta (where he lived) and spent an intensive weekend learning the art of mantra. I woke each morning early to chai tea and sitting meditation. We'd walk and talk, then more meditation and invocation, dinner and evening meditation. It was on the second night I received the thunderbolt...and my perspective of Deity was changed forever. But this is not what I wanted to share about this week... it was the mantra assignment A gave to me that shook me up in a more lasting way.
So when A gave to me a mantra for my own practice to go home with, I was ecstatic, on fire and ready for whatever challenge he deemed good for my soul. Being of the magickal persuasion, he knew I'd want some thing uber powerful and impressive. And I was surprised with Yod He Vau He. I had no clue it was the Hebrew name of God, and much more. It is a magickal formulae, just as Sanskrit mantras or barbarous words. 'Yod' is the Father of creation, who comes together with 'He', the cosmic Mother. The union producing their offspring, the 'Vau' Son and a Daughter obviously named after her mother, another 'He'. For me, this was the most sexist formulae I could have received...why is the feminine energy of the universe, no matter how many daughters She produces, always just named the same? Why does the patriarchal line continue to evolve and change in it's essence, but the matriarchal remain the same? It is only years later, when I come back to this formulae for greater workings (LBRP) that re-examining it with mature, educated eyes can I see the secret lying within.
Man is the mutant and Woman is the more perfect of the species. Their extra chromosome turned the womb and vaginal cave inside-out, forgetting to erase nipples. The spirit works similarly.... there can be no evolution without the base remaining, the Terra Firma which churns and turns and burns the refuse in Her cauldron. She is the chaos, which in it's ever-changing is never-changing. 'He' is from a very primal place... it come from the womb, sounding deep within “hay”. It is the breath, warm and melting; moist condensation and sweat of tears. She is the buffer between 'Yod' and 'Vau', as Mothers are the eternal peacemakers. The interjection of 'He' assures me that Yahweh is even effected by the instability and ecstatic energies of a chaotic, and sometimes uncaring, Multiverse.