Keep a Calm Heart: Hong Sau in Eugene Oregon

Keep a Calm Heart: Hong Sau in Eugene Oregon
by Nayaswami Anandi

Bharat and I were new in our relationship (1982), and had just completed two weeks of nature classes in Oregon. We stopped in Eugene to do a couple of errands. I wanted to buy an item at a department store, and Bharat wanted to visit the used book store.

 We drove to the Chamber of Commerce and the host showed us on a wall map where to go—go first here to the department store, then around here and around here to the used books. Bharat dropped me off at the parking lot and we decided he’d be back in an hour.

 I raced into the store to get my purchase. As soon as I was finished I checked the small parking lot to make sure Bharat hadn’t arrived first. When I saw that he wasn’t, I sat on the edge of a tree planter facing the traffic on that one-way street. When he returned, he wouldn’t be able to miss me.

It was a gorgeous day. I began to practice Hong-Sau meditation and soon felt a deep peace. After some time, I realized that Bharat was twenty minutes late. I felt an inner avenue of fear opening up—one possible way for my mind to go. We had no credit cards in those days, I had only $10 in my pocket, I knew no one in Eugene, and nothing about the city. What if Bharat, who had only a brief glance at a wall map to go by, couldn’t remember how to get back?

Even as I worried, I didn’t want to lose the peace I felt. I felt my mind make a tangible choice to maintain this peace. Simultaneously, I could see and feel the avenue of fear, and know that I did not want to interrupt the peace I was feeling. I decided that I’d wait until a full hour had gone by, and then start to think what to do next.

 And so I continued to enjoy the wonderful peace of meditation. Fifteen minutes later, a second mental avenue opened up: Anger. I knew Bharat loved used book stores. What if he had become so absorbed looking through books that he had simply forgot our agreement. Righteous anger—I knew exactly how it would feel; I could feel the avenue of anger inviting me to enter.

As the minutes went by, I kept my focus on the breath and on Hong-Sau—knowing that I needed continuously to ward off the invitation to be fearful and the invitation to be angry. I choose not to go there.

A full hour after our agreed meeting time, Bharat suddenly drove into the driveway right in front of me. As I climbed into the car and greeted him with a happy smile, I felt that, in my own small way, I had won a victory over my lower nature.

Bharat’s story: once he finished at the bookstore, he drove to what he remembered to be the place he dropped me off. When I wasn’t there, he assumed the reason was simply that women like to shop. He felt content reading his books, happy to wait until I showed up.

When lunch-time came, he felt hungry, and went to a nearby take-out place and bought two lunches. Walking back to the car, he noticed the trees on that one-way street seemed different from the trees he remembered from dropping me off. I still hadn’t appeared. Putting two and two together, Bharat realized he better try another one-way street. It was at that point that he drove up to me, happily calling out, Here’s your lunch!

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