June 30, 2016
Woke up with a pleasant, little hang-over, feeling calm and assured, recalling the spatial quietude both inner and outer of the Rama Krishna Vedanta Monastery in Rancho Santa Margarita. Snapshots of the musty, library thick with sound-absorbing books with titles like Yoga, the Vedanta, and You. I sat down on a faux leather sink-in couch and perused a few images on instructional pages before moving on to the meditation room. This dark sanctuary, replete with incensed-burning altar centered with a framed photo of one of the Rama Krishna disciples, I assume, compacted, thick, chewy air. I did not get close enough to examine the framed face heading the room. No, I stayed back in the sunken square dotted with cushy meditation pillows and blankets in deep wine and maroon velveteen or faux silk.
Pulling one aside, I sat on the pillow and lapsed into my habitual meditation pose, legs in half lotus, palms down and forefinger-thumb circled knees. I don’t know how long I breathed into the space which sucked out all noise save the air conditioner among three breathers. The desert outside did not exist in this room resonant with an abundance of meditations past: innumerable daily practicing monks and others since the 40s. Rich with endeavor and calm, I fell into the room’s focused peace.
The sweaty outdoor hike that followed contrasted deeply with steep climbs and declines along a narrow, mud-hardened, bramble-lined, winding path amid the chaparral—the shrine trail–leading to five meditative spaces symbolic of five religions or practices: Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and Vedanta. The highest spot is the last, the Vedanta, which embraces both physically (highest climb) and spiritually all the others.
On the way out, the 18 year old son of a friend who accompanied me, purchased in the gift shop a jar of honey produced by the bees the monks keep on the property and allow to swarm the lily-laced fountain pool surrounding the shrine statue located between the mess hall and library. He had never tried honey before. And so the little jaunt ended as it began with the same, sweet, subdued astonishment.