My meeting with Ansel Adams took place sometime in the late 1980s. During this period and into the 90s I began to follow Dr. Lebensohn's advice to try different forms of meditation as means of gaining greater ability to focus my mind. While I'd worked hard at engaging with people during work and social events, trying to gain confidence in pursuing pro-social behavior, I also still needed to spend a lot of time alone, making sure to keep my mind orderly, quiet and grounded. I had learned the hard way that over-stimulation was dangerous, that my overstimulated mind was especially dangerous if I let it willfully wrap around bad thinking and compulsions.
So when my minister invited me and others to attend contemplative prayer sessions, it seemed like the right thing to do. Once a week, we'd gather in the Ladies Lounge at the church, begin with a discussion of some religious texts, such as an essay by Thomas Merton, a well respected religious thinker of the era, and then, while assuming a meditative pose, invite our minds to contemplate ideas that spoke to us. This form of meditation, meditating on the words of God in a small group, was my first introduction to meditating in a way that was connected to others but also deeply personal and religious. Much earlier my experience with meditation was 1960s Maharishi yoga Beetle style, sitting alone in my garage studio staring at a candle, feeling lonely, and hoping to find some sudden enlightenment. Reflecting on God after having an adult discussion was more complete and satisfying.
I continued with this group for almost a year and then on my own found I could use contemplative meditation as a means for not only going deeper into passages from the Bible but also to retool the way my mind worked. I found I could focus my mind away from negative thoughts about the past and towards a feeling of being peacefully present, whole and accepting of who I was.
On the day I met Deepak Chopra, the topic of meditation captivated our exchange. United had started flying internationally and Mr. and Mrs. Chopra were first class passengers on a 767 from Heathrow London to Dulles and then on to San Francisco.
I'd never heard of Mr. Chopra, didn't know of his fame or his considerable background in medicine and spirituality, but somehow none of this mattered. While I was sitting on my jump seat, he stopped to talk, complimenting the mixed grill he'd had for dinner and sharing his purpose for travel. I saw at once that he twinkled. His sense of fun, wit, and intelligence came together in a flash that incited my interest. Within a few minutes, I was inviting him to sit next to me and began asking him questions as I noticed his vegetarian wife sleeping in her seat twelve feet or so away.
He talked easily with a strong but interesting accent that required I concentrate. He spoke of his work writing, lecturing, counseling others in living mindfully and successfully. This was his passion and I was struck by his devotion to helping others through meditation and physical health.
I shared with him my experience with meditation and he was excited about how I thought it benefited me. He mentioned he'd recently written two books, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success both of which explored the relationship between what and how we think and who we become. His insights into mental health intrigued me and motivated me to learn more from him but it was time to get back to work. As he returned to his still sleeping wife, I busied myself with tea service.
Several weeks after our conversation, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success arrived at my mother's house, its pages filled with structure and rules, salve and refreshment for my disorderly mind. To this day, I follow him on the internet, reading his observations on health and sharing his meditation series with thousands of others.
To be continued ...