On a phone call with a woman who facilitates some local ayahuasca ceremonies (more to come on that soon, I hope) she said, “Are you on meetup.com? Meet-ups are huge in the consciousness community here in Las Vegas.”
I’ve used meetup.com to find playgroups for my bulldog, but not to find humans. I joined the group she mentioned and had been getting stuff in my inbox, but nothing that really grabbed me. There was one meet-up that was strictly for people to get together to walk around barefoot. They’re called the Barefoot Earth-Walkers or some shit. Actually, maybe that would be fun. Anyway, I got an email yesterday announcing a gong meditation. With this amazing photo:
As if that weren’t enough in itself, here is part of the description:
“The Gong impacts the body and its meridians. It releases blocks, reduces tension, stimulates circulation, balance the chakras and strengthens the Aura. The Gong changes the feelings that are blocked by cutting the thoughts that sustain and recreate the feelings. It is the only instrument the mind has no defense against. The sound waves bring the subconscious mind into a balance and meditative state, an effortless meditation and relaxation facilitating the movement of prana throughout the body and psyche.”
So, yesterday I drove alongside the Strip, hung a left at a massive porn emporium, drove a few more miles to end up in a second-floor suite in a very average stucco office park. A sign on the door said, “Please be responsible for the energy you bring into this space.”
From behind a closed door I heard people singing what sounded like a new-agey, non-denominational hymn. After a few minutes, the singing stopped, the door opened and out poured a bunch of folks wearing all-white clothing and sporting white turbans on their heads. The leader of the group was a tall, reedy dude who very slightly resembled Sacha Baron Cohen in the Borat movies. He noticed right away that I wasn’t one of “them” (it probably helped that I was dressed in head-to-toe black) and helped get me sorted.
After I paid my twenty bucks, I wandered into the practice room and found a spot. In the center of the front of the room stood a massive gong. The Borat guy took his seat and began leading us through some Kundalini breathing warm-ups and mantras. I didn’t know any of the mantras, so I stuck with the breathing. “Turn your head to the left and inhale, turn your head to the right and exhale” kind of stuff, but super fast, and for insanely long durations. It actually felt like a workout to me, but I don’t exercise, EVER, so that’s not really saying too much.
Finally, it was time for the real action. He told us to lay down with our heads toward the gong. I covered myself up with a blanket and got into savasana. Then the sounds started. Sometimes I heard helicopters, sometimes bees. Once, it sounded like a chorus of people humming. There were never any of what you’d imagine to be “typical” gong bongings. I don’t know what the man was using to play the thing, but at times it sounded like he was dragging metal objects across it, or hammering. In my mind, I saw barren, windswept landscapes and uninhabited planets. The sounds were so loud, they felt as if they had real physical mass and were pressing down on me. I started to feel nauseous, then I felt my self shrinking down and down until I was just a dot. A tiny speck, too small for my body. Then, it was over.
Afterward, he gave a little talk about how the word “God” can be thought of as an acronym: Generates, Organizes, Destroys. If that’s not scary enough, he also talked a bit about how being alive is like peeling an onion forever — you remove a layer, then you cry; remove another layer, then you cry — and it goes on forever because of karma and the only way you can escape the loop is by becoming enlightened. Otherwise, you just keep coming back. Then, he said, “Everyone just be grateful that you were born a human this time. At least you have a chance. Now, go make the best of it because if you have to come back you never know which time and place you’ll end up in.”
When I got home, I took the dog for a walk down Jackie Gaughan Alley. One of the things I love about Las Vegas is that there is music everywhere. On the alley there are speakers in the palm trees. Manchester sat down on the ground like the obstinate mule he is and refused to walk, so I just stood there and looked up at the moon. I thought about all the terrible places and times to be born and how lucky I was this time around. I thought about all my mistakes and how many F’s I probably have on my karmic report card. Then I realized what song was playing:
Well I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up, the world got still
Well the good ol’ days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn
Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I’ve started out, for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there
I’m learning to fly, around the clouds,
But what goes up must come down
I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing