Majestic Resonance Imaging
I’d like to say the devil made me do it but I honestly think it was the Buddha. When the friendly older woman working as the MRI technician asked me if I was going to feel claustrophobic in a small space or scared by the machine’s “knocking” noise, I looked over from my prone position on the gurney and assured her I’d be just fine. “I’m going to meditate.” Why not? Here at last was free time.
“Oh no. You can’t,” she said worriedly. “Not here, dear. This is not a place of peace and quiet. The machine is very noisy. It makes a loud knocking sound. Here. Wear these headphones and I will play music to distract you. What kind do you like?”
I was thinking to answer: "Mantra," to help me meditate… to prove I could here and now in this scary colorless, people-less sci-fi setting. The Lojong teaching says: practice while distracted, and was this not an amazing opportunity for exactly that? Meditation was actually going to be my distraction-- from fear. That spotless, soulless sanitized room was unfamiliar and horridly forbidding, but the deities were recognizable old friends I called from time to time to keep me company. I could be quite comfortable imaging them around me.
So she wouldn’t worry, I told that sweet soul in the technician's turquoise two-piece to play me some jazz. She served up Diana Krall purring like Peggy Lee, with a warning: “Okay now, the first one will be three minutes. Don’t move.”
Jack hammering...the machine’s purr was constant low-grade jack hammering. Diana Krall was seductively singing: "Peel me a grape. Bring me some wine..." And I was totally alone in a large white room of bright light and alien machinery. It was surreal. I closed my eyes and summoned Tara, the great goddess who protects from fear, sickness and stupidity. One click of the mind and the icon blew up as touched and vivid as one on an iPad or iPhone. She was as white as everything in that room and that tunnel where I was stalled. The purr of the machine was her energy, protecting me, as I said her mantra over and over like the sound of a motor running. I tried to keep her steady in my mind’s eye, and felt my body melt into her warmth. I was so relaxed I was barely breathing. No danger I would move. Only my breath and lips were working, talking to Tara. How many recitations of the mantra could I add to my collection in three minutes?
“Are you doing okay?” the technician suddenly said into the headphones. “Music okay?” “Fine, fine,” I replied. “No problems.” “Okay, this next one is 3½ minutes. Ready?”
Who to call? What to do? Yes, of course: Vajrasattva as white as that room and the inside of the tube I was in. Vajrasattva who purifies. His drip of white was the steady sound of the machine. My rhythm for his 100-syllable mantra was Diane Krall’s. I was moving on wings of white light through time and space… . ”Okay, for that one. You all right?”
There were two more sessions. And that jack hammering tried to get on my nerves by getting louder and more insistent. I tried harder to pay it no attention, to distract myself. I summoned Guru Rinpoche, the archtype of accomplishment, beseeching him to bless me that I could sail through this whole torn knee episode without a glitch or a panic. I mumbled his mantra as though my life depended on it because...well, you just never know.
I gave the last one to Chenrezig, the lord who sees all suffering and sends white light in all directions to purify it, the way my time in that MRI was purified into Dewachen, the pure land of no suffering. My wanting all suffering to be as pacified as mine put extra resonance in his famous six syllable mantra: Om mani padme hum. “Okay dear, you’re all done. That wasn’t too bad, was it?”
“No, no, not at all,” I said, giving her back the huge headphones. “It was actually fun. And I got a lot accomplished.” Short sessions, which is exactly what Dharma teachers prescribe.
~Sandy Garson"Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"
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