I REMEMBER THE SMELL OF TOAST. I was in the middle of my morning minutes of Transcendental Meditation when my mother got home from her graveyard shift at the hospital. Before going to bed for the day, she always made toast. In the summer, she added a dish of cottage cheese with a sliced pear. The smell of toast wafted through the kitchen, down the stairs into the basement of our rental, then floated in the small space I set up as a meditation room. The aroma possessed such crispness, such distinctiveness, I could have been smelling toast for the first time.
My mother gave me the gift of TM for my 18th birthday and high school graduation. An Episcopalian with some Methodist leanings and a nurse at a Catholic hospital run by the Sisters of Charity, my mother figured that I needed something spiritual to either feed my soul or relieve my anxiety. Or both / and. She saw beyond her more traditional religious upbringing. She knew I struggled with things that spanned more than adolescent angst. I battled cystic acne and the diminished sense of self that accompanied it. At 18, I tiptoed the line of alcoholic drinking and the immediacy of that relief. We didn’t talk too much about either, but she intuited the depth of my internal strife. When I saw the ad in a local newspaper for the training, she agreed to pay the $69.00 for the course.
“All intelligences awake with the morning,” Thoreau says. I remember the door opening, the smell of toast, the rousing of a meditative mind that would, in time, win over the addictive brain.