I got there early, not knowing what to expect. I never had tried to meditate in a group before. The idea fascinated me.
There was only one other guy. I made a mental note to tell all my single guy friends, as I chuckled to myself. I read that you couldn’t do it wrong, and that, as counter-productive as it may sound, there was something powerful about sitting in a room with others collectively working to quiet their minds.
The 15 of us sat in a circle around a candle. The leader introduced herself, told us all this was, above all, a healing process, and the experience would be different for everybody. She rang a Tibetan prayer bowl and instructed us to focus on our breathing.
“Just let my words float on by, like little clouds,” she said, encouraging us to relax and release whatever came to our minds. She urged us to view each thought as an observer without judgment—or any other type of emotional charge.
It took a few minutes to fully release my swarm of thoughts. After 10 breaths, a whole bunch of muscles I had no idea I had been clenching started to relax in my neck and back. I could feel the energy intensify, first as a tingling in my hands and later as if a butterfly had landed between my eyes, only to later dance on the top of my head. After about 20 deep-belly breaths, I had a vision.
I was sitting across a long table in a Gothic-style castle in an age long ago. There was an ornate candelabra made of silver separating me from a pale-skinned, fire-haired woman. We had just been making love in a royal chamber—somewhat angry, punishing sex—and were finally sitting down to eat.
I’m not sure what I did to give myself away, but I must have betrayed her in some way. Something I said or did confirmed something. Maybe a dishonor? In seconds she was at my throat with her knife. She dashed across the table with the terrible abruptness of an assassin, leaving me with just enough time to pull my blade. We died in each other’s arms. As she cut my throat, she impaled herself on my sword (I actually choked in real time while witnessing this). We died in an embrace, as if she had meant for us to go together.
Before long the teacher began calling us back to the present moment. An hour had passed, though it seemed like seconds. I looked around the room.
As I was gathering up my things to leave, I spotted her—the woman who had killed me in my vision—dropping money in the basket by the door. I hadn’t realized she was there, sitting across from me in the room all the while.
It made me wonder: Had she seen it, too? Beyond that, was the vision some kind of past-life episode bubbling to the surface for me to clear from my conscience? Was I really a spiritual being having a human experience, or was it a hallucination? Whatever it was, it was beautiful, I thought.
As I walked out, drove home and fixed supper, I felt lighter than I had in months.
Joel Finsel is the author of “Cocktails and Conversations from the Astral Plane,” and writes creative short stories, essays and musings every other week in encore throughout 2014.