When I was about 8, I asked my father what he was reading. He was very engrossed in a book and I really wanted his attention.
He replied, I’m reading about yogis. Yogi Bear? I asked, thrilled that there was a book about one of my favorite cartoons. No, he said. This is about some very special people who can walk through walls.
It was the 60’s; The Beatles, Maharishis, Transcendental Meditation, hippies, scented candles and incense were all very popular and while my parents looked conservative to the outside world, I was becoming more aware of something the older I became; they were closeted hippies. Looking back on the wild all night parties they regularly had, I am now convinced that underneath their 1950’s clothing, and ‘I like Ike‘ demeanor, my parents were free spirits not being openly free.
On Fridays, my parents gave my middle sister and I money and let us walk down to the corner headshop for a candle or a stick of incense. My youngest sister was an infant and obviously too young to participate.
These excursions were a big deal to me as I wanted so badly to be a grown up flowerchild and roam the world listening to music and make a peace sign to anyone who would watch. My sister was petrified to walk into the store and I had to drag her by the arm. She was often being dragged by me into this and onto that. I wanted an accomplice for my adventures, and I always chose her.
I wanted to know more about these yogis, so my dad explained that certain people were able to concentrate very hard and do what is normally impossible to do. My heart raced and my mind was already listing all the things I was going to be able to do that were impossible just a moment ago. According to my dad, all I had to do was concentrate. Hard.
An question formed in my mind; where did the yogis wind up after walking through the wall? On the other side in the next room, or…? My dad did not have the answer.
I took my sister by the arm and we went into the living room where there was a large white wall with nothing on it. I had her stand facing the wall. I explained authoritatively that she was to concentrate very hard and when she felt ready, simply walk through the wall. I thought it was best to send her first, in case she just just disappeared. The logic was; I was older and could communicate what had happened. I couldn’t trust her to get help if I were to disappear.
Towards the end of the experiment, my sister had a huge lump on her forehead where she had repeatedly bumped into the wall, and was crying so loud that both my parents came running. I can only imagine what was going through their minds as they came upon this scene; ‘come on, one more time…be a yogi…try it on more time, concentrate harder!’ and then giving her a little push, sending her into the wall again and again.
Grounded from everything I liked to do for one week, I had lots of time to wonder why my experiment had failed.
Something besides concentration must be going on. Over the years I have thought about those yogis, and their success. The failure of my sister to walk through the wall has remained a mystery to me until just yesterday.
Yesterday, without any conscious thought at all, my legs went smoothly over my head in one fluid motion and touched the ground behind my head in a perfect plow. The contact with the floor surprised me so much I felt a wave of excitement come over me. Every other time I had tried this pose, I was only able to get my legs bent at the waist and all the pushing of my hands behind my hips could not move them forward past the wall of resistance. It always frustrated me as I was concentrating so hard to get them over my head.
But this time I forgot to concentrate and just did it. Extraordinary! No concentration = success. Hard concentration = no success. Those yogis of my childhood must have known this, too. They must have walked into walls hundreds of times with their brows furrowed in concentation, just like my poor sister, before they had any success walking through the wall.
I can imagine that long ago a lone yogi, perhaps younger than the rest, was beyond bored watching the older ones bump themselves into the wall over and over again. I can almost feel this rebel yogi taking a breath and walking straight into the wall with no preparation at all, maybe hoping to knock himself unconscious and be granted a rare afternoon off of yogi pursuits.
I can imagine his complete surprise, and utter delight as he found himself suddenly on the other side of the wall. Easily, effortlessly and with no thought as to how he arrived there.
I can imagine how eager he was to do it again and again, hoping to recapture the feeling of freedom and flow.
I am smiling because I know just how he felt.