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  • Karl Thunemann

Discovering My Place in the Cosmos

Updated: Mar 6, 2019

May I always remember that mild summer morning so long ago when I was initiated into Transcendental Meditation.

My wife Faith and I went together, and were greeted by a slender young woman of serene beauty. She was at a small airy house in the middle of a field in Redmond. I think Faith went first, although I’m not at all sure. The young woman led me into a small room and invited me to sit in one of two simple chairs.

Did we chat? Not for long—she instructed me in the TM method of repeating the mantra silently. She must have asked me a few personal questions. She introduced me to my mantra, a curiously pleasant two-syllable sound, and counseled me against sharing it with anyone. (Although I left the TM world decades ago, I have always honored this admonition.) Then she left me alone in the room to spend a few minutes getting acquainted with my new mantra.

“Almost instantaneously I felt myself transported to a profoundly different space. It was spherical and—at the same time, without contradiction—limitless.”

Almost instantaneously I felt myself transported to a profoundly different space. It was spherical and—at the same time, without contradiction—limitless. I wasn’t lost. I perceived myself as an infinitesimal speck, far from the center of the sphere, invoking my new mantra. This space felt safe, yet within a few moments I had a vision of myself as a boy of 3 or 4. I sat on the kitchen floor as my father, towering above, vented his rage at me. The room was small, but I felt that even if I leapt at him, I could never hope to touch him.

Somehow these two spaces—the tiny kitchen and the infinite sphere—seemed intricately connected, as if I could take refuge from one in the other. Yet I don’t remember having many thoughts at this turning point. I felt my life had been transformed but had no picture of a specific destination.

Indeed, it was not until I sat down to record this memoir did it occur to me that I had been shown my place in the cosmos. For I have lost and recovered it repeatedly. Sometimes I would misplace my sense of being protected merely for being a tiny speck. Why couldn’t I be a larger scrap, possessed of more significance? Often I would feel totally adrift, with no idea of how to make my way back to the initial exalted state. Eventually meditation could—and did—help me find my way back, but as long as I clung to goals and expectations, it remained a rocky and uncertain road.

How will it be different now? If I stop struggling, perhaps I will gain greater perspective and compassion for myself, for this tiny speck in the outer reaches of the cosmos. Surely, this would be a manifestation of loving-kindness.


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