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Being Present, 2015

I Just Want to Have A Moment with My “Miracle Mouthwash”!

Hari Prasada Das


I marched determinedly through the West Village avenues, having performed the full crosstown commute on foot. It was 9 a.m. and the streets were barren in the calm after the storm of another Friday night in Manhattan.

The mission: Seize and send a “Miracle Mouthwash” overseas…

According to my rough calculation, only one store in the city carries the mouthwash, and that’s precisely where I was headed!

I was delighted to be of simple service for someone who has done more for me than I can hope to repay. I just wished I’d slept a little sounder the night before and had a little more free time at my fingertips.

Tired and behind on my meditation as I entered the Elm Health Chelsea location, I was overcome with a sense of existential dread. Running a startup doesn’t treat monastic practices kindly, I’ve come to realize… Since leaving the monastery and aspiring to carry its work to the outside world the best I can, I’ve noticed my sacred habits are hard to uphold. Not that they were ever easy, but just more within control due to the freedom to make them the focal point. Now, when I most need my meditation, life has a way of getting the best of it… Within the aisles of the matchless grocery store, my meditation sustained from the morning…

There was an old sadhu who used to chant his mantras in the blaring streets of Bombay. When asked why, he would say, “if I can concentrate here, I can concentrate anywhere.”

Hardcore training.

I always loved that!

However, for me, practicality played a significantly more prominent role… To study under the swami I was preparing to send a bottle of Uncle Harry’s, 16 rounds a day of meditation on beads is the standard of seriousness. That’s about two hours, depending on your pace. Needless to say, it’s a challenge to find two hours in this day and age in “the capital of the world” (as coined on the official website of New York City!).

Where does the time go?

I’d been doggedly trying to stabilize my sadhana – Sanskrit for practices – ever since I started on my path. For three years, I’d managed to awaken daily before the crack of dawn for my meditation and more sacred luxuries that become necessities when you experience the benefits. Today, I aim for 6 - If I get there, it’s phenomenal!

Today, I didn’t get there… Feeling like a failure, while facing the tooth powders, I took a moment for my mantras. I finished my round and then I stopped.

In some kind of twilight between meditation and returning to the world of the weighty, I heard the Simple Minds sing their song – the only one that anyone I know knows, despite their successful touring, accompanied by, imaginably: other songs.

It was a live version.

And as it faded away with the crowd “La da da da-ing” like mad, I thought to myself, “I want to have ‘a moment’!”

You know, like in the movies!

Where it’s really “a moment”…

And it’s magical.

Times Square disappeared its people for Tom Cruise!

That kind of “moment”!

I needed it…

Something larger than life where time stands still; the convergence point for both the cinema and the practice of japa in their universal appeal to the human condition!

Music as well…

On the verge of my “moment’s” impending manifestation – I could feel it in my bones! – a gentle instrumental of strings and piano gradually graced my ears with its elegance.

I was shocked.

From our Simple Minds trying to get a girl to remember your name “as you walk on by” to an orchestral piece of celestial merit was something rather unexpected, to say the least.

I smiled alone in the aisle. Standing before the Miracle Mouthwash that returned my gaze, I suddenly realized that Uncle Harry wasn’t the only one watching. In the emptiness of an ungodly New York hour, one middle-aged woman managed to walk in on my “moment”! I don’t think she knew what she was stumbling upon, but it made me move on nonetheless… I hastily grabbed the mouthwash and got the juice-master to take off one of his gloves to ring me up at the counter.

Before I went off to the Post Office with the gift of gargle, I pondered the meaning of the “moment”.

What are we looking for out of life? And is it the same as what we purport to look for?

I think what I was after was a feeling of presence again. To finally feel like I’m really here, as my full self, even at a supermarket, and I’m not alone, though I’m solitary. Perhaps that’s what each of us seeks in our respective ways and with varying degrees of success.

I hope my meditation and spirit of service will guide me to that place where I visit regularly but have not yet been able to pay the price to stay.

How are you investing in that all too familiar yet distant feeling?

Hari Prasada Das

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