While scanning her signed copy of Evan Awakens by Guru Don Ujjayi, Melanie broke the silence, “The retreat was enlightening, Don’t you think?”
Marvin stared straight ahead at the road like a deer in the headlights.
“Hun, did you hear me?” Melanie looked over to see that Marvin had a death grip on the steering wheel.
The windshield wipers set to the fastest setting still struggled to keep pace with the down-pouring rain. The defroster blowing on high barely kept the windshield and windows from fogging up.
The holiday traffic on the Jersey Turnpike was moving fast despite bumper-to-bumper traffic. With the heavy rain and foggy window shield, Marvin could barely see the vehicle in front of him. He maintained his 65 miles per hour speed.
Strain and stress had carved wrinkles across his forehead, veins popping out, jaw tight, knuckles turning white, Marvin’s neck shoulders and forearms looked like he was in a deadlift.
The eighteen wheeler in front and a large pickup truck on stilts behind them sandwiched their Charcoal Gray Toyota Avalon.
Marvin’s eyes focused on the two red beads of the tractor-trailer ahead of him, “ If this guy goes off the road, I go with him.”
He glanced up in the rearview mirror, all he could see were the blinding LED headlights shining directly in the rear window, “Man get off my tail already! Why do people need these skyscraper high lift kits on their pickup trucks? I am sure he has a set of metal balls dangling from his trailer hitch.”
Aware that Marvin was stressing from the traffic conditions, Melanie surmised that Marvin was having another heart attack, “Marvin, honey are you okay?”
Marvin glanced over at Melanie then back to the road, “Yes, I am fine. I could use a break though. I will pull over at the service area two miles ahead.
After five years of Hot Yoga three times a week, Melanie felt like she reversed tens years of aging.
While at Marvins last doctor’s appointment, she asked about alternative treatments. Surprisingly, Marvin’s cardiologist recommended a retreat to the White Lotus Contemplation Center.
Dr. Hartwell said, “After my heart attack. Don’t look surprised. Yes, I had a heart attack two years ago.
Anyway, the pastor at my Methodist Church suggested this place.”
Shaking his head and laughing to himself, Dr. Hartwell continued, “Ironically, my training does not make up for a bad diet and little exercise. In my head, I knew everything that western medicine offered for good heart health. I still had a heart attack.
Perhaps, Pastor thought an Eastern holistic approach might help. It couldn’t hurt. The retreat helped me on my road to recovery.
The Yoga, the meditation, the lectures on mindful living and the vacation away from his accounting firm might be the therapy Marvin needs. The stints, the prescribed diet, hypertension, and blood thinning meds are keeping Marvin’s heart beating but are not keeping him alive. He needs to learn to relax and live.”
Marvin pulled into a parking place, turning the car off, stretched then turned to Melanie, “They have a Starbucks here. You want a Chai Tea Latte?”
Melanie placed her hand on Marvin’s arm, “Sure. But could we talk about the retreat first?”
Conceding Marvin sighed and shook his head, yes.
Marvin’s conservative stoic nature was resistant to anything new; he mostly scoffed at the Yoga classes, lectures, and meditation. Melanie was concerned that he did not gain any benefit from the retreat.
Melanie repeated herself, “I asked, what did you think of the retreat? I thought it was wonderful. It truly helped me. I had thought with the years of Yoga; I would not learn anything new. I was wrong. I felt more relaxed and centered, worried less about the kids and grandkids. I even stopped fretting over you for a while.”
With a gleam in his eyes and a smirk, Marvin replied, “Oh’ yeah, I enjoyed what Swami, Salami, Guru, whatchamacallit said. He zeroed in on being present, peace, and gratitude were the keys to living. What does a guy who runs around in a yellow sheet, spouting mystical platitudes while raking in millions of dollars not have to be grateful for?”
Melanie rolled her eyes, “Hun, you didn’t even give this a chance. So you heard but didn’t hear?”
She paused as the tears started to pool in her eyes, “If you don’t change some things in your life and learn to relax, I am going to lose you. Work, work, work consumes you. The firm has you wrapped too tight. We have plenty of money, and we are only a decade away from retirement age.”
As if triggered by Melanie’s gravity, Marvin let down his guard. He took several deep even breaths, paused to recollect his thoughts, “There is something at the retreat that deeply affected me. I know you think I blew most of it off, maybe most, but not all. As much as I snarked and poked fun through the last five days, I did hear what this one teacher said, What is his name, Hyland Powers?”
Melanie reached into her purse, and pulled out the retreat brochure, “Hyland Powers? I don’t recall a Hyland Powers. Was he a guest speaker?” “There is no Hyland Powers listed. Where did you meet him?”
Marvin responded, “Do you remember our sunrise devotional time? We were to get alone and be still for an hour. We could journal, reflect or meditate.
While I was sitting on a bench staring at the empty page of my journal trying to manufacture something to write, this odd little man walked past me and sat down on the far end of the bench. He had a salt and pepper beard, wearing a ball cap with Having a Bad Hair Day printed on it. My impression was that He did not seem to belong at the retreat. I nodded to him. He did not even acknowledge me, no not even a nod.
I thought, How rude.
For about ten minutes he sat silent. Despite me staring at him, he still didn’t acknowledge my presence, he just looked up at the morning sky. I looked up at the sunrise to see what had him enamored. I must admit the purple, blue, orange and yellow in the clouds framing the sun were quite beautiful.
Finally, He turned to me and said, ‘Gratitude is watching another sunrise as if seeing it for the first time.’
Then he turned back to continue watching the sunrise. After twenty minutes, he got up and left without a word.
At first, I thought he was crazy. But as I glanced over at him, the man had a genuine sereneness in his face. He had a warm smile, and even his eyes seemed to smile and shine. Of course, with my sarcastic nature, I assumed, ‘Must be good drugs.’
Every morning for three days he repeated the same routine: He walked passed me like I didn’t exist. After about 10 minutes he turned toward me and said, ‘Gratitude is watching another sunrise as if seeing it for the first time.’ Then he turned back to continue watching the sunrise another twenty minutes then got up and left, nary a word.”
Melanie asked, “Did he ever say anything else to you?”
Looking up, Marv recalled,
“On day four, He sat down then immediately turned to me and introduced himself, “Good morning, my name is Hyland Powers, and you are Marvin DeBruce.”
I reached over and shook hands with him. “How did you know my name.”
He smiled and said, ‘I make a point to know everyone who comes to the retreats.’
The man had perked my curiosity, So I asked, “Mr. Powers, Why did you repeat that same scenario three days in a row.”
Through smiling eyes, he said, “To drive home the point.”
Confused, I said, “What point?”
Hyland placed a hand on my shoulder, looked me straight in the eye, “You are so busy trying to build a world all of your own that you don’t know how to enjoy the one in which you live. Your efforts are killing you. Find the joy to live in this world. The cost? Nothing more than being present. Presence exposes the joy and gratitude. You are so preoccupied with making a living that you miss these undiscovered treasures of life. Did you not notice the many beautiful colors and patterns in each sunrise?”
He turned toward the sun, closed his eyes and said, Close your eyes and focus on the warmth from the suns rays. Notice the warming effect on your eyelids. Feel the breath flowing in and out of your lungs.’
I did as he instructed and sat there breathing and enjoying the sun’s warmth. Several minutes passed, and I felt a weight melt off my chest. A peace and grace entered my breathing. When I opened my eyes, Mr. Powers was gone.
The next day, He came sat down, looked at me, smiled and nodded without saying a word then turned to enjoy the sunrise. I did likewise. Again I felt that warmth and peace deep in my soul. Though we did not speak, I felt a connection with Hyland Powers. When I opened my eyes, Mr. Powers was gone. I never saw him again. I now understand what he meant when he said, ‘Gratitude is watching another sunrise as if seeing it for the first time.’
I learned more from that brief interaction with Hyland Powers than the hours of lectures and practice sessions. I just assumed he was one of the speakers.”
Two Days Later:
“Hello, this is Summer Starchild, Director of Guest Relations, How can I help you?”
“This is Marvin Debruce. My wife, Melanie and I wanted to thank you for our experience at the retreat last week. I especially wanted to give you kudos for your speaker-or maybe he was a guest-I am not sure which, his name is Hyland Powers.”
Marvin could hear computer keys clicking over his phone.
“Mr. DeBruce I don’t recognize that name. I am looking at my computer right now, and there has never been a Hyland Powers listed as a guest or a teacher at this center.”
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