The air was redolent with incense with a vague hint of coffee and Indian chai masala. Outside, the birds were singing in the unexpected sunshine. A monkey screeched from the depths of the bed covers, stopping the conversation in mid flow.
“That’s Eric,” said my son, as if sharing a bed with a monkey was the most normal thing in the world.
“You were saying?” The innocence on his face told me clearly that it would be unwise to enquire further. It took me a while to collect my thoughts and continue, but if he was going to ignore the strangeness, far be it from me to delve…
The conversation revolved around meditation, mindfulness and a variety of spiritual practices. As is the way with such discussions, we were soon deeply involved. I love these moments when we get to share ideas and explore beliefs, philosophies and psychology. I was really getting going when…
“Was that Darth Vader?”
“Probably.” I swear he didn’t even blink. “You were explaining the Buddhist concept of Māyā..?”
“Hmm. Yes… ah…” I managed to pick up the thread with some difficulty. Ever since they were small, I have answered my sons’ questions as best I could, sharing with them my own perspective as well as any others I know, allowing them to make up their own minds and forge their own paths, in the same way that my own questions were answered when I was young. Particularly in spiritual matters…
“He’s telling me I need to get out of bed…”
I am unlikely to admit publicly and in writing what I suggested might be the fate to befall a son who refused to elucidate, suffice it to say that he eventually acceded to my requests for explanations…
Eric, Roadrunner and Darth Vader are only a few of the strange sound effects to emanate from my son’s person lately. There are others, a whole menagerie of them, many of them named, and all of them serving a purpose. And I have to say, it is quite ingenious.
Over the past few months, my son’s focus has shifted from the determined pursuit of physical improvement, to include a daily practice of meditation and awareness and a more holistic approach to wellbeing. The unpredictable sounds that emerge from his phone at seemingly random intervals are a part of that process.
It is a brilliant idea. Using a ‘habit tracking’ app, he has chosen appropriate sound effects to haul himself out of mechanical and habitual patterns and redirect his attention back to being present. The difference it is making to him is remarkable.
‘Eric’ represents the ‘monkey-mind’ and his screech is a call to still the internal chatter and return to the moment in consciousness. The rattling, mechanical breathing of Darth Vader is a reminder to focus on the conscious breath. And there are many other strange and unexpected noises and voices that interrupt the flow of the day, each one a call to conscious and mindful action and the awareness of presence in the moment.
The inner and personal journey each one of us takes is different. Although we can learn about it from books, we can only learn through walking our own path. There are hundreds of thousands of spiritual books and websites and a plethora of apps purporting to teach spirituality in all its forms… but none of them can walk the path for us. But, when it comes to filling the traveller’s knapsack with useful tools, apparently… there’s an app for that.