-Larry Kirwan, lead singer of Black 47, author of "Green Suede Shoes" and "Rockin' the Bronx"
This was the text I got from my wife, along with a web link to a beginners' meditation class that our local parks and recreation branch was hosting. I read all about the benefits of meditation on the class website: clearer thinking and less emotional turmoil, lower blood pressure, greater intimacy with friends and family members, and a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. But was it for me? I couldn't think of one person in my family who meditated, and so I looked at the idea with a mixture of suspicion and interest.
"Believe me, it will be good for you—and you need this," I was told by my better half. I didn't need much convincing. I had felt woefully unbalanced the last few months, as I had attempted to absorb an ocean of information that came with taking on a new job. My mind often wandered upstairs to fuss over a bottomless inbox in my home office as I was sitting downstairs at the family dinner table. I was months behind where I should have been in my new writing project. If the lobes of my brain were canned cling peaches, any creative spark would have drowned in the syrupy sludge of deadlines and commitments before it connected to the gray matter. Maybe this would be just what the doctor ordered, I tried to tell myself.
I should have known that my brain on shamrocks would have none of it.
For those of you unfamiliar with this affliction, I submit a brief explanation. We all have that little voice inside our head that judges, assesses, and guides us through life: Some call it a conscience. If you are of Irish descent, that inner voice has a brogue and sounds remarkably like one or both of your parents.
The drumbeat of blood coursing through my tense veins began to quiet a bit as we drove through Monmouth County's majestic horse farms en route to the recreation center. A wispy woman in wrinkled hemp clothing had dimmed the lights of the room before lighting candles and incense to create the right environment. The brain on shamrocks went into overdrive once it got the first whiff of pungent incense.
"Jaysis, what kind of hippy-trippy nonsense have ye gotten yerself into?" a voice sounding remarkably like my father's whispered in my ear. "What's next? Shavin' yer head and passing out prayer cards in airports? For the love of God."
"Incense—remember that smell?" remarked a voice that sounded like Mom's in my other ear. "You first smelled that in a church. IN. A. CHURCH. A CATHOLIC one, might I add. One that looks remarkably like the one you drove past to get here. I'll be quiet now, and let's hear what yer wan over there is sellin'."
I squinted my eyes hard as the instructor encouraged us to focus those internal thoughts on an image of a silver garbage can on a hill. She asked us in slow, pulse-reducing tones to tilt our heads to the right, shaking any thoughts we had into the garbage can so that we could clear our minds. That worked for a little while; I could feel the tension lift from the base of my neck and shoulders. Then the instructor had to open her big fat trap and reveal how long stretches of meditation can get us in touch with our soul at the level of self, which allows for a new access to the mysteries of our spirituality.