Jason Lawrence Bell
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11-03-19 John Mackin


‘Remain still and allow the words to sink in and be understood,’ suggested the affirmation narrator. The small group of meditators sat cross legged on the majestic soft sands on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The sun has begun to set and the view was so spectacular that it pulled a few members out of their affirmations as they marveled at the ocean and sky. This affirmation session was part of a weekend retreat called ‘Touching the Edge of Life’. It had become a popular retreat. So popular, there was a one year waiting list. The spiritual leader who created the retreat was called Yamada.

Yamada lived mostly in solitude on a humble farm in Northern California. His only association with people was at his retreats and that was limited. The only time they heard Yamada’s voice was during his affirmations. Everything else was organized by his assistant. Yamada supposedly had the ability to transport people to different realms of existence thru his affirmation process. He had become quite famous within the spiritual self-help community. That was how John Mackin became award of Yamada.

John had lived in San Francisco since he graduated from college. When he came out as a gay man in his senior year, his life changed radically. Women never seemed to find John that attractive, but men were drawn to him. After coming-out, John became a hot item in gay circles. John loved being consider sexy and seemed to catch-up for lost time. His sexual world became overactive and even John admitted, he became a whore for a while. But that all changed when he was diagnosed with HIV. A gay man from San Francisco with AIDS was becoming all too common. And for John the medication didn’t seem to slow down the disease. He had already gone thru many stages of mourning. Angry, denial, and blaming phases had already consumed John. Now he was down to acceptance.

Yamada’s retreat was recommended by John’s grief therapist. Because of John’s physical ailments he was moved up the waiting list. Soon John found himself sitting cross legged watching the California sun set with eight other people and Yamada. This was the first day of the three day retreat. Yamada’s assistant called this ‘the day of personal inventory’. Today Yamada affirmations were designed to take the person deeper into their personalities. As each member meditated Yamada would come up close and whispered into each member’s ear, an affirmation. The member would use that personal affirmation the remainder of the day. John received his affirmation and began repeating it softly over and over.

John felt his awareness sliding downward somehow. Then he could see them. Moving Images everywhere. He saw himself being born and the joy of his parents. He felt the wind on his face as he rode his bike as a child. He saw his awkward relationship to girls and the confusion that followed. Then came the relief when he accepted his gay sexuality and found the wonderful discovery of his community. However, the very thing that gave him freedom and self-acceptance also brought him the disease that would kill him. John could see the black that surrounded the moving images expose itself as the disease. Black and overwhelming. But the affirmation he was repeating was about complete acceptance. And as John sat still in stark reality, his soul relaxed and allowed every fiber of John’s being to welcome his fate. John felt deep harmony and everything seemed to become one, including the disease. There was no fight left in John. The inevitable was fully acknowledged and accepted.

John slept like a baby that night and was ready for day two. After a small breakfast the group again met at the affirmation site and the Pacific Ocean. The assistant called this day, ‘The Souls Window’. As the group began meditating, again Yamada came to each person with an individual affirmation. As John began softly repeating his affirmation, he felt his mind go completely quiet and moved away. Then as the assistant instructed, the group would begin to do open eye affirming. John opened his eyes and looked out. With his mind silent, it became apparent to John that it was his soul that was calmly and silently observing. His soul had stepped forward and John could feel pure consciousness. Without the mind narrating or interpreting, John saw through the soul’s point of view of complete truth. He felt fulfilled and whole.

After about an hour, the assistant directed everyone to close their eyes and stay with the soul. John had an immediate sensation of sliding deeper. He could sense the minds presence and his consciousness slipped below it to endless calm. Like an airplane flying above the storm into the calmer atmosphere. He felt suspended in peacefulness. The concept of time was gone. The assistant nudged Johns arm and John slowly reemerged from his dark calm. What felt like a few moments was more accurately four hours. John felt so pure and wide awake. He had no need for words or thoughts. John spent the remainder of the day blissfully walking the beaches in silence. Even the blisters on his legs from the disease seemed beautiful to John.

On day three the group again gathered early at the mediation site. The assistant called this day, ‘Touch The Edge Of Life.’ Today would be different. Yamada would lead the affirmation. As the group faced out toward the ocean, Yamada sat behind them and spoke. ‘Yours is to allow. Just listen and allow. My voice will lead you. Follow and we will arrive together. When the words cease to have meaning, it is the language of the soul that will lead you to understand at a deeper level. Just follow my voice. Please keep your eyes open and sit quietly with your soul.’

After a short time, Yamada spoke, ‘begin closing your eyes, very slowly, let your eye lids slowly block the view. Now let your soul fall back, like you are falling backwards into a pool of space. Let yourself go deeper and deeper.’ Then Yamada began speaking words that no one could comprehend. Nonsense syllables or ancient dialect, no one could tell. But the soul responded. With their eyes closed, an image of light appeared. It was far in the distance. It looked beautiful and seemed to beacon. Between them and the light; a silver-grey cloud seemed to float freely and welcoming. ‘We are at the edge of life,’ echoed Yamada’s voice. Everyone could tell that one step into the silver-grey cloud and death would begin. The sight astounded the group. Yamada again spoke, ‘we cannot stay too long or the beckoning feeling will become too enticing. So please follow my voice back. Let it led you back to your eyes and when you are there, slowly open your eyes and let the view impress.’ The group followed Yamada’s instructions and open their eyes and sat quietly reflecting. But the assistant was rustling around and Yamada stood up and moved to her side. They were alarmed at John. John was lying on his side without any motion. The assistant was trying to resuscitate him. After a few minutes Yamada stopped her and said, ‘he chose to leave. It was his time and he chose to leave.’ Peace***