With dignity and self determination
George woke up feeling pleased to be alive, he slid back the blankets, swung his feet to the floor and as usual Kate who had also woken began verbally itemising the things she wanted to happen that day. George had long ago learned not to comment, he walked to the window and drew back the curtain allowing the room to fill with the morning light.
He sat on the bed, gave his wife a good morning kiss and told her that mow the lawns before lunch as it was one of the tasks that he had agreed on yesterday and Kate itemised moments ago as a reminder. He had not forgotten even though she often accused him of being forgetful, but he was accustomed to her constant reminders and repetition.
But George had become adept at not reacting because it kept the peace. After using the bathroom, he went to the kitchen and made breakfast by which time Kate was up and verbally revising her plans for the day. As usual George immersed himself in the morning newspaper and replied to Kate as was needed to prove he was attentive. After breakfast, he sent an email to his brother John. It was almost a year since they'd seen each other and while he had no real news, he liked to keep in touch.
His day passed uneventfully, he mowed the lawns and pleased his wife by accompanying her to the mall. In the evening they watched TV until bedtime and this had been their routine since George had retired 11 years ago. Within himself, George was bored. He kept the property immaculate, he appeased his wife and courteously engaged in meaningless conversations with the neighbours.
This was his daily routine with little variation and two days later he was pleased reply from his brother John with an invite to visit. George knew that Kate loathed going to the big city, but he called out the news because he knew all too well that if he told her later, he'd likely get a telling off. This news put Kate into a flap, she had life organised and it was so inconvenient for her. George wisely kept his opinion to himself, but that evening he suggested that he would like to catch up with John and his family and Kate might like to invite her sister to keep her company while he was away.
It took a few days, but Kate finally acquiesced, George made his travel plans and two weeks later he left. His gregarious brother John was pleased to see him and George was very pleased to have some more stimulating conversation. John's wife Mary was warm and accommodating as always, and they had a lovely evening catching up on the world.
Mary and John had four kids but Jason and Mandy were the only two still living at home, it was convenient while they were both at university. George only saw them in passing that first evening but the next morning George almost choked on his breakfast when Mandy came into the kitchen wearing little more than a smile. Her mother gently admonished her that she should be dressed when they had visitors. Mandy apologised before turning to George and saying that she hoped he wasn't offended.
George who'd recomposed himself chuckled and said that he was fine and that she certainly had a nice figure. Then Mary after apologising for her daughters near nakedness complained gently that it was hard work raising kids today and the whole world seemed to be upside down. George who'd enjoyed the added pleasure of Mandy's flirtatious exit stated that the entire world was somehow upside down politically, socially and spiritually.
Mandy reappeared moments later wearing one of her father's shirts and they discussed the problems of the world for a while before turning to the events of their day and back to what George wanted to do. John had gone to work early but he and George had agreed to meet for lunch. So he had the morning free and agreed to hang out with Mary then almost as an afterthought Mandy suggested he may like to go to her meditation class.
George questioned her about their beliefs and after Mandy assured him that he wouldn't be required to believe anything, he agreed. George made himself helpful and when the chores were done he and Mary sat in the sun discussing the news before she drove him John's office. Lunch with John and some of his colleagues was perhaps a little more boisterous and boosy than George would have preferred but afterwards they had a walk in the park where John briefed George was briefed on the direction of his life and dreams.
George took the bus home and being a little tired with little else to do, he had a nap before dinner which turned out to be rather lively with Jason and Mandy almost competing to out talk each other. They'd scarcely finished eating when it was time to go to the meditation class. Mandy drove in her beaten up old Mazda which amused George. They pulled up outside a house and went into a big living room set up for meetings with an altar at one end.
Mandy introduced George to the handful of people standing around, but as more people began to arrive she gave him a chair to sit on and like everyone else she sat on the cushion cross-legged and the meeting got underway. A young man in a saffron robe lead some prayers and chanting in what George knew was Tibetan. He was happy with this and anticipate as best he could. A 40 minute talk on karma or cause and effect followed and George thought it made good sense as he could actually see that in his own life. There was some discussion followed by a meditation and more chanting or recitation of prayers.
George slept unusually well and woke refreshed the following morning. He was up early enough to have a cup of coffee with John before he went to work. When John had left, George was quietly contemplating the content of the evening before when Mandy appeared and again wearing only a smile. She said to George that she hoped that he didn't mind because after all, the body was only the clothing of who she really was. George laughed and said she had a nice outfit, and while he was delighted by her physical beauty, he advised her to be more mindful of the mothers wishes.
Fortunately for Mandy, her mother was out of the room but she took George's advice and they spent a couple of hours with a little input from Mary discussing the concepts of Buddhism. So the time passed with George participating in family activities, shopping with Mary, a day at the beach, meditating for half an hour or so every day and another interesting talk at the Buddhist Centre on nonviolence. He returned home a slightly changed man, Mandy's natural sexuality had put a spring into his step and the Buddhist teachings along with his meditation had reinvigorated a sense of purpose and direction in life.
On his arrival, Kate's sister Sarah was still there. Kate hated that because George and Sarah got on really well and Sarah flirted with almost every man she came across, and George no exception. But Sarah left the next morning and George patiently listened every detail of what had happened over the two weeks he'd been gone.
Over dinner found space to tell Kate that he was intending to study Buddhism and that he wanted some uninterrupted meditation time every day. Kate said she thought that he was a stupid old fool and he should just get along and believe like everyone else, then prattled on about her ideas of spirituality and how she expected George to be obedient in this matter. But he became more assertive and eventually said that it was nothing to do with her.
It took a few weeks for her to relax about the idea, but George made time every day to meditate and read the books he got from the library. Had it been up to him, wouldn't have told anyone what he was doing but thanks to Kate, everyone the neighbourhood knew and a few people teased him. While George had a lifetime of natural wisdom, the insights he was gaining through reading about Buddhism and his daily meditation helped to refine that wisdom. So instead of reacting to people's intrusions, he accepted them graciously and usually came up with an appropriate but non-threatening reply.
The weeks drifted by with George becoming more contented and in some ways more attuned to life. In contrast Kate maintained her sceptical and sarcastic attitude towards life but George found himself less affected, but he also noticed that she seemed to try even harder to annoy him. In fact George was more amused by this and a few times he asked her why she went to so much trouble to be unpleasant. That halted the immediate conversation, and after he'd said this a few times and Kate had clearly thought about it, she said that it was the way she was with such veracity that George knew he'd better not argue.
George bided his time and six months passed before Kate found the courage to ask him what meditation was all about and conceded that he seemed to be much happier. George told her that meditation and the Buddhist teachings were simply about enabling people to take responsibility for their own lives, thoughts and action, and a way to gain some insight into what might be called the truth of life.
Over the next few months Kate began to relax and overcome her fears and anxieties, and George, well he was becoming blissed out and people began turning to him for advice. He never really gave advice but encouraged people to question their real situation and come to their own conclusions. Then finally Kate began to experiment using guided meditation tapes and she began to relax more. By this time, George had devoured dozens of books and his thirst for spiritual knowledge and experience was growing.
He made a couple of trips back to the city where he enjoyed spending time with his extended family and attending the different Buddhist centres. On one of those trips he came across the idea of tantra. He had seen this discussed in some of his wife's magazines and dismissed it as some rubbish within popular culture, but within Buddhism it had a different meaning and context.
On one of his trips to Auckland he was initiated into a system of meditation where one visualises the deity in all its positive glory and then manifesting the deity within one'self so that you in fact absorbs all those positive qualities. Over the next few months this became George's favourite meditation as almost every time, once he'd settled into the meditation, he was so filled with bliss that Kate who was now more accepting and progressing stood in awe of her husband.
A year passed and most of the friends saw them as becoming as a little more eccentric or just downright dotty in their old age. Then one morning as George was meditating, Kate relaxed back into her comfortable chair with one of her meditation tapes. Afterwards she did a few chores and began to wonder where George was because his meditations didn't usually last quite so long. So she went and quietly opened the door, and there he was sitting cross-legged with his head slumped forward's. She called his name quietly a couple of times and when as he didn't respond, she walked into the room and discovered that the George she had known all these years was gone.
She sat stupefied for almost an hour before she called the doctor and then she got swept up with people coming and going and then the funeral. After the funeral she had some visitors from the various Buddhist centres who reminded her of the human life experience and their recognition of her husband's achievements in meditation. Kate's sense of loss quickly diminished and she took her meditation more seriously with ideas of once again finding her husband who she had been so dependent on.
Her niece Mandy who'd just finished university stayed on has a housemate and found part-time work nearby. Kate was initially rather flustered at having a young woman in the house who spent a lot of time on the phone or computer, but Mandy was a rather wise companion considering her age. Most evenings they would discuss some topical event and sometimes aspects of meditation. Kate relaxed and began to enjoy life anew.
It may have been a coincidence or at Mandy's instigation, but a Buddhist meditation group was established in the neighbourhood and Kate became one of its sponsors. But she also deepened her own meditation experience and one day to the surprise of everyone at the woman's group she had regularly attended four years, she cheekily said to everyone she was going home to join her husband. They all laughed and said she was going mad with all that silly meditation stuff, but she went home, set her house in order, left her will on the kitchen bench, sat in her comfy chair, relaxed and quietly slipped away to join her husband.